...getting a doctorate!

If you are thinking of or have entertained the thought of getting a doctorate, you are certainly not alone at NSHMBA! In a variety of events I have met fellow NSHMBA members who are interested in finding out details about the process of studying a Ph.D., DBA, or similar doctoral degree. In fact, I have even met a few folks that have already started their program and now have even more focused questions, such as how to identify a dissertation topic or what my job-search process was like. As you can imagine, this conversation theme is one that will almost always generate a lively exchange of ideas with me!

You already have a master’s degree –or are in the process of getting one—, don’t you? That means that you are quite likely to have already taken the GMAT (or GRE, which a few business programs accept instead of the former). In addition, even if a master’s is not necessary to enter many doctoral programs, when you already have one, your coursework requirements will probably be fewer than if you didn’t have a graduate degree. Evidently, if you have taken at least a few master’s level courses, you know what it takes to succeed in grad school. So, why not keep going until you get a doctorate?

Needless to say, I have a lot of empathy and admiration for colleagues who might have left (at least temporarily) high-paying jobs to go back to four (or frequently more!) years of graduate school –with all the ensuing sacrifices for them and their families. I have to say that, more than a decade after I began my academic career, I still miss a number of features that were part and parcel of my managerial life. For example, when I was managing a small educational services department, I did not have to file my own documents or micro-manage my travel schedules the way I now have to do it as a full-time professor. But the research, teaching, consulting and service that are now the core of my professional life make the trade very much worth it.

You might be aware that, in business, the proportion of Hispanics that are earning their degrees is dismal, right? (heck, we “NSHMBAns” know how difficult it is to get a master’s, let alone the last step!).

Well, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (nces.ed.gov/pubs2007/minoritytrends/tables/table_25_2.asp), during the academic year 2003-04, 21.7% of master’s degrees earned by Hispanics were in Business (yayyyy!!!!), second only to Education (36.8%). In fact, those were the only two fields of studies with a double-digit percentage, as the third area was Health professions and related clinical sciences, with 7.4%. At the undergraduate level, Business was the largest percentage of degrees conferred, with 22.1%, followed by Social sciences and history with 11.8%. These figures speak very well about the number of Hispanics that are finishing a business education at the undergraduate and master’s levels,… until we read, in the same report that “in 2004, more postsecondary degrees were awarded to Blacks than Hispanics, despite the fact that Hispanics made up a larger percentage of the total population” (nces.ed.gov/pubs2007/minoritytrends/index.asp). This is great news for our African American colleagues (and we should be glad for them!) but this fact tells us that we, Hispanics, still have a long way to go to gain equitable access to education in order to increase opportunities for our families and make our society better.

When we examine the numbers for doctoral degrees, the urgency becomes even more manifest. In the same academic year, Hispanics only earned less doctorates in Theology (2.3%) and in Visual and performing arts (1.9%) than in Business (3.1%); the top three doctoral degrees for Hispanics were Education (18.5%), Psychology (16.6%), and Biological and biomedical sciences (10.4%). You have probably noticed that, with a few exceptions in the Southwest, Hispanic faculty members are quite rare in Business schools –no wonder there is such scant research focusing on Hispanic businesses!

Of course, obtaining a doctoral degree is not only expensive and difficult, but for many MBAs not even a salary-enhancing proposition. AACSB International, the accrediting agency that currently has the most stringent standards for their members reported that average salaries for new doctorates in 2005 ranged from $89.6 to $114.8 thousand, depending on the graduate’s discipline (www.aacsb.edu/knowledgeservices/home/SSExecSummary_05-06.pdf, p. 5). According to PayScale.com, for MBAs with 10-19 years of experience, the average salary is $93.6 thousand (www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Master_of_Business_Administration_(MBA)/Salary). This implies that, if you already have a six-figure salary, getting a doctorate might take you back to five figures, after four to seven years of hard work and grad student “pay”!

To make things worse, AACSB-accredited, research universities have much fewer openings at the doctoral level than there is demand for them. Getting admitted to a reputable doctoral program might take a year or two if your GMAT score is not above 600 points (and preferably very much so!). Financial aid tends not to be an issue (again, in strong Ph.D. programs offered by research universities), but I have met doctoral students who have to pay the first or second years off their own pocket.

The “good” news (at least for academic-job seekers) is that there are many academic jobs available for qualified candidates. In the words of an AACSB report, “the competitive market for doctoral faculty also has ratcheted up salaries at the entry level” (www.aacsb.edu/publications/metf/metfreportfinal-august02.pdf, p. 14). In addition, there are many very attractive features to having a doctorate. Probably the largest one is the impact that you can have in society. The nature of intellectual work is such that John Maynard Keynes (the famous 20th Century British economist) once said that “Practical men ... are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” Your research –particularly as it will be done in a business field—will hopefully strongly influence practice. You will also have a strong and immediate influence in the students that take your classes or the companies that hire you as a consultant. And –to top things off—you might have three months “off” in the summer.

A very useful program for minority candidates is the “PhD Project.” I strongly encourage you to check their website if you are giving serious thought to obtaining a doctorate: www.phdproject.org/.

As always, the invitation stands for you to send me your thoughts on this topic by emailing me, faxing (+1.814.393.1910), or posting a comment on this blog (click on the hyperlink below). Until next month!