Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Online post in BusinessWeek about PhD after MBA

From the link: http://forums.businessweek.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?msg=84866&nav=messages&webtag=bw-bschools


Hello all,

I have been following these forums for a while and have a question regarding education beyond an MBA. I understand that most people who receive a PhD aspire to conduct research or teach in academia. However, some also use their expertise to embark on successful business careers (I believe the CEO of Citigroup received his PhD from Columbia Business School).

My question is: Do people commonly pursue a PhD or any other degree following an MBA? If so, do they work for a while before going back for the PhD? What other degrees would a person pursue following an MBA and why?

My reason for asking is that I have recently been admitted to a top MBA program and have an interest in pursuing a career in academia, possibly after gaining more professional experience. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance for your responses!


I am a current MBA student and am interested in academia (pursuing a PhD) out of school. Here's the deal - For the most part, an MBA is pretty much meaningless in academia. If you are sure that you want to pursue a PhD, then I'd seriously reconsider completing an MBA. PhD in Business Admin typically requires five years to complete, and having an MBA will not decrease that time frame at all.

Further, the content in a PhD program is completely different than content in an MBA program. Your first two years in a PhD program focuses on intense statistics and mathematics to prepare you for research. Consequently, though there is no "standard" work experience or skill set for a PhD program, typical PhD admits have incredibly strong math skills. Most will have a bachelor and/or master degree in math, engineering, computer science, etc.

Though programs differ in "mathematic rigor", most programs that I've looked into want you to have course work in AT LEAST the following: calc 1, calc 2, calc 3, and linear algebra. As I stated before, as a PhD student, you will be spending the first two years in course work that requires you to know this math. I have talked to PhD students that entered a PhD program without taking these courses and they did ok, but they are also geniuses and they all adimtted that they really struggled through their first year of studies.

One more thing to consider, PhD programs have a relatively high drop-out rate - I think it's somewhere around 50%. This is due to several reasons, but primarily because either 1.) the PhD route ends up being completely different than what the student thought it would be, or 2.) the PhD student can't cut it in the program. By this I mean the student fails the comprehensive exam that is given at the end of the first and/or second year of the PhD program, at which point they are awarded a master degree and are kicked out of the program.

Also, grades are important, GMAT/GRE scores are important (I believe the mean for most schools is in the 730 - 750 range for GMAT). But the most important thing is your recommendations. You need to connect with somebody in academia who can really support you in your admissions efforts.

There are many things to consider and I am too lazy to type them all, but I will mention two more things. First, pay out of school is good, but is dependent upon where you go to school. Apparently the job market for business professors is pretty hot. If you go to a top 25 program, you can plan on making anywhere from 120k to 170k out of school, and that's on a nine month schedule.

Also, Accounting and Finance professors typically make the most, with Management, Marketing, and Ops professors making a little less. It is important to note that where you earn your PhD will have a huge impact on where you can teach out of school. Typically, you should plan on teaching at a school that is one to two tiers below the school that you earned your PhD (with the exception of top 10). Also, pretty much all major universities require professors to crank out a lot of research, so you will definitely need to be fond of research and publishing if you want to pursue this career. Second (and finally), admissions are incredibly competitive! Tops schools have acceptance rates in the 2-10% range. One thing about this is that being an American is actually an advantage in the admissions process (for once). This is because the majority of applicants are from Asia, and not many Americans apply. I talked to several people about the admissions process and all of them made this same point.

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