Is PhD in Business Management Worth it?

The revolution in the internet and the flow of information has made it easy and feasible for so many of us to gain knowledge, make an informative decision, and choose career paths that are unconventional and new. Though many are exploring new careers and becoming greatly successful as a photographer, game developer/designer, or even as an event manager these career options are still termed as unconventional career options.

Becoming an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer or a professor/researcher are still considered the most conventional and sought-after career options.

In this article, I am not going to compare between different career opportunities neither I will be discussing about any unknown career choice one can evaluate rather I would try and share my experience as a researcher and about a career which not many choose to walk into.

Research Opportunities beyond Non-STEM domains

When we talk or discuss research, inevitably, we consider the background of the research is from the streams of STEM, however, there lies a mammoth research opportunity in non-stem streams mainly in the field of marketing, strategy, and management. These non-stem fields of research are often overlooked mainly because in a country like India the first preference of the students or their parents is to see a career of their wards growing in the field of science, engineering, or medicine.

When I decided to take commerce in my high-school and subsequently do my MBA I only had thought of seeing myself in the top echelon of a multi-national organization. I had no idea that apart from working as a manager there are other options to become a researcher, a professor or an independent business consultant.

Scarcity of information on PhD in Business streams

While contemplating what next after my MBA I realized that I have picked up an interest in doing research (business research). Though business researches are totally different than academic researches the newly found interest and passion in me to do research had led me to explore what academic research are and what career option can I have if I end up doing a PhD. What’s next I can do after my PhD was clear but what skill sets I need or what should I expect while doing my PhD was totally opaque and blurred. I realized that people are thoroughly aware about PhDs in the field of science and engineering but when it comes to management the right and effective information is hard to come by.

The main reason for me to write this article is to brief the readers what skills they need and what they should expect while doing a PhD in management/marketing or strategy.

Like any other PhD in any field PhD in management demands equal effort, passion and hardship. The tenure of a PhD program in management depends on the location where you are doing your PhD from. Like a PhD in engineering in some European countries like Italy PhD in Management also have a tenure of 3 years. In some countries like the USA it’s a 4 years program whereas in New Zealand one doing a PhD in management will take only 3 years to complete.

Prerequisite skills required for PhD in Busienss Management

When I started my Ph.D., I only had some vague ideas about the skills I need or the preparation and knowledge I should have before embarking on the journey of a researcher. A student who already conducted research and submitted a thesis in his or her bachelor’s or masters can have an added advantage before applying for a PhD program. As I didn’t have to write any thesis in my bachelor’s or masters it took me a year or so before I realized the few skills that are is very important to conduct research. A PhD candidate must have good knowledge in statistics and should possess potent quantitative skills. Knowing software like SPSS or language like ‘R’ would certainly help. The researchers in the field of management use both the quantitative and qualitative research methods. So, the basic knowledge on quantitative and qualitative methods can be very handy.

Insights on Research in Business Management

Like any other stream of research, a researcher in the field of management too concentrate his focus on a particular topic from the vast field of the subject. As an example, a researcher of business strategy can narrow down his topic and limit his scope of research to only ‘internationalization of small and medium size enterprises” from a wide pool of topics. Similar to a PhD candidate in chemistry or any other science field a PhD candidate in strategy and management have to select a valid theory that can help him answer his research questions. As an example, for the topic mentioned above Uppasala model (a theory) can be applied by a researcher to conduct his research and write his paper. The researchers in this field also comes up with probable hypotheses. Based on the results the researchers get using a valid scientific method the hypotheses are either proved to be true or false. The sets of data used in obtaining the results should be unbiased and error free.

Unlike other field of research, qualitative research plays an important role in management science. Though qualitative research often comes under criticism due to small set of respondents and data it is still widely used to find paths for bigger research ideas, theories and projects.

Path followed by a PhD candidate

A PhD candidate in management must follow a similar path and strategy compared to a researcher from the field of science. A typical cycle that a PhD student goes through is mentioned here.  A management researcher starts with a literature review process, by exploring as much as literature he can on his area of interest that has already been published. Secondly, he finds the research gap that can be exploited. Thirdly, after finding the research gap the candidate develops research questions and hypotheses. Based on his topic and research questions the candidate chooses the theory he wants to apply and then he obtains valid data which he put through a statistical model and get results to answer his research question/s.

Important things to consider before applying to the University

There are tens of PhD in Business (management/marketing/strategy) are available in today’s time. However, from my experience I could say that choosing the right PhD program is as important as choosing the right topic for your research thesis. Different universities have different programs. Some universities give emphasis on quantitative research, whereas some pays more focus to qualitative research methods. So, a scholar strong in quantitative methodology must opt for a program which focuses more on quantitative methods. Most of the universities designed their PhD program in such a way where a student has to take compulsory courses related to their subjects and important methodologies. However, there are some universities which includes interdisciplinary courses as mandatory courses which turns out to be of no use for the student in future. For example, my PhD program had 2 compulsory engineering courses and two finance courses which I had nothing to do with my research. That was a sheer waste of my valuable time and resources. These few things should be considered before taking a decision for admission in a PhD program.

Not many students like to take the hardship and perseverance require to do a PhD. However, a PhD can open many doors including the ones you already have. From a professor to an independent business consultant a PhD graduate can also be a part of coveted business think tanks. A PhD can help not only with promotions but also with better scale of pay and other job opportunities. A PhD can be the pinnacle of one’s academic career but it can be only the start for one’s professional career.

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