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PhD in Business alternative non-academic career options

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New post 14 Oct 2018, 15:15
Reasons for doing PhD in first place can be described as :

Stand Out From the Crowd

In today's economy, the majority of jobs in business and management require some sort of business degree. Unfortunately, the majority of job seekers already have a business degree or diploma of some sort. Many schools and online institutions offer fast and easy MBA degrees, or other similar programs.
A business PhD, however, is a rare commodity. It makes you stand out from the crowd and shows that you are serious about your career.

Networking Opportunities

We've all heard the maxim "it's not what you know, it's who you know". While this isn't always true, in the world of business it is clear that having a wide net of contacts and a good knowledge of the business world will act to your advantage. People you study with will be your colleagues and competitors in the future, and academic conferences provide excellent opportunities to meet new people expand your network.

Hone Your Skills

Becoming an expert in something takes more than a few courses - it takes lots of practice. A business PhD will give you the time to hone your skills in an environment where you have ready access to experts and high-quality resources. Imagine the difference between a psychologist, and someone who took a few psychology courses at school - that's the sort of difference your business PhD will give you.


Maybe you have an interest in corporate social responsibility, business ethics, non-profit management, or some other topic that you didn't get to explore in undergraduate studies. Business is an area that covers a wide variety of topics, and taking the time to become an expert in a particular area can lead to great opportunities down the road. Taking the time to explore a side of the job you are really interested in can also mean a great chance of finding a career that is meaningful and fulfilling, as well as profitable.

Salary Potential

Speaking of profitable, education is directly related to potential salary. Many businesses and institutions automatically pay higher salaries to individuals with postgraduate degrees. Even those that don't may be willing to offer a higher starting salary for someone with better credentials, and you may feel more confident asking for one.

At some point, many PhD candidates find themselves thinking about the cost of their student loans versus their university stipends, and wondering whether it will be worth all the effort in the long run.

Money may be tight while you’re studying, but this is one area where a PhD really is worth the investment. Getting your doctorate will make you more likely to earn a higher salary over someone with just a master’s degree. According to a study from the US Census Bureau, using data from the most recent comprehensive national census, adults with PhD degrees earn more than those with just master’s degrees. This is true for all the disciplines that the Census Bureau surveyed, and the differences range from a 7% increase to a substantial 33% increase. The salary rewards for PhD holders aren’t just in academia, either. There’s evidence that a PhD is an even more valuable asset in the private sector, particularly in industrial research and development. The salary boost is usually biggest in the STEM fields.

The journal Science reported that PhD holders in mathematics, engineering, and the sciences, can earn as much as $20,000 more per year working for private companies than those who stay in academia. For any industry, PhD holders are very attractive hires. The level of discipline and specialized knowledge that a PhD requires, as opposed to simply a master’s, is absolutely necessary in many advanced, research-driven jobs. According to PayScale, a company that analyzes salary data across the American workforce, PhDs can expect to make more money than applicants without doctorates, and have access to more jobs.

The median income for an employee with a PhD degree and less than a year experience—meaning the first job out of grad school—was almost $80,000. Someone with a PhD in the sciences, technology, engineering, or math can expect to earn six-figure incomes after getting their PhDs. In highly competitive fields, certain positions go exclusively to applicants with PhDs. According to a ranking conducted among almost 3,000 employed PhDs by PayScale, these jobs are worth the effort. The average worker with a doctorate ranked themselves at the highest level of job satisfaction. All of this is good news for graduate students with reservations about continuing their PhD educations. After you earn your doctorate, you can expect to earn more and have higher levels of job satisfaction.

Climbing the Ladder

It can take several months to really get the hang of a new job, and most people spend the early days of their career finding their footing in the business world, and getting used to the way things work. Your extra experience coming out of business school means that you will have the ability to succeed quickly, and also opens doors for upward movement within an organization. Who would you promote, the rookie with a cookie-cutter diploma and little life experience, or the mature PhD holder, with years more experience and expertise?

There’s another major benefit to finishing your PhD. In addition to the salary rewards and the prestigious CV that come with a PhD, there are the connections you will make on your academic journey. As you climb the ladder in your field, you’ll distinguish yourself as an expert, accumulating contacts, friends, and colleagues who will know your name and vouch for your work. On top of the likely salary hike and job satisfaction that come with your degree, you’ll earn valuable social capital.

Get the Confidence to Succeed

Confidence is important in every aspect of life, but when it comes to the business world it can really be the key to success. There are a lot of techniques out there to improve confidence, but confidence that comes from really knowing your stuff is hard to fake. Interviewers, clients and investors appreciate dealing with someone who knows their subject inside and out, is comfortable talking about it and is able to answer questions satisfactorily. Knowing that you have what it takes to earn a PhD can be a huge confidence booster that will show in how you present yourself, as well as on your CV.

According to a 2014 piece in Forbes magazine, as much as 70% of the American population has struggled with “imposter syndrome” at some point in their lives. ... 1ee73848a9

This is particularly true with people on the path of higher education, since academia attracts people who do a lot of thinking, and have high expectations for themselves. For graduate students, the question of how to craft their own self-esteem is essential. To psychologists, the answer to this question is clear: self-esteem comes from personal and professional achievement. Researchers have analyzed what gives people a lasting sense of satisfaction with their abilities. Instead of high self-esteem leading to high achievement, study after study indicates that the opposite is true. According to an article in Psychology Today, describing thousands of self-esteem studies, nothing gives people self-confidence like setting goals, working towards them, and then achieving them. As a Wall Street Journal article puts it, “high self-esteem is the result of good performance.”

As anyone who is getting their PhD degree knows, the path to earning a doctorate takes a lot of both labor and time. However, while it takes effort, it’s all in service of the field you’re most passionate about. Once you’ve finished your PhD, you will have accomplished something that only a small percent of the population have. You’ll have earned the respect of your colleagues and peers, and done it while distinguishing yourself academically. By receiving the title of doctor, you will earn self-confidence in the most meaningful way.

Time to Decide

Majoring in business is sometimes seen as a "safe bet", since it opens so many job opportunities after graduation. For this reason, some people go into the field because they aren't quite sure what they want to do yet. This is perfectly fine - it can take a while to decide what you want to do with your life - but maybe now you're nearing the end of your degree, and you still can't make up your mind. There are a lot of interesting opportunities to choose from. A graduate degree can give you time to explore and find your passion while still investing in something that will be a huge asset to your career.

Meet Role Models

Everyone has someone who inspires them, and business is full of successful individuals who have interesting stories to tell and provide the inspiration to succeed. Although some people are lucky enough to land a job working with someone they admire, for most people finding a job means being tied to one place and one set of obligations. Academia on the other hand is more flexible, and frequently offers the chance to attend lectures by big-name presenters, or bump elbows with the greats at conferences and trade shows. Many busy people are also more likely to respond when someone reaches out to them in an academic capacity, and are more likely to share their knowledge this way.

Opportunity to Give Teaching a Try

Graduate students frequently have the opportunity to teach courses or assist professors with their teaching duties, and many people find teaching to be very rewarding. Business can be fun and exciting, but some people find that after a few years they would like to slow down, especially if they want to start a family or pursue other interests. If that happens to you, having a PhD and some teaching experience may be a foot in the door back into the world of academia. Here, deadlines are often more relaxed, but the work is still interesting and rewarding, and the salaries are still very good.

Your writing skills will improve tremendously

In order to become a PhD candidate in the first place, you need a good grasp of how to write. Going all the way and finishing your degree will push your skills to the next level, and put you in an elite category of writers. Most people will never even attempt to write something as ambitious as a PhD dissertation, let alone finish it. Compiling years of research—and hundreds of pages of notes—into a cohesive thesis takes organization, talent, and most of all, diligence. Once you’ve completed your PhD degree you’ll be an expert at one of the hardest parts of the writing process: sitting down and getting started, day after day after day. In fact, the process of learning to collaborate with another writer on a project is also a rare and valuable skill, which PhD’s have a special opportunity to hone.

Why is this important?

Even if you don’t pursue a career in academia, you’ll still be grateful for your wealth of writing experience. In fact, in non-academic fields, your writing skills will give you even more of a competitive edge. When it comes to writing, your brain is like a muscle. It gets stronger the more you exercise it; and the more you push yourself to think about a piece and then write it out, the easier it becomes. Even in highly-skilled professions, basic writing skills are increasingly rare. ... lions.html

According to a study from CollegeBoard, blue-chip businesses spend over $3 billion every year on remedial writing training for their employees. Businesses are desperate to hire good writers, and your PhD is an indication of exceptional writing ability. For an employer who’s searched high and low for good writers to hire, a doctorate signals that you’re a sound investment.

You’ll have better interpersonal skills

The most successful graduate students are those who learn to work effectively as part of a team. Working alongside professors or peers in grad school requires unique interpersonal skills, which are different from typical cooperation. Academics tend to be independent-minded and ambitious thinkers. Plus, collaborations in grad school are often focused on extremely complex and difficult projects. The level of emotional intelligence and cooperation that it takes to co-write a research paper with someone, or conduct the same experiments over and over again with a team, will serve you well in any field. In addition, completing a PhD degree requires building lasting professional relationships with mentors, including your advisor, and learning to navigate bureaucracy in order to access the resources you need.

There are many reasons to pursue a business PhD, and ultimately the best reasons are the ones which are most important to you. Hopefully this has given you something to consider that will make your choice easier.

Alternative Careers For PhD Students

One of the most difficult decisions for any PhD student is whether or not to pursue a career in academia. In order to make this decision, you first need to understand what other alternative careers for PhD students are out there.

There was a time when most students pursuing a PhD would find themselves in tenure track teaching positions, making any other option an “alternative” career path. Today, tenure track positions are very difficult to come by for even the most brilliant of candidates. Most PhD graduates find themselves asking the question “what do I do now with this degree?”.

Beyond the low supply of available academic positions, more graduates than ever are committing the crime of not even considering a career in academia after considering their interests and career goals. Since the employment landscape has shifted significantly, it is good to rethink any bad feelings associated with “alternative” careers. The days of thinking that all PhDs should want to become professors are long gone. For PhD students who want to follow an alternative career path, there are a surprising number of options.

Unlike other professional programs, PhD programs tend to do a poor job of educating students in the specifics of what those options are. The blame for this is not entirely on career services departments, as many schools have ramped up efforts in recent years to reach out to students in PhD programs. The students themselves must realize that the employment landscape has changed, and that exploring alternative careers for PhD students is not something to be left as an afterthought. Many graduate students would love to focus just on completing an awesome thesis that is meticulous and complete. The reality is that very few employers outside of academia will really care or know the difference between a perfect thesis and a good thesis.

What matters in industry is not the same as in academia. Sad but true. Even for students that plan on pursuing the academic career, completing a dissertation is a starting point more than an end point, so towards the end of graduate school it is important to multitask and devote a significant amount of time to career exploration and networking.

An honest conversation with a PhD supervisor early on will more than likely open up the opportunity for them to serve as a networking resource instead of someone to hide ambitions from. Doubt may come from a general uncertainty about which non-academic route is available or a good personal fit. One of the first and most important steps in pushing students to be more proactive in pursuing their careers is helping them to be more informed regarding which career options are actually out there.

Here are some of the most common alternative careers for PhD students along with a brief description of what each career entails.

Management Consulting

The management consulting industry is actively pursuing PhD graduates alongside MBA graduates in reverence for the fact that most PhDs develop exceptional analytical skills over the course of completing their thesis project. Management consulting generally involves assessing big picture problems, finding a way to meaningfully break them down using both quantitative and qualitative methods, and providing suggestions for the methods that will best address the problems.
Although there is a general requirement for mathematical competence, the larger firms tend to have specific business boot camp programs for incoming PhDs, so loading up on business classes beforehand isn't necessary.

Most of the client organizations that management consultants deal with are businesses. However, management consultants can also advise government agencies and nonprofit organizations. The best consulting firms hire people who can think well on their feet, solve problems, communicate in teams, and exhibit professionalism with clients. It is also important that PhDs wanting to get into management consulting can break down complex problems into manageable solutions. PhDs match these qualities perfectly, making them ideal candidates for management consulting.

Consulting companies can include strategic, accounting, and IT firms. Some of the major strategic management consulting firms include: McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company, the Boston Consulting Group, and Booz & Co. Successful strategic consultants can earn huge salaries, upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

Major audit firms such as PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), KPMG, Ernst & Young, and Deloitte often provide consulting work to their clients.

IT consulting firms include companies such as Accenture, IBM, Hitachi Consulting, Computer Sciences Corp, and CGI Group. These firms look at how to implement company-wide Enterprise Resource Planning software and Customer Relationship Management systems. They may also consult companies on how they can ensure that important data is encrypted, backed up, accessible, and secure.

Management consultants are the experts business managers look to for advice, and the expertise of PhDs is just what they are after.

Business Development Consulting

Business development consultants can work across a variety of companies, ranging from small to large companies. These may include, but are not necessarily limited to, government centers, universities, and private institutions. The daily activities of a business development executive range from strategy and market planning to direct customer contact.

Small companies and startups may offer PhDs more learning opportunities, as the work involved is often more diverse. In smaller companies, business development can mean doing it all. This can range from sales and marketing to scouting for new technologies, developing business opportunities, licensing, and deal-making. This type of consulting can give PhDs a mix of experiences and a base from which they launch into larger roles. It will also give you the opportunity to discover what part of business development you are most passionate about.

In larger companies, business development refers to teams of people looking for new products, new markets for existing technologies, and strategic partnerships.
In these positions, scientific knowledge is critical. The expertise of PhDs allows them to decipher what new technology or new product has the most promise. As such, there is a high demand for PhDs in business development firms.


It should go without saying, but who’s to stop you from starting your own business? If you have a great idea or product that addresses an open and unsaturated market, then there can be nothing more rewarding than rolling up your sleeves and addressing that need yourself. If you are getting your degree in a technical field where there might be the opportunity to patent a product or method you are developing, then you may want to go out and try to build a business around it. It can be long hours, stressful, and risky, but the potential for both financial and personal rewards are sky-high.

This career pathway is ideal for PhD's who have a unique idea or an innovative product that addresses an unsaturated market. PhDs have many of the skills required to be a successful entrepreneur. You know what it’s like being your own boss and to manage a project from beginning to end, often with minimal supervision or guidance. PhD's are typically self-motivated and driven, which are critical attributes to becoming a successful entrepreneur. While it can be very rewarding to be your own boss, setting up your own business comes with its own set of unique stresses and challenges. Some of these challenges include financial instability, the prospect of failure, and working alone. When starting your own business, the buck always stops with you. You are responsible for the success or the failure of your business.

However, PhD's face many of these same issues while completing their degree. You were solely responsible for your project, for your thesis, and ultimately for your graduation. Understanding this level of responsibility makes PhD's highly resilient and well-equipped to handle the challenges associated with entrepreneurship.To build your own venture, a basic understanding of how organizations are structured, the challenges they face, and how to improve their performance, is a must. You will build your own company culture and values. Knowing how to manage employees and create a good working environment should be high on the entrepreneur’s priority list. If going out on your own and creating your own business interests you, know that as a PhD, you have the skills to make it happen.


You may not have associated PhD's with the world of finance, but there are many opportunities that demand the technical expertise and quantitative skills that many PhD's have in spades.

Two of the most popular career options for PhD's in Finance are in equity research and quantitative analysis.
Equity research analysts cover a specific industry and analyze companies within that industry. They advise whether the stock of a company should be bought (value will increase), sold (value will decrease), or held ( value will likely remain the same).

Quantitative analysts tend to be handy in computer programming and will build programs to determine when and where transactions should take place.

A degree related to a specific industry will likely help in pursuing a position as an equity research analyst.
However, quantitative analysis is usually not industry specific and will usually only rely on quantitative and programming skills to be a successful candidate.


If you are feeling particularly patriotic, there are plenty of positions available in which you will be able to serve your country. There is the option to enlist in one of the military branches and serve as a military researcher in your field of study. There is also the option to conduct research as a civilian government employee.


For those who especially love meeting new people and a good dose of travel, a career in sales may be a good fit. Many companies that produce technically complicated products and instruments actively recruit PhDs to sell those products. If you have extensive experience using any particular instrument or technology as a part of your dissertation research, you’ll likely be an especially attractive candidate.

Technology Transfer

Every research university produces patentable technology, and the technology transfer office is responsible for figuring out how to turn those technologies into products that can be commercialized. The route for commercialization involves either out licensing to companies or developing new ventures, and there are opportunities for PhDs to be involved in these processes as a licensing associate.

Venture Capital
If you have an entrepreneurial spirit but would rather not be tied down to one company’s success, your calling may be to help other entrepreneurs build their companies into successful ventures. As a venture capitalist you’ll be responsible for identifying companies that you believe are likely to succeed after conducting due diligence. You will consider the management team, the validity of the technology and product upon which the company is based and the potential market and disruptive potential of the technology or product. Although it’s not an easy industry to break into, the rewards can be great, both financially and personally.

PhD's have important advantages over other job candidates and over the population in general:

PhDs find answers, not excuses

One of the most in-demand soft skills for any industry position is critical thinking. In other words, you have to be able to identify problems, find the right problem, and then find the right answer to that problem. Guess what? PhD's excel in all three of these areas. PhD never forgets the fact that he is a researcher. He is highly trained in identifying problems and finding solutions to those problems.

PhDs are inspired by failure

As a researcher, you learn pretty quickly that you some experiments have to be performed 30 times just to find an answer to the tiniest question and then you have to do 30 more experiments to get the right p-value. You failed over and over and over again, daily, without recognition or a decent paycheck. Yet, you woke up the next morning to do it all over again. Why? Because you knew that each failure would take you closer to getting the one piece data that would bring it all together. You woke up to fail again because failure is the best teacher — failure showed you what to do next.

PhD's can create something from nothing

Less than 2% of the population has a PhD. Why? Because adding to a field is hard. Anyone can learn something and then repackage it. Anyone can regurgitate information. That’s easy. It’s so much harder to create information — to bring knowledge into existence for the very first time. If you have a PhD, you are a creator of information. This is one of your most valuable and most transferable skills. Don’t assume that everyone can create information.

PhD's are both independent and team oriented.

If you have a PhD, you’ve worked very closely with other students. You’ve had to compete for resources and for publications and you’ve had to share resources and collaborate to get published. No one is more qualified than you to work with a team.

PhD's are qualified for any industry position

Every job is a PhD job. You can never be too qualified for a job. Imagine you’re trying to hire the best person to work for you and your company, would you turn down an amazing candidate because he or she is too qualified? No, you wouldn't. You would snatch them up and let them thrive in that position or you would promote them to another position.

To summarize PhD's know how to be resilient even in the face of uncertainties. These skills make PhD's extremely well-equipped to succeed in academia or any business environment.

Sources and further reading : ... iness-phd/ ... hd-2015-12 ... -for-phds/ ... -students/ ... rbara-phd/ ... hd-degree/
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New post 21 Oct 2018, 02:46
thank you. very useful post
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New post 22 Oct 2018, 00:03
Thanks for very detailed post. Having a PhD from a reputable university will certainly provide lots of career opportunities. However what do you think about having a PhD from lower ranking universities?
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New post 30 Oct 2018, 11:39
bontabam wrote:
thank you. very useful post

You are welcome bontabam volkanarslan83

I am glad you like it and find it useful.

volkanarslan83 your question is really vague....can you be more precise, what are you actually asking ?

What would be lower ranked university for you ?

Top 20, Top 50, Top 100 ?

Any concrete example of school ?

In what specialization ?

Do you know that one business school will be really strong in one business specialization but not necessary in other ?

What rankings we are talking about ?

Do we talk about rankings based on research ?

Are you asking me about career options in academia or out of academia ?

Most importantly, you need to know yourself and your goals, why you want to do PhD in first place ?

I would not say that all benefits of doing PhD should be strictly monetized and what is doing a PhD for me personally, in terms of intrinsic value cannot be expressed in only apparent tangible gains. :idea:

I assume is should be the same for other PhD aspirants.

You follow a path on something you love and you are genuinely interested in, furthermore you dive deep and you specialize.

Having said all that, if I needed to reply in only one sentence, doing a PhD from "lower ranked" university, would not concern me much, there would be still plenty of academic or non academic opportunities and any person would be better with that, than without that experience, even in strictly ROI sense.

After you finish your PhD studies you should be much better person, much better skilled, much more mature, much more educated, with probably formed long lasting relationships and collaborations with extremely smart and interesting people......lets say you meet your future spouse there or because of PhD experience/connections/conference etc. isn't that alone highly rewarding in itself ? :idea:

Don't worry you will be always in position to profit from degree and experience, if that was your fear. :)

It will not be easy, that's the joy of it, but only if love what you study, process will be gratifying and enriching.

If you are shooting for $$$ I would say MBA or some other master will be faster and maybe more appropriate route.

The gist is, probably many would do a PhD (master or some other program) at Stanford or Harvard, question is would you do it for instance on University of Miami (53. on this list below) ? ... iversities

I would.

Not only because I would do it for the sake of pursuing studies (PhD in Finance ) that I am genuinely interested in anyway, I also know their department is quite strong in Behavioral Finance, topic that intrigues me and there would be professors with whom I would like to work.

So they might be perceived as lower ranked overall, but actually be quite strong in what is important to me.

Your question was how would that affect my career ?

It would affect quite nicely, I would secure job at academia most probably, meaning I could do what I love or I could go and employ my skills at market.

It should be win-win, even with "lower ranked" schools, if you know why you are doing your PhD in first place. :cool:
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New post 31 Oct 2018, 03:22
Dear Billionaire,

Thanks for your reply.
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New post 04 Feb 2019, 04:45

Thanks for the really informative and descriptive post. This is a tremendous help for a PhD aspirant like me! :)
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New post 06 Apr 2020, 10:28
A PhD is never wasted - "even" when from a lower-ranked university - much more important is how you communicate the strengths you have as an intellect as a result of doing the PhD (or proven by DOING the PhD, perhaps!) ..... rather than relying on the specialisation you address. Happy to help further - but you should definitely do it so long as you enjoy and find writing / research easy. Don't do it if you will hate every moment ........... maybe a taught route like a DBA would be more beneficial?
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Re: PhD in Business alternative non-academic career options   [#permalink] 06 Apr 2020, 10:28

PhD in Business alternative non-academic career options

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