Myths and facts about doctoral studies

Beta Gamma Sigma helped AACSB International during the Society’s 2001 Student Leadership Forum in Baltimore by allowing the participants to be surveyed. Participants were encouraged to share their perceptions of issues pertaining to the pursuit of a Ph.D. and the lifestyle of business doctoral faculty members.
Candidate perceptions were inconsistent with reality.

Myth: doctoral study is self-funded, leading to large debts
According to the survey of BGS student members, 37.7 percent expect they will have to incur substantial debt to pursue a doctorate. They also indicated the “ability to support myself and family while studying” and “monetary cost of doctoral programs” as the two most important factors in deciding whether to pursue a doctoral degree program in business.

Fact: most doctoral candidates in the U.S. receive funding from the university they attend
According to a survey of 125 business schools (85 in the U.S.) that award business doctoral degrees, more than 80 percent of new doctoral candidates are funded by the universities (in the U.S.). Outside the U.S., the results were mixed. In some countries doctoral programs were self-funded and in others government entities and the universities themselves assisted in funding.

According to National Science Foundation (NSF) data, 56 percent of 2000 doctoral graduates had less than $10,000 in debt from their doctoral studies.
“Our Ph.D. program is one of the largest in the country and we have around 100 students,” said Dr. Libby Crawley, associate director of the doctoral program at Georgia State University. “Some departments initially fund students with research assistantships exclusively, others offer funding through a package of research and teaching assistantships. All assistantships come with a tuition waiver.”

Myth: faculty pay is low compared to a traditional business career
In the survey of BGS Student Leadership Forum participants, “students rank the financial rewards of academic careers in business extremely low compared with a practicing career in management.” Students expected new doctorates to receive approximately 39 percent less than the actual figures for new doctorates (in 2001).

Fact: potential students underestimate compensation levels
According to “Sustaining Scholarship in Business Schools”, a 2003 report of the Doctoral Faculty Commission to AACSB International’s Board of Directors, the average U.S. academic year (nine-month) salary for new doctorates in 2001 was $85,900. In the fields of finance and accounting, the average for new doctorates was $95,000 and $101,500, respectively. One in three students estimated that faculty salaries were less than $70,000 annually, which would be pro-rated to $52,500 for an academic year salary. That means that one-third of the BGS Student Leadership Forum respondents underestimated by at least 39 percent the true level of earnings for business Ph.D.’s in academia.

Myth: candidates must have earned an MBA or other master’s degree to apply for a doctoral program in business
Many students and professionals in business mistakenly assume a master’s degree is required to apply successfully to a business doctoral program.

Fact: an MBA or other master’s is not necessary
Many individuals who earned their undergraduate degrees in business have no idea that they qualify to apply for Ph.D. programs. There is no requirement for a candidate to earn a master’s degree first.

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