MBA to academia?
July 6, 2009 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Is completing my MBA a logical step towards a career in academia?

I am currently pursuing an MBA degree while working full time. I am loving the theoretical part of business and I'm considering pursuing a PhD degree in a business-related field to become a professor.

Is completing the MBA program a logical step towards my goal? Or should I quit and pursue a traditional MSc/PhD program in business?

Please note that my undergraduate degree is in computer engineering.
posted by howiamdifferent to Education (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know of any PhDs in business administration who also have an MBA. There is, as you surmise, a vast gulf between a theoretical degree such as a PhD and a more practice-oriented degree like an MBA.

Many folks (myself included) with PhDs in business administration have master's degrees, but they are generally in psychology, sociology, statistics, or some allied theoretical field. Many doctoral programs require students to complete a thesis-based masters degree.

Some of the coursework you have completed in your MBA program may count toward breadth requirements in a PhD program, but that is probably the limit to any applicability.
posted by DrGail at 1:31 PM on July 6, 2009

Actually, I would disagree slightly with some of the details in DrGail's comment. I am familiar with the doctoral students in a top-10 business school, and at least a few have MBAs as well. Also, a large percentage, perhaps over half of the students, come straight from undergrad with no masters degree at all. It really depends on your overall background.

However, it is not clear whether completing the degree is in your best interests, particularly if you are a FEMBA (and thus likely taking 3 years to finish the program?) Assuming you applied to schools in the fall, you wouldn't start your PhD until 2010 - would you finish by then?

Con - If your company is not paying for it, you're spending money on coursework that *on the whole* won't help your PhD that much. And if you're not enjoying it, the MBA might be costing you time/stress. If you dropped out of the degree you'd have to explain your reasons for doing so clearly on your applications so it didn't look like you were just casting around.

Pro - An MBA won't hurt you per se, and there is a chance that if you were on the academic job market, some schools would appreciate that you were familiar with an MBA type curriculum, since that will be what you're expected will teach. Plus there's the benefit of following through on the program.

If you're enjoying the finance classes, perhaps you have a professor or two that you like? Could you talk to them about making the transition? A champion, or at least a good recommendation/source of info is an invaluable tool in applying to grad school.
posted by synapse at 1:55 PM on July 6, 2009

Sorry - after re-reading it occurs to me that you might be asking about whether you should finish the MBA and then apply to other programs. If you are certain about academia, the MBA is not at all required, and/or even all that helpful as per DrGail's comment. I'm just not sure that I'd quit before applying to other programs.
posted by synapse at 2:02 PM on July 6, 2009

I am a business professor and the answer is, it depends. I think that currently most professors have a masters in something more specific, but I am seeing more PhD applicants and new professors with an MBA these days. Most business programs (that I know of) expect a masters in something. Work experience is also pretty well expected. But the key to getting into a (good) PhD program is having a good story for why you want to get a PhD and why research is the thing for you. Applicants with an MBA have to work a little harder at the story because an MBA is not a research degree. You can make it work, but prepare to explain yourself. If you are looking into a part time PhD program, on the other hand, an MBA is fine. But you won't get an academic job afterwards, so it won't be worth it.
Drop a note to a PhD program or two that you would be interested in to see what they say. If you don't know what or where you are interested in yet, stay in school - you aren't ready to make the jump.
posted by dness2 at 4:08 PM on July 6, 2009

What do you love about business? Finance, marketing, or accounting? Strategy? Figure that out and get a concentrated master's in that field and then get a PhD in that field. Business is just a very general term.

I personally don't think paying for an expensive MBA is worthwhile. But if you get one and couple it with a PhD from a decent enough school, you might be able to get a job at a community college or better.
posted by anniecat at 4:32 PM on July 6, 2009

I am also a business professor. Feel free to email me if you want to talk more about this. I am happy to answer questions about this, I have posted answers on this topic before.

You definitely do not need an MBA to get a PhD. However, I do know plenty of business professors who have them. However, most of them got their MBAs before they decided to pursue a PhD. Like someone said above, the main reason that most doctoral students have master's degrees is because of selection pressure. Top schools do not admit many students each year and so having an advanced degree helps you in the application process when you are being compared against someone with similar GMAT scores and undergraduate grades.
posted by bove at 9:56 PM on July 6, 2009

I'm not in business, but I know a lot of people in business departments (and related, e.g., econ, public policy, etc.) -- and have a strong sense that it's not necessary or even helpful.

But you have people who are much better to talk to about this than mefi. Namely, your professors. Approach them. Ask about what it takes to get into a phd program in finance or something.

That being said, what's the cost you're looking at to just finish the mba? It can't hurt to have it in hand if you don't have too much more to go -- what if you decide you don't want to do academia at all?
posted by paultopia at 12:45 AM on July 7, 2009

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