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Careers in Business Academia: Research, teaching and consulting jobs
Written by Sameer Kamat
Academic jobs are usually associated with teaching and research. Beyond this, the level of awareness is limited, specially for those seeking a ‘business focussed’ career.
Hari Raghavachari (an IMD Switzerland MBA alumnus) thinks there’s more to academic careers than meets the eye. In this 2-part series, he tries to provide additional insights into the world of teaching, administration, consulting and research jobs, but with a business focus.
Careers in Academia & Research
Part 1: Scope, roles, responsibilities of Academic Jobs
Meeting professors in my school (IMD) was a smaller yet important part of my overall decision criteria for choosing a school. When I attended the MBA, these professors brought the dullest stories and cases from the dullest industries to life, not just because they were professional & academic experts, but also because they found a way to communicate flawlessly, articulated humor and examples, and involved the class. Above all, they’re great teachers and mentors. And this becomes quite apparent to MBAs learning from them.
Very few careers are as fulfilling. Lately the field is increasingly lucrative for those have the discipline to go through the academic & professional rigors to get there. Through this post, I will concentrate on research & academic careers in business. In this post, I attempt to deconstruct this career, and share insights I’ve learned on how to get there.
Typical career of a B-school Academic
A b-school professor’s job typically focuses on 4 areas, with each (in the order below) added as a critical performance parameter as the person achieves seniority within the organization:
Research & publishing
Maximum workload and the pressure to conduct and publish independent, verifiable research is most in the junior ranks – Research Assistants (students in their 3-5th year in a Ph.D or those conducting research to prepare themselves for a Ph.D), Post-Doctorals (freshly minted Ph.Ds), and Assistant Professors (1st rung, normally 0-3 years out of a Ph.D). These people are guided or sponsored by a Senior Academic who will share author credits with all the people who have contributed.
Teaching & delivery
This is simply teaching various courses in a b-school curriculum. While sounding simple, this is probably the most scrutinized phase of one’s career, particularly in the years spent seeking tenure (3-12 years out). In all of the top schools, the professors who teach undergo tough, feedback driven performance measurement; then tracked for tenure or asked to leave for a pattern of poor performance.
Junior / Mid-Level professors normally concentrate on teaching courses on degree programs contribute to executive (non-degree) programs. The senior-most professors work across both degree & executive programs, but are known to prioritize the latter for several connected reasons:
- In academia – age & experience largely relates to the credibility executives demand. MBAs will NOT normally have that choice, and each class will have to learn from whoever’s chosen / assigned / volunteering.
- Executive programs are lucrative and profitable. About 50-80% of a Top B-Schools operating revenues* come from executive programs; but alongside consulting & advisory (below) these would typically account for ~100% of operating profits. They’re also an expensive talent investment for the client companies.
Simply –> MBAs build a school’s reputation and alumni base; executive programs sustain the school financially.
*Operating Revenues & profits are those from the b-schools academic & research activities. Income earned from investing the b-school or university’s endowment is financial income. Both income streams fund the operations & development of a university & its constituent departments, including student financial aid / scholarships (higher collaterals from school funds), investments and research.
Goes without saying that Top Schools, attached to top universities will derive a larger proportion of their total income from their endowments (e.g Harvard, MIT); while smaller, lower ranked schools will depend largely on their operating income stream. Another reason why the higher ranked schools are able to offer strong financial aid (including loans) packages to their incoming MBAs and Ph.Ds.
- Executive programs lead to consulting & advisory assignments which add further revenues to b-schools. These would lead to research & publishing opportunities, back to potentially more executive programs & so on…
- As corporate donations drive university endowments, b-schools want their most senior academics facing clients and their senior executives, according them prestige and importance (think Consulting firm partners…)
Consulting & Advisory
In most of the global Top 20 b-schools, many senior professors will consult or advise to senior executives in companies. Such assignments are driven or enabled by – current research as applicable to the company / industry, need to generate insights on company / industry to be used appropriately in teaching courses at the schools. For many highly ranked but independent b-schools (INSEAD, IMD, CEIBS, LBS) not part of a major University system, this is a critical source of income (that’s shared near-equally between the school & the professors).
Administration & performance improvement
The most senior professors, normally heads of academic departments within the school / institute would, along with the Dean – make up the management committee of the school. This committee would devise strategies for:
- Governance, discipline, compliance, and ethics
- Improve enhance overall operations and management
- Investments & infrastructure
- Funding & endowment, through corporate & alumni outreach
- Program / Research / Publications, curricular development
Next post: How to get a academic or research job? What are the pre-requisites, qualifications and personality traits to be successful in a career in academia?