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PhD after MBA

Education is a five-course meal with PhD as the ultimate dessert at the end of it all. Having said that, not all fields of study have had a long history of crowning a doctorate degree. It has traditionally been the highest degree in the sciences, and social sciences.

Somewhere in the middle of the previous century, though, business schools began to switch their focus from a purely vocational bend towards research oriented training, leading to what we now know as PhD in business, or management.

However, if you were to compare the share of Management PhDs in the US, for instance, with PhDs from other fields, the number is far from stellar, though marginally growing with each year. The picture below summarizes the rising number of Business Doctorate recipients between the years 1986 – 2016, as per The corresponding percentages reflect the share of doctorate holders with respect to the total number of doctoral graduates. (Updated table from 2021 is available here)

For instance, in 2016, 22.9% of the total 54,904 doctoral recipients graduated with a PhD in Life Sciences, while Business Management PhDs accounted for only 2.8% of the entire body of Dr. XYZs graduating that year. In 2021, this percentage for Business Management majors was 1.3% and for Life Sciences was 22.6%.

So, clearly, this is a road less traveled as compared to your streamlined PhD, after MS, route.

PhD after MBA

The natural question, that follows, is what eludes PhD, in Business, from your everyday household fame?One of the possible reasons being that most business degrees have a lot more commercial capacity as compared to an academic one. Individuals who have an aptitude for business and have secured an MBA from any of the top few tiers of B-schools, generally follow the blazing path of success marked by their predecessors.

The most cited reason, for avoiding the path of business research is the ROI for the years invested, and the cost of opportunity lost while pursuing a semi-decade long journey towards the degree.

With the MBA degree taking a couple of years with average starting salaries north of $90,000, it is not a shocker to realize why some people would rather continue gaining work experience, and the fat paychecks, sans the PhD and its associated delayed gratification, if any (read Average MBA Starting Salary).

That being the obvious reason, there is clearly another significant factor keeping most business graduates away from a doctoral path – research is not their calling.

This brings us to the next question.

Why PhD after MBA?

What makes a PhD after MBA an attractive option? The thrill of research. The PhD program offers an opportunity to conduct independent study, scholarly research, and obtain an in-depth knowledge of a specialized field, which would be otherwise only superficially available to the more practical, commercially useful MBA degree.

The research training provides an awareness of the cutting-edge developments and the ability to evolve new insights at solving business problems. Doctoral graduates have years of experience in data analysis and data driven decision making, they are practiced with various research methodologies such as modeling, experimental methods, econometrics, field studies, and more.

As long as the individual has an aptitude for research, the real-world experiences of an MBA degree can motivate him to study relevant business problems.

The most common career path, offered after a PhD post MBA, is teaching. Faculties involved in active research, being an attractive indicator of b-school excellence, prompts a lot of well-known MBA, or other business programs, to hire PhDs as b-school professors.

QS Business School Rankings, for instance, takes in academic reputation and research paper citations into consideration for overall ranking. So does Financial Times MBA, EMBA and Online MBA Rankings. UT Dallas has a business school ranking list based solely on publication statistics in 24 leading business research journals.

Clearly, there is a competitive advantage afforded to PhD job applicants compared to MBAs, when it comes to protecting the interests of business schools. Success, in teaching and research, can lead to some very lucrative compensations.

Salaries, for some of the top b-school faculties, can be in the millions. (Read How much do top business school professors get paid?)

Other golden opportunities may even lead MBA+PhDs into consulting work in either well-known firms, or their own entrepreneurial ventures. PhDs derive wisdom from their theoretical, and uniquely devised methodologies for analysis, which when combined with the experiential training obtained during MBA, makes for a tremendous body of knowledge.

Hedge Funds are extremely selective about their recruits. While a lot of hedge funds believe in practical expertise more than academic experience, they are still known to hire PhDs to fill their analyst positions. Besides CFAs, MBAs, and other Master’s candidates, nearly 3% of hedge fund employees have a PhD.

What kind of specializations are available to PhDs in Business?

PhD in Business Management, or its close kin Doctor in Business Administration (Harvard HBS), follows a variety of areas of study, often in collaboration with other departments. Some of those specializations are listed below (gathered from various b-school curricula, viz. Stanford GSB, Wharton, HBS).

  • Accounting: Research focuses on solving issues, related to accounting, using economics, decision theory, and statistical inference.
  • Business Economics: This specialization combines economic analysis with business. The areas of focus may range from Behavioral Economics, Development Economics, Urban Economics, Risk Management, Economic Analysis & Policy, Organizations & Markets, Corporate Governance, and more.
  • Finance: Research focus, such as in Wharton, is set on Asset Pricing, and Portfolio Management, Corporate Finance, International Finance, Macroeconomics, etc.
  • Marketing: Research focus lies on solving marketing management issues faced by companies. Areas of study usually involve behavioral decision making, economics, industrial organization, statistics, management science, and more.
  • Operations, Information & Technology: This area of research, such as in Stanford GSB, studies management of systems, processes, and networks. They include health care systems, product design, manufacturing, information systems, decision-making, operations management, etc.
  • Organizational Behavior: Research on concepts of psychology and sociology and their impact on behavior within complex organizations.
  • Management: The specialization deals with management and leadership challenges.
  • Strategy: Research studies the heart of what sustains and develops industries with competitive advantage.

The above list is not exhaustive and every b-school tailor their research target to set their competitive edge, so to speak. The other common specializations include, Ethics & Legal Studies, Health Care Management, Applied Economics, Decision Sciences, Human Resource Management, and more.

Employment Options of Business PhD Graduates

While a majority of doctoral graduates find positions as faculties in reputable business schools, a fraction of them carry on in post-doctoral studies or head towards industry positions. Firms like McKinsey, Morgan Stanley, SEC, and more, are known to hire PhDs regularly.

Nearly 80% of graduating doctoral students are employed as faculty members in various business schools over the world, with the rest 20% employed in various industry positions. We have compiled the following table to reflect the employers of past PhD candidates from reputed business schools, mainly Wharton, HEC Paris, and Chicago Booth.

Microsoft Research NERA Economic Consulting Econ One Nuna Health Putnam Investments
Research Affiliates Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Citadel AQR Capital Management Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Federal Reserve Board Google McKinsey & Co Analysis Group Mingshi Investment Management
Asian Development Bank Massachusetts General Hospital Air Liquide CLVmetrics Getulio Vargas Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Yahoo Labs IBM Walmart Labs Cornerstone Research
Brigham & Women’s Hospital The Climate Corporation Deloitte, NY Credit Suisse NYU Langone Medical Center
Krossover Intelligence US Census Bureau KPMG AMGEN USA RAND Corporation
Inter-American Development Bank Goldman Sachs Asset Management Madansky New Media, NY J P Morgan Investment Management Inc. European Central Bank
Equity Derivative Research Group Deutsche Morgan Grenfell Bates White & Ballentine LLC Corporate Financial Group Ltd. Integrity Capital Management
Chicago Partners Arthur Andersen & Company Salomon Smith Barney Statistical Support Incorporation CP Risk Management, Chicago
Global Retail Partners, Los Angeles Bell South Corporation, Atlanta Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott, Chicago Lehman Bros.
Barr Rosenberg Research Center of AXA Rosenberg Group Bureau of Economic Analysis S3 Asset Funding Lewin Group, Falls Church International Trading Group, Northfield
CRA International Barclaycard International Dimensional Fund Advisors Merrill Lynch Risk Economics Ltd
Ziff Brothers Investments Boston Consulting Group Evolve24 AlphaWorks Capital Management LLC AIG


Business School with Popular Research Programs

UT Dallas’ Naveen Jindal School of Management has created a business school ranking based on publications in 24 leading business journals, mentioned here. Some of the top research schools, assessed between 2012-2016, based on the ranking, are listed below.

The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (USA) Harvard Business School (USA)
Stern, New York University (USA) Sloan, MIT (USA)
Naveen Jindal, UT Dallas (USA) Columbia University (USA)
Ross, University of Michigan (USA) Marshall, University of Southern California (USA)
INSEAD (France) Kenan-Flagler, University of North Carolina (USA)
McCombs, University of Texas Austin (USA) Rotman, University of Toronto (Canada)
Carlson, University of Minnesota (USA) Stanford University (USA)
Fuqua, Duke University (USA) Booth, University of Chicago (USA)
Kellogg, Northwestern University (USA) Fisher, Ohio State University (USA)
Smeal, Penn State University (USA) Foster, University of Washington Seattle (USA)

The two related degrees of a Business PhD, in addition to an MBA, provide a set of well-rounded skills that are quite unique. These skills are not just desirable in mentors of the future business leaders, but also play a significant rolein gaining a thorough insight of the world of business management.

Recommended reading for the curious reader:

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

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16 thoughts on “PhD after MBA”

  1. Hi
    I have done BCA+MCA from IGNOU. I got 92 percentage in BCA and 84 percentage in MCA. I have also worked as Software developer while doing my MCA for 3.5 years in a small start- up firm.
    I want to do MS in Computer Engineering.
    My question do top and middle tier American universities accept degrees from IGNOU (although it is a distance education IGNOU is recognised by government of India under act of parliament )
    So Is my degrees from ignou valid for admission for MS in top american universities

  2. Hi,
    I am pursuing PhD in India on the topic Organisational behaviour. But i am interested to do in USA. please tell me the ways if i can apply in some of the university’s. I am in US at present. kindly help me

  3. Hello,
    I am name is Ankita, I have completed my Masters in Microbiology (Pune University). And I have been working in CSIR-URDIP as a patent analyst for the last 2 years now. As the place I am working at doesn’t give any kind of security in future, I have been off lately thinking about either apply for PhD abroad or MBA or do some courses regarding patent analysis abroad. Can you please give me any suggestion regarding what to do at this stage ?

  4. @Dheeraj: There are some universities who consider IGNOU degrees. But it depends on which course you’re applying for. So best to check with them directly. We have some inputs for the MBA degree here:

    @Sanam: You’d probably have to reset the call and start afresh. Specially if your current work has little or no overlap with what you plan to do in the US.

    @Ankita: The decision would hinge on what you want to do after the degree. For a business oriented role, an MBA works best. For academic roles, a PhD works better.

  5. Hello.. I have done MBA(HR & MK)in 2018.. I wanna take admission for phd in IIT’s.. Plz suggest me how can apply for this

  6. Hi, I have done MBA ( management and leadership) in 2018 from Keiser university, Fl . I want to start PhD in supply chain. Please suggest me how can I apply for this. Thanks

  7. Hi myself Rupak Debnath I have done MBA in MARKETING and HR and now I want to pursue PhD degree from IGNOU. My question is will it be right enough to opt a higher degree from open University and how much can I be benefited from the decision I have taken?? Please reply without any hesitation……….. waiting for your valuable reply………. Thanks

  8. hi, I have done my MBA in HR and now i want to pursue phd in economics in hyderabad central university. am i eligable to apply and if yes , how to do that. kindly please let me know.
    bindu yamini.

  9. Hello,

    Could you please guide which PHD Programm will be approraite post “MBA in Consultancy Management”

    Thank you


  10. hi i have completed my in mechanical engineering+ now i completed my MBA in Marketing& finance now i want to do phd in the operational manger field pls suggest something…

  11. Am Naveen an International Business Marketing Consultant having completed PGDM in Marketing + IT and hold BBM in International Business and seek a PHD in similar field. Alternatively, am working a Managing Partner for a Jewel Store too. As am traveling on a daily basis I want to complete my PHD to teach full-time at universities or colleges worldwide.

  12. Assalam o Alakom
    I have don my MBA 3.5 year and HR Now to pursue PHD .am i eligable to apply for to do that. kindly pleas i want to brief me in detail explain trough whatsaf way +923428966603
    Muhammad Hanzala

  13. Sir,Can I eligible for phd program(Europe countries).After completion of mba(open degree) program in india.

  14. Hi,
    I am Ankit from India, I did complete my MBA with Finance in 2016 and I have 4 year experience in same profile. Now I am looking Phd program in Finance in USA.


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