Business Professor's Role

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Jellybean:
I am in the process of exploring the doctoral programs for various business schools since one of my lifelong goals has always been to become a business professor. For the business professors out there, what aspects of your role as a business professor appeals to you the most? Which aspects appeal to you the least? What impact do you think you have on your students?

Jimster:
I received my Ph.D. while working in corporate America, worked as a manager with a Ph.D. for a few years, then became a professor. For me, the biggest difference between business and academe is that business has comparatively little intellectual challenge, since 90 percent of one's time is spent on "implementation" and "project management" tasks, not applying one's knowledge and creativity.

So, if you are looking for more of an intellectual challenge, then becoming a professor makes sense. The minus side of the academic world is that things move slower and require more buy-in from various groups than they do on the business side.

The impact that I'd like to say I have on students is that they will be better managers because of what I have taught them. At least that is what I hope.

I suggest you try adjuncting in a continuing-education or distance-education setting. Many, if not most, programs hire adjuncts with master's degrees.  

Also, I'd like to point out that the job market for tenure-track academics in business departments is not that great. Although not as bad as the situation in the humanities, getting a Ph.D. is no guarantee of getting a job.

Jellybean:
Dear Jimster,

Thank you very much for your response. I agree with you wholeheartedly that the corporate environment is not intellectually stimulating. I think it's important, though, that when in academe, professors ought not to lose sight of what's happening in what is considered the "real world." I think the experience gained in the corporate environment helps to bring life and realism into the classroom.

I also appreciate your advice on going the adjunct route. I certainly will explore opportunities in that area.  

I am interested in learning more about how you were able to balance working in corporate America and completing your Ph.D. at the same time. The schools I am interested in applying to do not recommend working given the demands of their respective programs. As such, I have been considering putting off my enrollment until fall 2005 in order to allow myself sufficient time to work and save to alleviate some of the pressure of not having an income during my studies. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Jimster:
Although I agree 100 percent that professors in business departments (and in professional schools in general) should have hands-on experience, it is not always the case. You may want to ask around and do some checking about professors in your business area (finance, marketing, etc.) and see how relatively important hands-on experience seems to be.

I was fortunate to work for a large company that was very supportive of education, and between some periods of part-time work and a year-long sabbatical, was able to complete an M.A. and Ph.D. with them picking up most of the cost (over the course of seven or eight years).

About doctoral programs, there is a trade off in choosing between non-traditional programs that are designed for mature, working learners that enable part-time study, and more traditional programs that require a full-time commitment. A nontraditional program (at a univerisity like Union Institute) is more "doable," but lacks the prestige of a top-tier program (like Harvard or Berkeley).

If you think you will be accepted in a top-tier doctoral program, it is probably worth the five years because it will improve your chances of getting a tenure-track position.  For a "fair to middling" full-time program, I'm not sure how much it will improve your job-finding odds over a nontraditional program.

Jellybean:
Excellent point, Jimster. Indeed I have been focusing on the top business schools and haven't quite consider the tradeoffs you mentioned and the real probability of placement after completion of studies. While the schools boast about their high placement rates, I really do have to wonder whether the percentages are fudged somewhat.  

Your mention of the nontraditional programs is noted. I will certainly broaden my research of business schools to include those. I never really considered the nontraditional programs as I have been fixated on gaining admission to one of the top 50 with the expectation that I may not be able to juggle the program and work.  

I thank you for your thoughts on the matter. You've definitely injected some new perspectives I haven't really considered.

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