5 ways a doctoral degree may strengthen your career

January 15, 2018

There’s plenty to think about when considering a doctorate—what program, what field, what to research and how—but the ultimate question might be: What does it mean for your career?

Garvey House, PhD, academic director of doctoral affairs at Capella University and Freda Hartman, PhD, faculty chair for Capella’s Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) programs, share five career benefits a doctoral degree may provide.

1. Develops advanced problem-solving skills

“Employers are looking for executive-level employees with excellent problem-solving skills,” says House. “The problems that face business and industry today are complex and require a different type of thinking and problem solving skills that are only taught at the doctoral level.”

Problem-solving skills are developed throughout the doctoral program, from coursework through the final project. Many employers, especially those who have worked with doctoral graduates before, know that they are likely to find more advanced problem-solving skills in those who have completed a doctoral program.

2. Provides skills that translate across industries

“You can apply skills acquired in a doctoral degree program in a wide variety of careers,” says House. “You’ve learned various types of research methods. You’ve developed skills in data analysis, and you’re armed with the knowledge, tools, and resources to apply to a broad range of situations. Some very universal capabilities are developed.”

“For instance, someone with a PhD in Information Technology may leverage it to find careers as diverse as directing an IT department in a private banking company to conducting cybersecurity research for a government agency,” notes House. “So many different paths can be associated with the credential.”

A professional doctorate, like the DBA, is another option for people looking to change careers altogether.  “The DBA gives students the foundation of the practical side of business, and they can use that to build a new career.” Hartman says.

3. Creates opportunities in both academic and non-academic settings

It used to be that the PhD would most commonly lead to a college faculty or research position. But today, many other sectors are seeking doctoral degree holders as well.

“Many industries hire PhDs because of the advanced skills they offer,” House notes. “Large companies, public companies, the government—if higher ed isn’t your interest, look at work that involves data analysis. There are many organizations outside of academia looking for those skills.”

The same is true of a professional doctorate, such as a DBA, says Hartman. “It’s possible to go into academia and teach with a DBA,” she says, “but the focus of a DBA is on hands-on business operations, how businesses succeed, and best business practices. It’s less theoretical and more about the applied side of business.”


What's it like to be a doctoral student? 

Learn more about the experience, explore each step of the journey, and read stories from students who have successfully earned their doctorate. 

Explore the doctoral journey

4. Continues development of critical communication skills

Every industry and company needs employees with good communication, critical thinking, and writing skills. Doctoral programs, through the final research project, develop those skills, even in candidates who initially had good communication abilities. “The writing skills improve continuously through the final research project.” says House.

A second part of communication involves learning to communicate with teams and how to take feedback. Doctoral students quickly realize that they will get feedback—lots of it—on their projects. Learning not to take it personally and analyzing it for how best to improve the project are skills that are highly valued in the workplace.

5. Potential to increase credibility and opportunity

Less tangible is the possibility of increasing credibility and opportunity. A doctoral degree is a significant undertaking that can be seen as representative of commitment and perseverance.

“The determination and persistence demonstrated through the doctoral process reflects skills that may help result in greater upward mobility,” says Hartman. “In some fields, like consultancy, a doctorate is increasingly required for success and to enter the top ranks of the field.”

There are many factors to think through when considering getting a doctoral degree. Depending on your chosen industry and interests, your doctorate could take you much farther than you initially thought possible.


Capella University offers PhD and professional doctorate degree programs in business, information technology, education, nursing, health care, psychology, counseling, social work, and public service. Learn more about Capella’sdoctoral degree programs.

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