There’s plenty to think about when considering a PhD or professional 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, associate director of research and residencies for Capella University’s School of Business and Technology, and Freda Hartman, PhD, faculty chair for Capella’s Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) programs, provide some insights for careers in business that also apply to many different industries.


Needed: Problem-Solvers

“Employers are looking for excellent problem-solving skills,” says House. “The problems in business and industry today are extremely complex and require a higher level of thinking—the kind of thinking and solving that’s taught only at the doctoral level. A premium will be paid to people who can solve the most difficult problems.”

Problem-solving skills are developed throughout the doctoral program, from coursework through the dissertation or doctoral capstone. Employers, especially those who have worked with doctoral graduates before, know that they are likely to find much more advanced problem-solving skills in those who have completed a doctoral program.


Doctoral Degrees Cross 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 IT can leverage it to find careers across several industries, all of which want the same thing: someone with advanced problem-solving and complex thinking skills. With a PhD in IT, someone could:

  • Direct an IT department at public and private companies
  • Conduct government-level or academic research
  • Oversee the expanding role of IT within health care
  • Work in security-related fields that specialize in cybersecurity.

A professional doctorate, like the DBA, can also aid in landing promotions or even changing careers altogether. “We see students come into the DBA program without business backgrounds who use this education to move into business careers,” Hartman says. “The DBA gives them the foundation of the practical side of business, and they can use that to build a new career.”


Academic and Non-Academic

It used to be that the PhD would most often lead to a college faculty or research position. But today, many other sectors are seeking doctoral degree holders as well. “Lots of industries hire PhDs now because of the advanced skills they offer,” House notes. “Large companies, public companies, the government—they’re all looking for PhDs today. 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, best business practices. It’s less theoretical and more about the applied side of business.”


The Ability to Communicate

What every industry and every company needs are people with good communication and writing skills. Doctoral programs, through the dissertation or doctoral capstone, develop those skills, even in candidates who initially had good communication abilities. “The writing levels improve so much through the final 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.


Credibility, Pay, and Opportunity

“A doctoral degree really increases credibility in the workplace,” House says. “The more skilled and more credentialed you are, the more desirable you are to employers.”

And that credibility can possibly lead to an improved salary. “Your income may change, maybe even significantly, depending on where you’re located,” House says.

That’s true for both PhDs and professional doctorates. “The DBA is a great enhancement for people who are at, or aspire to, the executive level,” says Hartman. “It’s also a way for people in middle management to start moving upwards into advanced leadership positions.”

House also notes that the PhD is a degree that’s known globally. “It opens up international opportunities. Keep in mind that most of the Fortune 500s are global now.”

As long as you can think critically, solve problems, and communicate, your doctoral degree can take you much farther than you might think.



Capella University offers PhD and professional doctorate degree programs ranging from business to education and health to technology. Learn more about Capella’s doctoral degree programs.


See graduation rates, median student debt, and other information at Capella Results.


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