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doctorateNot all doctors are created equal. Most people are most familiar with medical doctors, MDs, who gain their doctorates through intensive study and practice at hospitals around the world. Lawyers are also a type of doctor as they earn their juris doctorate (JD) during their years at law school. In fact, there are dozens of types of doctoral programs that can give students the title of “Dr.” — but not all of them are suitable for individuals looking to build lasting professional careers. Before enrolling in a doctoral program, prospective students should know for certain that their advanced degree is going to give them the career opportunities they crave.

Students interested in business typically have two choices for their doctoral pursuits: Ph.D.s and professional doctorates. There are distinct differences between these advanced programs, and knowing those differences helps students choose the best path for them.

Available Positions

Typically, professional doctoral candidates are already well-positioned within their chosen industry, meaning they are likely already a manager or decision-maker within an organization. The advanced education they pursue will qualify them for the top-level positions that are incredibly difficult to reach. Thus, it isn’t ridiculous to assume that students who achieve professional doctorates in fields like business administration will become the key executives of the future. Even better, because professional doctoral programs intend to produce workers who will return to the fold, employers are eager to scoop up professional doctorates.

Meanwhile, the job market for Ph.D.s continues to shrink. Ph.D. programs are incredibly long — at least seven years and sometimes as many as 12 — and employers are loath to hire someone who has spent little time in the real world. Plus, Ph.D. programs rarely try to imbue professional skills in graduates, so few Ph.D.s have any applicable abilities outside of research. Typically, business Ph.D.s can look forward to teaching jobs at universities and community colleges — and little else.

Impact on Industry

It’s incorrect to assume that Ph.D.s hole up in academic institutions and fail to impact their chosen fields. In truth, Ph.D.s can control the field of business — but slowly and from a distance. Ph.D.s rarely re-enter industry after earning their prestigious degrees. Instead, they will find employment at universities or research centers where they can study potential new techniques and technologies. Eventually, their findings might filter into the wider world of business, changing how businesses operate.

Conversely, professional doctorates rarely linger in academia. As soon as their theses are accepted, these professionals return to their rightful place in the real world, where they can apply their newfound knowledge and skills to build strong business empires. While the information they glean might not be revolutionary, it can directly influence at least one organization — which might encourage others to follow.

Networking Opportunities

doctorate networkingIn business, who you know is usually as important as what you know. Therefore, in any business education program, students should be eager for networking opportunities. Unfortunately, not all networking is equal. In Ph.D. programs, candidates are most often in contact with career academics who produce the papers and presentations students use to craft their own research. Worse, Ph.D. networking events are primarily filled with other Ph.D.s looking for jobs in industry rather than any professionals looking to hire Ph.D.s.

Professional doctorates, on the other hand, are frequently interacting with professionals in their industries. First, fellow students in professional doctorate programs are likely looking to return to work in high-level positions, so befriending one’s peers is exceedingly beneficial at expanding one’s network. Additionally, programs often include network-building events, at which leading professionals will impart tips and tricks for getting hired or running a business.

Business is one of few fields that learning in the classroom is not necessarily more valuable than learning in the real world. While formal business education might take less time, it isn’t always as nuanced as the experience gained in real-world business settings. Then again, real-world offices often aren’t as thorough as classrooms, so workers equipped only with experience often boast sizable gaps in their knowledge, making them unsuitable for higher-level positions that require more extensive understanding. The professional doctorate perfectly splits the difference between experience and education, especially for students looking forward to a real-world career.