From medical school to law school to veterinary school to an MBA program, Americans pursue post-baccalaureate education in large numbers. Surprisingly, though, not many dream of earning a doctorate, and this lack of U.S. representation in PhD programs is particularly notable in business schools. In fact, without our international professors, higher education as we know it would cease to exist in the United States.
The Carson College’s PhD program is typical of many. Foreign applicants dominate the application pool. Last year, 4 out of 18 new students were domestic and this fall, 4 out of 10 domestic students are joining us. My field of operations management represents an extreme case. We received only 3 domestic applications out of approximately 130 last year for a professor position at WSU. I am frequently one of few Americans in the room at conference research sessions.
The Carson College is a member of the PhD Project, an organization devoted to increasing the number of African-American, Hispanic-American, and Native-American business professors. The project’s efforts have helped quintuple the number of those individuals over the last 25 years. Nevertheless, the overall interest of Americans in becoming college professors remains stagnant, and it’s not clear to me why.
A business professor’s life has many features that are seemingly attractive to Americans: a good salary, vacation time, flexible work hours, an office rather than a cubicle, scholarly independence, and an opportunity to help others through teaching and research. It doesn’t take any longer to earn a PhD than a medical degree, and in most cases, PhD students leave the program with no student loans.
As I wrote about last year, the career of a faculty member becomes very entrepreneurial in nature. A professor’s opportunities are often only limited by imagination and creativity. We have tremendous flexibility regarding what courses we teach and how we engage and assess students. We typically choose our own research topics, which allows us to explore our passions in great depth.
So if you know any bright individuals with a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit who are still wondering “what to do when they grow up,” ask them if they have considered a PhD in business. (Applications for our fall 2020 admission class are due January 10.) It’s a challenge, but the resulting lifestyle after earning the degree is hard to beat!
PhD Program Director