The Practitioner Scholar

Doctor of Management Blog

Why do DM Students Pursue a Doctorate? [Part 1 of DM Alumni Study]

October 13, 2010 ·

People who apply to the DM program are already accomplished individuals. They are typically highly-educated executives who have achieved a great deal in life. The typical DM candidate is already employed, has many career options, and is financially stable. So we asked them – why did you decide to pursue a doctorate at this point in your life?


Responses varied widely.  Some were in it to pursue the credential, others for a challenge. Some pursued a doctorate in order to transition to academia, others to research something that would inform their practice. Alumni typically had many reasons for pursuing the program.


The biggest reason that many DM alumni had for pursuing a doctorate at this stage of their lives involved the “credential” itself. But the credential meant different things for different people.  Of course, some wanted to teach at a university, and for others it was a lifelong dream to get the credential – in some cases because a parent had a doctorate, or they left a PhD program unfinished at some previous point in life. But others dealt with doctors or scientists every day, and these folks felt that a doctorate credential would give them more credibility. Consultants saw the credential as a differentiator. In one noteworthy example, a successful alumni was attempting to encourage young African Americans to pursue continuing education, and realized that he should be a better role model and pursue an advanced degree himself:


“Here I am promoting education for young people and I need to promote my own education myself… as I was giving speeches… I recognized that I want to go beyond the masters… ”(HA)


Although some emphasized the credential, others emphasized the substance of the program in a variety of ways - including using the program as a means for obtaining in-depth knowledge or expertise in a particular topic. A good number of DMers had a very specific thing that they wanted to study and saw the program as a way to properly study or learn about the domain.  To become a “thought leader” (GM) in a particular subject.  In the words of one alumnus:


“I had a question that was making me itch and had to find a way to scratch it. I wanted to give structure and language to the process of generating answers to my questions” (TC)


Not all alumni were so specific in the reasons to pursue a doctorate, but instead as an opportunity for personal enrichment. These alumni saw doctoral studies as an open-ended means of transition or as a way to broaden their intellectual horizons. Some were dissatisfied with the intellectual challenge or heft of previous studies, others saw it as an opportunity to continue studies they found enjoyable; to continue on a course of “lifelong learning.” Perhaps one alum captured this view best when she said


“I wanted to shake up my own marbles.”



Nicholas Berente is a former faculty member of the doctorate of management program (now an Assistant Professor with the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia).  Dr. Berente interviewed alumni from the first decade of the DM program.  This blog is the first of five parts based on those interviews. Subsequent blogs will address: (part 2) why they chose the Weatherhead DM program, (part 3) their reflections about the program, (part 4) the impact of the program on their thinking, and (part 5) the impact of the program on their careers.




Tags: DM Reflections · Faculty Perspectives

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