State of the Market for Ph.D.s
by David L. Olson, Department of Business Analysis, Texas A&M University
The job market for our profession is crucial to all of us. It is most crucial at the onset of our careers, when we finish formal academic preparation and go on the job market. This market has been noticeably dismal for the past few years. While there has been some indication of slight recovery in selected areas, some traditional areas remain in deep recession (Celec & Lutz, 1993; Price, 1995).
One of the services the Decision Sciences Institute has excelled at is providing a clearinghouse for business academic positions. We have all noticed a distinct drop-off in the number of positions available. The reason for this slump in demand, according to a number of studies, is in part demographic, in part economic, and in part subject to the whims of popularity (see references). The demographic part is that a large number of our current faculties obtained their Ph.D.s in the early 1970s. That increased the supply of Ph.D.s significantly. The economic factor is that many states have experienced budgetary crunches, and there is a definite climate for governmental cutbacks in spending. Finally, the popularity of business, which waxed throughout the 1970s and 1980s, seems to have waned, with liberal arts replacing it as the most popular major in some locations.
These changes have been studied, and to a degree anticipated, by administrators of schools of business. An invitational conference conducted by AACSB and GMAC in Dallas in February 1992 noted that we were now in a zero-sum environment. A decline of 15-25% in business undergraduate majors was projected. Furthermore, many deans were scrutinizing the relative cost of doctoral education. In the zero-sum view of things, efforts expended on doctoral education were (and are) seen as detracting from MBA programs, which has greater payoffs from corporate sponsors, and from undergraduate programs, which has greater numbers of students.
The Dallas study, as well as those of Celec & Lutz (1993) and Schuster (1994), saw the need for additional requirements for attractive applicants in the Ph.D. job market. In the boom years, the primary emphasis was placed on developing state-of-the-art research skills. The prevailing attitude had been that one could learn how to teach, but the ability to do cutting-edge research was the marketable commodity. This probably did lead to a focus on basic research far removed from those areas appreciated by corporations. It also led to less preparation for teaching at the undergraduate and MBA levels. This is no longer true. In today's market, new Ph.D.s need teaching credentials in addition to demonstrated research skills. A good applicant packet today may include teaching portfolio materials in addition to research publications.
The Decision Sciences Institute has long emphasized service to Ph.D. students, viewing this audience as a major source of future growth. The Institute has developed a number of programs intended to foster Ph.D. development. As mentioned in the first paragraph, the Institute's Placement Service has proven to be one of the most effective in the field. The Elwood Buffa Doctoral Dissertation Competition and New Faculty Workshop provide opportunities for those who have just completed their Ph.D. programs. The Doctoral Student Consortium has been in place for about a decade, and has developed into a highly useful program to prepare Ph.D. students moving into the job market. The more recently established Graduate Student Workshop offers a means for Ph.D. students to get involved with DSI early. This workshop has been moved to the regional meetings in order to make it more accessible to Ph.D. students early in their programs. The students who attended Marion Sobol's workshop at the last Southwest DSI meeting were positively impressed by the material presented.
Both the Doctoral Student Consortium and the Graduate Student Workshop have informed participants of the current state of the Ph.D. market. Contemporary Ph.D. students need to develop viable research skills, but they also need to develop teaching credentials. Both the Consortium and Workshop offer program elements to foster this development, as well as guidance from those who have preceded, in the best way to plan one's career.
Stephen E. Celec and Richard J. Lutz, Stipend Survey of Business Doctoral Programs and 1993 Supply/Demand Projections for Doctoral Students, Research Committee, Association of Directors of Doctoral Programs in Business, Summer 1993.
Leon Price, DSI Placement database statistics, 1995.
Jack H. Schuster, Preparing Business Faculty for a New Era: The Academic Labor Market and Beyond, a report commissioned by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business, January 1994.
Jack H. Schuster, Current Issues in Business Doctoral Education: A Report on the Dallas Invitational Conference, a joint project of the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business and the Graduate Management Admission Council, February 1992.
DAVID L. OLSON is a full professor and Business Analysis Faculty Excellence Fellow in the Department of Business Analysis at Texas A&M University. He received a B.S. in mathematics from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, an M.B.A. from Kearney State College, and a Ph.D. in business administration from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. His research interests are in multiple objective decision making. He has authored and coauthored four books related to those research interests. He is currently an at-large vice president for the Institute, as well as a track chair for DSS/AI/Expert Systems, and chair of the Doctoral Student Affairs Committee.
Decision Line, Dec/Jan 1996 (v27n1)