Why the DBA is a smarter choice for full-time professionals

Required to get a terminal degree by my employer, I chose the DBA program at FIU Business. I live in Palm Beach County, Florida, and work as an instructor teaching classes at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in Boca Raton. If you want to work in higher education as a professor or faculty member, you need to have a terminal degree, and where I teach, the degree needs to be from an AACSB accredited business school.

I had taught business classes at FAU for years on part-time or temporary contracts. I was respected in my department, and my boss liked me, but it was absolutely clear I could never be full-time without having a terminal degree. They put some pressure on me to get this done. If I continued without the doctoral degree, I was always at risk of not getting teaching work the next semester or not renewing my contract.

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I had wanted to get a PhD for years, but I could not take time off work to do it. I was in my late 40s, had a 4-year-old son at home, a wife, a mortgage and I am the primary wage earner in my household. It just was not possible for me to stop working in order to get a traditional PhD that would take me five years or more and earn me little to no pay in the meantime.

FAU had invited me to apply to their PhD program and offered free tuition and a stipend of $20,000 per year or so, but the math simply did not work. For me, giving up a six-figure income to go back to school full-time made no sense. It was far better for me to pay for a DBA degree and continue full-time employment. I reasoned that if I spent $75,000 on the doctorate, I could make $2-3 million or more over the next 20 years as a professor.

"I reasoned that if I spent $75,000 on the doctorate, I could make $2-3 million or more over the next 20 years as a professor."

Additionally, my interests run to the practical and the applied (like a DBA) more than the theoretical (like many PhD programs). In that regard, a DBA suited me better than a PhD I looked at various DBA programs, both in Florida and out-of-state. The FIU program was a great fit for me: It is AACSB accredited, in the exciting city of Miami, within driving distance of my home in Palm Beach County, a good value for the price, a good mix of in-person and online classes, and part of a business school with the No. 2 ranked international business program and an R1 Carnegie classification.

I enrolled in the DBA program at FIU, and the rewards to me were almost instantaneous. After years of part-time or temporary contracts, I was instantly promoted to a full-time position at FAU upon entering the DBA program. My department chairman said, “Your DBA is going to be a good degree.” I was also promised a decent-sized raise upon graduation from FIU.

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I have definitely noticed more respect from my faculty colleagues, who all had to suffer through and earn their doctorate, and they seem to be happy that I am finally doing so as well.

I benefited tremendously from the experience. I learned the research techniques and scientific approach to learning that my colleagues with PhD degrees all have. I understand research, publishing, and academia at a far higher level than a few years ago.

I am working on research projects that I believe will be publishable, an important component of an academic career. Last month, I presented my partially completed dissertation at a DBA conference at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. I got feedback, met other academic colleagues, and even won an award for my presentation.

The faculty in the DBA program at FIU has been extremely helpful and have been available to me outside of the classes they teach. I have worked closely with many of the faculty members over the entire three years. They have been able to help with my research, publishing ideas, understanding of statistics and are available to chat or help at any time.

I could not be happier with the result of my participation in this program. It checked the box for what I had to have in a degree, and the experience itself was interesting, challenging and highly rewarding.

About the Author:

Joseph Patton is a visiting instructor at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches management strategy, international business and entrepreneurship. He previously spent more than 12 years in management positions at Colgate-Palmolive, CBS and Remy Martin, on brands including Speed Stick, Fab, Ajax, Remy Martin Cognac and Macallan Scotch. He has also directed fundraising for clients such as the Florida Oceanographic Society, members of the U.S. Congress, members of the Florida Legislature and Palm Beach County Commission.

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