What’s up, doc? The market is opening up for a new breed of PhDs

PhD,PhD in India,Assistant professor

A Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) is no longer a degree for the aspiring academician. Institutes such as Mumbai University, Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi, World University of Design in Sonipat, Amity University in Gurugram, TA Pai Management Institute in Manipal and Sharda University in Noida are offering PhD programmes in management, tourism and hospitality, design management, cultural media and governance, visual arts and architecture, mass communication and Information Technology (IT).

Over the past decade, these degrees have become about helping industry solve problems ranging from gender diversity in the boardroom to supply chain automation and service quality in hotels.

“Many corporates are looking to hire PhD graduates from fields such as management and design for leadership and R&D roles,” says Amirul Hasan Ansari, director at the Centre for Management Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia University, which offers a PhD in management.

“A degree in a new field, such as the application of data analytics in finance, can help you get a job in corporate governance, digital marketing or human resource development,” says Snehal Shah, a professor at the SP Jain Institute of Management and Research.

Fellows are able to pick from more subjects than before and work on research that is immediately relevant to the industry. This includes issues like the television news content, tourism marketing, and the relationship between employee qualifications and productivity.

Just disserts

Yatindra Ingle, 27, was pursuing a PhD in mass communication from Rajasthan University between 2014 and 2018, with a dissertation on the effect of televised political advertisements on first-time voters in the 2014 Maharashtra state assembly elections.

This research later helped him secure a position as supervisor of a team working on voter awareness advertisements, at the State Election Commission of Maharashtra. “Policymakers and industry are looking to hire PhD graduates from innovative fields for niche but specialised positions,” Ingle says. “Today I am eligible to work for the Election Commission of India, public policy think tanks and TV news channels.”

Since there is not much academic research in some of the new fields being offered, the scope for employment is huge, he adds.

Fatima Agarkar, co-founder of educational consultancy KA Associates, says that higher qualifications are becoming crucial to landing jobs at multinational companies too. “Many students are doing PhDs in their fields to get promoted. A PhD indicates that you have the commitment and ability to do fieldwork and design solutions,” she says. “Companies are looking to utilise these as business skills. Many organisations also partner with institutes to build PhD programmes so students can learn leadership skills and eventually enter the industry.”

Bridging a gap

For most students, pursuing a doctorate was traditionally an economic black hole – fellowships were hard not come by, research subjects weren’t lucrative and few places valued the degree enough to made it a viable career plan. The situation is changing.

“Today, PhD graduates are finding work with policymakers and businesses,” says Snehal Shah, professor and chairman for the Fellow Programme in Management at the SP Jain Institute of Management and Research in Andheri. “A degree in a new field, such as the application of data analytics in finance, or an ethnographic study of unorganised markets, has valuable applications in the real world. Research that is based on current industry issues can help you get jobs in corporate governance, digital marketing and human resource development.”

A PhD in management also costs less than an MBA, for instance, adds Kavitha Ranganathan, associate dean of research at TA Pai Management Institute. “It is academically more valuable and helps you specialise in a very specific area.”

Or, you can do what Kashif Iqbal Siddiqui, 27, from Bihar is doing, and follow up an MBA with a PhD. “After my MBA in 2015, I worked for a year and then enrolled in the PhD programme in management at Jamia Millia. My topic is modelling relationships between financial and social inclusion,” he says. “A PhD after an MBA will prepare me better for high-end job profiles such as research analyst for a multinational. I hope to get access to the best opportunities in both academics and industry.”