If you are reading this article, you might be considering a doctoral degree. Or, perhaps you are simply curious about what you could do if you had a doctorate. Although there are several career avenues that become available when it comes to earning a doctorate, one option to consider is a doctoral degree in organizational development and leadership (ODL). This article will help you better understand if a doctoral degree in ODL fits into your personal and professional plans.

Why Should I Get a Doctorate?

First the facts. Not many people in the United States have a doctoral degree. According to statistics from the U. S. Census Bureau, fewer than 2% of all adults in the United States have a doctorate. However, a 2017 National Science Foundation Survey of Earned Doctorates has shown that the number of people obtaining doctoral degrees is increasing on an annual basis, particularly in science and engineering fields. 

Like much of success in life, your prospects for the future with this degree depend on many things, including factors related to who you are as a person, how hard you are willing to work, and how strong your motivation for success is. Given these variables, let’s take a look at how you might use your doctoral degree.

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What Can I Do with a Doctoral Degree in Organizational Development and Leadership

Although there are several potential career outcomes from earning a doctorate, whether you achieve it in psychology, social sciences, or organizational development and leadership, a popular choice among a large proportion of individuals is teaching in higher education. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Many people who have accumulated work and life experiences are interested in sharing their insights and knowledge with others. Teaching has a natural attraction. Professors are admired and valued in society and many aspire to teach as a way of giving give back to others by sharing their expertise, experience, and foundational knowledge of a topic. Indeed, a proud claim of the University of Arizona Global Campus is the large proportion of instructors, particularly at the master’s and doctoral levels, who bring to the classroom years of experience in the field they then share with students to enhance learning. 

A second viable option for individuals who earn a doctoral degree in organizational development and leadership is to consult in their field of study. This opportunity is exciting for individuals who have accumulated years of experience and expertise and who wish to translate that acumen—backed by a doctoral degree in their chosen field—to a consulting career. For consultants, a doctoral degree is a distinctive element of achievement, an added bonus on their resume, that sets them apart from other consultants. But, caution! Having a doctoral degree is only valuable for an aspiring consultant if he or she has the requisite competencies for success as a consultant in the field. A doctoral degree may represent the highest level of academic achievement possible, but the degree alone does not mean the person who possesses it has the organizational or business savvy to be successful as a consultant. A good consultant must have knowledge and experience. 

Third, many individuals who pursue a doctoral degree do so because they wish to attain a better position in their career field. A doctoral degree can set you apart from other applicants for a higher-level leadership position. Some individuals whose organizations know they are pursuing a doctoral degree reward them when the degree is obtained. Other organizations are eager to support doctoral candidates in completing their doctoral research project by sponsoring a project that benefits the organization with added knowledge. Either set of circumstances can be a win-win situation. The individual earns the degree and the organization benefits from a more highly trained and knowledgeable person to promote into higher levels of leadership.

Finally, some people may wish to get a doctoral degree just because. Just because they are intellectually curious, just because it’s a life goal, just because they want to be a good role model of academic achievement for their children and grandchildren. Just because. And just because is a fine reason to pursue a degree IF you have the tenacity and perseverance to pursue a degree for passion instead of purpose.

Why I Earned a Doctoral Degree

I aspired to a higher level of leadership in my field, and that came about when I obtained my doctoral degree. I was promoted and given opportunities for growth within my organization. Later, I became a private consultant, offering consulting services to clients in the same field, and now, I am an instructor and sharing my knowledge and expertise with students who are pursuing their own dreams. Life had a way of working out for the best, certainly for me.

What’s your motivation? Why would you consider a doctoral degree? Professor, consultant, higher-level leader or just because? Any of these reasons is perfectly fine. Understand that the path to earning a doctoral degree is long and requires a great deal of personal sacrifice, commitment, and, most of all, time and persistence. Can you do it? Reach out if you want to discuss your personal dreams. I’m happy to hear your story and help you consider the options.

Questions? Talk to an advisor


Written by Dr. Peggy Sundstrum, Program Chair of the PhD in Organizational Development and Leadership and management consultant to organizations that are experiencing transition and change.

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