Completing a doctorate degree is a significant accomplishment. This achievement represents the culmination of hard work, extensive critical thinking and research about the chosen field of interest, and the result is a contribution made in the form of new ideas, thoughts, plans, methodologies, and/or actionable recommendations.

Consider in contrast, the number of individuals who complete their coursework but not the dissertation portion of the doctorate program. Current research shows there is an unprecedented number of individuals who are at the “all but dissertation” or ABD phase, and it is unknown what weight or influence a doctorate degree with the initials ABD in the title may have, if any at all.

Also consider that a doctorate degree, in academia, is the highest level of academic achievement. As those of you know, it is also the costliest of academic degrees as well. In fact, the total number of people within the United States who possess a doctorate degree is less than 10%. Within academia, doctoral candidates are generally told they will become scholar practitioners, and they are encouraged to continue their research and practice what they have studied.

The Journey of a Doctoral Graduate

I have worked in the field of higher education now for over 12 years. Prior to working in academia, I worked in corporate America for approximately 20 years. However, I have not remained exclusively in academia as I have also accepted consulting and contract positions that have allowed me to work with organizational development and instructional design projects. As to my work in academia, most of my positions have been online teaching and online leadership roles, working with for-profit institutions.

I am certain most of you may know about the state of the for-profit industry and how most of these institutions have had significant enrollment drops. Some institutions have even been forced to close. There are new non-profit institutions taking over the market; however, the leader in this market is known for low pay and a reputation for offering correspondence-style courses, which will lead to accreditation issues at some point.

What all of this indicates is that adjunct online teaching jobs are becoming fewer year by year, and full-time positions are almost non-existent. When I began in 2005 there were more jobs than instructors and the “gold rush” began. Now that has been reversed and those of us with doctorate degrees are competing with thousands of adjuncts who have master’s degrees for just a few jobs. If you believe a doctorate degree gives you a competitive advantage, you would be just as disappointed as I am on a daily basis.

Finding Employment in Higher Education

The online application format has taken away the human element from the application process and being a scholar practitioner no longer matters when filling out online forms. The fact I have a degree that less than 10% of the United States population has makes no difference to an automated online application system, and I am talking about positions in the field of academia.

Can you imagine having a doctorate degree (Ph.D. Postsecondary Adult Education), with 11 years of experience in higher education (including roles such as Chief Academic Officer and Dean), and not having a competitive advantage with institutions of higher education? Sure, we could blame the automated online application system; however, that is only part of the issue since it is the institutions who are implementing these systems.

More importantly, do you believe that someone with my education and experience is treated any differently as to how my application is handled? Now let me clarify, I do not expect white glove treatment. However, I earned a doctorate degree (Ph.D.) and that is a degree which is supposed to be the most respected and highly positioned degree in academia. Yet I receive the dreaded automated human resources emails that do not even have the courtesy to address me by my name.

What is even worse? The changing nature of jobs within academia. Here is an example. There is a newer non-profit institution, which is operating as a for-profit. This institution advertises hundreds of jobs and if you look on salary review websites you will be shocked with how low the pay is for these positions. However, what is even more shocking are the qualifications for senior leadership positions. One senior leadership position was advertised with the following requirements: master’s degree, three years experience, and some higher education experience preferred but not required.

I should clarify that the positions I am referring to above are remote or online based positions. I have also looked into employment with traditional colleges and universities; however, my doctorate degree was obtained from an online university and traditional schools tend to reject anyone with degrees from online schools. In addition, I would not qualify for a teaching position which requires earning tenure and other positions within traditional schools are also few and rarely advertised.


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