As mentioned on my “About” page and my “Resume” page, I have a couple of formal degrees (a B.S., M.S.E.E. and an M.B.A.). In addition to the degrees that I have already earned, I plan on continuing my education and earn a doctorate. My reasons for earning a doctorate are various. I don’t need a doctorate to do my job, nor am I interested in being a full-time professor. The main reason for wanting a Ph.D. is personal satisfaction but I am also interested in using it as a credential in consulting.

As a person who has a full-time job, I’m not able to attend a doctorate program full-time and most programs don’t offer a part-time option. While searching for a doctoral program that allows for part-time attendance, I have run across many (many) programs with some being accredited and others being unaccredited. During my search, I immediately removed any unaccredited programs since the level of rigor and the acceptance of these programs are questionable. I narrowed the list of possibilities down to regionally accredited programs in the US and began researching.

What I found in my research was that the doctoral system in the US is focused on full-time, on-campus doctoral students with very little thought put into part-time students who wish to pursue a doctorate. Granted, there are many schools who make exceptions for students to attend part-time, but they do require some form of residency on campus and don’t allow much of the doctoral program to be accessed via distance learning methods. I did find that there were some regionally accredited schools in the US that offer doctoral programs via external methods. These schools, examples are Walden University, Capella University, Northcentral University, Colorado Technical University, provide part-time doctoral students a way to earn their degree via distance learning options.

There are those people that still believe that a doctoral program isn’t ‘real’ if it isn’t a full-time, on-campus program that takes a person 5 years to complete. Hopefully this mentality is changed over the next few years.There are many UK, European, Australian and South African schools that allow ‘external research’ Ph.D. students…I guess I just don’t understand why the majority of the programs in the US don’t allow for the same type of access to the doctoral programs.

After quite a bit of research, the initial choice for my PhD work was Northcentral University (NCU) in Prescott, AZ. NCU is a “for profit” school that is regionally accredited and offers a 100% distance learning option for their Ph.D. NCU does not require any residencies on campus like most other programs. I thought the no residency option would give me the ability to finish the program without spending additional money for travel to campus. I liked the idea of the self-paced learning methodology used at NCU, but the fact the school is a “for profit” organization stayed in the back of my mind. I applied and was accepted to the PhD program, but after thinking about the program, I realized that I would prefer to have some residency requirements in my doctoral program so I started looking for another program again.

After NCU, I ran across the Colorado Technical University (CTU) Doctor of Management (DM) program. The program requires 3 residencies per year, which satisfies my need to have some interaction with other doctoral students. The DM program does not require a doctoral dissertation but instead requires six ‘projects’ that result in publishable articles. The idea of having six publishable articles when I was done with my doctoral program appealed to me so I applied I applied and was accepted. I was set to start the program in January 2007 when I realized that CTU was a ‘for-profit’ program which, like NCU, caused me to re-think the school.

The “For Profit” university debate is one that occurs quite often in the academic world. Personally, I think the for-profit schools like NCU, CTU, Capella, Walden and others are good for education. These schools are able to provide some competition to the B&M programs, which might force them to open up their thinking on how they teach and what value they provide to their students. That said, my personal preference is that I’d like to earn a PhD from a B&M program via external work (i.e., distance learning).

As of February 2007, I am still searching for a program but I have narrowed down my search to the following programs:

The above programs are not the pure management programs that I was initially interested in, but after reviewing these programs (and others), I realized that the programs that allowed me to mix technology and leadership/management were the ones that most interested me. The three program above programs are designed for part-time students and are delivered via distance learning methods. Residencies are required for the programs as are full dissertations. In addition, the programs above are offered by brick & mortar schools.

UPDATE – March 2007

After looking at ISU, UAH and Ecole de Lille, I decided none of these schools really offer the programs that I thought they did and the don’t provide the focus that I really want. UAH’s PhD program’s focus was more on the manufacturing side of things while ISU’s focus is on the same type of environment (for the most part). After doing much research and talking with the above three schools, I decided to keep looking.

UPDATE – June 2007

Throughout my PhD search, I’ve really been looking for an Information Systems and Technology Management focus…and I think I’ve found that in 2 different programs….now I just need to select one of them.

The programs are:

These 2 programs are quite different but they both hit the ‘sweet spot’ of my interests….let me explain my reasoning a little.

Dakota State (DSU)

According to the DSU website, the D.Sc. program is meant to:

prepare individuals for careers in research, teaching, and corporate employment. This program emphasizes applied scholarship, focusing on multi-disciplinary research projects with a strong emphasis on the productive application of information systems and information technology to organizations and their management.

When I first heard about this program (thanks to a few distance learning friends), I rejected it due to the focus on Information Systems and the fact that it was D.Sc. instead of Ph.D. or D.B.A…but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that a more technical doctorate is probably more applicable to me and my interests. As you may know, I have an MS in Electrical Engineering and have always been interested in IT & IS and would probably have had earned an MS in IS instead of EE if I had really thought about it. The D.Sc. in IS would allow me to meld the technical aspect of IT/IS with the management aspect of business. My MBA’s focus was on MIS (with 12 hours of MIS courses). As it stands now, I could possibly transfer in ~18 hours of MIS and IT/IS into the program which would leave me with ~70 hours for the D.Sc. (25 hours of dissertation work and 45 hours of coursework). Another plus is that the program is quite affordable…at ~$270 per hour, it is one of the cheapest doctoral programs I’ve found.

Right now, this program is at the top of my list….I have just sent in my application and hope to hear something soon from the admissions committee.

Grenoble Ecole de Management

According to the Grenoble website, the D.B.A. is a:

It is a unique, research-based, issue-driven qualification that culminates in a doctoral degree (Doctor in Business Administration). It focuses on the broad area of the management of technology, organizational change and innovation. It can also cover more traditional research topics in the fields of management, finance, marketing, organizational behavior, etc.

When I first heard about Grenoble’s D.B.A. program I was thrilled and cautious at the same time. The program seems to hit my ‘sweet spot’ perfectly and it is said to be ‘triple’ accredited by the AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA. Of course, since it is a European based program, it isn’t “regionally accredited” in the US, but is RA equivalent.

After speaking with a few current students and hearing from a person who just completed the program, I was very interested and began talking to the school. It seems that the isn’t any coursework (as we know it in the US) and the program is broken up into 2 stages (read more about the program stages here). The first stage teaches a person the skills needed to do research and lasts ~1.5 to 2 years while the second stage is the actual thesis writing stage and lasts ~ 2 to 2.5 years. The cost of the program isn’t too bad at ~$10K per year for the first three years and a slight drop after the third year.

The only downside to Grenoble is the travel to Grenoble for 2 workshops….I don’t mind the travel but getting to Grenoble (in the south of France in the Alps region) is quite a chore.

I have submitted my application to Grenoble and am waiting on feedback from them.

UPDATE – July 2007

I have been admitted to both Grenoble And to Dakota State University!

Which have I chosen?

Starting September 5, 2007, I will be a student in the Doctor of Science in Information Systems program at Dakota State. My specialization is Decision Support, Knowledge Management and Data Management Systems (DSS for short). If everything goes according to plan, I will be done sometime in 2011 or 2012.. Yikes…another 3 to 4 years of school! 🙂

Wish me luck!

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Steve Wiley

Although quite belatedly, congratulations on getting accepted to Dakota State! That is too cool. I am pondering pursing my masters in Computer Science. UTA seems to have a decent program for that.

Eric Brown

Thanks Steve! Good luck in the search for a good Master’s Program…UTA definitely has a good one.