Which Doctorate Degree Should I Pursue? Ph.D. vs. D.M.

A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at CTU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.

The decision to obtain a doctorate degree is a commitment to learn and understand a specific topic better than anyone else. Doctorate students evaluate and analyze a specific topic, with the goal to understand and logically describe the details of highly complex, innovative concepts in a way that is easy for others with less knowledge to digest. The time commitment necessary to achieve this level of understanding is extraordinary, and doctorate students make many personal sacrifices while in pursuit of their degree.1

For doctoral students, it’s important for students to choose a degree that best aligns with their personal interests and professional goals. For example, students might want a doctorate degree that allows them to teach, or a degree that allows them to continue their professional career outside of academia as a subject matter expert in their particular field.1

Making the decision can be difficult, and the choice is personal. Ask ten different people which doctorate degree is the right one, and you’re likely to receive ten different answers. According to Dr. Steven Munkeby, Colorado Technical University’s Lead Doctoral Professor, a way to simplify the decision process is to ask yourself, “What do I plan to do once I obtain my doctorate degree?”1

Types of Doctorate Degrees

Ph.D.: Doctor of Philosophy

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is usually recognized as a theoretical research degree, where you will often pursue new research to extend or build upon existing findings. The Ph.D. is considered to be training for a career in higher education, which may include teaching, but also includes ongoing research and publishing efforts.2

When you obtain a Ph.D., you may be planning to become a university professor with an emphasis on research. In preparation, Ph.D. students are often paired with tenured faculty. The aim for Ph.D. students is to further the research agenda of their university’s concentration, faculty or academic institute. Ph.D. candidates must show a mastery of theory by completing competency examinations and a dissertation that is approved by a committee of current Ph.Ds. in the same area of study.

Traditionally, Ph.D. programs focus on an area of research, such as Management, and are geared toward publishing this research for future scholars to use. Often, a Ph.D. candidate is an expert that is seeking to explore a narrow gap in scholarship for several years.2

D.M.: Doctor of Management

The Doctor of Management (D.M.) is typically acknowledged as an applied research degree within the study of management. The focus is on the application of management theories and learning how practical research can be used to identify or solve industry problems.

A D.M. program is designed to help you prepare to think and act strategically, while enhancing your ability to make positive management contributions in your chosen career path. The knowledge you may develop from a D.M. degree is designed to help you build advanced research skills and tools to help you confront complex problems within your industry. Of course, the degree may also help those who prefer to pursue a career in higher education, prepare to pursue the roles of faculty or administrator.2

The purpose of the D.M. degree is similar to the Ph.D. where the focus is on researching concepts and ideas based on theory. However, the D.M. intent adds the belief that these theories can be applied and used in real-world scenarios. Some programs may use a progressive academic approach that encompasses the career strategy, talents, skills and abilities of managers, executives and academic leaders to develop future practitioner scholars. In addition, students move through the program in small cohorts to encourage collaboration, networking and degree completion.2

Doctorate Degree Highlights

Both degrees offer a challenging curriculum with a strong emphasis on research, whether applied (D.M.) or theoretical (Ph.D.). In either case, you must demonstrate advanced writing and comprehension skills, and in both programs you will write and defend a dissertation in front of a faculty committee. Some applied doctoral programs may also require you to complete a comprehensive exam before starting your dissertation proposal.

Prerequisites for Doctorate Degrees

While there are slight variations from one program to the next, in general, both a Ph.D. and a D.M. from an accredited school require applicants to hold at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field of study. Applicants might also have to take the Graduate Management Assessment Test (GMAT). This is a challenging test that assesses how a student is likely to perform in business school.

Students seeking an MBA may also have to take the GMAT, so if you’re following your master’s degree with an application to either a Ph.D. or D.M. program, it’s a good idea to research whether you’re able to use that same score. Other prerequisites for program admittance might include a letter of recommendation and a personal essay that outlines your prior business experiences and why you’re looking to obtain a doctoral level degree.3

In general, both Ph.D. and D.M. programs are looking for students who are intellectually curious and interested in academic research. Applicants should consider the degree program and the specialty he/she is pursuing, as well as understand what is required to graduate.

Coursework for Doctorate Degrees

Usually, both Ph.D. and D.M. programs begin with a period of coursework, which is followed by an exam. The students then undertake research and develop their dissertation. For example, a typical Ph.D. or D.M. structure might follow this path: coursework, research project development, research proposal defense, dissertation and final defense.2

Benefits of Doctorate Degrees

The primary goal of colleges and universities is to train thought leaders who push the frontiers of knowledge and make contributions to business practices and society. If this sounds appealing, then it’s worthwhile to consider a doctoral level degree. The benefits can include learning from teachers who are up to date on the latest business theories and practices, improving your skillsets and knowledge on a flexible schedule, becoming a lifelong learner and achieving personal satisfaction.2

Pursue Your D.M. at Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University’s Doctor of Management program offers students the opportunity to develop management skills in one of many concentrations, including but not limited to criminal justice, healthcare management and leadership, higher education teaching and learning, and technology management. Learn more about CTU’s Doctor of Management degree programs.


1. Munkeby, Steve, Ph.D. Lead Doctoral Professor, Colorado Technical University. “Which is the Best Doctorate Degree for Me? A Ph.D. vs. DBA vs. DM?” (Visited 3/7/17).
2. Rahim, Emad, D.M., and Tiffany Yates, Ph.D. “D.M. or Ph.D. in Management? What You Need to Know to Make the Right Choice.” Retrieved from: https://www.coloradotech.edu/~/media/CTU/Files/ThoughtLeadership/dm-or-phd.ashx (Visited 8/8/17).
3. “FAQs.” Retrieved from: https://www.phdproject.org/resources/faqs/ (Visited 8/8/17).

For important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended this program, go to www.coloradotech.edu/disclosures. CTU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Not all programs are available to residents of all states. Financial aid is available for those who qualify.
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