How My Doctorate Elevated My Career

Dr. Rick N. Bolling
Dr. Rick N. Bolling
Division Superintendent of Schools; Ed.D. in Leadership

Adding new credentials, certifications, and graduate degrees reward the person earning the knowledge through two means. First, educators often preach the importance of being life-long learners to students and coworkers. The factor that is often cited as the most critical in establishing an exemplary learning community is fostering productive relationships among all stakeholders. Authenticity is essential for earning trust and building relationships. As such, educators should model the way and aim to learn new skills on a continual basis. In this consideration, a doctorate should be valued simply for the knowledge and skills learned along the journey.

Another consideration of earning a doctorate is more extrinsic in motivation. Earning a doctorate can make an educator more marketable for career advancement. A doctorate within a field is both respected and well-recognized. As such, the grad degree leads to heightened credibility within the field. These doctoral degrees can even lead to additional certifications, opening the door to new fields under the education umbrella. A doctorate certainly makes a candidate more marketable for most fields in education.

Why I Chose to Pursue a Doctoral Degree

The decision to start down a path toward an additional degree is not one to take lightly. There will undoubtedly be additional pressures in your life during this period. Perseverance and resilience are essential for the successful completion of a graduate degree. This commitment will require time, which may take time away from family and other aspects of life. Balance is essential, and the individual must be confident that the investment is in their best interest.

Earning a doctorate is a bucket list item for many individuals. I would include myself in this group of individuals, as my degree was my personal goal. Graduate programs add to a feeling of accomplishment. I knew I wanted a doctorate, but the timing and expense were looming considerations at points in my life.

In addition, a person must get beyond fear of failure. Many accomplished people fear the next step as it might be the one that impedes their success. I realized that we cannot live in fear, but rather must embrace life and its challenges. Entering a doctoral program with eight of my colleagues provided the assurance I needed to begin my doctoral degree.

Another consideration that led to my pursuit of the doctoral degree was the desire to make a greater impact within the field of education. I wanted to teach additional education courses at the collegiate level, write articles for publication, present at conferences, and eventually pursue the position of division superintendent. While I knew that some of these accomplishments could be pursued without the doctorate, I also knew that adding the credential would make me more marketable and credible. Upward mobility is strongly linked to the completion of this degree.

How My Doctorate Helped My Career

I selected a doctoral program that fit my needs as a current leader within a school system. My leadership track helped me to study leadership skills and models that were useful to me as a principal at the time. Relevant, meaningful, and practical programs are often of most use to educators. I did not earn an additional certification through my doctoral program as my state affords persons with a specialist degree the opportunity to hold a Division Superintendent’s License. Yet, my investment in the program provided additional confidence and understanding of the field.

Many divisions add a paid stipend for anyone with a doctorate. In this regard, my doctoral degree added to my compensation, which helps my career in the present and boosts future retirement earnings. In addition, the doctoral degree, combined with my leading a highly successful school, allowed me to speak at numerous conferences and publish relevant educational articles. These accomplishments opened to door for me to become an adjunct faculty member in leadership studies at the collegiate level.

What I Learned Through the Degree that I Still Use

I am able to use the skills gained from my doctorate program on a daily basis. Earning the credential was certainly a key factor in my becoming a superintendent. Since I selected a degree program that aligns with my leadership career, I can use the leadership skills to create better working conditions for employees and learning experiences for our students. One of the critical understandings from my program was leading by example as a servant leader. Empathy and serving others are driving forces of my daily goals.

Further, educators’ time is too limited to focus on initiatives that are not producing sound results. The program’s focus on data-driven instruction and evaluation helps me use action research on the job to refine an educational system to produce the best results. The dissertation phase, although daunting, is essential for understanding how to evaluate and rely on sound data to make informed decisions. Educators are prepared to have a larger impact as they apply research methods to answer relevant questions about daily practices and gaps in existing studies.

I can use the skills that I learned along the path to the doctoral degree to remain relevant as a college professor in educational leadership. Further, the degree opens the door to present and write about education. As such, these opportunities help motivate me to continue to learn and grow within the field as an administrator. Continual growth and learning should be the goal of any educator.

Each person needs to believe in themselves and make the best decision for them regarding their future and career. The best way to start is a conversation with colleagues who have earned a doctorate and college graduate education departments.

Are you interested in pursuing a doctorate program to advance your career? If so, check out our available in-person, hybrid, or online doctoral programs in education today!

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