Lena Booth


The pursuit of higher education plays a pivotal role in shaping individuals' career trajectories in the current job market. Each degree level, whether a bachelor's, master's, or doctorate, offers distinct opportunities for personal and professional growth. While a bachelor's degree provides foundational knowledge and understanding of systems, master's and doctorate degrees empower individuals to instigate change within these systems. 

As Deputy Dean of Thunderbird Academic Enterprise at Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, I oversee business degree programs at all three levels. I also teach in the executive and online program at Thunderbird. I see the impact of each level of degree on the students who take the classes, from students with 1-3 years of experience just beginning in their careers to executives with 10-15 years in leadership. The degree that they pursue helps them in their strategic goals and benefits their companies and industries.

Here's how the different degree levels empower business students to take the next step in their development.

Bachelor's degree: Understanding how systems work

In the dynamic world of business, understanding systems is paramount to success. Bachelor's degrees in business provide students with a comprehensive understanding of how various systems function within organizations. Whether it's supply chain management, information technology, or organizational behavior, these programs equip students with the knowledge and skills to navigate complex business environments. 

One fundamental aspect of business education is learning about the interconnectedness of different systems within an organization. Students delve into topics such as operations management, where they learn how to optimize processes to improve efficiency and productivity. They also study financial systems, gaining insights into budgeting, financial analysis, and investment strategies.

Moreover, business bachelor's programs often incorporate courses on information systems, teaching students how technology can streamline operations and enhance decision-making. Understanding how to leverage data analytics and enterprise resource planning systems is crucial for modern businesses to stay competitive in today's data-driven landscape.

Another key area of focus is organizational behavior and human resource management. Here, students learn about the interpersonal dynamics within organizations and how to foster effective teamwork and leadership. Understanding human systems is essential for managing diverse teams and creating a positive work culture.

At Thunderbird, bachelor’s degrees are focused on business management, global political economy, and similar subjects in the Bachelor of Global Management and Bachelor of Science and International Trade degrees, among others. Given our global nature, we want our students to have a basic understanding of all these business subjects, but also how to communicate cross-culturally, how to negotiate globally, and how to deal with the global political environments and the regional business environments.

Overall, business bachelor's degrees provide students with a holistic understanding of how systems work within organizations and the broader business ecosystem. By mastering these concepts, graduates are well-equipped to tackle the challenges of the modern business world and drive innovation and growth in their respective fields.

Master's degree: Empowering change agents

Master's business degrees serve as catalysts for change agents, equipping students with the knowledge, skills, and mindset to drive transformation within organizations and industries. These programs empower individuals to lead strategic initiatives, implement innovative solutions, and navigate complex business landscapes with confidence.

One of the primary ways master's business degrees empower change agents is by providing them with advanced knowledge in specialized areas such as strategic management, organizational leadership, and entrepreneurship. Through in-depth coursework and experiential learning opportunities, students gain a deep understanding of how businesses operate and evolve in dynamic environments.

Moreover, master's programs often emphasize critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills, essential qualities for effective change agents. Students learn to analyze complex situations, identify opportunities for improvement, and develop strategic plans to achieve organizational objectives.

Master's business degrees also foster leadership skills, preparing change agents to inspire and motivate teams to embrace change and innovation. Through coursework, case studies, and group projects, students learn how to communicate vision, build consensus, and drive organizational change effectively.

In our master’s level degrees at Thunderbird, such as the Master of Global Management students make real decisions, such as whether to invest in a particular country, how to get their financing, whether they're using debt to equity, and the like. So, they are experiencing decision-making at a level, which builds experience and confidence for the future. 

Master's business degrees empower students to embrace the inevitable uncertainty of business, adapt to change, and proactively shape the future of their organizations and industries. By fostering a culture of innovation and continuous improvement, these programs cultivate leaders who are not only prepared to navigate change but also to drive positive change, creating value for their organizations and society.

Doctorate degree: Catalyzing systemic transformation

At the pinnacle of business education, doctoral degrees play a pivotal role in catalyzing systemic transformation. These advanced programs prepare scholars and practitioners to become thought leaders and innovators who drive profound and lasting change at both the organizational and societal levels.

Business doctoral degrees empower graduates to conduct rigorous research that advances knowledge in key areas such as organizational theory, strategic management, and entrepreneurship. Through in-depth study and dissertation research, doctoral students contribute to the development of cutting-edge theories, methodologies, and practices that shape the future of business and management.

Moreover, doctoral programs cultivate critical thinking, analytical skills, and interdisciplinary perspectives, enabling graduates to address complex business challenges from multiple angles. By integrating insights from fields such as economics, sociology, psychology, and technology, doctoral graduates are uniquely positioned to drive systemic transformation by uncovering root causes, identifying leverage points, and designing innovative solutions.

Doctoral graduates often pursue careers in academia, where they play a vital role in educating the next generation of business leaders and conducting research that informs practice. By teaching courses, mentoring students, and publishing research, they inspire future change agents and contribute to the development of evidence-based management practices that drive systemic transformation.

Business doctoral degrees, such as Thunderbird’s Doctor of Professional Practice in Global Leadership and Management, serve as catalysts for systemic transformation by preparing scholars and practitioners to generate knowledge, foster innovation, and lead change in complex and dynamic business environments. Through their research, teaching, and leadership, doctoral graduates contribute to the advancement of business theory and practice, driving progress and creating a positive impact on organizations, industries, and global systems.

Prepare for the future at Thunderbird

The pursuit of different degrees plays a significant role in shaping individuals' professional journeys and preparing them for success in their chosen fields. A bachelor's degree lays the foundation by imparting a comprehensive understanding of systems, while master's and doctorate degrees empower individuals to become change agents capable of transforming these systems. 

At Thunderbird, we expect that many of our students will become change makers in the world. We know they want to make a difference, and we are hoping that, one student at a time, they will achieve that change.

Take your career to the next level with Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University. Explore core curriculum and concentrations here.

Lena Booth

Deputy Dean, Thunderbird Academic Enterprise and Finance Professor

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