Answered by Bryan, Hiring Expert at IBM Corporation, on Thursday, August 28, 2014
Within the R&D area, I would have to recommend the PhD. We mainly target PhD candidates for our Research opportunities in most scientific disciplines. In fact, in many cases it is a required qualification to even be considered for a role in that area.
I do realize the importance of an MBA for management and leadership skills, but I feel that the PhD should be your first target to open available entry level opportunities in the R&D space. You should have an easier path to a future management role in that area after being part of the R&D team. That might mean future training, education and mentoring around leadership and business management. Most companies usually offer those types of employee development opportunities and might even cover different costs for that type of education.
One additional thing to keep in mind for the Research space is that hiring managers are usually very engaged with faculty at campuses running the PhD programs and it is through those relations that many companies identify top candidates. If you do not go through a PhD program on campus, you may be cutting yourself off from great faculty members that already have strong relations with company contacts with opportunities in that space.