Current Undergraduate Students


Are you considering continuing your education in business?

Undergraduate students and young professionals are usually aware of professional graduate degrees such as an MBA, M.S. in Accountancy, or law degree. However, another option to consider is a research graduate degree, known as doctoral, doctor of philosophy, or PhD.

While the Mendoza College of Business does not offer a doctoral program in business, students can find helpful information below about doctoral programs in general and about recommended undergraduate coursework to prepare for entering a PhD program.


The PhD Degree:   As noted above, a PhD degree is a research degree, meaning that to obtain this graduate degree a student must complete original research.  If you are interested in teaching at the college or university level, you will most likely need to complete a doctoral program.  While a majority of individuals possessing a doctoral degree work as professors, many others work in the private sector or for governmental agencies.

PhD Degrees in Business:  You may obtain a PhD in several different areas of business, including accounting, economics, finance, management, marketing, and management information systems.

Research Paradigms:  PhD candidates (and future professors) typically conduct academic research in one of three main research paradigms:  Empirical, Behavioral, and Analytical. 

Empirical Research

Example: Analysis of a surveying local auto dealerships

 Behavioral Research

Example: An experiment that provides different information to different groups of participants and then examines the results to see whether or not there are differences in the responses to the case

Analytical Research

Example: A model that shows the equilibrium level of disclosure given informed market participants and cost disclosures

The three main research paradigms exist in all areas of business specialties.  In other words, some accounting doctoral candidates and faculty members conduct behavioral research, while others conduct analytical or empirical research. 


Motivations for seeking a PhD:  There are many practical advantages to a career as a professor, but the overriding factor driving faculty members is that being a professor is their vocation—it is their calling to expand the knowledge base, share that knowledge with students, and interact with students as mentors, leaders and role models.  By obtaining a PhD, you will:

The main negatives include the challenges of publishing and few opportunities for diversification of work activities beyond teaching and research.


Requirements for a PhD Degree:  To obtain a PhD, a student must:

Completion of a PhD program often takes four to five years of full-time study, which includes the time necessary to complete a dissertation.  While the tuition charged for professional graduate programs, like MBA, M.S. in Accountancy and law programs, is usually substantial, most PhD programs fund PhD candidates, providing both the cost of tuition and a stipend.  In return, many PhD programs require candidates to work as research assistants or teach undergraduate classes. 

Recommended Preparation for PhD Programs:  Depending on when you first discover an interest in PhD programs in business, there are different recommended courses of action.

If you are interested in entering a PhD program in business, you should consider completing a 2nd major in mathematics along with your business area of interest. Depending on they type of program in which you are interested, you should consider completing additional coursework in mathematics, economics, psychology, and sociology, to the extent practical given the prerequisites for the course and your remaining major coursework.  Some suggested math and econonomics courses include:

Attached below are sample grids that show the sequencing of these recommended undergraduate courses within the parameters of the requirements of the various majors, i.e., accounting, finance, marketing and management.  Entering freshmen interested in PhD programs are also strongly encouraged to contact the Assistant Dean Samuel Gaglio’s office, 101 Mendoza College of Business, to schedule a counseling session.

 MCoB Major Grids with recommended pre PhD coursework:

Alternatively, students lacking the necessary undergraduate coursework might consider completing a Masters in Applied Mathematics before applying to a PhD program.  Also, depending on the PhD program and the business specialty, some universities may admit you to their PhD program, but require you to complete additional coursework before beginning the PhD coursework.  Which option is best depends on a variety of factors, including the area of study and the research interests.  Students are encouraged to plan ahead and discuss course options with advisors as early as possible during their undergraduate careers. 

Selecting a PhD Program:  In selecting a PhD program, you should consider a variety of factors:

Be cautious of selecting a program based on your desire to work with one specific faculty member because, if that faculty member leaves the university, our ability to conduct research in your desired area of study may be negatively affected.  The best advice for selecting a PhD program is to talk to professors as well as current PhD candidates and gather as much information as possible.

Application Process:  Although the application process for a PhD differs by university, in general most universities require: 

Depending on the course of study, the university may require or prefer that the you have work experience.  For instance, many PhD programs in accountancy prefer that their candidates have several years of public accounting experience.  However, most PhD programs do not require a master’s degree (i.e., MBA, or M.S. in Accountancy) prior to admission. If you have not completed all prerequisite coursework, some universities will allow you to complete the necessary coursework after being admitted to the PhD program and before completing the coursework required for the PhD, i.e., in the spring or summer prior to enrolling in the doctoral program.

PhD Curriculum:  The curriculum for PhD programs in business differs depending on the area of study, i.e., accounting, finance, marketing, or management, as well as based on the University attended.  In general, though, you must complete two years of course work, with the first year of most PhD programs focused on coursework in economics.  After completing two years of coursework, most programs require you to complete comprehensive qualifying exams.   After these exams, candidates focus on completing original research and writing a dissertation. 


Top PhD Degree Programs:  Different organizations and publications rank programs based on a variety of factors.  With the proliferation of the internet, it is now easy to obtain additional details on PhD programs at various universities, including details on the application process, prerequisites, and required coursework.  Some publications also include rankings. We caution you on the use of such rankings.  They are often based on criteria such as faculty output which does not capture the rigor, quality and impact of the research.  Rankings tend to pertain to the university level when departments can vary greatly in performance and reputation from each other. 

We advise you to seek out faculty in disciplines in which you have an interest and construct the list of top schools from such interviews.  Questions may include: 

Models of PhD Programs:  Among the top PhD programs, there are two main models of PhD programs.  One model adopted by universities, such as Penn State and Chicago, admits a large number of PhD students, but provides low stipends.  Another model adopted, for instance by MIT, admits a small number of students, but provides larger stipends.   


Obtaining a Professorship:  After you complete your PhD coursework and pass the comprehensive exams, you would, most likely, remain at your university to work on your dissertation.   In rare circumstances, you may accept a teaching position before completing your dissertation, although this is not advisable.  This situation is typically called “all-but-dissertained.”  Both those with a PhD and the “all-but-dissertained” must interview to obtain a faculty position. 

Frequently, candidates obtain interviews at colleges and universities through networking and recommendations.  Additionally, there are national recruiting events held annually at which colleges and universities interview candidates.  The typical interview process includes a campus visit at which the candidates meet with numerous faculty members and present a research seminar. 

A Career as a Teaching & Research Faculty Member:  One career option you may consider upon completion of your PhD is that of a teaching and research faculty member. Typically, this means that you would spend the next six years demonstrating your ability to engage in significant research and teach about three courses per year.  Further, you would also be responsible for some service to the institution such as serving on committees, academic advising, or providing administrative oversight.

The ultimate goal for most teaching and research faculty is to obtain tenure.  Genearlly, most colleges and universities require that you have five major publications in a six year time period.  Once you obtain tenure, the teaching load usually increases to four courses per academic year in addition to providing service to the university.  Failing to obtain tenure does not mean that you will "perish," as the well-known "publish or perish" saying proclaims.  Rather, you would probably move to a different level institution and a successful career there.


Counseling:  The undergraduate advising office of the Mendoza College of Business provides general advising services, including counseling on potential interest in PhD study in business.  Additionally, upon deciding to pursue a PhD in business, students are encouraged to talk with as many professors as possible about PhD programs to obtain a wide-range of views and insights.  In selecting faculty to talk with, identify professors from whom you have learned extensively, professors who inspire you, those in your areas of interest, and include those who received their PhD recently.  Contact the undergraduate advising office or chair of your department to express your interest and to determine recommend faculty for you to contact. 

Click here for a list of faculty and their research.

Resources:   The Business Information Center (“BIC”) of the Mendoza College of Business is currently developing a library section on PhDs in business.  Students are encouraged to visit the BIC regularly to learn what new resources are available to assist in your planning and decision-making regarding PhD programs.