PhD in Management FAQs

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PhD Faqs

Why should I pursue a PhD in Management?

The Vanderbilt PhD in Management program is designed primarily to prepare students for academic careers in research and teaching at schools of management or other divisions of major colleges and universities. Our graduates will be prepared for positions in prestigious organizations where academic research is highly valued.

What areas of specialization are offered?

Vanderbilt offers specialized PhD programs in Finance, Marketing and Organization Studies.

What are the main requirements of the PhD program?

Specific requirements vary by area of specialization. All PhD students acquire "core knowledge," which is certified by taking courses or demonstrating knowledge through prior course work in the functional business fields (accounting, finance, marketing, operations management and organization studies), in economics and in analytical tools appropriate to the student's specialization. Beyond core knowledge, students may be required to pass a preliminary exam in quantitative tools or a basic discipline (this requirement varies by specialization) and must pass a preliminary examination in their chosen specialization within management. A student formally enters "candidacy" by passing the qualifying exam, which entails the successful defense of a dissertation proposal. The degree is awarded when the dissertation is completed and successfully defended before one's dissertation committee.

How many courses do PhD students take? Who offers them?

The PhD program requires 72 semester credit hours, typically including 40 to 50 credit hours of formal course work, with the rest taken as dissertation credit. Some formal doctoral-level courses are offered at the Owen Graduate School of Management, but given the small size of our program, students inevitably take many of their courses within other Vanderbilt schools. For example, doctoral students in Finance take courses in the Department of Economics and students in Organization Studies frequently take courses in the Departments of Psychology and Sociology. PhD students also sometimes take upper-level MBA courses, particularly in their specialization; it is common in such cases for the professor to require work over and above that expected of MBA students. Transfer credit is also possible for relevant prior course work.

How long does it take to complete the formal course work?

For students without an appropriate master’s degree, two years of full-time formal course work are generally necessary. For students with an MBA or other master's degree relevant to their specialization, the number of courses can be reduced through exemption from core curriculum or through transfer credit. Note, however, that graduate credit may be transferred only from graduate schools in accredited institutions; such transfer is not automatic and must be specifically approved by your advisor, the director of the PhD program and the Dean of the Graduate School of Vanderbilt University.

Who will be my advisor?

If you are offered admission to the program, the letter of admission will identify a faculty member within your area of specialization who has agreed to serve as your initial advisor when you enter the program. This obligates neither you nor the faculty member for a four-year period of supervision; as your interests and research agenda develop toward the preparation of a dissertation proposal, it is possible that a different faculty member will emerge as the appropriate advisor on your dissertation research. Of course, any faculty member can serve as an informal guide; students are encouraged to speak with relevant faculty in the selection of course work and on other matters of mutual interest.

How much flexibility exists in the program?

The program offers quite a lot of flexibility because it is small and can respond to interests of individual students. Specific knowledge and exam requirements must be met, but there is flexibility in the particular courses chosen and the particular areas of knowledge to be emphasized. Faculty typically compose exams with each particular student in mind to test competence in areas where the interests and prior accomplishments of the student indicate that it should exist.

What is the nature of the research requirements of the program?

Research is carried out while students are taking formal course work and during summers. As research assistants, students are involved with faculty in joint research activities and pursue their own research objectives under faculty supervision. These activities should be directed toward authoring or co-authoring papers to be presented at academic meetings and submitted to research publications by the time the student is ready for dissertation research. To compete successfully in the academic job market, students should place a high priority on the development of a research agenda yielding tangible outcomes, such as meeting papers and publications.

Are PhD students required to teach?

PhD students are not formally required to teach, but some teaching experience is highly desirable for anyone expecting to pursue an academic career. Students serve initially as faculty research assistants but also are called on to assist faculty members in teaching certain courses. Students are usually able to take advantage of opportunities to assume responsibility for teaching a full course, either in Vanderbilt undergraduate programs, at nearby colleges and universities or occasionally in elective courses in the Vanderbilt MBA program. Gaining teaching experience is important for developing an overall portfolio for the academic job market, but doing so for income reasons, beyond that needed for experience, would be undesirable and risks compromising the development of a strong research record.

Is it possible to get the PhD degree on a part-time basis?

No. The PhD degree involves intensive academic study and collaborative research, which cannot be accomplished on a part-time basis. One strength of the Vanderbilt program is its opportunities for joint work and interaction with faculty and fellow students, which would be diluted in a part-time effort. In exceptional circumstances it may be possible for students to take certain preparatory courses on a part-time basis. However, most of the period during which a student is taking courses and working on the dissertation should be devoted to full-time study.

Can I earn an MBA degree as part of my studies toward the PhD?

We strongly advise against it. The MBA is earned through a separate professional degree program that is not formally related to the PhD program. In order to pursue an MBA, a PhD student would have to obtain permission from his or her advisor and the director of the PhD program, apply to the MBA program and gain admission and pay the full cost of tuition for the additional courses required. PhD fellowships do not cover tuition for MBA courses not required for doctoral study.

PhD Admissions

What is the deadline for applications for the PhD program?

Our deadline each year is January 15 for fall admissions. We do not offer admissions during other semesters. We do not do any prequalifying for admissions. We will begin reviewing completed applications after the January 15 deadline.

How do I apply to the Vanderbilt PhD in Management program?

Applications to the Vanderbilt PhD in Management program may be completed online through the Graduate School's website. Choose "Management" (in the "Social Sciences" group) as the program to which you are applying. Within the application, specify your chosen major field of study (Finance, Marketing or Organization Studies) as the area of specialization.

On what key factors is admission based, and who decides?

Admission is based on undergraduate (and graduate, if applicable) transcripts, scores on standardized tests and recommendations from former professors or employers who can speak to your ability and motivation to do doctoral-level work at Vanderbilt. With respect to standardized tests, we will accept either the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

A critical factor is the statement of purpose that the candidate provides on the application. We seek evidence that the applicant understands the specific nature of the program to which he or she is applying, can articulate scholarly intentions that fit with the current research interests of current faculty and is academically prepared to undertake the demands of the program with a high probability of success. This is in many ways the most important aspect of an application. We reject many applications from individuals with fine academic credentials who write a statement of purpose that is vague, generic or otherwise poorly crafted. Thus, superior academic qualifications (i.e., grades, test scores) are necessary but not sufficient criteria for admission.

Applications are reviewed by faculty in the area in which the applicant proposes to specialize. They provide recommendations to the school's PhD Committee, which makes the final decision.

Is an interview required?

We do not admit an applicant unless faculty members in the area of specialization have spoken personally with him or her, either face-to-face or by phone. We prefer to limit these interviews, however, to applicants who we feel are strong candidates (in other words, applicants who have passed an initial screening of their credentials). Accordingly, we ask that applicants refrain from attempting to schedule an interview or visit until a complete (or nearly complete) application has been received. After initial review, promising applicants will be contacted by area faculty to see if an interview visit (or a series of phone interviews) can be arranged.

Having said all of the above, we do understand that if you live far away, you might have a window of opportunity to visit Nashville at a time of year that doesn't match our preferred admissions sequence or make it possible for you to submit your application before visiting. In such cases the faculty will probably ask you in advance for a synopsis of your credentials and interests before they agree to schedule interviews. Contact the director of the PhD program or the faculty member who serves as PhD coordinator for your intended area of specialization to discuss such a visit.

How selective is Vanderbilt with respect to admitting PhD students?

The Vanderbilt PhD program is small and highly selective. The only criteria for admission are the applicant's credentials. We are under no pressure to admit any specific number of PhD candidates.

Does it help to have an MBA degree before entering the PhD program?

Not really. It speeds the time-to-degree a little because students with an MBA degree are likely to meet the requirements for core knowledge in the five functional business fields. They may be able to transfer a few courses for graduate credit. However, students interested in the PhD degree should consider applying immediately to the doctoral program rather than taking the time to complete an MBA first. The principal purpose of the PhD program is to train students to carry out research in a functional field of business, while the MBA program is directed at communicating existing principles of managerial behavior. Prior graduate work that is research-oriented and related to one’s intended field of doctoral study is far more useful (some examples: prior study in economics or mathematics for a Finance applicant, or in psychology or sociology for an Organization Studies applicant).

Costs and Financial Aid

How much does it cost to attend Vanderbilt? What financial aid is available?

Students admitted to the PhD program are usually awarded fellowships that include a full tuition waiver, health insurance and a stipend covering living expenses. During the 2010-2011 academic year, the tuition waiver and health insurance waiver will be worth approximately $40,750, and the amount of the stipend will be $21,000 for a 12-month period. Owen fellowships carry an expectation that the student will devote 12 hours per week serving as a research assistant or engaging in research collaboration with faculty. For outstanding candidates, the Graduate School of Vanderbilt University awards a limited number of fellowships that add $6,000 to $10,000 to the amount of the Owen School Fellowship award. Fellowship awards are typically renewable for four years, as long as the student remains in good standing and continues to make progress toward completion of the degree.


How will I find a job once I complete the program?

Academic positions at quality institutions are filled on the basis of the applicant's academic performance, research accomplishments and teaching skills and interests. Placement is frequently accomplished through the active support of the student's principal dissertation supervisor and/or other area faculty members. Completed research papers authored or co-authored by the student that have been published or accepted for publication are particularly helpful in securing a faculty appointment at a major research-oriented university.

Why do I get information from the Owen Graduate School of Management but make application to the Graduate School of Vanderbilt University?

The Vanderbilt PhD in Management is a program of the Owen Graduate School of Management but, like all PhD programs at Vanderbilt, is administered by the Graduate School of Vanderbilt University. Thus, you make application to our program through the Graduate School, although the decision whether or not to admit you rests with faculty within Owen. Once enrolled, students in the program are subject to the academic regulations and requirements of the Graduate School as well as those in the Owen promulgate. In addition, certain key milestones, such as the qualifying examination and the dissertation defense, are administered through the Vanderbilt Graduate School.

To inquire about the status of an application or other administrative matters, please contact the Vanderbilt PhD in Management Program Administrator.

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