Business Administration

Program of Study

The PhD degree in Business Administration is a jointly offered program between the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) at Harvard University and Harvard Business School. The program consists of five fields: Accounting and Management, Management, Marketing (Quantitative and Consumer Behavior), Strategy, and Technology and Operations Management.

Each candidate’s program of study will be developed in consultation with the Faculty Chair of the program and the Doctoral Programs Office at HBS. The normal program is outlined below.


Regular guidance through contact with faculty advisors is an essential component of doctoral education. Students should maintain close contact with their official advisor(s) throughout their enrollment in the program. Students are encouraged to develop informal advising relationships with several faculty members in addition to their official advisor. 

First-year advisors provide assistance during the initial stages of the program, but do not necessarily advise the student throughout their studies. Students are matched with initial advisors based on their research interests. As students familiarize themselves with program faculty during coursework, research work, seminars/workshops, and other activities, they may change their official advisor(s) as their academic and research interests develop. During the early years of study, students should become acquainted with many program faculty members, to identify advisors who share their research interests.


Coursework consists of a minimum of 13 doctoral level semester courses and 2 MBA semester courses. Each semester students will consult with their faculty advisors to receive approval of their course selections. Areas of study may require specific courses in each of the four categories listed below:

  • Discipline Courses (2 courses)
  • Research Methods Courses (4 courses)
  • Field Courses (5 courses)
  • Breadth Courses (2 courses)
  • MBA Courses (2 courses)

Students will complete all course assignments and are required to meet with their MBA faculty instructors at least twice during the semester to discuss connections between course materials and research opportunities.

Students may elect to complete one of the two MBA Course requirements by participating as a Teaching Fellow (TF) in an MBA course. Students are eligible to TF in both Required Curriculum (RC) and Elective Curriculum (EC) courses. In order to fulfill a MBA course requirement, the TF is required to attend all class sessions and meet with the instructor to discuss connections between the course material and research, as well as, to discuss pedagogical decisions made in the classroom.

Research Seminar and Presentation

Students are required to present in a research seminar on a yearly basis (starting in the 2nd year). Students must also attend a weekly research seminar, ordinarily the unit (department) seminar in their area of study.

Field Exam and Paper

Students are required to pass a field exam in their area of study and submit a publishable quality research paper by the end of their second year. Both the exam and paper are evaluated by a committee of 3 or more faculty members.


Students are required to complete a teaching engagement of one full academic term that includes in front-of-class teaching experience and teaching preparation time. 

Dissertation Proposal 

By the end of their third year, all students are required to obtain approval of their dissertation proposal by a 3 member committee. In addition, students must have a confirmed Dissertation Chair.


Students are required to write a dissertation, which typically takes the form of three publishable papers, to the satisfaction of their Dissertation Committee. The dissertation defense is oral.

The defense must demonstrate effective analysis and evaluation of relevant data contributing significantly to the understanding and resolution of management problems. A level of professional scholarly competence should be evident during the collection, analysis and reporting of data, and in the presentation of findings.

The construction of the dissertation should be clear, concise and orderly. It is necessary to include sufficient evidence to support the reasoning and conclusions. The length of the thesis will vary, depending on the nature of the research topic and the evidence required.

Since a principal purpose of the dissertation is to demonstrate a candidate's ability to make good use of the research methods appropriate to their problem, and to develop and handle evidence satisfactorily, the thesis should contain a statement (a) of the research procedures employed and (b) concerning the nature, reliability and suitability of the evidence gathered.

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Harvard Business School
Doctoral Programs Office