A PhD in Business Administration opens the door for tenure-track positions teaching business at colleges and universities and important positions in government. Holders of PhDs in business administration have strong credentials for consulting and for leading certain kinds of start-ups. A PhD in Business Administration is a universally accepted credential of academic achievement and preparation for cutting-edge leadership in the corporate world.
Every program leading to a PhD in Business Administration, however, is not a good match to every PhD student. Although there are some programs that are “better” than others, there is no point in studying a field that doesn’t interest you at a top-10 school when you could be preparing for a research career that thrills you at an academic institution of slightly lower ranking.
In this article we will list powerhouse programs in specific specialties for students pursuing a PhD in Business Administration. Some universities have a unique collection of scholars, corporate partners, history, and funding for a specific business area. These are the kinds of places where students find ways to conform to the expectations of their professors in order to excel in their concentration.
We will also list PhD programs that do a great job of matching students to their highest aspirations and potential. These programs may not be heavyweights in multiple research areas, but they find ways to bridge disciplines — business administration and engineering, business administration and medicine, business administration and law, for example — that give their students the greatest chance to make their own unique contributions to the world.
Because getting a PhD in Business Administration is a huge investment of time, energy, and opportunity, we have identified 25 leading programs that place their students in outstanding tenure tracks, generate decades of widely accepted business research, and have the resources for their students to do meaningful research that makes a difference in the business world. We located these programs by considering academic reputation (papers published) and corporate connections. We list tuition rates, but we don’t recommend that you pay a lot of attention to them. Universities that identify doctor students they expect to succeed usually find ways to provide their tuition and fees at greatly reduced rates or for free.
But we also know that and what’s best for one student is not what’s best for another, we have not attempted to rank these 25 programs. We list them in alphabetical order. We suggest you read through the list until you find the programs you want to pursue. At the end of this article we will give you some more information about how to prepare your applications for the PhD program that best empowers you to reach your goals. We will give some in-depth answers to Frequently Asked Questions. But right now, let’s dive into our list of 25 great places to earn your PhD in Business Administration.
|1||Columbia University||New York City, New York|
|2||Duke University||Durham, North Carolina|
|3||George Washington University||Washington, D.C., United States|
|4||Georgia Institute of Technology||Atlanta, Georgia|
|5||Harvard University||Cambridge, Massachusetts|
PhD in Business Administration in 2020
Columbia’s SC Johnson College of Business usually has just 60 students in its doctoral programs at any one time, so there are many times for networking, sharing ideas, and interaction with faculty. About 2% of applicants are accepted for admission each fall.
Duke’s PhD program emphasizes opportunities to study business in the Research Triangle, a hotbed of biotech and environmental startups. Students may concentrate in accounting, decision sciences, finance, management and organizations, marketing, operations management, or strategy. Programs usually consist of two years of courses, a comprehensive exam, and then another three to four years to complete a dissertation and service to the department.
George Washington University
GWU is currently only accepting applications for its doctoral programs in decision sciences and marketing. The accountancy, finance, and management and strategy concentrations will be available again after the resolution of the pandemic.
Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Tech prides itself on offering PhD students a small and flexible program that gives them many opportunities to interact with faculty and with each other to solve important problems in innovative ways. Concentrations are offered in accounting, finance, information technology management, management, marketing, operations management, organizational behavior, and strategy and innovation.
Harvard Business School awards PhD degrees in conjunction with other programs in the Arts and Sciences as well as in accounting and management, business economics and finance, health policy, management, marketing, organizational behavior, strategy, and technology and operations management. Students are given tuition waivers, a stipend, and health insurance.
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Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MIT graduates lead their fields of research and go on to teach at prestigious universities. Even if you already have an MBA, you will need to complete two years of coursework and three years of research. MIT does not have minimum GRE or GMAT scores, but does have stringent requirements for English language proficiency.
New York University
The Stern School of Business has tremendous influence in the academic study of business. The Social Science Research Network ranks it #1 in the world in downloads of papers written by its faculty and students. UT Dallas Research Contributions ranks it #3 in the world in research productivity. And the Financial Times ranks the Stern School of Business #11 in the world for placing its graduates in academic positions after they earn their PhDs. Students who are not yet ready for the rigor of the NYU doctoral program can enroll in predoctoral studies.
The PhD program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern advertises academic rigor with real-world relevance. More than many other PhD programs, Northwestern’s PhD programs emphasize team learning. Students share insights not just to understand coursework but also to clearly define the questions that remain. PhD students at the Kellogg School of Management can choose from eight areas of specialization: accounting information and management, finance, management and organizations, managerial economics and strategy, marketing, operations, and an interdisciplinary major.
Are you interested in mining massive data sets for a business application? Studying the sociology of relationships in the workplace in the post-COVID era? Doing your dissertation under a Nobel Laureate? Or just earning a doctorate that is respected at every corporation and every university in the world? Those are the kinds of opportunities available to Stanford PhDs. Stanford offers unparalleled opportunities to do research and to network for extremely well-prepared students.
University of California
Classes taught by Nobel Prize winners can be extremely challenging, but you will have opportunities to study under Nobel Prize winners at Berkeley. Students may concentrate in accounting, business and public policy, marketing, management organizations, or real estate. Students typically take classes for two years, and after passing a qualifying exam, spend the next two or three years doing research and teaching undergraduate classes to perfect their teaching skills. It’s important to check the “Dissertations” and “Placements” links for each of program pages to get a good idea of the possibilities for your own dissertation and the kinds of schools where you may aspire to teach after you graduate.
University of California
UC Irvine’s program leading to a PhD in Business Administration offers concentrations in management, marketing, finance, operations, strategy, and information systems. Every doctoral student learns how to teach both through formal instruction in pedagogy and by teaching classes so they will be prepared to be fully functioning faculty as assistant professors at other institutions after graduation.
University of California
The Anderson School of Management at UCLA offers PhD programs in management, finance, decision making, global economics, and marketing. As a leading research institution, UCLA has more than one faculty member for each student. ensuring that students have the guidance they need to prepare for tenure-track positions in other PhD programs at prestigious universities around the world.
University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida School of Business offers a structured curriculum of 84 semester hours of courses, including 12 semester hours in research methods, plus a dissertation leading to a PhD in management. The program provides stipends and health insurance for students working in the School of Business, but does not allow outside employment. If you do not qualify for a position that includes a tuition waiver, courses are charged at a relatively affordable $369.65 per credit hour.
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago offers impeccable academics with an emphasis on quantitative methods. The Booth School of Business has PhD programs in accounting, finance, and management information systems, and also econometrics, a JD/PhD program in law and business, and a joint program in financial economics. Graduates of the University of Chicago are known around the world for their intellectual rigor and their astonishing professional connections. However, most programs require an extensive and in-depth background in mathematics and computing.
University of Connecticut
Nearly 90% of PhD graduates from the School of Business at the University of Connecticut find tenure-track positions at major universities after graduation. The university has a small doctoral program, with just 50 to 60 students at a time, each student receiving considerable personal attention and each student receiving a written evaluation at the end of each year. Students are expected to take two to four courses every semester and to complete a research proposal before they begin work on their dissertations. Students who receive assistantships do not have to pay tuition but are not allowed to hold outside jobs.
University of Maryland
The Financial Times ranks the PhD program at the Robert H. Smither College of Business #9 in the world. Graduates have taien positions at Columbia, Harvard, McGill, Rice, Texas A&M, the University of Texas at Austin, and dozens of other prestigious institutions. The program offers doctoral degrees in accounting and information assurance, finance, information systems, managerial economics, marketing, organizational behavior and HR, operations management, strategic management, and supply chain management. Students who work 20 hours a week for an assigned professor receive a base salary of $32,500 per year, free tuition for up to 10 credits per semester,and health insurance.
University of Miami
The University of Miami puts incoming doctoral students on one of two tracks. There is an economic theory/econometrics track for PhD students who expect to be pursuing research in economics and the quantitative areas of finance, management science, operations management, and marketing. There is a psychology/sociology track for PhD students who expect to be pursuing research in consumer decision-making, organizational behavior, policy and strategy, or international business. Students may receive a PhD in Business or a PhD in Economics. The program is small enough that students run into their professors informally and have many chances to expand their knowledge and networks.
University of Michigan
The doctoral programs at the Ross School of Business are focused on preparing students for tenure-track positions at other leading research universities. Its Faculty in Training program develops your expertise in competencies essential for faculty success — research, teaching, administration and service..The school publishes the research interests of professors so incoming students can find an appropriate mentor and begin research as soon as possible after admission.
University of Minnesota
The Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities has doctoral programs in seven fields: accounting, finance, information and decision sciences, marketing, supply chain and operations, strategic management and entrepreneurship, and work and organizations. Doctoral students at the University of Minnesota are given a strong foundation in the fundamentals of teaching, and can also study in the university’s nationally ranked programs in computer science, economics, psychology, and sociology.
University of Pennsylvania
The renowned Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania offers PhD programs in accounting, applied economics, ethics, finance, health care management and economics, management, marketing, and a program in operations, information management, and decision processes. A phrase you will see over and over again in department descriptions is “flexible and interdisciplinary.” Students are expected to synthesize cutting-edge knowledge from multiple fields to create new methods of doing business that make the world a better place.
University of Southern California
The PhD program at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California claims an unusual set of advantages for its doctoral students:
- Abundant research opportunities..Students publish at least one paper in a major journal in their field before graduation.
- Competitive financial assistance. Students accepted into doctoral programs receive a full waiver of tuition, a generous stipend, health and dental insurance, and all student fees for five years. They have a discretionary account for funding research as soon as they enroll in the school. After their second year, they are eligible to compete for grants from USC Graduate School, the Ford Foundation, the USC Marshall James S. Ford Award., and the USC Marshall Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurship.
- Cutting edge curriculum. Students may enter any of over 400 course sequences and participate in research at over 100 different research institutions associated with the university.
- Student-centered culture. USC emphasizes a flexible, student-centered environment where students are treated as collaborators who share the responsibilities for and credit for research.
- World-renowned faculty. Many faculty members serve as editors of the journals in which doctoral students aspire to publish. They also take leadership roles in research associations.
- A great location. Los Angeles has many of the world’s greatest recreational opportunities, as well as extraordinary opportunities for research.
University of Texas at Austin
One of the nation’s “public ivy” universities, the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business offers doctoral degrees in accounting, finance, management, marketing, and in program combining information, risk, and operations.The accounting program is ranked #1 by U.S. News & World Report and by Public Accounting Report, and the doctoral program in marketing is ranked #3 by College Choice. Students are expected to take a comprehensive exam after four semesters of full-time study, and are expected to graduate after 10 semesters of full-time study. The graduate school has nationally recognized research programs focused on tax policy and adapting work to the COVID pandemic.
University of Washington
The University of Washington Business School Ph.D. Program is associated with five academic departments that offer seven possible areas of concentration:: accounting, finance, information systems, management, marketing, operations management, and technology entrepreneurship. Every PhD student completes a major area of concentration and two minor areas of concentration. Every student minors in research methods (statistics, computing, AI, and so on). The Technology Entrepreneurship program is open to doctoral students in medicine, engineering, and in the arts and sciences. Students start doing research early. Original research is required by the end of the first year, the end of the second year, or both, depending on the department. The School of Business notes that “We know from experience that the probability of successful completion of the program diminishes substantially unless the student is committed to full-time, in-resident work until all requirements are fulfilled.”
What are the Best Reasons for Getting a PhD in Business Administration?
The pay for PhD graduates of schools of business administration is good. In the United States, most business PhDs earn $80K to $200K per year.
A PhD can be exactly what you need to get paid to pursue a project you love. Business PhDs focus on stimulating, challenging research fields in which they become acknowledged experts.
And with a PhD in Business you will study around and work around people who are very smart. There will always be an opportunity for intelligent conversation.
What are Some Reasons Not to go After a PhD in Business Administration?
Doctoral students start at the bottom of the academic ladder. No matter whether you were an executive, an engineer, or an attorney before, you will go through the progression doctoral student, doctoral candidate, post-doc, assistant professor, associate professor, full professor over a period of at least 10 years.
You will spend a lot of time alone when you are a doctoral student. You will have to use all of your scheduling abilities to find time for families, friends, pets, and hobbies.
The financial rewards of getting a PhD take a lot longer to materialize than the financial rewards of getting an MBA. By the time you have been in your career for 25 years or so, your consulting opportunities will have compensated you for the years you had a low income as a doctoral student.
Business PhDs sometimes experience “salary inversion.” They may earn less with a PhD than they did with an MBA.
Why Don’t You List any Online Programs for Getting a PhD in Business Administration?
While taking some seminars by Zoom during a pandemic and some online coursework that enables you to participate in classes taught by outstanding scholars at a distance is fine, a 100%-online PhD program doesn’t give students the face-to-face time they need with major professors and other doctoral students to maximize their connections for doing future research. A lot of what PhD students learn isn’t taught in a classroom, and limiting intensive learning time to online sessions is far less than what future academic and consulting leaders need to succeed.
What is the Difference Between a PhD in Business Administration and a DBA?
A PhD (doctor of philosophy) in Business Administration is a research degree. It’s the ideal degree for students who plan careers in academia and who want to conduct research that expands knowledge about a particular discipline or who want to articulate new theories of business administration.
A DBA (doctor of business administration) is a professional degree. It’s the ideal degree for students who want a thorough understanding of cutting-edge theory of business administration but who want to focus on applying that knowledge to business practice.
PhD degrees and DBA degrees are similar in many respects:
- Students in both PhD programs and DBA programs take courses of equal academic rigor.
- Students in both PhD programs and DBA programs learn to do research.
- Students in both PhD programs and DBA programs take a comprehensive exam, write a dissertation, and do an oral dissertation defense.
It’s sometimes a little harder for someone who holds a DBA to get a position as a professor at an institution that grants PhD degrees. And it’s not always optimal, in the view of many companies, to hire someone who has a PhD who has a superb understanding of theory as a consultant in preference to someone who has a DBA and many years of experience dealing with the issue of interest.
Holders of either a PhD or a DBA are addressed as “Doctor.” Both degrees validate substantial knowledge in their fields. But the orientation of a PhD degree is more academic and theoretical than the orientation of a DBA.
Are There any Differences in the Student Experience in PhD and DBA programs?
Studying for a PhD in Business Administration is a full-time, or considerably more than full-time job. PhD students may take on consulting engagements with their school’s corporate partners, but they will not be able to hold down full-time employment in their fields and full-time study toward their PhD.
Studying for a DBA is more likely to be tailored to the needs of working professionals. DBA programs are energized by the executives who study in them. DBA students are more likely to be employed by the corporate partners of their doctoral programs, so they have an easier time acquiring resources to do research worthy of publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
Both PhD and DBA programs take three to five years, depending on scheduling and the success of doctoral research.
Many PhD programs impose “normal time” limits on how many courses PhD students can take without a financial penalty. Texas A & M University, for example, charges both in-state and out-of-state PhD students their much higher out-of-state tuition rates if they have not completed their doctoral degrees by the time they have taken 33 courses totaling 99 semester hours. This kind of requirement is almost unheard of in DBA programs.
How we Calculated Rankings to Determine the 25 Best PhD Programs in Business Administration in the USA
We didn’t make an effort to parse out rankings among the 25 best PhD programs we found in the United States. We felt that individual differences make those kinds of distinctions less meaningful, and, besides, we wanted you to read through all of the program descriptions to make sure you didn’t miss an unexpected opportunity.
To choose the 25 schools that made our list, we gave equal weighting to all of these factors:
- Reputation, as reflected by both U.S. News and World Report and Bloomberg rankings. We know that these rankings are subjective, but they have a real impact on where you will be able to get interviews for jobs when you are ready to start your academic career.
- Fellowship money to offset tuition fees. Many doctoral students do not pay full tuition, or any tuition at all. Tuition is a more meaningful consideration for undergraduate students. Many doctoral students teach or do guided research in exchange for tuition forgiveness. We list tuition costs only as a rough guide for financial planning.
- Distinctive opportunities for doctoral students. We sought to include schools so our list has something for every doctoral student seeking to find the program best matched to their goals and needs.
Have you graduated from one of these programs? Is there a great program we need to know more about? We welcome your comments below, and invite any updates on the information we provide for each school.