Department of Management and Human Resources
PhD Program Structure

Overall Structure of the PhD Program

It is important to recognize that the educational experience of our doctoral program is unlike any other educational experience at the university. While undergraduate and master’s degree programs challenge students to understand and apply ideas, theories and concepts developed by others, the Ph.D. program requires students to learn how to develop useful ideas, theories and concepts on their own, and contribute important new insights to current knowledge in the field. The training for creating such capabilities puts unusual demands on Ph.D. students’ time and mental resources. For this reason, we look for applicants that exhibit a superior educational background, an aptitude for research, and high motivation for completing the rigorous requirements of the program.

Coursework and Requirements

The program involves rigorous coursework not only within the MHR department, but also includes courses in other departments of Fisher College as well as statistics, economics, psychology and other disciplines within the university. The coursework helps to provide knowledge on essential theories of the field, advanced research methods and approaches to empirical research.

Students complete all required and elective courses during their first two years. The total required credit hours to complete the PhD program is 80, broken down as follows:

  • Required seminars within department: 21
  • Required statistics courses: 12
  • “Breadth” courses from outside Fisher: 12
  • Other elective courses: 20
  • Dissertation credits: 15

In addition to the above, other requirements of the program include:

First-year requirements:

  • Year-long assistantship which includes work on research.
  • Substantial progress on the second-year paper.
  • Successful completion of the first-year exam.

Second-year requirements:

  • Year-long assistantship which includes work on research.
  • Completion of the second-year paper.
  • Successful completion of the comprehensive exam.

Third-year requirements:

  • Substantial progress on the dissertation, including the formation of a dissertation committee.
  • Successful defense of the dissertation proposal.
  • Independent teaching of one course.
  • Paper(s) submitted to major conferences/journals.
  • Preparation for the job market by July, including a job market paper from the dissertation.

Fourth-year requirements:

  • Completion of the dissertation.
  • Paper(s) submitted to major conferences/journals.
  • Independent teaching of one course.
  • Successful completion of the oral dissertation defense.

First Year Exam

After completing the introductory required and elective seminars in non-major specializations, students will take an exam on these topics in the month of May prior to beginning their second year. The exam tests the student’s understanding of the important theories and empirical approaches used in micro and macro research in management as well as those pertaining to specific specializations. Students must pass the exam to continue in the program.

Comprehensive Exam

After completing the formal course requirements at the end of the second academic year, students will take the Graduate School qualifying exam for their chosen area of specialization during the month of May prior to beginning their third year. The exam tests the student's detailed knowledge of the literature, including the important theories, models and empirical approaches used in this research. The exam is written by the student's Faculty Advisor, in cooperation with other members of the Exam Advisory Committee. Students will answer a set of analytical questions related to his/her major field. Students will need to demonstrate their understanding of the research questions dominating the literature as well as be able to provide new insights. In this regard, the exam is designed to test the ability of the student to integrate and make creative contributions to the literature, not just memorize it. The comprehensive exam consists of two parts--written and oral. Passing the comprehensive exam reflects the student's readiness to undertake dissertation research. Students must pass the exam to continue in the program.

Second Year Paper Requirement

In the first year of the program, the student will begin working on a research paper that will be completed during the second year of the program. The student will take primary responsibility for this project, but will also form a committee of two faculty members which will guide the student in developing a reasonable research question, theoretically derived model and hypotheses, as well as appropriate tests.

By December of the second year, the paper must be completed to the satisfaction of the committee members. After this, the paper must be submitted to a major national conference, such as Academy of Management, Academy of International Business, or Strategic Management Society. The submission deadlines for these conferences are typically in January and February. Acceptance of the paper into one of these conferences will reflect positively on the student’s progress. In addition, the student will be expected to present the completed paper to MHR faculty members and other Ph.D. students during a departmental forum such as a seminar or brown bag series.


The student officially enters the dissertation phase of the doctoral program after passing the Comprehensive Exam. This phase of the program typically lasts for two years and is concluded with the final Oral Dissertation Defense.

The dissertation is a scholarly contribution to knowledge in the student's area of specialization. By researching and writing a dissertation, the student is expected to demonstrate a high level of knowledge and the capacity to function as an independent scholar. The dissertation is directed by a Faculty Advisor and Dissertation Committee chosen by the student. Working with his/her Advisor and Committee, the student is expected to develop and defend a dissertation proposal, complete the research with guidance from faculty, present the research in a departmental forum in preparation for a job talk, and complete the Graduate School Oral Exam to defend the dissertation research in front of the Dissertation Committee.

Expectations for Student Performance

Students must be prepared to contribute to our intellectual community, work hard, attend to program requirements, participate in research, be committed to scholarship, and support others.

We expect our students to:

  • Take the initiative to identify topics of research interest relatively early in the program and communicate with faculty about pursuing those interests and assisting with their research.
  • Remain in residence to work on research during the summer months. This is a full-time, year-round program.
  • Perform at a high level when completing program requirements. Students will be evaluated regularly by faculty and must receive positive reviews in order to continue in the program.
    Students must also successfully complete the program requirements. Failing to do so will mean that the student will not be allowed to continue in the program.
  • Be good citizens. This is a training partnership among the students and the faculty. Students must be willing to foster a positive culture and community.