The PhD curriculum at Michigan Ross prepares tomorrow’s leaders for the top business schools in the world. Our mentorship philosophy allows you to work with some of the world’s best business academics at a top research university.

This experience allows you to generate impactful research, innovate in teaching, and connect theory with practice. The program’s structure follows this path:

Year One — Coursework and first-year research paper
Year Two — Coursework, second-year research paper, practice teaching, preliminary exams
Year Three — Advance to candidacy, select chair, dissertation research, teach undergraduate course
Year Four — Dissertation research, create committee, defend proposal, enter job market
Year Five — Dissertation research, final defense

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Michigan Ross faculty are top-ranked researchers and inspirational teachers. They collaborate across disciplines, concentrating in these areas of study:


Business Economics and Public Policy


Management and Organizations



Technology and Operations

The first two years of the program usually are devoted to courses that satisfy University, school, and area requirements.

University Requirements

Cognate courses: Two graduate-level courses in University departments or colleges outside Michigan Ross. This requirement is designed to increase students’ intellectual breadth. Students commonly elect cognate courses in economics, psychology, sociology, statistics, or engineering.

Michigan Ross Requirements

General background courses: Basic knowledge in accounting, finance, marketing, and organizational behavior. Students entering with an MBA usually will have satisfied this requirement. Others fulfill it through  full-time MBA courses.

Analytical tools courses: Mastery of statistical inference. Typically, students take a one-year, graduate-level sequence in statistical methods and probability through the University’s statistics or economics departments. Individual areas determine the appropriate sequence and additional courses to prepare students for research in their fields.

Area Requirements

Doctoral seminars: These sequences acquaint students with research literature and current themes and controversies in the field. Area seminars are supplemented by schoolwide doctoral seminars in research methods and research on decision-making under uncertainty.

Although coursework is important, the main goal of the doctoral program is to impart independent research skills. We achieve this under a mentorship model.

Research Assistantships

Students work with faculty formally and informally as research assistants, beginning in the first semester.

Research Requirements

Students must satisfy research requirements specified for their area.

Because graduates of our program typically pursue academic careers, and teaching at a top-notch school such as Michigan is demanding, we require our PhD students to teach an undergraduate course in their specialty for one semester, often during the third year. Students are paid as teaching assistants for the courses they teach.

Teacher Development

Our teacher development program is a required sequence tailored to students’ experiences. The program guides students by providing special mentors and addressing instructional concerns through multiple avenues, including:

  • lectures, workshops, and brown bag discussions
  • a teaching methodology course
  • class observations of master teachers
  • videotaping of instructional presentations
  • experience with the latest technologies

The diverse techniques our faculty employ — from the case method to action-based learning and interactive video — provide a solid base for exploration.

Preliminary examinations are a prerequisite for candidacy. They are designed and administered by each area to evaluate a student’s mastery of basic knowledge.

Candidacy must be achieved prior to the beginning of your fourth year (no later than September 1). If this is not possible, you would need to appeal your circumstances to the Doctoral Studies Office. Extenuating circumstances will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Failure to comply with this requirement can affect further funding.

To advance to candidacy, students must:

  • Demonstrate a satisfactory understanding of general background knowledge
  • Demonstrate an acceptable knowledge of the analytical tool area subjects
  • Satisfactorily complete the special doctoral requirements of research methodology
  • Complete the field of concentration and related disciplines written preliminary examination

Newly enrolled students are classified as precandidates until they have completed the requirements listed above. They must also satisfy any additional requirements specified by their respective departments. At that time, they become candidates for the Ph.D. degree.

Rackham Graduate School Requirements

Before an applicant can become a candidate and before a dissertation committee is appointed, the following requirements of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies must be met:

  1. Completed Coursework — The applicant must have completed most of his or her coursework, including cognates. A student must satisfactorily complete two graduate-level courses for a minimum of two hours of credit each in a department or departments other than his or her own department of specialization (i.e. departments outside of the Ross School of Business). The cognate requirement may be met by courses taken previously as a graduate student. Cognate courses must be approved by the student's advisor.
  2. Preliminary Examinations — The applicant must have passed any preliminary examinations required by the area of concentration. Students must be enrolled during the term in which they passed their prelims unless they qualify for 9 or 12 month campus privileges. Students who enroll during the Fall and Winter terms have 9 month privileges (September through May); students who enroll during Fall, Winter and in one of the half-terms (Spring or Summer) have 12 month privileges (September through August).
  3. Credits — Applicants must have successfully completed 36 Rackham Fee Totals.
  4. Residency — The applicant must have met the residency requirement which is defined as completion of at least 18 graduate credit hours on the Ann Arbor campus. Courses elected for "visitor" status and 990 elections will not be used to fill the residence requirement.
  5. Incompletes — In addition, doctoral students in Business Administration are required to remove any "Incompletes" from their transcript before they can be advanced to candidacy. They also must complete the equivalent of at least one full-time term in research/teaching activities directly related to their professional objectives. In most cases, this requirement will be met by completing an approved combination of teaching at the college level, research independent of the dissertation, or a practicum of professional experience.
  6. Core Requirements — Doctoral students in Business Administration must also complete all core requirements prior to advancement. An academic audit will be conducted prior to advancement.

Students should create a dissertation committee that conforms with the policies of both Rackham and the Ross School of Business prior to their proposal defense.

Objectives of the Proposal and Oral Defense

The dissertation proposal and the oral defense have the following objectives:

  1. To attempt to ensure that the candidate has a clearly defined, acceptable and researchable topic
  2. To ensure that the candidate is capable of pursuing the topic set forth in the proposal
  3. To receive the constructive criticism from the members of the oral examining committee
  4. To sharpen the focus of the dissertation
  5. To minimize the time period for completion of the dissertation
The Oral Defense

The oral defense serves as an oral examination of the candidate's written proposal. In general, this examination is conceived to be comprehensive and designed to explore the candidate's ability to conduct a research project.

Where the oral examining committee has valid reasons for questioning the candidate's understanding of either the theory or the research methodology necessary to conduct the proposed research, the members will probe for more information. Depending on the outcome, the committee may suggest revisions to the proposal.

The dissertation must clearly and effectively present research of significance and importance to the candidate's field of specialization and conform to a standard format as defined by the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies. Rackham requires a final oral examination for all dissertations. This takes place when the candidate has fulfilled all the technical requirements and has satisfied both the doctoral committee and the Dean of the Rackham Committee that the work warrants such an examination. The Final Oral Examination is for defense of the completed dissertation, in which the dissertation committee members formally question the candidate on the dissertation