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About the PhD Program

The doctoral program of study is full-time and year-round; it generally requires four to five years to complete. To be successful in the program, a high level of commitment is necessary. Students are therefore expected to reside in Seattle and be full time participants in the program.


Program of Study

With guidance from faculty mentors, PhD students will create a personalized program of study that includes a major area of specialization and at least two minor areas of specialization. In addition to coursework, each department holds regular seminars where students and faculty review and critique current research in the field.

Upon satisfactory completion of coursework and the major area written exam, students are conferred a Master of Science in Business Administration (MSBA).

Major Areas of Specialization

There are seven major areas of specialization: Accounting, Finance, Information Systems, Management, Marketing, Operations Management, and Technology Entrepreneurship. Courses required for each area of specialization can be found on the tab to the left. Additional considerations:

  • Applicants choose one major area of specialization when applying. Once admitted, students may transfer areas if faculty in the new area accept the transfer.
  • Students interested in international business typically major in one of the areas listed above, minor in international business, and write an internationally oriented dissertation.
  • Technology Entrepreneurship is a new major area of specialization that builds on UW’s strengths in business and technology. It is open to students in the business school as well as students enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering, and the School of Medicine.

Minor Areas of Specialization

Research Methods.

All doctoral students are required to complete a minor in research methods. The coursework is tailored to each student’s needs and interests and generally includes instruction in probability, statistics, econometrics, and experimental design or other research method. Courses are offered in various departments across UW.

Self-selected Minors.

In addition to the research methods minor area of specialization, each student will select one or more minor area related to that student’s particular business discipline. Subject areas include computer science, economics, law, mathematics, psychology, sociology, and statistics. Required courses are taken through other departments at UW. Students are required to maintain a 3.2 GPA in these courses.


Research Paper

Each student is expected to complete a research project at the end of their first or second year (or both), depending the department. A faculty advisor supervises each project, which is generally presented in a departmental workshop.


Major Area Written Examinations

Area exams vary by department. They are typically taken the summer after the second year of study. The exams give students an opportunity to demonstrate competency in the core subject matter of their respective disciplines. Exam topics include major findings, theories, research methods, and other important academic tools.


General Examination and Admission to Candidacy

Students are admitted to candidacy upon completion of the general examination. The supervisory committee administers this oral test after all area requirements are completed. In some cases, the general examination is a defense of the student’s dissertation proposal.

Admission to candidacy is a formal University process signifying that a student has completed certain degree requirements and that the faculty expects that the student will successfully complete the degree program. The student is designated as a Candidate (PhC) for the doctoral degree and awarded the Candidate’s certificate.


After earning candidacy, students must successfully complete a dissertation that demonstrates their ability to identify a significant research question or problem and apply appropriate research techniques to examine the research question. The dissertation must be an original and independent piece of work. Dissertations are supervised by a reading committee consisting of at least three faculty members. After the dissertation has been written to the satisfaction of the reading committee, the student defends his or her dissertation in an oral final examination.


Other Requirements

A doctoral student must spend at least two years of in-residence study beyond the baccalaureate degree, at least one of which must be in full-time continuous residence at the University of Washington. 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.

Prospective students should plan on full-time studies, including summer quarter, from the time of enrollment until the completion of their dissertation. Outside employment is grounds for being dismissed from the program unless the student is in good standing and a formal request for outside employment is approved by the student’s doctoral committee Chair and the Director of the Doctoral Program.


Each academic department and the PhD Program Office jointly administer PhD students in Business Administration guided by the UW Graduate School Instructions, Policies and Procedures for Graduate Students and the UW Foster School of Business PhD Program Policies and Procedures.
Each PhD student is associated with the department that offers his or her major area of specialization. Because there are limited teaching assistantships available, admission decisions tend to be department oriented.

A few students have research assistantships from the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking (CLST) working in the Center to promote its research and development mission. These research assistantships are announced when they become available in a given admission cycle.