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Ph.D. Degree Requirements

Many people are here to guide you as you progress through your program of study. Because you must satisfy requirements of the Graduate School as well as requirements of the Smeal College and your primary field committee, initially you will meet with the Smeal College graduate officer at the doctoral orientation to review policies and procedures such as satisfactory scholarship, residence requirements, and continuity of registration before embarking on your program. Next, your primary field adviser will work with you to determine if you have satisfied foundation requirements and to help you design a program of study that will meet both your requirements and those of the University. As you delve more deeply into your course work, you will identify faculty mentors with whom you will work individually. These faculty members will become part of your doctoral committee, which will oversee your progress through your program.

The Ph.D. Degree

The Primary Field

To make it easier for faculty members and students to pursue research interests that cross traditional department boundaries, The Smeal College has organized its doctoral programs into the following primary fields.

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Management and Organization
  • Marketing
  • Real Estate
  • Supply Chain & Information Systems

Benchmarks in the Program

Candidacy Examination. After you have spent two to three semesters in the doctoral program, a candidacy examination will be scheduled. This examination tests your competence to continue with your doctoral program, and, because it will identify your strengths and weaknesses, it also helps in planning your course of study.

Doctoral Committee. Generally, after you have taken eighteen credits of graduate work, your adviser will ask you to outline your study plan, showing completed and proposed courses in your primary area, the supporting field(s) and research methods fields. On the basis of this outline, you and your adviser will form a committee consisting of two graduate faculty members from your primary field, one from your proposed supporting field(s), and one from the research methods field. Your doctoral committee will administer your comprehensive examinations (see below) and guide you through your dissertation.

The Research Paper. Success in the doctoral program requires that you achieve high-level competency in the use of the English language, including reading, writing, listening, and speaking. What better way to demonstrate this than a presentation of a paper you have written around a topic of your own research? You will be required to complete the paper by the end of your second year in the doctoral program, and you will be required to make the open presentation by the end of your fifth semester. (This presentation can satisfy the language requirement for students for whom English is the second language.)

Teaching Skills. It is important that doctoral students develop skills in teaching. Scholars not only develop knowledge through their research, they must be able to communicate knowledge to others. You will develop these skills throughout the program:

  • Teacher Training Mini Camp. Designed to be taken before you teach in the College for the first time. This two-day intensive experience is designed to help you acquire the skills and the confidence to succeed in the classroom.
  • Smeal Scholars Seminar. This is a one-credit course you will take in the first year in the Ph.D. program. It will cover topics on professional development, research ethics, writing and presentation skills.

Written and Oral Comprehensive Examinations. The comprehensive exam is a requirement of the Graduate School. It may be written, oral, or both. The comprehensive exam is scheduled after you have completed most of your graduate course work. Your doctoral committee chairperson will explain your field's requirements and format for the comprehensive exam.

Dissertation. Ideally, when you begin taking your course work, you should begin thinking about potential topics for your dissertation. As you add to your knowledge base, your ideas will have a chance to develop and grow. If you have taken the time to incubate a number of ideas, you will have little difficulty in proposing your research topic for your dissertation to your doctoral committee. Your committee will require that you create a formal research proposal and present it orally for their counsel and approval. The presentation of this proposal will be open to all Smeal College graduate faculty.

When your committee confirms that you have a sound dissertation document, you will schedule a final oral examination. Though this final examination will be primarily a defense of your dissertation, it may also cover your entire program of study. This examination is open to the public. As a public document, your dissertation will be made available to anyone who requests it.

Competency Requirements

Embarking on doctoral study in business administration presumes that you have developed the following competencies:

  • computing: working knowledge of a general-purpose language like C, Fortran, or Basic and hands-on experience in writing, debugging, and running computer programs;
  • mathematics: knowledge of linear algebra and introductory calculus;
  • statistics: knowledge and skill at least in the introductory level in topics such as descriptive statistics, probability, hypothesis testing, analysis of variance, correlation, regression, and chi-square.

Some primary fields will have additional requirements. If you require additional work in any of these competency areas, you should either take college-level courses prior to starting your doctoral program or sign up for the optional mathematics preparatory camp offered prior to the start of the fall semester.

In addition, the Graduate School has established an English standards requirement. All doctoral candidates must establish competency in this area by the end of their third year or before taking the oral portion of the comprehensive examination, whichever comes earlier. To meet the competency requirement, the Graduate School requires that you complete a course in writing, a course in oral communication with a grade of at least a B, and that you complete a writing task. Under some circumstances, a student may be exempted from the course work.

The Prescribed Course of Study

A doctorate is earned by demonstrating a high level of competency in a specified area, not by completing a specified number of credit hours. What you see below, therefore, is a discussion of the minimum number of credits that must be taken in certain areas. The number of credits that you will actually take will be determined by your strengths and weaknesses and the requirements of your field of study. You must complete all requirements for your degree within eight years of earning candidacy. If six years or more has elapsed since your candidacy examination, you must take a second comprehensive examination before you can complete your degree.

The Supporting Field. The supporting field requirement consists of a minimum of 9 credits in at most two fields that complement your primary field but lie outside of it. You may choose as your supporting field any of the more than 140 programs recognized by the Graduate School. For example, business administration doctoral candidates have chosen to support their scholarship with courses from anthropology, civil engineering, computer science, economics, geography, industrial engineering, mathematics, political science, psychology, sociology, and statistics. You may also move beyond these established fields to create an "experimental" supporting field by showing that it meets certain criteria:

  • at least two members of the graduate faculty possess competence in the proposed field;
  • you can present a plan proposing (1) course work, (2) members of your doctoral committee, and (3) a method to evaluate the supporting field through the comprehensive examination;
  • you can identify potential teaching and research opportunities in your supporting field.

Research Methods Field. Given the importance of research skills in your doctoral program you will be required to complete a number of graduate-level courses in research methodology. These optional or required components of the program are:

  • Quantitative Methods Summer Mini-Course. This course covers basic mathematical and statistical concepts. Depending on your background, this course may or may not be required.
  • Research Methods. You will be required to take four graduate-level courses (12 credits) in research methods. At least two of these courses must be selected from the courses below, with the expectation that the two-course sequence follow one of the three specified tracks. Students should check with their faculty advisors concerning which two-course sequence to take.  The recommendations for each field are given in parentheses.
  • Economics Track (Accounting, Finance, Insurance and Real Estate)
    BA 597D Advanced Microeconomic Analysis
    AEREC 511 Econometrics II
  • Behavioral Track(Management and Organization, Marketing)
    MGMT 591 Organizational Research Design
    MKTG 554 Research Methods in Marketing
  • Systems Track (Supply Chain & Information Systems)
    SC&IS 525 Supply Chain Optimization
    SC&IS 516 Applied Stochastic Processes