The Kellogg School of Management's PhD Program is designed for candidates with outstanding intellectual abilities and a strong commitment to a career in research. On average 28 doctoral students join Kellogg each year from approximately 700 applications. Successful completion of the doctoral program typically requires five years of full-time study and intense dedication and self-discipline.
An applicant’s interest and desire to pursue doctoral study at a business school should be evident in his or her statement of purpose. Doctoral study at the Kellogg School is highly individualized and reflects each student’s unique background, qualifications and research interests.
At a minimum, applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution before entering Kellogg’s doctoral program in the coming fall. A master’s degree is not required for PhD admission; however, just over half of our students enter Kellogg with an advanced degree. Members of the current class have earned degrees in economics, engineering, the humanities, mathematics, the natural sciences, operations research, engineering, psychology and sociology.
Kellogg does not require work experience to apply for PhD study. However, that does not mean that work experience cannot benefit a PhD application for those who have it. Any research or data analysis experience would enhance an application, and that experience could have been gained on the job. What issues, questions, or problems were encountered within this work environment that leads one to find solutions to those questions/problems within a PhD program setting? That would be the story to tell within the statement of purpose – how these experiences would support one’s research agenda within a PhD program.
Because the doctoral program focuses heavily on individual research, we seek candidates with strong verbal and quantitative skills. We examine the coursework taken and its relevance to the intended program of study. Kellogg’s PhD Program is especially well suited for students who have previously studied engineering, natural sciences, or social sciences (such as economics, political science, psychology and sociology).
Strong math skills are needed to manage and analyze data and have an impact on the type of research our doctoral students are ultimately able to do. For instance, economics-based PhD programs require evidence of solid training in math, econometrics, and statistics within the application. Recommendations for math courses for applicants applying to Accounting Information & Management, Finance, Managerial Economics & Strategy, Operations Management, and Marketing (quantitative area) include calculus, linear algebra, probability and mathematical statistics. For those applying to Management & Organizations and Marketing (behavioral area), statistics for social scientists is recommended with evidence of quantitative thinking and a good understanding of central concepts of probability and statistics.
Performance on the GRE and GMAT will also be evaluated. Please note that our doctoral programs in Finance, Managerial Economics & Strategy, and Management & Organizations & Sociology accept the GRE only; the other programs accept both the GRE and GMAT exams. More information on our test score requirements can be found under Application Requirements, and then Official Test Scores.
Kellogg students will need the necessary quantitative skills to manage their research data and strong verbal skills to communicate their research through writing and research presentations. On average, students score in the upper 80th/90th percentile range on GRE and GMAT exams.
Please note that test scores represent just part of the application, and they are viewed within the context of the whole application. We do not have minimum GRE or GMAT scores required for admission consideration. Transcripts (relevant courses taken and performance), recommendation letters, the statement of purpose, and writing sample (optional) are also reviewed to determine the candidate’s qualifications and research fit.
For applicants whose native language is not English, test scores on the TOEFL or IELTS would also be required; however, some applicants may qualify for a waiver if they satisfy our English proficiency requirement. TOEFL/IELTS waivers are provided after an application is received and reviewed.
Research fit is very important. Applicants should identify Kellogg professors who are doing research that interests them. Doctoral students are essentially joining the research community at Kellogg; therefore, they will draw from our faculty’s immense research expertise to support their training and personal research agenda.
There are several online research resources available at Kellogg and Northwestern University to assist applicants when researching faculty research specialties. First is Kellogg’s Faculty Experts Guide, which organizes faculty by academic departments and then research expertise. Another useful resource is Northwestern Scholars, a searchable database of research expertise across all disciplines at Northwestern that includes faculty profiles, publications, and grant data. Kellogg Insight, an online monthly research magazine, brings our faculty's latest research published in peer-reviewed journals to the public, and it’s a great way to find out what is currently being studied. Subscriptions are also available.
Mentoring and collaboration are trademarks of Kellogg’s PhD Program. Kellogg professors actively engage our doctoral students on research projects. Our students learn first-hand how to approach a question and utilize the technical skills acquired through their training and the vast research resources available at Kellogg to solve problems – laying the groundwork for published research.
Diversity of Thought and Experience
Kellogg seeks diversity of thought and experience in our student body. Our online application form allows you to share more about yourself so that the admissions committee has a better understanding of you and how your background and experiences would enhance the diversity of the Northwestern University community.
Diversity encompasses many dimensions – personal characteristics, cultural traditions, views and perspectives, and life experiences. We want to look beyond the numbers and to discover what led you to pursue a research career. For instance, are you an international student, a first-generation college graduate, did you work during college to cover your expenses, have you overcome a personal setback, did you serve in the military or volunteer for community service? At Kellogg you will find a mix of races, creeds, nations, orientations and life experiences working together and learning from one another. These diverse experiences and viewpoints enrich our academic community as we train future faculty for positions of influence in business, government, and social enterprise.
Introduce yourself through the diversity statement found within the application so we can get to know you and the contributions you would make to our community of scholars.