Online PhD in Management Science

A typical doctoral program in Management Science will take an average of 5 years to complete, with at least the first two of those years conducted in the classroom—or online, if enrolled in an accredited online PhD program in Management Science—undergoing instruction in mathematical techniques and optimization theory, operations analysis, dynamic and stochastic modeling, and the testing and creation of evaluation models and prototype systems; culminating in General Examinations, which test students' comprehension and retention of all covered material at the end of the instructional phase. The remaining years of the program are dedicated to the formulation, proposal, research, and defense of a student's doctoral dissertation. Ultimately, at least forty-eight credit hours of coursework, along with exams and a dissertation, will be required of the candidates.

Often times students will choose an area of concentration within Management Science—even those students in online doctoral programs in Management Science—such as Information Technologies, Marketing, Operations Research, or System Dynamics; this is true for online PhD degrees in Management Science as well. Each concentration will apply the mathematical theory and methods of Management Science to a unique problem set within the business discipline, always with the aim of organizing and analyzing data to assist managers in making informed and effective decisions.

Given the heavy emphasis on mathematics, a strong foundation in linear algebra, analysis, probability, and other business related math subjects is encouraged when pursuing a Management Science PhD online. If students entering into a doctoral Management Science program do not have this background, they should expect to supplement their coursework with these classes while working toward their degree.

About Online PhD Programs in Management Science

Similar to campus programs, online PhD Management Science degrees concentrate on applying mathematical modeling, forecasting, programming, and operations research methods to the analyzing of problems in a business’ performance and organization. Unlike programs conducted primarily in the classroom, however, online Management Science PhD programs are principally self-directed, without the strict timetables of a more structured face-to-face meeting. This does not mean that pursuing an online PhD in Management Science will be without challenge or demand; the curriculum requirements for online doctoral degrees in Management Science are, in fact, equivalent to those of a more conventional degree program, only students enrolled in online Management Science PhD programs are able to set the pace of their education according to their lifestyles. An online PhD in Management Science will consist of anywhere from 48 to 80+ credit hours, depending on the college, General Exams, and a dissertation, with most programs requiring practical experience and/or a residency as part of the coursework as well. Common courses in PhD Management Science programs are (course material from the MIT Sloan School of Management's course catalog):

Year One:

  • Introduction to Operations Management:. Survey of challenges in the design, planning, control, and improvement of manufacturing and service operations. Students will study the manufacturing process from beginning to end and investigate problem areas at each step, including materials management, production planning and scheduling, process analysis and more.
  • System Optimization and Analysis for Manufacturing. Introduces students to mathematical modeling, optimization, and simulation as applied to manufacturing.
  • Operations Strategy. A conceptual analysis of how manufacturing and service operations are related, and what factors most greatly affect that relationship, as well as what constitutes a strategic decision in the field.

Year Two:

  • Data Analysis for Management. Designed to familiarize students with empirical methods, this course focuses on model formulation, intuition, and critical evaluation of results for use in business fields such as finance, marketing, and strategy, as well as in general business and forecasting.
  • Fundamentals of Probability. Introduces students to the theory, methodology, and uses of probability, so that they can later apply that knowledge to specific business fields.
  • Introduction to Mathematical Programming. Introduction to linear optimization and its extensions emphasizing both methodology and the underlying mathematical structures and geometrical ideas. Covers classical theory of linear programming as well as some recent advances in the field.

Year Three:

  • Statistical Reasoning and Data Modeling. : Advanced students of probability and/or statistics can take this course to further develop their understanding of both areas of study, and utilize more sophisticated methods of forecasting and analysis.
  • Optimization Methods in Management Science. An introduction to the theory, algorithms, and applications of optimization, as pertains to logistics, manufacturing, transportation, marketing, project management, and finance.
  • Statistical Learning and Data Mining. Advanced introduction to the theory and application of statistics and data-mining, concentrating on techniques used in management science, finance, consulting, engineering systems, and bioinformatics.

The fourth and fifth year are generally reserved for dissertation research, composition, and defense. This process is demanding, as it represents most students' first concentrated effort at prolonged scholarly research, as well as time-consuming, as most dissertation requirements are between at least 250 and 300 pages. Students will refine their area of research during the first three years of study, and finally propose a topic. Some dissertation topics of graduated Management Science PhD students have been:

  • A Network-Based Analysis of Over-the-Counter Markets, Michael Gofman
  • Quantifying the Effect of Service Quality and Word of Mouth on Customer Acquisition, Usage, and Retention, Sungjoon Nam
  • Learning the Long-Run Asset Pricing Model, Francisco (Paco) Vazquez-Grande

(These dissertations were completed by PhD Candidates from the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. To see the complete list of dissertation topics from that school, follow this link.)

Opinions about online doctorate programs in Management Science in the professional world are varied, but the programs are generally gaining acceptance among employers as legitimate. Especially in business sectors that deal primarily with technology, an online Management Science PhD could be an impressive degree to hold, insofar as it demonstrates familiarity with sophisticated communications and research technologies, and the self-motivation required to conduct research independently. Still, always try to be exhaustive when investigating online Management Science doctorate programs; the best will usually be accredited by a regional accrediting institution, verified by the U.S. Department of Education. Their website would be a good place to start.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Management Science

Online doctoral programs in Management Science prepares students for research intensive, data collection, organization, and analysis positions in the business industry. Specifically, students will be ready to work in operations research, which consists of synthesizing information from various aspects of a businesses' operation—production, employee psychology, constraints on time and resources, and so on—and then modeling that information, analyzing the model, and finally drawing conclusions about the given system and making suggestions for changing it to be more efficient.

Businesses are always seeking to reduce cost and maximize gain (both terms here construed broadly, not solely concerned with monetary gains or losses). As such, professionals who are able to research the processes a company employs to achieve a certain result and then report whether those processes are effective are highly valued. Decision-making is one of the greatest challenges to managers, and anyone who can simplify the variables at hand is integral to success, and has the potential for managerial greatness.

However, analyzing the dimensions and possible consequences of a decision is different than being responsible for making the decision. One danger of online doctorate degrees in Management Science is that they may pigeonhole students as IT support, thus making it more difficult to move upward in a company, especially if a student is exceptionally adept at her responsibilities.

Application & Admission Requirements

A range of skills are necessary to obtain an online doctorate in Management Science. These include both advanced practical and theoretical leadership skills and knowledge pertaining to how businesses and their various components interrelate in present day organizations. The best online doctorate in management science core courses will teach the student to understand how to recognize fads in management, to evaluate the value and relevance of business proposals, and to comprehend cultural differences along with differences in ways of learning. Master’s degrees that prove to be helpful in proceeding on towards this PhD include Management Science, Business Management, Leadership, Financial Management, and International Management. While not required, in a very strong grasp of mathematics, especially algebra, statistics, probability, and analysis, is greatly beneficial in Management Science doctorate degrees online. The majority of individuals who pursue this type of online PhD in Management Science commonly come from a mid level to senior level career in government, business, or college and university education.

Logistically, the admissions process and requirements are similar for candidates in both traditional universities and online doctorate programs in Management Science: applicants must submit an application, test scores (usually GMAT and GRE), letters of reference, work history, and personal statements (also called personal essays and statements of purpose).

Career Options & Job Market

In the job market, a doctoral degree in Management Science is extremely versatile, and can be applied in nearly any industry, from academia to finance. As with any PhD, graduates in Management Science often stay in the university environment to teach or continue their research. Outside the academic sphere, Management Science PhD's are qualified to work in corporate research positions in many fields; government, military, manufacturing, transportation—namely airline—logistics, service organizations, and communications all have need for data and systems analysis, and frequently hire applicants with doctorates in Management Science. Within these fields, some common positions PhD graduates apply for are financial analyst, account executive, stock broker, international business manager, supply chain manager, financial engineer, and operations research analyst, though there are many, many more.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2008, roughly 63,000 jobs were held by operations research analysts, and predicts that over the next decade employment of PhD in Management Science graduates will increase by 22 percent. However, because jobs fulfilled by Management Science PhD graduates are relatively unknown, competition for these positions will be aggressive.

Where to Find Information

    • INFORMSThe Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences provides information on career opportunities for graduates seeking jobs, and educational information for students interested in continuing their education in the management sciences.
    • MORSSimilar to INFORMS, the Military Operations Research Society lists jobs and educational opportunities, but under the umbrella of the military.
    • USA JobsThe Federal Government's official employment information page lists jobs for Management Science graduates (Operations Research) in the government sector.
    • Management Science

Management Science is a journal that presents research and studies done in the field of management science. Browsing the essays will give interested students the flavor of the work and research done in the field.

How to Get Funding

Generally there are two types of funding available to students pursuing an online PhD Management Science degree: scholarships and grants. Scholarships are usually need- or merit-based, and can be highly competitive. Grants can take a number of forms depending on the source of the funds—the two most common are government grants, given to students with demonstrated financial need and outstanding educational history, and research grants, awarded after a proposal has been submitted to a government department, a corporation, a business, or sometimes an individual, promising to research a submitted topic and return with data and conclusions about it. The following websites will be instrumental in a search for funds for an online Management Science PhD.

  • National Science Foundation. The National Science Foundation is a federal agency that, with a nearly $7 billion annual budget, provides funding for 20 percent of all federally funded research in U.S. colleges and universities.
  • INFORMS Research Funding. The Institute for Operations Research and Management Science (INFORMS) curates a list of research funding sources for students pursuing online doctorate degrees in Management Science..
  • SMART Scholarship. Established by the Department of Defense, the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation Scholarship is just one example of the many types of scholarships available to students pursuing online doctorate degrees in Management Science—in this case funded by the government, with a promise of employment at the termination of the student's degree.

Essential Advice

  • Plan ahead. If you are near completing an undergraduate degree and have the motivation to continue your education through to doctoral studies, begin your research immediately. Variables to consider are location and field of graduate study, timeline, work experience, and location and field of doctoral study—some suggestions for master's programs are listed above. You will increase your chances of getting into the program and career you want to by mapping out possible courses of action sooner than later, and you will also learn more quickly whether the career you are pursuing is truly what you want to be doing. If you have already completed your undergraduate studies, and even if you have also already received a master's degree, planning is still paramount to success. Consider what experience will be necessary and relevant to further study and what will distinguish you as a candidate.
  • Remember that while Mangement Science Ph.D programs online can lead to positions in upper management, the path there is a long one, and might not end there at all. Be prepared to love working with figures for the sake of working with figures and improving decision-making processes within your company, and not for the sake of advancement. If mathematics has always been a headache for you, even the top online PhD programs in Management Science will probably lead to misery before they lead to success.