What is it like to be a doctoral student?

Doctoral education places great emphasis on self-directed learning and close relationships with faculty in a specialization of joint interest to the faculty and doctoral student. The program typically takes five years to complete and involves intense reading of academic journal articles and writing of original research. Doctoral students often forge close relationships with faculty mentors. These mentors work closely with the student to define a course of study, help them prepare for qualifying examinations, provide guidance in the dissertation process, and assist with finding their first faculty position. 

Obtaining your PhD involves a tremendous amount of work. The goal of our PhD program is to develop world class researchers capable of publishing in the premier journals in each concentration. Towards this end, students are expected to begin working on research on Day 1. In the last two to three years of the program, students are focused on their dissertations. Most PhD students will serve as research/teaching assistants as part of their compensation (20 hrs./week, or 10 hrs./week if they are also teaching). This involves helping faculty with their research as well as joint research collaborations with faculty.

Is a PhD a research degree or a teaching degree?

As part of the flagship research university in Kentucky, our program is focused on developing cutting-edge researchers who will be thought leaders in their chosen fields of scholarship. Although you will hone your teaching skills by teaching college courses during your doctoral program, our doctoral degree focuses mainly on research.

Who should apply?

The PhD program is designed for students who desire and have the aptitude for an academic position at a university to engage in innovative and influential research.

What do you look for when you evaluate potential students?

We look at the big picture in evaluating applications. This means that we look at traditional measures, like GMAT, GPA, recommendation letters, professional experience and transcripts, as well as the ability to articulate why you want to earn a PhD. We are also interested in intangibles, such as fit with the program, placement potential, and the ability to contribute to the scholarly environment. 

What credentials characterize successful applicants? Is a master's degree required?

This varies from concentration to concentration. In general, the program looks for well-rounded PhD students with balanced strengths in motivation, academic skills, communication skills, and quantitative skills.

For the accounting concentration, a master's degree is required though it need not be in accounting, but the candidate will typically have taken enough accounting courses to understand the institutional fundamentals of accounting. Applicants with no accounting background must acquire knowledge that is the equivalent of an undergraduate degree in accounting before beginning PhD coursework.

For the finance concentration, a master's is not required, but a strong quantitative background is. We look for candidates with clear evidence of aptitude and training in quantitative methods, evidenced by excellent performance in courses such as university-level calculus, linear algebra, and probability. It comes as a surprise to many applicants to learn that an undergraduate degree in finance (or an MBA with a finance concentration) alone is not sufficient preparation for a PhD program. The primary reason to earn a finance PhD is the desire to have an academic career, teaching and researching at the university level. While a number of finance PhDs work outside of academia, the majority spend their careers working at research and teaching institutions. You need to have a strong interest in the academic aspects of finance and economics.  

Management encourages applications from students in all areas. Successful faculty members in management have a variety of backgrounds. Many majored in psychology, sociology, anthropology, and economics as undergraduates, and many top research business schools have faculty members who majored in such topics as English literature, history, biology, and engineering.

Marketing gives preference to those individuals who seek to learn how to conduct interesting and impactful research. Correspondingly, applicants are sought whose long-term goals are to be placed at leading peer-level research-oriented universities and marketing departments. A comprehensive view of applicants is taken when making admission decisions. This view consists of GMAT/GRE scores, fit with research interests of current faculty, GPAs, communication skills, letters of recommendation, and personal essays.

Is work experience required to apply to the PhD program?

Work experience may be a contributor in the admissions process for some concentrations. 

What is the minimum GMAT score?

We consider the GMAT in the context of a holistic review of all criteria, including the applicant's practical and academic background. A minimum GMAT score of 600 is required; the average score for students currently in the program is 690.

Does the Department accept the GRE instead of the GMAT?

The GMAT is usually required, but the GRE may be substituted in some cases. The minimum GRE score is 1200.

When is the TOEFL required?

All applicants whose native language is not English are required to submit directly from the testing service either a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or an IELTS (International Language Testing System) score. The minimum acceptable TOEFL score is 550 (paper-based) 213 (computer-based) or 70 (internet-based). The minimum IELTS score is 6.5. International students who receive college degrees from U.S. universities and universities in other designated English-speaking countries may be exempted from taking the TOEFL test.

What are the language requirements?

Whether you are teaching a class of undergraduates, presenting your research to colleagues at conferences, or writing manuscripts for top journals, it is imperative to communicate your ideas clearly. Therefore, it is important to have excellent verbal and written English language skills.

Is it possible to visit campus and meet with faculty prior to applying? Is an interview required?

Yes. We can schedule a visit to the college before or after you are admitted. After narrowing down the applicant pool, each department will contact a select set of applicants for a Skype or phone interview. Interviews are a vital part of the selection process. Some concentrations conduct follow-up interviews on campus, where candidates meet personally with both faculty and current PhD students.

How many students are admitted each year?

Admittance varies in each concentration. It is suggested that you check with the program coordinator or departmental DGS before applying. It is possible that one of the departments may not admit new students from time to time.

How often are new students admitted?

New students are admitted only in the fall semester.

What is your application deadline?

The deadline for receipt of all materials is typically February 1, but we encourage applicants to apply as early as possible starting in the fall prior to the year admission is desired.

How long does it take to complete the doctoral program?

The program typically takes five years to complete and requires full-time residence during this period. The program consists of two years of coursework followed by three years of intensive research work, culminating with the dissertation. The program is full-time and year-round, with students fully engaged in research and seminars. Five years is becoming the norm because of the time investment needed to conduct and advance high-level research.

Do you accept part-time and distance-learning students to the program?


Is there a financial package?

The program offers competitive financial packages to successful applicants, and contingent on satisfactory progress, resident students in good standing generally continue to receive financial support to cover five years of study. Most of our PhD students receive a financial package consisting of an assistantship and/or fellowship(s). Tuition for the program is included with the assistantship. The only cost to the student is a small fee each semester to cover the activity fee and student health fee for approximately $300. This is not covered by the Graduate School.

Is health insurance available?

Health insurance coverage is provided to all enrolled and degree-seeking graduate students with full-time teaching or research assistantships. The Graduate School Funding Office administers this insurance program. The insurance is provided to eligible graduate students at no cost.

How committed is Gatton to encouraging minority and international student applicants?

We are very committed to seeking out minority and international student applicants for our PhD program. We recognize the importance of having a multicultural doctoral program, and of developing a more diverse set of faculty prepared to be thought-leaders at the world's best business schools. Minority applicants who want to learn more about the active multicultural affairs office at the University of Kentucky should click here. International students who want to learn more about the active UK International Center should click here.

Whom should I contact for additional information?

For additional information contact: Jeannie Graves, Asst. Director for Graduate Programs, 859.257.7635