How to Get a PhD or DBA in Project Management

Project management goes behind the scenes of any business project, from planning resources to managing production. The study of project management is designed to make managers more effective and efficient in the workplace.

The study and practice of project management is essential in the business world. K. Tate, a former board member of the Project Management Institute, once said, “Trying to manage a project without project management is like trying to play a football game without a game plan.” Though project management is sometimes associated with the IT world, the discipline applies to any business with a complex set of problems. By earning your doctoral degree in project management, you can prove your ability at the top of the field.

Choosing a Project Management Concentration

Project management is one area of concentration in a typical business PhD program. Business departments commonly offer doctrate degrees in project management, or other concentrations with the choice to specialize in project management. Here are a few other areas of concentration in the business world:

  • Accountancy
  • Computer Information Systems
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Supply Chain Management

Project management might also fit in as a research focus with one of the above areas of concentration. For example, you could earn your doctoral degree in supply chain management with a research focus of project management, or a computer information systems degree as the discipline relates to project management. At the doctoral level, you plan your own research based on your interests and goals.

Earning an Online PhD in Project Management

Unlike some hands-on, lab-based doctoral programs, the online PhD in Project Management can be completed remotely. This gives you a big advantage in terms of scheduling and planning your degree. Continue working full-time while you earn an online PhD in Project Management, or choose a hybrid program that combines some campus-based classes with online education. You should enjoy more flexibility in online PhD programs as you pursue your doctoral degree as a working professional.

Benefits of earning your PhD online:

  • Flexibility in coursework
  • Ability to complete research around the world
  • Freedom to keep a full-time career

Choosing an On-Campus Doctoral Program in Project Management

If online PhD programs don’t appeal to you, a traditional campus-based PhD in Project Management may be a better choice. You should appreciate the chance to interact face-to-face with professors and fellow students. During your research, you can benefit from the college’s library and project management research materials.

Benefits of earning your PhD on-campus:

  • Face-to-face meetings with dissertation advisors
  • Access to offline libraries and tools
  • In-person networking opportunities with fellow students

Alternative Doctoral Degrees in Project Management

The PhD in Project Management is traditionally a research-based academic degree, designed to prepare graduates for careers in leadership, consulting, or as faculty members. The scope and name of the degree may vary depending on your prospective educational program. Here are a few alternative doctoral degree choices in the field of project management:

  • PhD in IT Project Management. This doctoral degree focuses on the information technology side of project management. Graduates can apply their knowledge to IT consulting or executive leadership positions, or work in higher education.
  • DBA in Project Management. Considered a professional degree, the doctor of business administration (DBA) nevertheless is academically equivalent to the PhD. Graduates may be more likely to enter the workforce than academia.

While both professional and academic doctoral degrees are considered research-based, professional degrees require students to work with existing theories, while academic degrees challenge students to create new theories. Both degrees require a focused level of research and study, and are considered academically equivalent to one another.

The doctoral program you choose can affect your career path in project management. Research your specific job goals to learn more about the educational backgrounds of those who work in the field. Reading academic publications in project management can also give you a better sense of the kind of degrees that are attached to the research you are most likely to undertake.

Narrowing Down PhD in Project Management Programs

As you search for schools offering targeted project management doctoral degrees, you should be coming up with a list of potential colleges and universities both on-campus and online. For each school, ask admissions representatives the following questions. Considering multiple aspects of individual degree programs can help you narrow your choices down to the strongest choices for your education.

  • Where is your college accredited? The first step of any doctoral program evaluation is determining its accreditation status. Attending a non-accredited school makes your degree lose value in academia and the workplace at large. Be careful to research the accrediting boards listed, and move on if no accreditation can be given.
  • What is your school’s history? This is one history lesson with real consequences for your education. An established school might attach a higher tuition to years of success and service, while a new program might offer a riskier bet with a lower cost.
  • What are the entrance requirements? Admission requirements vary by school, but likely include a high undergraduate GPA, good test scores on the GRE or similar exams, high scores on the TOEFL for students who do not speak English as a first language, transcripts, and recommendation letters.
  • How competitive is your program? A higher level of competition could suggest more scholarship funding, a more attentive faculty, higher job placement rates, and other factors. On the other hand, a program with less competition could have more relaxed entrance requirements.
  • What kind of faculty do you have? The research interests of potential faculty could mean a lot to your own development as a researcher. Look for programs that include at least one faculty member with similar interests and goals in research. Additionally, well-known faculty may offer a connection in the field, or an extra advantage during your own job search.
  • What is your school’s ranking? Business schools are subject to ranking from nationally known publications. Use U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the Best Business Schools to get a sense of top schools for master’s degree students and potential doctoral candidates.
  • How do graduates fare in the workforce? Alumni statistics help you learn much more about a school than pictures of the campus. Look for graduation rate, tenure track placement figures, and other statistics. Alumni with ties to professional organizations could even help sponsor your membership.

Tackling the questions above may seem difficult on your own, but with resources like at your disposal, you’re never far from the answers to your questions. Use’s Management PhD section to find individual schools. From there, you can easily submit your information to a campus representative without having to visit individual websites. Draft one email with your questions, and you’ve created a tool you can use to easily contact a number of potential schools.

Important Individuals in the Doctorate Degree Search

Looking for some personalized assistance? Once you’ve narrowed down your doctorate programs to just a few choices, turn to the following sources for additional help. These individuals earn a living helping students choose the right school for their needs and budget:

  • Financial aid counselors: These money-minded professionals could hold the key to your financial success at school. Every prospective college and university should have financial aid counselors trained to help you fund your doctorate. Work with them to find more information on university-wide scholarships and other funding.
  • Admissions representatives: Every school is different, and nobody knows the individual details of a colleges like its admissions counselors. Come to these trained professionals with questions on financial aid, admissions, doctoral program issues, and more.
  • Department officials: For the questions too detailed for college-wide admissions representatives, go to the source. Limit basic questions to admissions and financial aid officials, but look to department chairs and their assistants to answer your most specific questions about department-wide financial aid, scholarships, and other information.

Once you’ve consulted a range of departments and individuals at your potential schools, you should have further narrowed your options. Finding the best programs for your goals can save you time and money when you begin applying to different schools. In true project management style, good planning and organization greatly simplifies the process.

Resources for Prospective Doctoral Students

Before you return to school, you should know the basics of your education. Whether you’ve been away from school for years or you’re continuing your education without years of workforce experience, offers free resources to help answer your biggest questions:

  • Which major is right for me? If you’re undecided on a project management doctoral degree and you’d like to explore your options, check out the Guide to College Majors page. You can find detailed information on college majors across disciplines.
  • How will I pay for school? The Financial Aid section offers resources ranging from details on federal financial aid to tips for repaying student loans. Use the site and learn what to expect before, during, and after your degree program.
  • Where can I learn more about school? For accreditation information and test preparation resources, look to the Education Resources page. You can even learn more about the subject of distance learning by perusing white papers and journals on the subject.

The above resources are a free and helpful way to get more information on your degree program and the educational process in general. Explore them as a part of your general research and appreciate the information provided by individuals with experience in education.

Professional & Academic Project Management Resources

One way to find out more about the project management industry is to take a closer look at its professional organizations and literature. Academic and professional journals highlight important research findings by doctoral students and tenured faculty alike, while professional organizations and conferences offer an opportunity to network, share information, and grow in the field.

Here are a few popular resources in both professional and academic project management:

  • Professional organizations: Project Management Institute: “With more than half a million members and credential holders in over 170 countries, PMI is the leading membership association for the project management profession.” International Project Management Association: “IPMA is a world leading non-profit project management organization. IPMA represents 45 national project management associations on the international level.”
  • Conferences: ProjectWorld Conference, Leading Boldly Through Change Conference, PMI Global Congress, Project Summit Business Analyst World, Change Management, Restructuring and Reorganization Conference
  • Academic & Professional publications: Project Management Journal, International Journal of Project Management, Project Manager Today

Both doctoral students and faculty members are encouraged to keep a visible profile in the organizations above, publishing research findings in journals and attending conferences. Doing so makes you more valuable as a potential employee as it increases your knowledge and potential as a researcher.

Begin your PhD in Project Management Search Today

Whether you’re hoping to build on years of experience in the business world or continue your rise through the academic study of project management, a doctorate degree in project management offers an exciting opportunity.

Because the goal of the doctorate degree in project management is to offer original research, you should challenge yourself to take your comprehensive knowledge of project management and view it through a new concept. This challenge can take years of research and study, but the reward is a superior level of knowledge. The DBA or PhD in Project Management is much more than a terminal degree program–it represents the goals you set with yourself to make a new contribution to the field.


  • Arizona State University W.P. Carey School of Business, PhD Project Management
  • International Project Management Association
  • Institute for International Research
  • Project Management Institute
  • Project Auditors, LLC, Project Management Quotes
  • U.S. News & World Report, Best Business Schools
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