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Virginia Tech’s Executive Ph.D. program seeks to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the scholarly literature in their chosen business discipline, rigorous training in relevant analytical research methods, and firsthand experience in conducting high-quality original research on complex business problems. The program promotes interdisciplinary research and encourages collaborative research with faculty as well as other Ph.D. students. The aim is to qualify graduates for careers that rely on advanced research skills, either as full-time academics in university business schools, or as high-level professionals in business and government.


The Executive Ph.D. is a concentration within Virginia Tech’s Ph.D. in Business. The Ph.D in Business requires a minimum of 90 credit hours, but the Executive Ph.D concentration assumes prior graduate study in business or a related field* from which a maximum of 30 relevant credits can be transferred to meet core credit requirements.*

The remaining minimum 60 credit hours must include at least 30 credits of graded coursework (disciplinary/interdisciplinary and methodology seminars) and 30 research/dissertation credits.

The graded coursework is tailored to the student’s primary disciplinary interest in one of the three traditional concentrations offered at the Pamplin College of Business:

  • Management
  • Business Information Technology
  • Interdisciplinary topics

The registration and dissertation credits gradually increase over the course of the program as students initiate work on research papers and their dissertation proposal.

The first-year curriculum includes disciplinary content seminars that build in-depth knowledge of research in the student’s chosen discipline and encourage students to dig deeper into the relevant disciplinary and interdisciplinary literature. These seminars provide the core scholarly knowledge that serves as the platform for the student’s dissertation research.

During the first two years of the program, each student takes a sequence of five methodological seminars to build their research methods toolkit. These seminars are offered in two tracks. One track supports students who wish to conduct research based on primary data collected using qualitative, survey and/or experimental methods. The other supports students who wish to conduct research based on empirical models developed and tested on archival (secondary) data. These seminars are identical to those taken by students in the traditional full-time Ph.D. program in Business at Virginia Tech. Additional disciplinary and research methods courses may be recommended during the second and third year of the program if relevant to the student’s research interests.

In addition, first-year students take a microeconomics review and participate in a module that focuses on issues surrounding scholarly ethics, diversity and inclusion. During the second year, students also participate in a proseminar on business school pedagogy that covers basic instructional approaches and innovations in business school teaching methods. 

* Candidates without the assumed transfer credits must complete an additional 30 credit hours of preparatory work


The plan of study for the program outlines the minimum courses and credit hours required during the program to achieve the curriculum goals stated above.

The Executive Ph.D. focus on the creation and publication of high-quality scholarly research mirrors the heavy emphasis on research in Virginia Tech’s full-time Ph.D. programs. In addition to the stipulated coursework in the plan of study, the following activities create an early and sustained emphasis on firsthand experience in the scholarly research process:

Each student must write a research proposal/paper by the end of the first summer. Along with the disciplinary content seminar assignments, this paper aims to stimulate and test students’ ability to blend their formal academic training and business experience to develop a research proposal that addresses an important business problem. This proposal serves as the student’s qualifying examination and is evaluated by a three-member reading committee who provide feedback similar to a journal review.

Students work with their faculty advisory committee to develop the above proposal (or one or more other promising ideas) into a paper(s) for presentation at a research conference and/or submission for publication review to a quality journal. Often, this proposal is developed further as a basis for the student’s dissertation research. By the end of the summer term of their second year, students are expected to progress to the point where they can identify likely future mentors and form a Ph.D. Advisory Committee.

Students work closely with their Ph.D. Advisory Committee to develop the dissertation proposal. Students are expected to defend their respective dissertation proposals by the end of the summer of their third year in the program. The proposal defense meets the Graduate School’s requirement for student’s preliminary examination. Students who successfully defend their dissertation proposal move to complete their dissertation research under the guidance of their Ph.D. Dissertation Committee.


Virginia Tech offers a valuable opportunity to preview the program experience during the summer prior to the official fall start of the program. All students admitted to the Executive Ph.D. program are required to attend a summer intensive program that features two-in-person weekends and five online weekends residencies during June through August.  The summer intensive provides students with a preview of the Executive Ph.D experience and features distinguished Pamplin faculty who are internationally known for their research and teaching.

The summer intensive contains two non-credit courses:

  • Perspectives and Priorities for Doctoral Research in the Business Disciplines provides an orientation to scholarly research in the business disciplines addressed in each Pamplin department
  • Mathematical and Statistical Foundations for Doctoral Research in Business provides a review of the quantitative skills and basic introduction to statistical software that is needed for the Ph.D. research methods courses that students take in Years 1 and 2