Take a look at a current student’s schedule and get the insider perspective from doctoral students and coordinators on what to expect from a PhD schedule.

The life of a PhD candidate can be stressful as you adjust to a rigorous academic and research schedule. Penn and Wharton offer a variety of resources to help support you in the transition to PhD life.

Wharton’s sense of community offers a level of comfort when reaching out to faculty as well as fellow students to help solve problems. Doctoral students and coordinators give the insider view on what to expect from a PhD schedule.

Class and Research First

The first two years of a PhD program are mainly made up of classes and the beginning stages of research. Deborah Small, the doctoral coordinator for the Marketing program, said, “It starts with heavy duty coursework and a lot of specific requirements. At the end of your first year, there are qualifying exams on all the core marketing courses. Second year they still have a lot of coursework to do, but more of that is elective with a focus more on their interests. During those years they’re expected to get started on research.”

In addition to taking classes and getting started with research, the Marketing program requires students to write two papers. The first research paper is due at the end of the second year, the other is due at the end of the third year.

The Real Estate and Business Economics and Public Policy programs run like the Marketing program. Fernando Ferreira, coordinator for the programs, said, “During the first year they complete six core courses. In the second year, the focus shifts to field courses and to independent research. They have two professors advising them in that year.”

After completing the main courses, students shift to conducting independent research. For REAL and BEPP students this means writing three dissertation chapters during the third and fourth years.

Time for Conferences and Seminars

Because coursework is usually completed by the second half of the program, there’s time for students to attend lectures and seminars. Andrea Contigiani, a fifth year student in the Management program, said, “In my fourth year, I usually attended a seminar around lunchtime. Wharton has an incredible seminar series throughout the year, with a good seminar happening almost everyday. Occasionally, I attended other events, like MBA events or speaker series. I then go back to research for most of the afternoon.”

Prof. Small said, “Students are expected to actively participate in seminars and activities. They’re also encouraged to go to academic conferences and try to present their work at those conferences. It is similar to the expectations of being a faculty member, minus teaching.”

Classes take up the majority of the first two years of the programs. When the focus then switches to research, you’re expected to work independently. Sometimes that can be intimidating. You become your own boss, which is an adjustment from being told what to do and when to do it.

So how do you manage it? Get advice from students and coordinators.

Posted: August 4, 2017

Related Content

Read More Stories