The doctoral program in Strategy encourages students to pursue multi-disciplinary research that utilizes multiple methodologies—quantitative, as well as qualitative—to study how companies and industries around the world develop and sustain competitive advantage.

Students in the program are expected to master graduate-level microeconomic theory and econometrics. In addition, they are expected to devote substantial time to mastering one additional complementary discipline, such as psychology, sociology, or political science, and developing expertise in research methodologies suited to their particular interests, such as qualitative analysis, designing effective fieldwork, and analysis of survey data.

Students in the Strategy doctoral program work closely with faculty in the Strategy Unit. In addition to the DBA in Strategy, the Strategy unit offers a PhD in Business Economics, which is designed to attract students interested in pursuing research using a purely economics-based methodology

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Curriculum & coursework

Our programs are full-time degree programs which officially begin in September. Many incoming students choose to join us in July to conduct research with an HBS faculty member. Students are expected to complete their program in five years. Typically, the first two years are spent on coursework, at the end of which students take a field exam, and then another two years on dissertation research and writing.

The DBA program requires a minimum of 13 semester long doctoral courses. Students in the Strategy program complete courses in the areas of business management theory, economic theory, quantitative research methods, academic field seminars, and the Business Education for Scholars and Teachers (BEST) Series. In addition to HBS courses, students may take courses at other Harvard Schools and MIT.


Students are required to complete a teaching assignment for one full academic term.

Field Exam

Students are required to pass a Field Exam in strategy at the end of their second or the beginning of their third year. This includes a written exam and an oral examination based on a research paper a student has written.

Research & Dissertation

Students in strategy begin research in their first year typically by working with a faculty member. By their third and fourth years, most students are launched on a solid research and publication stream. The dissertation may take the form of three publishable papers or one longer dissertation.

Examples of thesis research include: The relationship between non-market experience and the use and outcome of patent strategies by pharmaceutical firms; The antecedents and consequences of corporate strategy decision-making, specifically focusing on divestitures and governance; The impact of religion on individual financial choices and institutional structures; and Innovation in emerging markets; the causal effect of incentive policy reform, expatriates and social relationships on innovation.

See Program Requirements for detailed curriculum information.