Each candidate’s program of study will be developed in consultation with faculty advisors and the chair of the Policy and Admissions Committee. The normal program is outlined below.


The Policy and Admissions Committee designates faculty members at the Business School and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences as sponsors to each student upon entrance into the organizational behavior program. The sponsors, in conjunction with the PhD Programs Offices, will assist the student in deciding which courses to take and how to fulfill various degree requirements. It is expected that students will establish relationships with other faculty members, and it is possible that the major academic advisory role may be assumed by different faculty members in the dissertation stage of a candidate’s program. However, students are strongly advised to consult with the sponsors and with the PhD Programs Offices during all stages of PhD work.


Micro-Organizational Behavior Track
  • Two term-length courses in foundations of psychology
  • Two term-length graduate-level psychology courses
  • One term-length graduate-level social sciences course
Sociology Track
  • Two term-length courses on sociological theory (Soc 204 and 208)
  • Two term-length graduate-level sociology electives
  • One term-length graduate-level social sciences course
Organizational Behavior Course Requirements (required of students in both tracks)
Completion of two term-length organizational behavior courses:
  • Micro Topics in Organizational Behavior (HBS 4882)
  • Macro Topics in Organizational Behavior (HBS 4880)
Completion of four term-length courses in research methods:
  • Two term-length courses in quantitative methods (FAS courses, sequential courses)
  • One term-length course in qualitative methods
  • One term-length course in research design (FAS course)
  • Two case-based HBS MBA courses

Research Experience

The research apprenticeship requirement - Students are required to engage in research, under faculty supervision, soon after beginning PhD study in the discipline.

The qualifying paper requirement - Both micro-organizational behavior and sociology require all students to submit a qualifying paper by the end of the third year of study.

The dissertation is the final research requirement.


Students are required to complete a teaching engagement of one full academic term that includes at least 8 hours, or 3 class sessions, of front-of-class teaching experience and at least 16 hours of teaching preparation time.

Examinations & Reviews

The dossier review (micro-organizational behavior) - The students undergo a dossier review by a faculty committee. The dossier consists of the qualifying paper, at least two other research papers, and a statement about future plans for research.

The discipline examination (sociology) - The student takes the written examination offered by the department, following procedures and on the schedule set by the department. 

The organizational behavior examination (both tracks) - This examination comes after all doctoral coursework has been completed. It provides an excellent occasion for the student to draw on all of his or her training to demonstrate readiness for first-rate conceptual and empirical work on organizational phenomena.

The Dissertation

Prospectus: When the student has satisfactorily completed all other requirements, a dissertation prospectus is written and a prospectus committee is formed (consisting of at least three members; Micro-organizational behavior track committees must include at least two Harvard faculty having ladder appointments, at least one of whom must be from HBS; Sociology track committees must include at least one member from the HBS faculty and at least one from the FAS faculty).

When that committee feels that the prospectus is ready for formal review, the prospectus meeting is held. If the committee is satisfied that the student is ready to begin data collection, the members will approve the prospectus. The prospectus committee normally continues as the student’s dissertation committee once the prospectus is approved.

Dissertation: The dissertation provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate, in a work wholly their own, their ability to contribute creatively to the advancement of knowledge about organizational behavior. When the student and the dissertation committee agree that the dissertation is acceptable, a dissertation defense is scheduled. It is expected that a dissertation will be approved unanimously by the dissertation committee. If the dissertation committee should find itself deadlocked about the acceptability of a dissertation, it will inform the Policy and Admissions Committee about the extent and the basis of the disagreement, and work with the PAC to resolve the matter.

Normal Progress Toward the Degree

By the end of the first year, students should have completed most discipline coursework and the research apprenticeship requirement. Sociology track students should complete the sociology written general exam at the end of the first year (summer).

By the end of the second year, students should have completed all doctoral course requirements, and the organizational behavior examination.

By the end of the third year, students should have completed all required courses, the qualifying paper,  and all examinations and reviews.

By the middle of the fourth year, students should have the dissertation prospectus approved.

Students are expected to complete all degree requirements, including the dissertation, in five years. Students will be required to withdraw from the program if they have not completed the qualifying paper by the end of the third year, or if they have not completed the dissertation prospectus by the end of the fifth year.