Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Management Science and Engineering

The Center for Work, Technology and Organization is part of the Organization, Technology and Entrepreneurship specialization area in the Department of Management Science and Engineering. The PhD degree in MS&E requires the fulfillment of certain disciplinary course requirements, as well as qualifying exams and a dissertation defense. Typically students take about four to five years after entering the program to complete all PhD requirements.

Required Coursework

WTO doctoral students not only take courses in MS&E but have full access to Stanford’s entire organization studies community, which is one of the largest in the country. The PhD requires a minimum of 135 course units. Students with masters degrees can transfer in 45 credits from their previous program toward this total.

1. Breadth Requirements

Doctoral students are required to take four courses spanning four out of the eight areas of specialization within the department listed below. This may include one in WTO’s area of specialization: Organization, Technology and Entrepreneurship.

  • Systems modeling and optimization
  • Probability and stochastic systems
  • Information science and technology
  • Economics and finance
  • Decision analysis and risk analysis
  • Production and operations management
  • Organization, technology and entrepreneurship
  • Policy and strategy

2. Depth Requirements

WTO students must also acquire a depth of proficiency in their area of specialization. Required courses include:

a. Foundation in organizational Behavior

MS&E 380: Doctoral Research Seminar in organizations
MS&E 38x/37x: other doctoral Seminars in organizations
Psych 212: Social Psychology
Soc 363A: Seminar in organizational Theory

b. Statistics and Research Methods

PHD students in organizational behavior must take 3 research methodology courses, two of which must be statistics.

c. Disciplinary Depth

PhD students are required to take a minimum of 2 advanced-content courses chosen with input from their advisor.

Qualification Process

At the end of the second year, the faculty assess your potential for continuing on in the program by your completion of a research paper and success on an take-home essay exam.

Second Year Paper

After taking two years of coursework (a.k.a. by the end of the second year), PhD students will complete a “second-year paper” displaying both a literature review and some original analysis in organizational studies. This research paper is often spawned from involvement in WTO-sponsored research and is supervised by the primary faculty advisor. Some students choose to use their second year paper as the beginnings of their dissertation.

Qualification Exam (“Quals”)

WTO qualification exams occur over a four-day period in May of the second year. They take the form of a written, comprehensive set of essays that are meant to assess a student’s command of the literature in the field as well as his or her ability to use it persuasively. Typically preparation for the exams is a collective effort on the part of the entire cohort.


Typically students propose at the end of their third year, spend the fourth year gathering data and the fifth year writing up their dissertation.

Dissertation Proposal

PhD students are required to complete and present a dissertation proposal by December 1 of their 4th year. Students also pick their reading committees at this time. Committees consist of three to four members and can include faculty from other Stanford departments.

Dissertation Defense

WTO students defend their dissertations in the fifth year. The defense consists of a 45 minute public presentation, a closed-session of questions, and final deliberation by the committee. An outside Orals Chair adjudicates the defense proceedings.