PhD Programs in Business Ethics: 2012

It is an indicator of the growing interest in the field of Business Ethics that a number of universities now offer opportunities for students to earn a PhD in the topic.

I often get email from students and professionals looking for advice on how and where to study ethics at the graduate level. I point out that there are two main ways to get a PhD in Business Ethics. One traditional way is to do a PhD in Philosophy like I did — Philosophy departments are the traditional home of ethics scholarship at universities — and focus on ethical issues in business. The other way is to find a Business school that offers either a PhD program specifically in Ethics, or one with a PhD program that is at least open to students who wish to specialize in ethics.

For students with a background in Philosophy, doing a Philosophy PhD is the obvious route [though not necessarily best route*], and there are literally dozens if not hundreds of Philosophy departments where you could do a PhD in Business Ethics — all that’s required, really, is a willing and qualified supervisor. But this route is typically only open to students with a background (at least an undergraduate degree, and preferably a Master’s degree) in Philosophy.

The situation is less clear for students with a background in Business — B-school programs are out there, but they’re harder to find. So I’ve done a bit of digging and prepared the following list.

The following information was gathered fairly casually by word-of-mouth. No guarantees, and no endorsement is implied. Please contact the directors of particular programs for further details.

Business School PhD Programs in Business Ethics:

In no particular order…

If you know of programs that should be added to the list, email me.

For additional perspective, you can also find out which business schools take ethics seriously by looking at the “Beyond Grey Pinstripes” rankings — but not all of the schools listed there will have PhD programs.

(Note: This is an updating of the list I did back in 2008, based on an informal survey of colleagues, of PhD Programs in Business Ethics. The information there may still prove useful, though I haven’t been able to verify that all the schools listed there still allow or encourage PhD work in ethics.)

Addendum: I’m told that people have recently done ethics-related PhD’s at Michigan, Maryland, and Central Florida. I had originally omitted those schools because their PhD programs make no specific mention of ethics.
*Addendum 2: A reader has rightly pointed out to me that those with an undergraduate or MA in philosophy can also do a PhD in business, that doing so broadens a student’s perspective, and that doing so is likely to improve chances at employment.

3 comments so far

  1. Victoria on

    Thank you for this article. I am a current MBA student who is strongly considering going for my doctorate in business ethics after graduation. I got my undergraduate degree in accounting and am interested in the forensic and ethics side. Very helpful!

  2. Nayyara on

    For over a year I have been considering a phd in business ethics. The info provided is very helpful. Are there any phd scholarships for business ethics?

  3. Katrina Wang on

    I’m recently considering applying for a PhD program in business ethics. These are really helpful information! Thank you professor!

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