PhD in Finance

Who Gets One & What to Expect

If you already work in finance or want to pursue an advanced degree in the field, earning a Ph.D. in finance online may make for an excellent choice. This degree, like all doctor of philosophy degrees, typically prepares learners for careers focused on research, education, and academic scholarship.

Comparatively, graduate students with a master's degree in finance often possess skills that make them good candidates for positions in accounting, wealth management, and investment banking. Master's degree students, however, often do not develop the same level of research skills and specialized knowledge that Ph.D. students acquire.

Doctoral degree-holders in finance often pursue professorships at colleges and universities that incorporate teaching and research components. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a bright outlook for postsecondary teachers in this area, reporting that professors will experience an 11% increase in open positions by 2028.

Reasons to Pursue an Online Ph.D. in Finance

Professionals who earn their Ph.D. in finance online can position themselves for many exciting careers in education, research, and related areas. The specialized knowledge that doctoral students develop in these programs is unique to each learner and highly individualized based on research interests.

Most colleges and universities require each degree-seeker to write a dissertation for graduation. This research document serves as a distinguishing mark for degree-holders and greatly influences their career options upon graduating. In the list below, we offer five of the top reasons for a distance learner to pursue an online Ph.D. in finance.

  • Icon

    Career Advancement

    Most of the top teaching and research positions in the U.S. require each employee to possess a Ph.D. While some positions in this area may only require a master's degree, the Ph.D. separates students from other competitive candidates and gives them an edge in the job market when pursuing the top jobs.

  • Icon

    Personal Interest and Growth

    This specialized degree often provides a highly rewarding educational experience for students. Ph.D. degree-seekers typically enjoy becoming experts in particular areas of their field. These programs allow learners to conduct extended research on topics that excite them.

  • Icon

    Research Skills

    Many professionals benefit from above-average research skills. With the wealth of information available online today, professionals need to be able to distill important and credible information from a vast body of knowledge. The Ph.D. allows students to develop high-level research skills that set them apart in the professional arena.

  • Icon

    Instructional and Educational Skills

    Many universities and colleges with online Ph.D. in finance programs incorporate courses focused on educating others and developing public speaking skills. With a doctor of philosophy degree, graduates typically find themselves in professorships or executive-level positions in which they must teach students or coworkers, both of which demand articulate and informed educational and presentation skills.

  • Icon

    Increased Earning Potential

    Salaries vary greatly between positions in this field. World Education Services reports that, according to the United States Census Bureau, professionals with doctoral degrees in fields such as business and education earn a 9% and 24% higher average salary, respectively, than their master's degree-holding peers.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Finance?

Career paths and job titles can vary greatly between professionals who hold doctoral degrees in finance. Additionally, prospective students must understand the differences between a doctor of finance, a doctor of business administration in finance, and a doctor of philosophy in finance.

Doctor of finance programs best serve professionals already working in business who wish to further develop their hands-on, business-oriented skill sets. Doctors of finance or business administration receive less training in philosophy and social theory. They typically work as financial examiners, loan officers, auditors, budget analysts, and financial services sales agents.

The Ph.D. in finance online, on the other hand, readies students for research- and education-driven careers both inside and outside of academia. While someone with a Ph.D. is not necessarily excluded from jobs available to professionals with a doctor of finance or DBA, these degree-holders work best in educational and research institutions, due to their specialized knowledge, advanced research training, and strong organizational and presentation skills.

Common Career Paths and Salaries

Each Ph.D. in finance degree-holder needs to find a competitive angle in today's job market. Job titles and career paths differ between individuals, but several commonalities exist between research- and education-focused positions for these professionals. The table below includes descriptions of five potential careers for individuals with a Ph.D. in finance, as well as annual salary information.

Assistant Professor

These professors work at colleges and universities. They often assume roles as educators and researchers to publish academic papers about their work. Academic institutions typically require each professor to hold a Ph.D.

Average Annual Salary: $67,021

Professor

Full professors, many of which hold tenured positions, work in educational institutions as teachers, researchers, and departmental administrators. They may assume temporary roles as heads of departments, help develop curricula, and serve on administrative boards. This advanced professorship requires a Ph.D.

Average Annual Salary: $87,018

Finance Manager

These professionals work individually or with teams to develop and monitor budgets for businesses and organizations. They conduct research to make predictions on future budgets and timelines. They need strong leadership and interpersonal skills, as they often hold management or executive-level roles at their institution. These professionals usually possess an MBA or Ph.D.

Average Annual Salary: $90,285

Research Scientist

These professionals compile information and conduct advanced research that benefits businesses, organizations, or academic institutions, depending on their employer. Researchers may rely on grants and funding from academic institutions to carry out scientific research. Because of the research-heavy components required by this position, research scientists often possess a Ph.D.

Average Annual Salary: $78,507

Finance Director

Finance directors occupy leadership positions in their organization. Depending on the position, they may oversee tasks such as personnel management, performance evaluations, scheduling, and the hiring process. They usually develop strategic plans for financial branches of companies and organizations. Directors typically possess a master's degree in business administration or a Ph.D. in finance, economics, or a related field. They often work as part of a team and need strong interpersonal skills.

Average Annual Salary: $112,151

Source: PayScale

Finance Ph.D. Program Requirements and Outcomes

Admission requirements for an online Ph.D. in finance vary between schools. In most cases, doctoral degree-seekers must possess a master's degree from an accredited college or university. Some schools may require applicants with a master's degree to come from a program in economics, finance, or a closely related field. Alternatively, in some cases, colleges and universities accept incoming students with only a bachelor's degree. In these scenarios, accepted students usually earn a master's degree en route to completing the doctoral degree.

Ph.D. students typically need to complete 70-90 total credit hours of coursework. Similar to other doctoral programs, Ph.D. in finance programs usually require students to complete a traditional doctoral dissertation based on original research. Depending on the student's availability and workload, as well as the duration of their dissertation research and writing process, degree-seekers may take up to seven years to complete the program. Some online schools may require their doctoral scholars to complete in-person components such as in-person dissertation defenses or hands-on practicums.

Common Courses

The curriculum offered by a college or university correlates with the faculty's specialty areas and the school's access to resources. As such, curricula vary between schools. Prospective doctoral students should research course offerings at each school of interest to determine strengths and weaknesses, available concentrations, and how well the program can serve their personal and academic needs. The list that follows describes a variety of courses commonly required by doctoral programs in finance.

Empirical Methods in Finance

Students in this course explore several macroeconomic models and research methods. The course typically includes online student presentations, lectures from faculty, and weekly empirical exercises and assignments. Professors use academic studies published on corporate finance topics to inform learners on labor economics, industrial organization, and econometric techniques.

Analysis and Research Methods

This introductory course prepares students with the fundamental tools to conduct research in dynamic asset pricing. Degree-seekers investigate empirical patterns, nonseparable utilities, corporate payout and financing, international capital flows, and risk-sharing. This course introduces advanced empirical methods that professionals use to analyze financial data and incorporate quantitative dynamic research into their daily practices.

Real Estate and Finance

This introductory class helps learners build their foundation in real estate practices and principles. Faculty members typically cover topics such as business ethics, encumbrances, closing procedures, real estate finance, marketing, real estate investment, and taxation. This course is especially helpful for finance students looking to work in financial management, investment banking, market analysis, and land use planning.

Risk Management

Degree-seekers in this course can investigate the relationship between the goals of an organization or business and the related financial risks. Learners examine the management of corporate risks; conduct broad financial evaluations; and explore leveraging, contingent financing, post-loss financing, and other hedging strategies. This course best serves students interested in careers focused on financial planning, corporate budgets, and large investment opportunities.

Wealth Management

This class allows students to develop several useful skills widely used by professionals in the financial services industry, financial planning, tax shield structures, estate planning, and behavioral finance. Students can also learn about the development of this rapidly growing field and how it relates to an increase in personal wealth and citizens' interest in managing their own investments and businesses.

Other Requirements

In addition to coursework, students in online Ph.D. in finance programs usually need to complete a few other requirements to graduate. These requirements vary between schools. In the section below, we offer three requirements beyond coursework that Ph.D. students in finance typically need to complete.

Dissertation

Ph.D. programs typically require each student to take on an extensive research endeavor that results in a written document or dissertation. These projects usually take multiple years to finish and often require enrollees to work closely with a committee of faculty members to complete a series of steps throughout the process.

Practicum Experience

Depending on the school, graduate students may need to engage in a teaching or research practicum while enrolled in a Ph.D. in finance program. In some cases, Ph.D. students serve as research assistants for faculty members and provide instructional services and mentorship for undergraduate finance students.

Field Exam

Ph.D. students may need to take a field exam at least one time during their program. In some cases, schools require graduate students to take the exam in the summer semester after their first year of classes. The exam helps faculty determine whether or not a student acquired the necessary introductory knowledge to continue toward the Ph.D. Faculty members typically reserve the right to remove students who do not pass the field exam from the program.

Skills and Competencies

A graduate program in finance allows each student to acquire a diverse set of financial, analytical, educational, presentational, and interpersonal skills. Accredited colleges and universities ensure that their graduates develop the necessary habits and characteristics to become successful professionals in the field. The list that follows describes six skills and competencies that students can gain in online Ph.D. in finance programs.

Critical Thinking

Ph.D. students train to become top thinkers in their field. As a result, they need to possess critical-thinking skills that allow them to sort through complex business and financial issues to offer viable solutions.

Accounting and Economics

Online Ph.D. learners obtain critical knowledge of the U.S. marketplace, global economics, and accounting processes that play a role in virtually every career focused on finance, from research and education positions to executive-level roles in businesses.

Management of Personnel Resources

Depending on a Ph.D. student's course of study, they may acquire the essential leadership and personnel management skills that are widely valued in today's business arena. These skills also come in handy for professors in colleges and universities who assume administrative roles and help lead departments.

Active Listening

Whether graduates find themselves in business, research, or educational settings, active listening plays an important role in executing ethical and thoughtful business practices and conducting effective research.

Analytical and Scientific Software Skills

Today's computer-driven businesses and educational institutions require professionals to understand analytical and scientific software, especially programs geared toward statistics, education, and e-business.

Data Analysis

Ph.D. enrollees can develop high-level skills in detecting changes in circumstances or events, making educated guesses, categorizing and organizing information, and using the latest technology to explore large amounts of data.

Finance Professional Organizations

Student pursuing a Ph.D. in finance online can benefit greatly from joining a professional organization while enrolled in their program. After graduate school, many professionals also take advantage of networking opportunities and online resources offered by these organizations. Members can usually gain access to active job boards, up-to-date news sources on research in the field, and membership directories to establish contacts around the globe.

Whether they obtain jobs working for businesses and organizations or locate research positions or professorships at universities and colleges, professionals with a Ph.D. in finance often join more than one professional organization to maximize their networking opportunities and resources. They usually join the flagship society related to their field, as these groups tend to offer highly beneficial annual conferences with finance professionals from around the world. Additionally, many people find special interest organizations that align more directly with their specialized areas of study in finance or a closely related field.

Association for Financial Professionals

  • AFP best serves professionals in the treasury and finance fields. The association provides its members with access to networking opportunities through a global network of 16,000 finance professionals, online career development resources, and an annual conference.


American Finance Association

  • The AFA provides an annual meeting for its members to gather, share their latest research, give presentations, and network with other professionals. The association also publishes the Journal of Finance, which is one of the leading resources in academic research in finance, economics, and related areas. Students can obtain a free AFA membership for up to three years.


Society of Financial Service Professionals

  • FSP is a conglomerate of insurance experts, financial advisors, attorneys, and workers in related disciplines. This society helps new and seasoned professionals in the financial field to build larger professional networks, further develop their knowledge base of essential financial topics, and expand the quality of services they offer. Members can gain access to professional and personal development opportunities, online publications, and a members-only smartphone app for the latest news in the field.


The Institution of Financial Operations

  • IFO provides networking opportunities and online resources for professionals in the financial operations ecosystem, especially those working in accounts payable. Resources for members include online webinars from leading industry experts, volunteering opportunities on international boards and committees, and online career advice and support from established professionals in the field.


Professional Risk Managers International Association

  • PRMIA is one of the largest and fastest-growing professional associations dedicated to offering its members information on the best risk management practices, professional development opportunities, certification programs, and valuable networking events. Online resources include access to a private full-text digital library, an active job board, online webinars, and recorded speaker presentations.