Operations Management

Study mode:On campus Study type:Full-time Languages: English
Deadline: Dec 31, 2023
24 place StudyQA ranking:1329 Duration:5 years

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The Operations program focuses on managerial decision making through quantitative, economic modeling of operations functions in firms. Research areas include logistics, distribution and supply-chain management, capacity and production planning and control of processing networks, revenue management, healthcare management, and contracting and economic-mechanism design. Research topics cover all levels of managerial decision-making, from systems design and technology choices to day-to-day scheduling and performance measurement.

Research problems are studied primarily through mathematical models that build upon modern economic paradigms. A strong infusion of economic theory is the distinguishing feature of the Operations Management Doctoral Program. Models are analyzed using tools from optimization, game theory, probability and statistics. Field studies and empirical analyses are also conducted to test those models and to guide further theoretical work. The structure of the program permits great flexibility, allowing students to customize curricula to their own research interests.

Year 1

  • Coursework
  • Qualifying (Field) Examination and Candidacy*

Year 2

  • Coursework
  • Initiating Research Projects
  • Qualifying (Field) Examination and Candidacy*
  • Teaching/Research Assistance

Year 3

  • Dissertation Committee
  • Teaching/Research Assistance
  • Proposal*

Years 4 and 5

  • Proposal*
  • Continue Research
  • Teaching/Research Assistance
  • Possible Teaching Appointment
  • Dissertation and Final Examination

Coursework Requirements

Coursework requirements include departmental PhD courses and seminars and any additional courses needed to develop competency for scholarly research.  Because the type of coursework and statistical training varies among programs, students should refer to each program for details on its curriculum.  Students complete their coursework in eight quarters or two years of study.  Students must maintain full-time registration. Students must also maintain an overall “B” average (3.0) at a minimum; their program, however, may require a higher GPA. Students should consult with their PhD coordinator regarding expectations.  Doctoral students, beginning in year three, will register for TGS 500 (Advanced Doctoral Study).  Click here for a list of doctoral classes offered during the academic year.

Residency Requirements 

Doctoral students are expected to be on campus full time and involved in the research and teaching activities of the department throughout the year, including summer quarter, to qualify for continued funding.  Students who will be away from campus for more than three (3) weeks during an academic quarter need the approval of their PhD coordinator and dissertation advisor, if students have a dissertation advisor at this point in their studies.  Unexcused absences may disqualify students from receiving financial aid from the Kellogg School of Management and/or Northwestern University.

Additionally, doctoral students who are conducting research off campus or who are hired as interns for professional development purposes are required to report these activities to the Kellogg School of Management.  Before a student engages in research off campus or accepts an internship, approval must be granted by the student’s PhD coordinator and dissertation advisor.  Also, a description of the research project or the terms of the internship must be provided, along with the timeframe the student will be away from campus.  If an internship is paid, an adjustment to the student’s financial aid package may be made in consultation with the Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Research.

Students traveling internationally should refer to Northwestern University's policy on international travel and to information on international travel safety and security.  International students should consult with Northwestern's International Office if they have questions about traveling outside of the United States. 

Annual Student Review 

At the end of each academic year, each doctoral student submits an activity report that summarizes his or her activities for the year: coursework completed, status of research projects, teaching or research assistance provided, research presentations, professional development and any other field-specific requirements that he or she has met.  After reviewing the activity report and consulting with the program’s faculty, the student will receive an academic progress report from his or her academic adviser or PhD coordinator.  The report provides feedback on the student’s progress to date as well as suggestions for meeting the next set of requirements or milestones for the coming year — advanced coursework, candidacy, dissertation research and the academic job market. 

Teaching Assistance/Research Assistance 

To become better integrated into the department’s intellectual life, in years two, three, and four, a portion of the student's stipend is allocated toward wages for teaching and research assistance for approximately 10 hours per week.  These appointments are like apprenticeships; students receive on-the-job training under the guidance of the faculty. 

Qualifying Examination and Candidacy 

A written qualifying examination in the major field is required.  This exam is focused on the coursework taken in the student’s major field of study and measures the student’s knowledge of the field as a whole.  The structure and timing of the exam are determined by each program. Passing the qualifying exam, in addition to any other program-specific requirements (such as a research paper), will advance doctoral students into candidacy. Students who do not meet predetermined deadlines and degree requirements may faceacademic probation and/or risk exclusion from the PhD Program. Questions about academic progress and degree requirements should be addressed to each student’s PhD coordinator and/or academic advisor.

Dissertation Committee 

Dissertation committees are reviewed and approved by the senior associate dean for faculty and research at the time of the proposal and final examination (dissertation defense).  The committee consists of at least four tenure-track/research faculty members, at least three of whom are on the Kellogg faculty.  At least one member of the committee must be outside the student's program.  The committee chair and at least one other member must be from The Graduate School faculty, and the chair and at least one other committee member are expected to hold appointments in the student's program to ensure that half of the committee members represent the student’s program.  Usually one member of the committee represents the student's minor field of study. 

These are the criteria for choosing a committee member from outside the student’s department/program: 

1. a faculty member from outside the department/program or outside of the Kellogg School, but within Northwestern University; 
2. a faculty member from outside Northwestern who has a permanent appointment (tenure-track, a research professor) at another university and who supervises doctoral students as they complete their dissertations. 

Please note that a faculty member with a joint appointment spanning two Kellogg departments, one of which is within the student's own program, cannot be used as someone from outside the student's program. 


After completing the coursework and the written qualifying examination, a student takes an oral examination in which he or she proposes a dissertation topic or other substantive piece of research, discusses its significance, and explains the research methods to be used and any preliminary results of the paper(s).  Kellogg doctoral students must propose their dissertation by the end of the summer of their fourth year of study or by the deadline set by their program — whichever comes first.  

Timelines and proposal requirements differ among Kellogg's doctoral programs. Students, therefore, should consult with their PhD coordinator and academic advisor/committee chair to determine the expectations for passing this degree milestone, such as how their program defines a successful paper/oral defense, and their program's proposal deadline. Students should also refer to the dissertation committee guidelines outlined above as they form their faculty committee. 

Students who do not meet predetermined deadlines and degree requirements may faceacademic probation and/or risk exclusion from the PhD Program. Questions about academic progress and degree requirements should be addressed to each student’s PhD coordinator and/or academic advisor

Dissertation and Final Examination 

Each candidate must complete a dissertation demonstrating original and significant research and must pass a final oral examination on the dissertation. Students should refer to the dissertation committee guidelines outlined above as they form their faculty committee.

A student’s dissertation may include coauthored work with another student and/or a professor.  This coauthored work may be found in a chapter or essay within the dissertation.  While the student’s dissertation committee sets the guidelines and requirements for the student’s dissertation and provides final approval of the finished document, the Kellogg School of Management requires standardization in how students acknowledge coauthors within the dissertation.  Below is the format that students should follow:

1. The coauthor(s) should be listed on the table of contents (next to the paper title).  
2. The coauthor(s) should be listed next to the title on the title page of the essay/chapter.

Kellogg doctoral students are expected to complete their PhD degree requirements in a timely manner.  The deadline to complete the PhD degree requirements (successfully defend and submit a dissertation that is accepted by the Graduate School) is the end of year nine (9) — the deadline determined by the Graduate School.  Students must be in satisfactory academic standing up until this point. Any Kellogg doctoral student who does not complete the PhD degree requirements within nine years is subject to dismissal from the Kellogg PhD Program.  

Childbirth Accommodation Policy 

The Childbirth Accommodation Policy, instituted by the Graduate School, applies to Kellogg doctoral students.  The policy provides academic milestone extensions and, in most circumstances, continued financial support to eligible women graduate students who are candidates for doctoral degrees and give birth during their eligibility.  More details regarding the policy and the academic accommodation period are provided here.  Any questions about this policy should be directed to the Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Research, Robert McDonald.

Eligible doctoral students are required to notify their PhD coordinator, dissertation chair (if they have a chair at that stage in their studies), the administrative director of Kellogg's PhD Program, and their student services representative at the Graduate School of the date of their intended time away at least sixty days prior to the expected date of childbirth. 


  • Academic Background. Please list all schools where you were registered for courses at the college level and beyond. This includes community colleges, studies abroad, and current registrations whether or not within a degree program. Please itemize these schools on your resume as well.
  • The statement of purpose (two pages, single-spaced) is an opportunity for you to introduce yourself to the admissions committee and to let them know a little bit about yourself and your reasons for seeking a PhD at the Kellogg School. You should briefly outline your background, education, and any research experience you have. In addition, you should briefly describe your research interests and how they align with the overall research expertise of Kellogg's faculty. You should also identify potential faculty you would like to work with, which is helpful in determining your research fit within the Kellogg community. As resources, please refer to the Faculty Experts Guide, Research Faculty, and Northwestern Scholars.
  • Technical Support
  • Diversity Statement (optional). An option for US/permanent residents within the online application is the diversity statement. This diversity statement is optional and not required. More information regarding the diversity experience is found within our Applicant Profile page under Diversity of Thought and Experience.
  • Transcripts. Upload one transcript documenting each course taken beyond high-school level, whether or not within a degree program, from each school you have attended. Certification of degrees received, including the date the degree was awarded, should be noted on the transcript and/or diploma.
  • “Courses Taken” form for Quantitative PhD Programs only (optional). For applicants applying to Kellogg quantitative PhD programs in Accounting Information & Management, Finance, Managerial Economics & Strategy, Marketing (quantitative area), and Operations Management, we ask that you submit our “Courses Taken” form.
  • Two Recommendation Letters. Two letters (confidential) are required; however, our application allows for three letters to be submitted. No more than three letters will be included with an applicant's file. All letters must be submitted online through our web-based application, CollegeNET. Directions for uploading letters will be sent to recommenders; applicants will enter their contact information within the application. For technical problems, please refer to the technical support information above. Northwestern does not provide evaluation forms for recommenders.
  • GRE and GMAT
  • Providing official scores for either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The test must be taken no more than two years before the intended quarter of entry (fall quarter). To be considered for admission, an applicant's TOEFL score must be 600 or higher on the paper-based exam, 250 or higher on the computer-based exam, or 100 or higher on the Internet-based exam. IELTS test takers should score 7.0 or higher. The Kellogg School does not require the Test of Spoken English (TSE).
  • The application fee for entry in Fall 2017 is $95. The fee must be paid by credit or debit card within the online application. However, if neither can be obtained, paying with a pre-loaded gift card would also work. (Checks or money orders are not accepted.) This fee is not refundable, and an application is not released to Kellogg until this fee is paid.
  • Resume
  • Writing Sample. Applicants may include a research paper (30-page maximum) with their application. We encourage applicants to list this paper and any other papers they have on their resume with Web links to these papers
  • Interviews. Due to the number of applications Kellogg receives each year, it is not feasible for our faculty to interview every applicant. Instead, each program initiates phone or campus interviews for only those candidates who are being strongly considered for admission or for candidates for whom additional information is needed. An applicant cannot request an interview. The program will contact the applicant to arrange an interview. Even candidates who are being strongly considered for admission may not be interviewed until late February or early March.


The Kellogg School of Management provides financial aid to admitted PhD students, including international students, for five years.  The financial aid package includes:

  • Fellowship stipend
  • Teaching and/or research assistantship
  • Tuition scholarship
  • Payment of the Northwestern University student health insurance fee
  • Subsidy for purchase of a laptop computer

Doctoral students who receive financial assistance during the first year of study may expect this assistance to be renewed annually through year five, providing they achieve satisfactory progress and meet program-specific requirements. For professional development purposes, in years two, three, and four, a portion of the student’s stipend is allocated toward wages for teaching and research assistance for approximately 10 hours per week. Opportunities to teach may also be made available by the department.
The funding package outlined above is in addition to research funding made available to doctoral students while enrolled at Kellogg. 

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