FAQ about the PhD in Marketing

Questions regarding a PhD in Marketing

What kind of research is done in marketing?

Marketing research is vast and varied, encompassing a wide range of topics and methodologies to understand how consumers and firms behave and interact in markets.

In terms of research interests, the list is long, but here’s a glimpse of broad areas of interest in our field:

  • What makes businesses successful?
  • How do individuals, families, or firms make decisions? 
  • What makes products and marketing campaigns successful?
  • How can firms better compete in markets?
  • How do platforms operate and should be designed?
  • How can we improve consumer welfare and well-being?

Below is also a small selection of recent research areas in our department:

  • How does fake news affect decisions, and how do social media algorithms affect news and content consumption
  • The impact of new technologies such as AI and LLMs on consumer behavior and firm competitiveness
  • The design of digital platforms and marketing campaigns to encourage different outcomes such as fairness, equity and efficiency
  • Development of new machine learning methods to tackle data sparsity issues and measure consumer heterogeneity in preferences
  • Deployment and analysis of large scale field experiments to test behavioral nudges and improve social welfare

There is much more – we encourage you to visit the department’s website and look at the individual faculty pages, who showcase their recent research projects.

What is the typical academic background of a marketing researcher?

Because marketing draws from so many fields, the “typical” background is quite diverse. Our students and faculty have fundamental training in fields such as Psychology, Sociology, Economics, Statistics, Computer Science, Math, Physics, Engineering and more.

I don't have a background in marketing - should I apply?

You do not need prior background in marketing. Many of our faculty come from other diverse fields, such as Psychology, Sociology, Statistics, Computer Science, and Economics. Our program is designed to expose students to the field of marketing while capitalizing on their strong academic background, which is often in other fields.

Do I need to know what I want to research in order to apply?

No, you do not need to know what you want to research in order to apply. However, if you can share in your application the types of research ideas and topics you are interested in, we’ll be better able to determine if our program is a match for you.

Do I need someone to agree to advise me to be admitted?

You do not need to find an advisor prior to admission. We admit students centrally to the department, and students work on matching up with an advisor in their first two years.

Questions about Wharton

What makes the Wharton Marketing Department unique?

Wharton’s Marketing Department is one of the largest (if not the largest) in the world, which allows us to have an unparalleled breadth of research areas and methods that faculty and students apply. We often say that if you work on something, and have a question, there is always someone close by who probably knows the answer.

Our department takes pride in focusing on relevant and applied research that creates impact both in academia and the business world. Many of our faculty and students also collaborate with companies and researchers in other fields to generate novel and exciting knowledge.

What makes the Wharton Marketing PhD Program unique?

As a PhD student at Wharton, you will belong to an elite group of students in one of the world’s top business schools. You will have access to vast research resources, learn from and work with amazing world-class faculty, and be a part of an exciting and active group of students.

Where do graduates of the program usually go?

Most of our graduates become faculty in top research universities. For example, recently our graduates took faculty positions at Northwestern, Stanford and Yale. You can see our recent placements here: https://marketing.wharton.upenn.edu/phd-recent-alumni/

What is life in Philadelphia like?

Philadelphia, founded in 1682, is a large modern international and multicultural city with strong historic roots. It has approximately 1.5M in population in the city proper and 6M population in the Metro area. The city is located in the northeast United States, between New York City (1:20 hours by train) and Washington DC (1:45 hours by train). 

As one of the largest cities in the US, and because of its historical roots as the original capital of the US, Philadelphia is extremely walkable, has a vibrant food and nightlife scene, and access to all amenities expected from a global city, including many parks, music venues, museums and other attractions. Philadelphia is also home to 3 large research universities and 5 medical schools, creating a vibrant student and research focused environment.

What are the housing options for students?

Most of our PhD students live in Center City (Downtown) or University City close to campus (West Philly) which are walking distance from campus. For more information see  https://gsc.upenn.edu/resources/wellness/living-philadelphia.

What is the cost of living in Philadelphia?

Philadelphia is considered as one of the most affordable large cities in the US. For  a sense of the cost, you can check out Numbeo.

Does the program support PhD students with children?

The PhD program supports students with children with extended funding time as well as additional resources made available by the university.

Questions about the program and its structure

Why does Wharton’s program have a behavioral and a quantitative track?

Behavioral and quantitative approaches both offer useful insights and tools for theory building and research practice. We therefore encourage students to appreciate both. However, it is very difficult to become an expert in both areas within only 5 years. We therefore offer two tracks. This enables you to make deep contributions in your chosen area of expertise, while still developing a sufficiently broad perspective to become an active member of the marketing community as a whole and to leverage a wider and richer set of ideas.

What are the main differences between the behavioral and quantitative tracks?

The main difference between the tracks is in the type of methods used to answer research questions, and to some extent the focus of the research questions. 

Behavioral research mostly focuses on consumers and their decision making, and can be seen as part of applied psychology and behavioral economics research. The methods used in behavioral research often involve lab experiments with human subjects, or large field experiments. More recently, behavioral research also employs text analysis and other machine learning tools for analysis of non-structured data (like images, videos, or LLMs).

Quantitative research can focus on consumers, firms or their interaction. It applies tools from applied economics, computer science, applied statistics or computational social science. Much of the recent research would fall under the definition of data science.  The methods used in this research include analysis of large scale observational data using machine learning, statistical and econometric tools, game theory, or the design of experiments and analysis of their data, often gathered in large scale online experiments.

What is the joint program in Psychology and Marketing?

This program allows a student who was admitted to Penn’s PhD program in Psychology to also graduate with a joint PhD in Marketing, and vice-versa.

For more information about the program, please see: https://marketing.wharton.upenn.edu/joint-doctoral-degree-in-marketing-and-psychology/

How long does the program usually take?

Our program is designed as a five-year program.

Does everyone receive funding? For how long?

All students are fully funded for 5 years. Students receive a living stipend and health insurance. In addition, all tuition and school fees are fully covered. If needed, students can receive additional funding for a sixth year (assuming they are in good academic standing).

Is there a teaching requirement in the program?

There is no teaching requirement in the program. However, students often benefit from teaching experience and there are many teaching opportunities available for students. Teaching is compensated, in addition to students’ graduate stipend.

Can I complete the Phd part-time?

No. The Wharton PhD Program is a full-time program.

Is the PhD in Marketing classified as STEM?

The Wharton Marketing PhD is STEM. However, the rules about STEM degrees are not determined by us, so we recommend reaching out to the Wharton Doctoral Program or Penn ISSS for up to date information.

What prior coursework is required/recommended?

For the behavioral track, past work in psychology, sociology, consumer behavior and data analysis offers a strong basis for a PhD. For the quantitative track, a strong mathematical background, exposure to proof-based courses, as well as emphasis on Economics and data analysis is helpful.  Prior experience with computer programming (e.g., Python, R), preferably with emphasis on machine learning and econometrics is also recommended. Across both tracks, strong written and oral communication skills are necessary.

Questions about application and admissions

Can I receive feedback about my application before submitting it?

To ensure fairness and equity in out application process, we do not provide feedback on applications.

What do you look for in a successful application?

 We are looking for bright minds with a keen interest in research in marketing who are looking to make a positive change in the world through their scholarly endeavors and develop a successful career in the world’s top research universities.  Among the criteria we consider are evidence of strong academic training and prior research. We also look for a high level of motivation and demonstrated ability to collaborate, embrace challenges, and work independently.

Do I need prior research experience to be admitted?

Students with past research experience can begin to develop their own research faster. Indeed, most students admitted recently often have prior research experience, whether in industry, as a research assistant, or in another graduate degree program.

However, you do not need prior research experience to be admitted.

How many applications do you receive every year?

Approximately 100.

How many students start the program every year?

Between 2 and 5.

Can you waive my application fee?

All application fee waivers are decided centrally by the Wharton Doctoral Program Office. If you need one, please visit Wharton’s doctoral page here for more information:: https://doctoral.wharton.upenn.edu/faq/.

What exams are required for admission?

A GRE or GMAT is needed for all applicants. In addition, international students who didn’t study in an English-speaking institution will need a TOEFL. You can find more details here: https://doctoral.wharton.upenn.edu/faq/

Is the deadline for recommendation letters the same as for the application?