Earning a Ph.D. in Finance Online

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July 24, 2019

Students with excellent critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills who enjoy the study of markets for real and financial assets are strong candidates for Ph.D. finance programs. Among other positions, an online doctorate in finance prepares graduates to be professors and researchers in financial economics.

Earning this degree online allows students to continue working in full-time jobs, and asynchronously formatted courses provide opportunities for candidates to complete their work at their own pace, from any location.

What Can You Do With a Ph.D. in Finance?

Graduates with a Ph.D. in finance primarily enjoy career opportunities in higher education and research. As expected, through their doctoral coursework (some of which is detailed at the end of this guide), students develop the extensive knowledge they need to pursue careers within these areas.

Potential Careers and Salaries

Professionals interested in working in high-level financial careers can pursue chief financial officer positions, working with administration and business planning. Financial professionals can also work within human resources as compensation and benefits managers. Those interested in research-focused roles can pursue careers as financial analysts, or if they want to work directly with clients, they might consider personal financial advisor roles. While a Ph.D. program in finance is primarily designed for graduates to work in academia, other job opportunities are available.

Chief Financial Officer

Annual Median Salary: $130,872

Chief financial officers prepare financial statements, annual budgets, business activity reports, and other documents for regulatory organizations. They also lead administrative efforts within financial institutions and work with business plans for accounting and budget aspects of companies.

Financial Analyst

Annual Median Salary: $85,660

Projected Growth Rate: 11%

Focused on providing support to the analysis of various financial aspects within a company, financial analysts compose monthly financial forecasts along with yearly financial budgets. Financial analysts also work to prepare financial analysis schedules on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis and compare them to variances in budgets.

Postsecondary Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $78,470

Projected Growth Rate: 15%

University professors conduct in-depth research to build upon their knowledge in a particular area of expertise. They stay current on developments and advancements in the field to prepare lectures and assignments for college students. They also supervise teaching and research efforts for graduate students and publish their own research findings.

Traits of a Successful Financial Professional

Successful financial professionals must boast technology skills in accounting software and financial analysis software. Additionally, they must have expert-level abilities in oral comprehension and expression, problem sensitivity, and speech clarity, as well as skills in speaking, monitoring, and reading comprehension. In their daily job tasks, financial professionals work with computers, communicate with supervisors and coworkers, guide and motivate those who work below them, establish and build upon interpersonal relationships, and coach and develop teams of lower-level financial professionals.

Finance professionals must think critically. When they encounter problems, they should be able to derive effective solutions.
Succeeding in the finance field requires excellent judgment and decision-making skills to analyze problems and make important decisions.
In the finance field, professionals must be able to use deductive reasoning to apply basic rules to problems in order to produce effective solutions.

Steps to Earning a Ph.D. in Finance Online

Before embarking on a Ph.D. finance online program, students may consider course delivery type; program length and cost; application requirements; fellowship or internship requirements; and capstone, dissertation, or thesis components.

Find the Right Program for You

Many formats exist for online programs, so students should review factors most important to them: program cost, enrollment type, program delivery (e.g., asynchronous/synchronous, cohort), and program length. Students should research several doctoral programs to find the best fit.


Applicants to doctoral programs must complete an admissions application and submit transcripts from a related master's program. Most colleges and universities also require applicants to meet minimum GPA requirements. Applicants might also be required to complete admissions essays, following formatting and subject requirements outlined by the specific college or university.

Capstone, Dissertation, or Thesis

Doctoral programs require students to complete a dissertation as part of their graduation requirements. Dissertations are research-intensive projects focused on an original topic. Theses are also original research-intensive projects that explore a particular topic, but they are not as long as dissertations. Capstones are projects that require students to synthesize the skills, knowledge, and concepts learned throughout the program.

Fellowship or Internship

Internships provide students with the opportunity to gain work experience before beginning a career in finance. Internships are sometimes required to complete a doctoral program; sometimes students pursue them to gain field experience. Fellowships focus more on professional development and less on work experience.

Curriculum for an Online Ph.D. in Finance

Among other topics and theories, doctoral finance students consider asset pricing, methods for finance theory, macro finance, corporate finance, and empirical methods in corporate finance.

  1. Corporate Finance: This course provides students with an overview of the basic aspects of financial institutions and corporate finance. It emphasizes methodology and considers incomplete financial contracting, capital structure, financial intermediation, and corporate reorganization and bankruptcy.

  2. Topics in Asset Pricing: In this course, students explore developments in asset pricing literature via research writing, hypothesis development, and research methods. Students also discuss recent deviations from asset pricing literature and identify the context for each deviation.

  3. Methods in Finance Theory: Focusing on continuous time-methods and game theory, this course uncovers approaches to organizing and understanding financial phenomena. Half focuses on game theory, reviewing moral hazard, signaling and screening, and equilibrium concepts; half investigates stochastic calculus as applied to capital structures.

  4. Macro Finance: Students in the macro finance course consider theoretical literature, including equilibrium macro models with a financial sector; firm investment and growth; asset pricing in general equilibrium; and corporate, sovereign, and household debt. Students often work on presentations in macro finance courses.

  5. Empirical Methods in Corporate Finance: Students study various microeconomic methods and models through lectures, empirical exercises, and student presentations. Course topics include duration models, instrumental variables, and structural estimation. Through the course, students develop a mastery of different econometric techniques.

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