The HEC Paris PhD Program

Why should I choose the HEC Paris PhD Program?

The HEC Paris PhD Program is built on a strategy of excellence in PhD instruction and placement success. It is a small and intensive program aiming to attract outstanding students with the highest level of ambition. Only between 1 and 4 students are enrolled in each area of specialization every year. The rigorous selection process and the small number of students admitted into the program ensure that HEC Paris attracts high-calibre students.

Selectivity, demanding and intensive course training, close supervision, and full immersion in the research activities at HEC Paris are cornerstones of HEC Paris’ philosophy in PhD training. HEC Paris is also pursuing a successful policy of encouraging academic exchanges with the world’s best business schools and research presentations in the leading conferences.

HEC Paris’ international, research-driven, young and yet renowned faculty is a key ingredient of success in our PhD Program. HEC faculty members are publishing many research articles in top research journals every year, and are active in all domains of research in management. One out every seven hours taught by HEC Paris’ research faculty is taught in the PhD program; the depth and quality of HEC Paris PhD course offering ensures that PhD students receive the training needed to carry out research at the forefront of their field.

What are the career prospects?

The HEC Paris PhD in Management opens the door to a career as a Business School professor. As one of the oldest and most recognized business schools in the world, HEC Paris has been successful in placing its PhDs in many leading business schools worldwide. Our PhDs have been hired in faculty positions in Europe, the United States and Canada, Latin America, Asia and Australia/Oceania. But career opportunities are not limited to business schools: our PhDs have also taken up academic positions in economics departments, research organizations, or engineering schools. While 90% of our recent PhDs pursue an academic career, some choose to pursue a career in government or international institutions or consulting where the skills acquired during the PhD are highly valued.

What do I learn in the PhD courses?

Coursework is an essential part of our PhD program. A successful PhD requires intensive training and comprehensive knowledge on research methods and current research trends. PhD students devote their entire first year to coursework, and a substantial part or most of their second year - exact details on the required coursework in the second year vary by area of specialization. In the PhD courses, PhD students will learn theoretical foundations, receive state-of-the-art methodological training and acquire knowledge about key insights and research findings at the frontiers of their field. HEC Paris faculty devote a considerable part of their time to training PhD students.

During the second year, PhD students will start advancing on their thesis by formulating their own PhD thesis project. At the end of the 2nd year, they will defend a thesis proposal in front of faculty from their area of specialization. With the help of their supervisors and other faculty members, they will define the most promising questions and avenues for their research ideas, and determine the research design.

How long does the PhD studies last?

The program is designed for four years, and most students are able to complete their thesis within four years. As in most leading PhD programs in management, many students decide to stay at HEC Paris for one more year in order to better prepare for the academic job market, advance their research vita (publications, working papers, and presentations) and maximize their chances for a high-profile faculty placement. HEC Paris provides generous funding and employment opportunities for those students during their 5th year as well.

When can I go on a research visit abroad?

A majority of our successful PhD student go on an academic visit in another top business schools or research department. Most of these visits take place during the 3rd and 4th year of the PhD studies. Such visits are very flexible and vary a lot in length, for any period of time between 3 and 12 months. Every year, HEC Paris also receives around 3 to 5 visiting PhD students from other schools and departments around the world. Students receive financial support for research visits.

When is the intake?

The program starts in the first half of September every year.

What is the Doctoral School in Social Sciences and Humanities of Paris-Saclay University?

The Doctoral Schools in France have been created by the legislator to guarantee common standards in doctoral studies everywhere in the country; they often bring together PhD programs from multiple institutions. Every PhD student must be registered at a Doctoral School, and HEC Paris PhD students are registered at the Doctoral School in Social Sciences and Humanities (Ecole Doctorale 578 SHS) of Paris-Saclay University.

Paris-Saclay University, officially founded in 2015, is the community of 20 higher education and research institutions including many of the most prestigious institutions in France, all located in France's largest and most important science cluster at the south-western fringe of  Paris. With 20.000 faculty and 6.000 PhD students and many world-class research groups and labs, Paris-Saclay University offers a wealth of opportunity for HEC Paris PhD students via joint courses, seminars, events, and encounters with top researchers in many different fields, as well as its location in the middle of France's largest cluster of private technology and start-up activity.

 At the same time, the HEC Paris PhD Program remains fully autonomous in deciding on its rules and policies, like any other of the world's best PhD programs in management.

Isn’t it a program mostly for French applicants?

No. We receive applications and accept excellent students from all over the world. Currently, our PhD students hail from 25 countries, 22 nationalities and 75% are international. 

My profile

Is there an age limit?

There is no age limit to apply for the program. The average age is 29.

I do not speak French. Can I apply?

Absolutely. The HEC Ph.D is taught 100% in English and is open to candidates having proficiency in English. 

All PhD students who don't speak French are registered for the French language course which will help them to better enjoy in their leisure time while living in France.

64% of our professors are international (30 nationalities). Thus, HEC professors and staff members communicate exclusively in English.  

Can I keep a professional activity during the PhD Program?

No, the HEC PhD Program is a full-time program. As in most leading PhD programs, our PhD students are expected to devote all of their time and energy to their training, research, and completion of their PhD thesis. Scholarships are granted by HEC Paris and the HEC Foundation as well as additional funding opportunities are in place to allow PhD students to concentrate exclusively on their training and research. All PhD students are expected to live in the Paris area. Every admitted student receives a guaranteed scholarship of 20,000€ for the first 4 years of studies.

I have a choice between a research master and a more professionalizing master degree. Which one should I take?

If you have a choice between a research master and another, more professionalizing master degree, and you want to do a PhD after your master, it is typically a good idea to choose the research master. Opting for a research master offers two advantages: first, you will gain time as the research-oriented courses you take offer content that is useful for your PhD and that allows you to accelerate your course training during your PhD. Second, for admission at selective schools like HEC Paris, a research master may be viewed as a positive element as it shows that you know how to carry out research, what you need to learn for it,  and whether you are good at learning it. However, a research master is not required. There is always the opportunity to get a complete, self-contained sequence of the required research-oriented course work during the PhD.

Is a research master a plus for admissions?

The HEC Ph.D. is open to candidates holding a Master degree. A research master is not a requirement, and most of our applicants and PhD students do not hold a research master. The most important admission criterion is the potential you show for developing ideas and carrying out top-level research, and there are many ways of showing this. Having excelled in a top-level research master program is a good way of showing your potential, but there are many other ways.

What is a research master? Many universities and schools, especially in Europe, offer research master degrees, sometimes under names like MRes or MPhil (we are referring to "taught" masters, i.e. programs based on intensive course work). Thus, in these universities and schools, some research training is offered during the research master program, and some more during the PhD, with a lot of variation in the weight between the two. This is also true for HEC Paris. As a founding member of Paris-Saclay University, HEC Paris is a co-sponsor of the research master "Master in Economics" (www.master-in-economics.fr), together with partner schools like Ecole Polytechnique, ENSAE, and ENS Cachan, and HEC Paris faculty teaches many of the courses there. The Master in Economics offers a wealth of PhD-oriented training in economics, finance and econometrics.

My application

How can I apply?

To apply for the HEC Ph.D., applicants are invited to apply either at the January session or the May session. See here for detailed application calendar. 
Please note that we apply the online application system and that only completed applications including the below information will be accepted:

  • GMAT or GRE (Graduate Management admissions tests) or TAGE-MAGE (French test)
  • TOEFLIELTS or TOEIC (English language aptitude tests). Exemptions for English natives and applicants who studied at least one year of their graduate studies in English language.
  • 2 online recommendations
  • CV (résumé)
  • Personal statement motivating your choice of pursuing a Ph.D. in Management
  • Scan of official university degrees
  • Scan of official transcripts of university studies
  • Additional research material that may support your application (dissertation, paper...)
  • Copy of your ID or passport
  • 1 passport size photo
  • Application fee: 40€

Why are there two admission deadlines?

Most top PhD programs have application deadlines in January or earlier, but many candidates are not ready with their application material at that time, especially in Europe where many programs have deadlines in May or June. For this reason the HEC Paris PhD Program offers two deadlines: candidates who are ready in January can receive early notification about their admission to the program, whereas candidates that need more time to prepare their application can take advantage of the late deadline in May.

There is no difference in the chances of admission between both deadlines. We apply strictly the same criteria, and the quality of the admitted candidates is the same. Thus, if you are ready in January, there is no reason to defer your application, but also no penalty when you do so.

What is the purpose of the tests?

The GMAT or GRE tests (or equivalent French TAGE MAGE) help HEC Paris to evaluate the applicant’s analytical capabilities that are essential for a successful career in research. There is no minimum required test score, but successful candidates typically have very good test scores in the top quartile of the distribution.

The TOEIC, TOEFL or IELTS English language tests help us to appraise the applicant's language proficiency. Perfect knowledge of English is absolutely essential for a successful international research career in management. The Program is taught 100% in English.

Can I get a waiver for the tests?

There is no waiver concerning the management tests (GMAT or GRE, or TAGE-MAGE) but you can get a waiver for the English language test if you are a native English speaker, or if you studied you Master or Bachelor in English for one year or more, of if you can show evidence of very strong English skills by other means. Please contact the admissions office to apply for exemption.

Will an incomplete application be taken into consideration?

No, incomplete applications will not be considered. Like many excellent PhD programs, HEC Paris receives a large number of applications every year and only completed online applications may be submitted. However, we may exceptionnally accept unofficial scores for candidates whose test date is very close to our deadline.

Can I apply again if I was rejected?

Yes, but you may re-apply to the following session. Thus, applying again typically makes sense only if there is a substantial addition to the application material provided (improved GMAT/GRE score, a new excellent diploma or other remarkable academic achievements, etc.).