PhD in Business Administration

Marketing & behavioural science specialization


A student's perspective

The UBC PhD program in Marketing and Behavioural Science is rigorous and scholarly. The emphasis here is on building a strong theoretical foundation and acquiring the quantitative skills you will need to explore the research questions that flow from your theoretical insights. 

While expectations are high, the collegial atmosphere is highly supportive, and conducive to PhD success. Doctoral students and faculty members regularly stop by each others' offices to exchange and challenge new research ideas. The weekly marketing and behavioural science seminar series complements this by providing a forum where these concepts are presented and further developed. Perhaps above all, one gets the sense that this is a place where people enjoy asking questions - and delight in looking for answers. 

Doctoral students enjoy close, working relationships with faculty members in the division. The role is perhaps best described as one of "junior colleague," in which students primarily acquire knowledge from faculty, but offer ideas as well. This interaction is not merely encouraged, it is expected - meaning that one is driven to become a participant, and not merely a spectator, in the learning experience. The reward, for those who succeed, is a strong sense of professional satisfaction and personal fulfillment. 

Doctoral Student Research

Sauder School of Business has a hard-won reputation as Canada's preeminent business research school, and is a major contributor to such leading marketing journals as the Journal of Marketing Research, the Journal of Consumer Research and Marketing Science. This results, in part, from the fact that the PhD program is a genuine priority here. Both the organizational culture and the promotion-and-tenure structure encourage active collaboration between doctoral students and faculty. 

Students typically become involved in research with faculty members by the end of their first year. By the time coursework is finished after year two, most are involved in two or three projects, making it possible to indulge a diversity of interests and learn from several different faculty members. 

Almost without exception, hard work and intellectual contribution ensures co-authorship credit on the research paper itself - something which does not always hold true elsewhere. 

Program of study

In the academic world, marketing and behavioural science is commonly divided into two major streams. Depending on their interests and skills, students generally choose one of these streams and select course work appropriate for that area: 

  • Consumer behavior seeks to understand the psychology of consumption, and why consumers think, feel and act the way they do. This domain draws its inspiration from psychological, sociological and anthropological theory, and typically uses experimental methods to explore research questions. 
  • Marketing modelling develops mathematical representations of buyer and seller behavior. It draws on theory from economics and consumer psychology to study marketing phenomena with a high degree of mathematical rigor. Using management science and operations research methodologies, the modeling of marketing phenomena leads to improved understanding and better decision making. Students in this area also concentrate on the estimation of marketing effects in time series and cross-sectional data. 
  • Marketing strategy overlaps these first two, while incorporating elements of general management studies. At UBC, strategy is not usually treated separately, and tends to be studied equally by behaviorists and modelers. 

Marketing and Behavioural Science is not confined to the business sector, and its principles are increasingly applied by managers in nonprofit and government organizations. Individuals wishing to study marketing and behavioural science in this context will find ample opportunity to do so at UBC, with faculty members available to assist the student in developing an appropriate program of study.

To accommodate the specific research interests of individual students, the UBC doctoral program has a very flexible structure. In general, coursework is selected by the student in consultation with a faculty advisor, then approved by the division. While some individuals map out their entire program on entering, it is more common to select courses at the beginning of each of the first and second years.

Students generally write their comprehensive exams in the summer or fall following their second year. However, since new or specialized courses may be offered after that time, most audit two or three classes on an opportunistic basis following completion of their comprehensives. This practice is primarily initiated by students themselves, though faculty members may recommend additional coursework if they feel that a student lacks background in some important area.

Doctoral students at UBC are required to teach a minimum of one course section prior to graduation. In practice, students tend to teach one or two sections in each of their last two years. This is partly because formal financial support is only guaranteed to the end of the third year (though this is never a real concern), and partly because teaching has become an increasingly valued skill on the academic job market. Since instructor remuneration is higher for individuals who have defended their dissertation proposals, it is generally best to reach this benchmark prior to taking on any teaching responsibilities.

Sample program sequence

Below is an example of the course work that might be followed by a typical student in the behavioral and modeling streams: 

Behavioral Stream Year 1

  • Consumer Behaviour I
  • Quantitative Methods for Behavioural Research I (Correlation and Regression)
  • Social Psychology I
  • Marketing Models I
  • Quantitative Methods for Behavioural Research II (ANOVA and General Linear Model)
  • Philosophy of Science

Year 2

  • Consumer Behaviour II
  • Social Psychology II
  • Marketing Models II
  • Multivariate Analysis for Behavioural Research
  • Structural Equation Modeling for Behavioural Research

Modeling Stream Year 1

  • Consumer Behaviour I
  • Marketing Models I
  • Mathematical Statistics I
  • Mathematical Statistics II
  • Philosophy of Science

Year 2

  • Marketing Models II
  • Consumer Behaviour II
  • Social Psychology I
  • Econometric Methods
  • Econometric Theory
  • Directed Study

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