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IIM PhD Programme: 5 Key Insights from an IIM PhD Student

If you're considering to join an IIM PhD programme (erstwhile FPM programme), this post will help you take the right call. In a discussion with an IIM PhD student, I learned some valuable insights about the programme which can benefit the interested candidates. This post will cover 5 key questions:

  1. Competitiveness of the Course

  2. Preparing for PhD Interviews

  3. Opportunities after the Course

  4. Life of an IIM PhD Student

  5. Suitability for the Programme

IIM PhD Programme Insights

IIM PhD Programme

5 Key Questions

I. Competitiveness of the Course

In terms the selection ratio, the programme is not as competitive as the PGP programme. Every year, approximately 2,000-3,000 applicants apply for the PhD programme.

There are a variety of areas under which the candidates can apply, e.g. Finance, Business Policy, Marketing, etc.. For each area, 1-3 candidates are finally selected.

The selection, hence, is not as competitive. One needs a decent (95+) percentile in CAT or a score over 700+ in GMAT to get a call for the PhD programme. The overall profile matters more as compared to the cut-off. It is a difficult programme to complete, hence a strong motivation is imperative.

One need not have a background in research to apply for the PhD programme in IIMs. Instead, a clear reason to pursue research is required. It requires dedication to stick by in this programme.

II. Preparing for PhD Interviews

There is no prescribed format in which you need to create a resume. There is a predefined application form you're required to fill before the IIM PhD Interviews. You need a good SOP to go along with it.

Some areas also conduct a Research Aptitude Test (RAT) but it varies from area to area and IIM to IIM.

Before appearing for the interview, you should read up a bit about the area you're interested in. It will also be advisable to go through the research work of the professors from that area (using the faculty pages and their Google Scholar profiles).

Your academic performance should be consistently good. The textbook knowledge becomes more important in the PhD interviews at IIMs than the application-based knowledge, which is what IIMs look for in the PGP programme. You must be thorough about your domain knowledge.

A question that is stressed upon the most during the interviews is "Why Research?" The panelists make sure to check the soundness of knowledge of the candidate in regards to his/her domain and test the inclination for the area he/she is willing to study under.

Generally there are 1-2 rounds of interviews for the PhD programme at IIMs. The interview tends to be 30-40 minutes long. The main areas of focus during the interviews are: academics, domain knowledge and the motivation to pursue research.

A question that is often asked during the PhD interviews is - "Why would you want to leave a job/corporate career to pursue PhD?" One must have a sound answer for the same.

III. Opportunities after the Course

The first thing you must be clear with is that the IIM PhD programme doesn't have a placement process like the PGP programme. It's a self-driven programme, where you have to establish your own connections.

If you're wondering how much CTC can you earn after the course or which companies can you get placed into, this is definitely not the right programme for you.

The benefits of this programme accrue once you've published a research paper in a reputed journal. Post that you can expect to join a B-School as an Assistant Professor. You get compensation as per the Govt. pay scale. The lifestyle of an IIM faculty member is comfortable. Most IIMs offer their faculty housing facility.

The non-monetary benefits can include perks like coverage of medical expenses, sports & institutional facilities, etc. But, the idea of the programme is not the prepare you for an exit in the corporate sector.

For some areas, basis the specific openings in the corporate sector, you may apply for such roles. For example, Analytics and Research skills from certain areas can be of use to the corporate sector. But, that is highly dependent on the openings and the match with the skill-set of the area.

IV. Life of an IIM PhD Student

The life of a PhD student at an IIM is completely different from that of a PGP student. Unlike the peer-interactions and group work, it's mostly self-driven.

Your batch mates are generally unaware of what you're working on. There are some classes where you might be the only student having a one-on-one interaction with the professor.

You do get a stipend during the course of your PhD which ranges from Rs. 30,000-40,000 per month for self-sustenance. Along with that, you also get campus housing.

Usually, the PhD students graduate in 4-6 years. The average is 5 years for the programme. The time by when you graduate depends on your Thesis Defense.

PhD students are also allowed to attend some PGP courses which they think can add value to their research. However, grades are not an objective for this programme.

Ideally, by the end of the first student, an IIM PhD student should have some ideas for the research paper and should start working for it. It takes about 2-3 years to get a paper published from the conception stage.

V. Suitability for the Programme

This has more or less been covered in the previous questions. But, to sum it up, you need to be a self-driven individual with a keen interest in research to pursue a PhD programme at an IIM.

Corporate exits should not be your main aim. Instead, you can look into the following categories of exits that are most commonly opted for by the PhD students:

  • Assistant Professors

  • Post-Doctoral Fellowship

  • Government Think Tank

  • Corporate Openings (if)

Another area explored after becoming a Professor is independent consulting projects for the corporate sector.

One may also consider corporate training and executive educational programs run via institutes as other sources of income. However, research is at the heart of this programme and an inclination towards it is a must for any candidate who wishes to apply for it.


So, this was an introduction to the IIM PhD Programme (formerly FPM programme) for the candidates interested in pursuing research. Hope the insights help you make the right choice and determine if you're a fit for the PhD programme or not. If you wish to read the official details of the PhD Programme at IIM-A, B, C and ISB, the links are:

Such programmes are also offered by other IIMs like IIM-L, IIM-K, IIM-I, etc.

Explore the Life at an IIM.

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