You’ve Decided to Pursue a PhD in Your 40s - Now, What?


First, I want to say congratulations on deciding to pursue a PhD in your 40s. Now that the big decision is made, let’s move to some less daunting activities that’ll get you sitting in your first classroom in a few months. (Please note that the steps in this post are mainly directed toward pursuing a traditional Ph.D. However, these steps should also apply to DBA and Executive PhDs.).

I classify these as early activities and application activities.  

Early Decisions to Pursue a PhD

The early activities involve some early decisions you must make. These decisions include; the location of the PhD program, the PhD concentration, and what to study. Once you have answers to these questions, the rest of the application process becomes a little more straightforward.

#1 Location:

The general location where you desire to do your pursue a PhD should be decided. For the most part, if you’re pursuing a PhD in your 40s, there’s a chance you have settled in a particular location. This means that you prefer to do a PhD near or around that location. On the other hand, you may be looking for a fresh start in life and have the flexibility to choose where you want to do it. In that case, you have many more location options: North, South, West, or East.

#2 Schools:

After you’ve decided on the general location, it’s time to hone in on the school or schools. If possible, try not to make that decision blindly. In other words, try and find someone who might tell you one or two things about the schools, the culture especially. Given that pursue a PhD education is more than just schooling, it’s important that you understand the culture of the people you’ll be working very closely with for 4 years. Some PhD programs are collegial. Others are not and could be stressful. If you’re in your 40s and 50s and seeking your pursue a PhD, you probably want to avoid PhD programs with non-collegial cultures.

#3 PhD Concentration:

There are many PhD concentrations in business schools. The one you select should complement your current skills or experiences. For example, if you are a technologist, you might consider pursue a PhD concentration in information systems. You might consider management science or operations research if you are a math or statistics professional. See our post on concentrations.

Application Activities for a PhD in your 40s’

Now Let’s look at some of the requirements for gaining admission to a Ph.D. program. PhD program requirements include taking a GRE/GMAT, identifying and sending your transcripts (bachelors and masters), writing your personal statement, securing some good recommendation letters, etc. Figure 1 is a visual of those steps. Steps 1 to 5 can take about 6 months to 1 year. We address GRE/GMAT and transcripts in this post.

Phd in your 40s:


The one requirement you must start acquiring as soon as possible is taking the GRE or GMAT exam and getting a good score. What’s a good score depends on your school of interest. See what some of the top schools are looking for. Also, you can start preparing with GMAT Self-Paced PDP  

If you’ve taken a GRE/GMAT within the last 5 years, then you can skip this step. If you have not, you should start studying for the GMAT or GRE exam. Most universities in the US accept either of these. However, if you have a clearer idea of the schools you’ll like to apply to, you should find out their preference. Usually, this information is posted on their Ph.D. information website.

Many suggest that one should dedicate between 2 to 4 months to study and prepare for a GRE or GMAT exam. You can purchase some study guidebooks or use the GRE Prep – Live Online PDP to help you study. There are also practice tests that you can purchase to help prepare you for the exam.

#2 Get ready to send your transcripts:

If you’re a domestic student, the process of sending your transcripts to your schools of interest usually takes a few simple steps. Most universities have an automated process that allows former students to log in and order and sends their transcripts to schools for a small fee.

The process is a lot more involved if you’re an international student. International transcripts sometimes need to be evaluated and translated. There are college credential evaluation services that could evaluate your transcripts for a fee. This process can take a longer time to complete than you initially anticipated. So, plan accordingly. You could also call the graduate office of your schools of interest and ask if they could recommend an evaluation service or if they do the transcript evaluation themselves. Some schools do. So, it’s worth a try.

See more on writing your personal statement and securing some good recommendation letters.

You’ve Decided to Pursue a PhD in Your 40s – Now, What?

Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox, every month.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Post navigation