Experiential PhD

The future of research will be collaborative. Researchers across academic institutions, industry, government, and other organizations will team up to solve complex real-world problems. Researchers will require technical proficiency as well as the ability to work with others, form teams, manage projects and more—skills that go beyond the classroom. At Northeastern, every PhD student and postdoctoral research associate has opportunities to acquire experiences beyond traditional research. Exposure to and integration with our many partners through unique programs in authentic settings from laboratories to startup companies to nonprofit institutions leads to greater impact and broader career opportunities, both within and beyond academia.

Northeastern’s Experiential PhD programs offer such opportunities for current Northeastern PhD students and postdoctoral research associates and master's-level employees at companies, laboratories, and organizations who want to pursue a doctoral degree at Northeastern. The former occurs through the LEADERs program, while the latter occurs through the Industry PhD program. Traditional internships and sponsored research agreements are available to Northeastern students.  

The LEADERs program is designed to enable students to expand critical inquiry, learn, work, and chart a path to professional success through authentic opportunities at organizations in industry, government, and the nonprofit sector. Beyond the comfort zone of their own university research group, PhD students and postdoctoral research associates encounter new experiences that help shape their research perspective. They also bring fresh ideas and talent to their host organizations. Northeastern is one of the only universities in the world to offer students in all of its research-based doctoral-degree programs the option to learn and pursue research outside of their primary research group. These real-world placements are highly flexible and customizable, tailored to meet the needs of both Northeastern’s PhD students and postdoctoral research associates and our institutional partners.

The Industry PhD is a first-of-its kind research-based doctoral program designed with input from external partners to provide a pathway for full-time master's-level employees to pursue a research-based doctoral degree while maintaining their job and conducting research at the employer site. This enables employees to acquire new skills that will help them to advance in their careers and provides the organization with an opportunity to invest in their future leaders. By working closely with Northeastern faculty, employees will explore their research from a broader scientific perspective, enabling them to appreciate the research foundation of their day-to-day work and to pursue new areas of research for the company.

Experiential PhD programs offer robust benefits to both students and institutional partners. Students solve complex problems as part of their education and chart careers as future innovators. Our institutional partners receive many benefits as well, including:

  • A deeper engagement in rapidly evolving fields of research

  • Access to university facilities and senior faculty expertise

  • Opportunities for senior leadership to mentor and copublish with students and to serve on their dissertation committees

  • A chance to recruit emerging talent

  • Opportunities to partner with Northeastern, an entrepreneurial research university known for its innovative collaborations with academia, government, and industry

The Industry PhD is a first-of-its kind research-based doctoral program designed with input from industry partners to provide a pathway for full-time employees to pursue a doctoral degree without leaving their job. The program aims to:

  • Allow full-time employees with master’s degrees to conduct doctoral research at their company
  • Design innovative research projects that produce high-quality publications while preserving confidentiality and intellectual property
  • Inspire fruitful relationships between Northeastern faculty and the partnering organization

The Industry PhD is applicable to any of our 34 doctoral programs. Applicants should follow the requirements of the program to which they are applying. In addition, the following Industry PhD terms apply.


At Northeastern, PhD students enjoy a uniquely broad range of immersive opportunities to expand critical inquiry, learn, perform original research, and chart a path to professional success. Experiential PhD opportunities enable PhD students to step outside the comfort zone of their campus research group where students can pursue challenging, creative, customized assignments within industry, government, or the nonprofit sector that inform and enhance their pursuit of a research doctorate.

This Graduate Certificate in Experiential PhD Leadership aims to:

• Challenge students to address complex problems through experience within the context of real-world needs and challenges faced by industry, government, or nonprofit-sector organizations, broadening students' view of stakeholders and impact, shaping the very questions they raise and answer.

• Equip students for a lifetime with the cultural agility, creativity, and professional skills—public speaking and communications, meeting goals and expectations (e.g., project management for personal and professional purposes), teamwork, leadership, peer influence, leading from the middle—that they will need to translate their findings into impactful solutions.

• Enrich every student’s research group and, ultimately, fields of expertise by fostering a collaborative, entrepreneurial, innovative approach to knowledge creation that expands their network far beyond academia to include intellectual and professional mentors and collaborators.

This graduate certificate designed for PhD students across all of Northeastern’s research-based PhD programs provides students embarking on an experiential PhD with the preparation, project delivery, and guidance for contextual integration within the context of leadership development. All students pursuing this leadership certificate will be mentored by their sponsor supervisor and dissertation adviser(s).

Complete all courses and requirements listed below unless otherwise indicated. 

A grade of B or higher is required in each course.


PHDL 7600Leading Self and Others4
PHDL 7660Experiential PhD Challenge Project 14
PHDL 7662Experiential PhD Challenge Project 24
PHDL 7666Contextual Integration0

Program Credit/GPA Requirements

12 total semester hours required
Minimum 3.000 GPA required