Study Knowledge Management: PhD, Master & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in a knowledge management degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's degree and a doctorate and potential careers.
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Knowledge Management Master's and PhDs: Degrees at a Glance

This degree program is relatively new and a reflection of the changing times that developments such as the Internet and other technologies have brought about. It combines aspects of other degree programs, including computer systems management, human resource management and organizational management. Although the field uses the principles of these degrees and qualifies you for many of the same positions, it is not their equivalent and should be considered distinct from them.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists job outlook statistics for the following positions associated with this degree: positions for top executives were expected to grow five percent, management analysts 22%, computer and information systems managers 18% and human resource managers 13% between 2010 and 2020. Ph.D. programs in this field lead to many of the same positions in addition to the position of postsecondary educator, which has a job growth outlook of 17% in this same span of years.

Let's compare programs:

Master's Doctoral
Who is this program for? Individuals who wish to prepare for and seek opportunities of leadership in the information, knowledge and social interaction management positions within organizations Individuals interested in building on their master's degree and work experience to continue to lead organizations through knowledge management; also, individuals who wish to teach courses in this arena at the college level
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) -Top executive ($177,000)*
- Computer and information systems manager ($126,000)*
- Management analyst ($88,000)*
- Human resources manager ($109,000)*
- Postsecondary educator ($74,000)*\ \-Doctoral degree career paths are similar to those of the master's degree. However, more advancement opportunities may be available to individuals with a doctorate.
Time to Completion 1-2 years, part-time 3-4 years after master's degree, full time (varies)
Common Graduation Requirements - Around 40-45 credit hours
- Exams
-All or any of the following: master's project, capstone experience(s), thesis
-Practicum and/or internship(s)
- Approximately 90-100 credit hours
- Exams
-Doctoral dissertation and defense
-Residencies and/or other practicum/internship(s)
Prerequisites -Bachelor's degree
-Master's degree (or equivalent)
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's Degree

This degree program is not industry specific but applicable to countless industries including the aerospace, energy, manufacturing, government and biotech arenas. The degree program is orientated around an understanding of the way knowledge, technology and organization are used within communities and businesses. Through these programs, you'll learn to understand and use theories, analytical data and thinking for improving operations and efficiency.

A limited number of programs of this nature exist in the U.S. Programs are more easily found in specified areas, such as technology and database management, human resources management or computer systems management, but these types of programs are all aspects of the knowledge management degree, not precisely the same as or the equivalent of the degree.

Knowledge management programs are generally built around the executive or working adult. Around five years of work experience are generally preferred for admission, although this is not always a requirement.

Pros and Cons


  • Earning this degree can qualify you for many high-ranking and executive positions
  • A master's degree in knowledge management can potentially lead to relatively high salary earnings
  • Knowledge management is a cutting-edge and growing field, thus job opportunities and existing positions should continue to expand


  • Many of the jobs for which this degree qualifies you report a bachelor's degree as the minimum requirement
  • Programs are limited and admissions are competitive
  • Many programs prefer that you have multiple years of experience in a related field or position

Courses and Requirements

Knowledge management programs are not only focused on leadership skills and management, but also on understanding of human interaction and dynamics as they fit into and interact with the knowledge environment and the other environments found within organizations. Some courses a master's degree in knowledge management may include are:

  • Global political economy
  • International finance and trade
  • Governance and policy
  • Culture, organization and technology
  • Policy analysis
  • Managerial economics

In addition to your coursework, you will likely need to complete any or all of the following: a master's project, master's thesis, practicum hours, one or more internships and capstone projects. Many programs are built around the working executive, so classes and other course requirements are generally structured around the adult who works full time.

Online Degree Options

With the limited number of knowledge management programs available in the U.S., online programs are not widely available. An accredited example of an online master's degree in knowledge management was found and its coursework, structure and other requirements seemed very similar to that of an on-campus program.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

This degree program requires excelling in technology understanding and application as well as people and interpersonal skills. The Institute of Certified Professional Managers offers a certification program for managers that includes exams, education and experience requirements. You could become certified if you intend to work in management, specifically as a top executive, since it will give you a leg up on the competition. Professional associations, including The Society for Human Resource Management, offer certification.

Doctoral Degree

Although not many of these programs are found in the U.S., it seems to be a popular major in some well-known international schools and universities. Programs often have a strict admissions process and equally rigorous coursework. You progress through your doctoral program as part of a cohort, and individual coursework plans will be put together collaboratively by you and your advisor based upon your previous education credentials and your desired goals for the degree.

Pros and Cons


  • Knowledge management as a specialization can offer a competitive edge, since it is a new and growing field
  • Salary prospects with positions attainable with this degree can offset costs of investment into your education
  • A doctorate may qualify you to work as a college professor


  • Many of the positions for which this degree can help you qualify are accessible to master's degree and/or bachelor's degree holders
  • Often positions associated with this degree require several years of experience in conjunction with education credentials
  • The limited nature of degree programs in this field makes admissions highly competitive

Courses and Requirements

Doctoral programs in knowledge management have heavy coursework and emphases on research and various methodologies of research design as well as knowledge/information analysis. Some courses you might take while earning your doctoral degree are:

  • Epistemology
  • Knowledge and learning management
  • Research theory, design and methods
  • Quantitative reasoning and analysis
  • Qualitative reasoning and analysis
  • Multivariate analysis

In addition to coursework, you will likely be required to submit a proposal, prepare a dissertation, and defend your dissertation. You may also be required to complete residencies, practicum or other internships or field work.

Online Degree Options

Accredited, online doctoral degree programs in knowledge management are available, but rare. The requirements, coursework and intensity of the online programs appear to be comparable to the on-campus programs found.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Because the majority of positions related to this degree program are the same as those related to the master's degree in knowledge management, they share many of the same qualities and avenues for getting ahead. This includes attaining certifications and professional associations applicable to your desired career path. Mastery of technology and interpersonal skills are highly valued attributes in this field. Improving your abilities in both of these arenas is essential to your success and getting ahead with this degree.

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