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Graduate Program

PhD Program

All students must fulfill a number of course, research and credit requirements in order to complete the PhD program. The specific requirements are described below in the approximate order that you encounter them during the program.

Course and Credit Requirements

Research and Teaching Requirements

Additional Requirements

Student can also view the PhD program timeline to see an overview of the program.

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Course and Credit Requirements

Foundational Requirements

Students entering this program should have a minimum of one year of calculus, and one semester of both linear algebra and mathematical statistics. Any student who is missing one or more of these courses will be required to take them during their first year of graduate study.

Students must also pass an oral and written English proficiency exam by the second semester of their second year. Students from English-speaking countries may waive the exam with the permission of the graduate advisor.

The Program in English as a Second Language is a great resource for students looking to improve their English skills.

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Core Courses

The following eight courses form the core of the PhD program:

ECO 471-472: Modern Value Theory I & II
ECO 475-476: Macroeconomics I & II
ECO 481-482: Mathematical Economics I & II
ECO 484: Introduction to Econometrics
ECO 485: Elements of Econometrics

These courses must be completed in the first year of study. All students must maintain a B average in order to remain in good standing in the department. Students with an average lower than a B must pass a proficiency exam during the summer.

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Fields of Specialization and Qualifying Examinations 

Each PhD candidate must qualify in one specialized fields. Fields available vary from year to year depending on current faculty and student interests.

Recent field courses offered have included:

  • Applied Economics (Labor, Urban, Education, and Health Economics)
  • Econometrics
  • Economic Theory (Game theory, Decision Theory, Axiomatic Resource Allocation)
  • International Economics
  • Macroeconomics, Macro Labor, and Monetary Theory
  • Political economy

Preparation for the qualifying examination ordinarily involves taking two graduate courses in that field, and further study over the summer. If appropriate courses are not offered, it may be possible to arrange a reading course with one of the relevant faculty members.

Field areas are evaluated by either a written qualifying examination or a paper and graded by relevant faculty. Students have two attempts to pass the qualifier exam, and the exams expire after five years. Examinations are usually scheduled in June, with retakes in August.

The department maintains a file of recent qualifying examinations to aid you in preparation.

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Distribution Requirements

Students must take at least three courses in at least two fields outside their qualifying-exam field.

With the written permission of the director of graduate studies, you may substitute a minimum of 4 credit hours in an allied field for one of the distribution courses.

Courses in mathematics, statistics, and finance may fall under this category. These courses must be distinct from your field area, and you must make the case that they sufficiently broaden your understanding of economics.

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Credit Requirements

Students entering the program with a bachelor's degree need ninety semester hours of course credit. Each student receives 4 credits for each 400-level course, and 5 credits for each 500-level course. In order to maintain full-time status, a student must register for 12 credits in each semester, with the following exceptions: (i) if the student serves as a teaching assistant during a semester, full-time status requires only 9 credits; (ii) if the student is about to or has already completed 90 credits, the student can register for ECO 997 or ECO 999 (Doctoral Dissertation), which automatically confer full-time status.

While writing the third-year paper, you must register for Economics 493: Master's Essay. When working on your dissertation, you may register for up to 4 credits per semester of Economics 595: PhD Research in Economics.

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Research and Teaching Requirements

Third-Year Paper 

During the third year, you must prepare a paper that demonstrates your research abilities.

This paper is usually a preliminary investigation of a dissertation topic, but may be a self-contained paper that is unrelated to your dissertation.

The paper must be completed by the last working day in June of the third year, and presented in the relevant workshop/seminar series.

A copy of the paper, approved and signed by the faculty advisor, must be turned in to the Graduate Coordinator to be placed in your file.

The Conibear Prize is awarded annually for the best third-year paper.

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Dissertation Prospectus

Upon completion of the core courses, qualifying exams, and third-year paper requirements, you become a candidate for the PhD degree.

Each candidate will select and obtain the consent of a member of the department faculty to act as principal dissertation supervisor. You are encouraged to seek advice from other faculty members as appropriate.

All students must submit a prospectus by October 15 of their fourth year. The prospectus should state the:

  • Research problem
  • Techniques to be applied
  • Sources of data to be used (if relevant)

The prospectus must be signed and approved by two faculty members. The primary purpose of the prospectus is to persuade the department that the thesis dissertation plan is appropriate and manageable. The prospectus should be three to ten pages.

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The Workshop Program

Workshops provide students with insights into current research topics and offer a forum for students and faculty to present and discuss their recent research. There are five regular workshops:

  • Macroeconomics
  • Applied economics
  • Economic theory
  • International economics
  • Econometrics

Students must participate in one of the department's ongoing workshops during years three and above. This starts with registering for a workshop, and includes regular attendance and active participation.

Second-year students are encouraged to attend workshops, and we strongly advise advanced students to attend other workshops besides their primary workshop.

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Teaching Requirement

The department views teaching experience as an integral part of the PhD program. The formal requirement is four semesters as a teaching assistant (TA).

Students are assigned to a variety of teaching activities based upon their individual skills and preferences, and the demand for TAs. Typically, beginning TAs will grade and or lead problem sessions. More advanced TAs may have the opportunity to teach their own course, especially in the summer.

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Final Oral Examination

After the dissertation has been completed and approved by your dissertation advisors, you must defend the dissertation in a final oral examination.

The examining committee consists of your supervisor, at least one other member of the economics faculty, an outside reader (from a department other than economics), and a committee chair. It is the responsibility of the student and the advisor(s) to select the other members of the committee.

Questions in the oral examination are generally confined to the dissertation and closely related matters, but may cover broader aspects of economics. The committee is empowered to approve or disapprove the dissertation, to approve contingent on certain changes, or to require changes followed by reexamination.

If your qualifying exams have expired, you must re-pass them before defending your dissertation.

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Additional Requirements

Professional and Ethical Behavior

The department expects its graduate students to maintain high ethical and professional standards in educational and professional activities.

In particular, graduate students are expected not to collaborate during unsupervised examinations or take-home examinations. At the same time, a certain amount of interaction on homework assignments is beneficial to the educational process.

Students may consult with others on general points, but should prepare their own homework answers.

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