Ph.D. Degree Requirements

Ph.D. Degree Requirements

Requirements for Graduate Degrees

The Ph.D. program has three main parts taken in sequence: the core, the fields (of specialization), and the dissertation. Most students take 5 years to complete the program. Occasionally a student finishes in 4 years, and a few take longer than 5 years.

First year:

Core Courses

The first year core consists of 2 semesters of coursework: a 2-semester sequence in microeconomic theory (Econ 502 and 521), a 2-semester sequence in macroeconomic theory (Econ 503 and 522), a 2-semester sequence in econometrics (Econ 501 and 510), and a course in mathematics for economists (Econ 500). 

All students must also take the empirical methods course (Econ 512) in the second year and the research exposition course (Econ 597E) in the fall of the third year.

Qualifier Exams

Students are assigned a research project in the sequence of their choice (microeconomics, macroeconomics or econometrics) to complete during the summer and turn in before the beginning of the third semester, during the last week of August.

Students are also required to take an exam in each of the three sequences, during the last week of August.  Students who obtain a grade point average of 3.0 or above in sequences and a B- minimum grade in each of the two courses in the sequence will be exempt from the exam in that sequence.


Students must demonstrate competence in two fields. Competence in a field is demonstrated by completing two courses in the field with no grade lower than a B. In addition, all students must pass two additional field courses that may or may not be in their chosen field with a grade no lower than B. The deadline for selecting fields and field courses is the end of year 1, but students may adjust some of their choices during the second year. From the second year onward, students must regularly attend the seminar series of their chosen fields. Seminar series are offered in microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, trade and development, applied microeconomics, and econometrics. Students must also be enrolled in the (possibly student run) reading group corresponding to one of their chosen fields and present at least once in that reading group during each of their second, third and fourth years. All students must obtain email approval before enrolling in any course outside the economics department. All such courses must be within the scope of the program learning objectives. 

The department offers the following field courses: two 1-semester courses in development economics (both named Econ 570),  two 1-semester courses in econometrics (both named Econ 589), two 1-semester courses in microeconomic theory (Econ 534 and 597C), three 1-semester courses in industrial organization (two named Econ 543 and one named Econ 597B), two 1 semester courses in international economics (both Econ 507,) and 3 1-semester macroeconomics (Econ 517, 558 and 559). Usually, field requirements cannot be met by mixing and matching. For instance, one course each in game theory and econometrics does not constitute a field. With the permission of the student’s adviser and the Director of Graduate Studies, a student may take a field in another department. For example, students have taken field courses in Demography, Political Science, Math, and Statistics.

Research paper requirement

A research paper is required of all students.  The purpose of this is to assess a student’s ability to:

  1. Identify an interesting question or unsolved problem
  2. Answer the question or solve the problem
  3. Write a finished paper in a form suitable for submission to a journal
  4. Present a seminar about the research reported in the paper.

Each student must choose an adviser by spring break of the second year and must submit a short (one or two pages) proposal to the DGS by the last day of classes in the second year. The proposal should:

  1. State the question or problem to be addressed and its place in the literature
  2. Describe the methods to be used to address the question or problem
  3. Name one faculty member who will serve as adviser for the paper and a second faculty member who will serve along with the adviser on the student’s committee.

The DGS will approve the proposal, confirm the choice of committee members and appoint a third faculty member, typically not in the students field, to serve on the student’s committee. While the research is the student’s responsibility, advisers and other faculty should be consulted regularly. The development of working relationships with faculty members is an important aspect of the research paper requirement. By default, the faculty adviser for the research paper will be the de facto thesis adviser of the student.

The research paper must be completed before the FIRST day of classes in the third year.  The main objective of the research exposition core course is to improve written and oral presentation of this research paper.

The final version of the paper will be assessed, before the last day of classes in December of the third year, by the student’s 3-person faculty committee after a seminar presentation by the student.  The outcome of the assessment will include one of the following recommendations:

  1. That the student advance to the next stage of the Ph.D. degree
  2. That the student revise the paper and /or do other remedial work
  3. That the student be terminated from the Ph.D. program

Comprehensive Exam

All students must defend a thesis proposal (called comprehensive exam) in front of a committee of three faculty members, including their adviser, before the last week in July after the end of their 3rd year. The proposal must outline the objectives pursued for the completion of the PhD and the means proposed to achieve such objectives. The outcome of the committee’s assessment of the thesis proposal will include one of the following recommendations:

  1. That the student advance to the last phase of the Ph.D. degree
  2. That the student be terminated from the Ph.D. program
The comprehensive exam and the final oral examination (dissertation defense) may be held fully in-person, fully remote, or hybrid with some individuals participating in-person while others participate remotely.
Student preference for delivery mode should be strongly considered, but the student and adviser must agree on the mode. If the student and adviser cannot agree on the mode, the Graduate Program Head will make the final decision. Either the student or adviser can appeal the decision of the Graduate Program Head under the policies GCAC-606 Comprehensive Examination – Research Doctorate and GCAC-608 Final Oral Examination – Research Doctorate