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PhD Program

The First Year

In the first year of graduate school, students acquire the foundation for further study of economic theory and quantitative methods. This foundation is provided by what are termed "core" courses. Students take a review course in mathematics, two core courses in microeconomic theory, two in macroeconomic theory, and two in mathematical statistics and econometrics. They also take a course in teaching economics. The econometrics sequence includes an applied econometrics course in the second year. Students with exceptionally strong backgrounds equivalent to Ph.D. core courses may progress more rapidly through the core sequences by omitting courses, as appropriate, with the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies.

There are comprehensive examinations in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics (including probability and statistics). The comprehensive exams are written but may be supplemented by oral examinations at the discretion of the examining committee.

All students whose GPA is 3.0 or above must take and pass the comprehensive exams in order to stay and be funded in the program. Students whose GPA is less than 3.0 will not be funded in the next academic year. They will be automatically accepted into the M.A. program and not allowed to continue into the PhD program.

All students who take the comprehensive exams must do so in late May/early June. If they fail, they can take the comps again in August but support for the Fall semester is not guaranteed even if they pass.

In each of the first three years of the Ph.D. program, students are required to attend at least 10 seminars during the academic year.

A Typical First Year Program

I. Fall Semester
  • 590 Mathematical Foundations of Economics
  • 500 Microeconomics I
  • 5l0 Macroeconomics I
  • 520 Probability and Mathematical Statistics
II. Spring Semester
  • 50l Microeconomics II 
  • 5ll Macroeconomics II
  • 521 Econometrics
  • 698 Teacher Training
  • Take comprehensive examinations in Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Probability and Statistics/Econometrics in the week after classes finish in the Spring semester of the first year (late May/early June).

 

 

COMPREHENSIVE EXAMS POLICY FOR PHD STUDENTS

  1. All eligible (see below) PhD students are required to take the comprehensive exams offered at the end of the Spring semester of the first year of study, and if necessary then retake before the beginning of the Fall semester of the second year of study. If a PhD student does not take one or more of the comps in the Spring it will count as a failed exam.

  2. Only students who have a cumulative GPA (only counting the classes taken in the department of economics) of 3.0 or better by the end of the Spring semester, will be eligible and allowed to take the comprehensive exams. PhD students who do not fulfill this requirement will be dropped from the program, but can still choose to enroll in the MA program in the Fall and Spring of the following year in order to obtain their MA degree, assuming they maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better.
     
  3. Students who do not pass one or more of the comps in their first try (right after the Spring of the first year) will be allowed to retake those exams in early August, being this the last opportunity to prove proficiency in this requirement. PhD students who do not pass one or more of the comps in the first try might lose their funding for the second year in the program, regardless of their outcome in the retake (In the past, most students who have failed one or more of the comps in the first try did not get funded in the second year.) Additionally, PhD students who do not pass one or more of the comps in their second (and last) try will not be allowed to register as PhD students in the Fall of their second year on campus, and therefore will be dismissed from the PhD program, and will only be allowed to register as MA students, which requires paying tuition.

  4. The Comprehensive Exams are regularly scheduled during the month of June. The exact schedule of subjects will be provided to you well in advance. The retakes, when necessary, will take place on August. Again, the exact schedule of the subjects will be provided well in advance.

  5. Students will be communicated of the results of their comps by e-mail from the Graduate Program Director or the Graduate Program Coordinator. 

  6. Students will have the right to review their marked exams, and discuss them with the professors who graded them, in person or by other means of communication.

 

The Second Year

In their second year of the Ph.D. program, students finish their core coursework with an applied econometrics course which must be completed with a B or better. In addition, they choose field courses from the variety of fields offered in theoretical and applied economics. A field consists of two related courses designated by the department. It is through these courses that a breadth and depth of economic knowledge is acquired. The fields currently offered by the department are: macroeconomics, industrial organization, game theory, labor economics, and health economics. At the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies and the relevant professors in the fields some combinations of two advanced courses not offered as a sequence could be considered a field.

Two fields, that is, two courses in each of two fields, and an additional two elective courses (also chosen from the field courses, but not necessarily from the same field) are required for the Ph.D. All of these courses must be passed with a grade of B or higher. Typically, 5 of these 6 courses are taken in the student's second year. One field can be completed by achieving an average grade of B+ or better in the two-course sequence for that field. The other must be completed by passing a comprehensive examination. It is usual, although not necessary, that the field chosen for the comprehensive exam be the one in which the student expects to write a dissertation. Upon approval by the Director of Graduate Studies, the professors in a given field may decide to give students the option of taking oral examinations in their field of study.

During the second semester of the second year and during the following summer, students also work on a "second year paper" which must be submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator by October 1st of the fall semester after the second year.

The second year paper should be a well-structured and coherent paper on an economic research question with some elements of originality. The paper should have an introductory section that includes the motivation for the paper and its contribution to the relevant literature. The paper should also have a literature review which, as one result, leads to the research question studied. This literature review should not be an enumeration of research papers in the broad research area but a coherent presentation of the hypotheses, assumptions, methods, and results that other authors have used to analyze the research question. The paper should also include sections describing the theoretical and/or empirical model and the results, with the sections organized to make the logical flow of the paper clear and to make reading it easy. It should end with a concluding section which summarizes the key results and gives a general idea of potential future research. It is intended that the research question and/or the research techniques used to analyze it should be constrained or simplified enough so that the paper can present an answer in that situation but, nonetheless, contain some elements of originality. Thus the paper should be a complete paper.

A polished term paper (or a polished version of a term paper) could be used also as the second year paper, but it must satisfy the above standards for a second year paper. The paper cannot be just an extended example that carries out known techniques on a problem that has known answers even if these techniques are complicated. Also, students may well find it very helpful to use the second year paper to explore a possible research avenue for their thesis proposal, but it is not a thesis proposal. It is not meant just to propose a research question. It is meant to be complete and give an answer even if only to a constrained version of a research question. Many thesis proposals may stem from the ideas explored in second year papers, but that is not required. Discussions with the student's second year paper advisor should help to make the criteria for the paper clearer.

Students should be aware that the accepted version of the 2nd year paper is considered by the department to be an open research document available to faculty and students in the department. Thus students will have access through the Graduate Program Coordinator to the final versions of previous years' accepted papers. In previous years, 40% of the submitted papers were accepted without revisions.

The student must arrange with a faculty member to be the advisor for his/her second year paper by the end of March of the student's second year. (To do this, the student must turn in a Second Year Paper Advisor Form, signed by both the student and the advisor, to the Graduate Program Coordinator. The forms are available from the Coordinator.) The paper itself must be submitted to the Coordinator by October 1st of the fall semester after the second year. The paper will be evaluated and returned by October 30th. If the paper is not judged acceptable, the student will be given written comments on why the paper is not acceptable and what aspects need to be modified and will have until December 1st to revise the paper. Decisions on those revisions will be returned by the beginning of the spring semester. Any further revisions should be submitted within two months of receiving the written decision, and will be returned within a month of the submission by the student. Unacceptable papers can be largely avoided by early and frequent discussions with the paper advisor.

A reading committee composed of the paper advisor and two members of the faculty who will be common to all papers will make the evaluations of each second year paper. If the paper advisor for a particular paper is one of the common members, the reading committee will generally only have two members. However, in case these two members of the reading committee cannot agree on an evaluation, a third member will be appointed for that paper. The common members of the reading committees will be appointed by the Chair of the department in consultation with the Graduate Program Director.

By the end of the second year, the student should be prepared to take a field exam in one field. Field exams are generally given in the week following final exams at the end of the spring semester. Upon approval by the Director of Graduate Studies, the professors in a given field may decide to give students the option of taking oral examinations in their field of study. In addition, by the end of the second year the student should be prepared to choose a Thesis Advisor along with two additional Thesis Committee members. The departmental requirement is that the student must have a dissertation advisor and two committee members by October 31 of the fifth semester of study. However, students are encouraged to choose an advisor as early as possible, even soon after their first year of study.

In each of the first three years of the Ph.D. program, students are required to attend at least 10 seminars during the academic year.

A Typical Program of Study for the Second Year

III. Fall Semester

  • 522 Applied Econometrics
  • Field course 1
  • Field course 2
  • Retake micro/macro comprehensive exams (if necessary) during the first week of August, before the beginning of the Fall semester

IV. Spring Semester

  • Field course 3
  • Field course 4
  • Elective course 1
  • Be prepared to choose a Thesis Advisor and two Thesis Committee members by the end of October of the third year, during your fifth semester in the program. 
  • Be prepared to take a field examination at the end of the spring semester, at the end of the fourth semester in the program.
  • Make substantial progress on a second year paper to be completed by October 1st.


The Third Year

At the beginning of their third year students are typically advanced to candidacy in the Ph.D. program unless they are judged not to be making satisfactory progress. In the third year of graduate study, students choose a Thesis Advisor and two committee members, finish their elective and field courses, take the mandatory third year research workshop, and defend a Dissertation Proposal. See the Summary section below.

Students are required to pass both fields by the end of their third year. Field exams are given in the first and last weeks of the spring semester.

Students are required to complete and successfully defend a Dissertation Proposal by the end of the third year. The public examination on this proposal and related topics will be conducted by the student's Thesis Committee. The examination must be announced at least a week in advance and copies of the Dissertation Proposal must be available to faculty and graduate students at that time. The purpose of this Dissertation Proposal and exam is to help focus ideas and insure familiarity with the most important research in the area proposed for the dissertation.

Thus, it is desirable that each student should choose a dissertation advisor as early as possible. An advisor must be named, along with two committee members, by October 31 of the fifth semester of study. The choice of dissertation advisor and committee (and any changes in committee composition) is formalized by submission of a "Thesis Committee Form" signed by the student, dissertation advisor, and other committee members, to the Graduate Program Coordinator. Each student's dissertation progress is then evaluated at the end of the fifth and succeeding semesters by the thesis committee, and a report is made to the department.

In each of the first three years of the Ph.D. program, students are required to attend at least 10 seminars during the academic year.

 

A Typical Program of Study for the Third Year

V. Fall Semester

  • 695 Research Workshop
  • Elective course 2
  • Thesis research

VI. Spring Semester

  • Thesis research
  • Informal area workshops
  • Pass Dissertation Proposal Defense by end of the academic year
  • Pass both fields by the end of the academic year.


Dissertation

To complete the Ph.D., a dissertation that presents the results of original and significant research must be approved. This involves two formal steps. First, a dissertation proposal must receive the approval of the thesis advisor and members of the thesis committee as a result of a public defense of the proposal in the third year. Second, final approval of the dissertation will be made by a committee including the candidate's principal advisor, two other department members, and one member from outside the department. The dissertation must be presented and defended at a public colloquium convened by the Thesis Committee for that purpose. This defense must be announced at least three weeks in advance with copies of the thesis available for faculty and graduate students at least one week before the defense.

Preliminary research to develop a dissertation topic normally begins in the second year of study and the third and fourth years are devoted to developing and refining this research. Throughout this phase students must interact closely with their faculty thesis supervisors and dissertation committees. Seminars organized by the graduate students provide an opportunity to present thesis material to other students and faculty.

Time Limit

If the Ph.D. degree requirements have not been met within 5 years of entry into the program, departmental approval is required for the student to continue in the program. Students will not be allowed to register beyond their sixth year in the program.

 

Dismissal Policy

A student may be dismissed from the program at the end of any semester in which he or she does not achieve a B average or fails to meet the pertinent requirements for the Ph.D. as detailed above and summarized below.

Summary

Students are considered to be making "minimum satisfactory progress" if their progress is consistent with the formal requirements listed below. These requirements are intended to ensure analytical competence, breadth of knowledge, and timely completion of the dissertation. Failure to maintain satisfactory progress results automatically in Departmental probationary status, with continuation in the program permitted only at the discretion of the Department's Ph.D. committee. A student must petition the committee for such an exception, giving detailed reasons justifying such an exemption. In no case a student will be allowed to continue in the program beyond his or her sixth year of study.

  1. Maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average, in Economics courses, equivalent to a B average.
  2. The mathematical foundations course (590), microeconomics core sequence (500,501), the macroeconomics core sequence (510,511), and the mathematical statistics and econometric core course (520, 521, 522) must be completed as scheduled above with a grade of "c" or above in each. The Applied Econometrics course (522) must be completed with a B or better.
  3. Comprehensive exams in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and probability and statistics/econometrics must be taken the week after the end of the Spring semester of the first year of study (dates to be announced before the end of the Fall semester of every year). All exams must be passed then or at the set of exams given before the beginning of the third semester of study.
  4. In each of the first three years of the Ph.D. program, students are required to attend at least 10 seminars during the academic year.
  5. An acceptable second year research paper must be started by choosing a paper advisor by March 1st of the second year and must be submitted by October 1st of the third year. For more detailed information on this paper, see the description of the second year above.
  6. Two fields must be satisfactorily completed by the end of the sixth semester. Each field must be composed of an approved two-course sequence. One field will be chosen as the primary field and may be completed on the basis of an average grade of A- or better in two courses in that field. The other field will be considered secondary and requires an average grade of B+. If either one of these requirements is not fulfilled the student will be allowed to take a field exam, which if failed will be basis for dismissal from the program .
  7. A designated 3rd year research workshop, Economics 695, must be completed in the first semester of the third year.
  8. A minimum of l5 courses in economics (including core courses and the 3rd year research workshop but not including the teacher training course) must be completed, with a grade of B or better in the applied econometrics course (see above) and in each course that is not one of the core courses designated in the second requirement above or the 3rd year research workshop in which an S is required. However, the Ph.D. committee may approve a waiver of part of the l5-course requirement in the case of students with gradvuate work elsewhere.
  9. The designation of a thesis committee of three members must be made by the end of October of the fifth semester. The student must successfully defend a Dissertation Proposal by the end of the sixth semester of study. This Dissertation Proposal defense is a public defense of a written dissertation proposal and an examination on the proposal and related material held by the student's dissertation committee. This defense must be announced at least one week in advance with copies of the thesis proposal available for faculty and graduate students at that time.
  10. A dissertation, presenting the results of original and significant research, must be approved by the Ph.D. thesis committee, composed of the thesis advisor, two committee members from the department, and a faculty member outside the department. This defense must be announced at least three weeks in advance with copies of the thesis available for faculty and graduate students at least one week before the defense.


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