The Ph.D. degree requires 48 credit hours of academic work. This requirement is satisfied by taking regular Ph.D. classes offered by the Department of Economics, and by seeking departmental approval for Ph.D.-level classes offered by other programs and schools.
All students are required to take the same 6 classes during the first year. The classes that they take are the “core” courses offered by almost every Ph.D. program in the country, classes that train students in the methodological tools of econometrics, micro, and macroeconomics. These classes also prepare them for the Preliminary Examination that is taken during the summer of program year I.
The curriculum begins to individuate cohorts during the second year. Students take field courses that line up with their research interests. The Department of Economics typically offers 3 field courses per semester, and students are encouraged to take at least two of these. They also have the option of exploring graduate classes offered by other departments and schools, but they must seek formal approval from the Director of Graduate Studies before enrolling for credit. They are expected to develop a strong sub-disciplinary specialization within economics in such fields as public economics, economic development, environmental economics, poverty and inequality, health economics, and the economics of education. Often classes in public health, biometrics, mathematics, or law can serve to strengthen this specialization as well as to broaden their job opportunities upon graduation.
Students of superior scholastic standing who are interested in directions different from and beyond those provided by the Department's normal offerings may assume more responsibility for their own education by proposing an independent study to a faculty member. Based on the merits of the student’s proposal and the faculty member’s schedule and interest, the faculty member may agree to sponsor it. In this tutorial arrangement, the student investigates an area or topic not covered elsewhere in the curriculum or pursues applications and extensions of prior coursework in greater depth. The supervising faculty member must clearly specify in an independent study course outline expectations regarding student workload, readings and assignments, grading policies, learning outcomes, program outcomes, and contact hours. This course outline must be submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies for prior approval at the beginning of the semester in which the independent study will occur, and students may register for an independent study only after obtaining this prior approval. An independent study is an economics elective, and it may be used to meet the requirements for economics degree programs. At the graduate level, a maximum of one three-credit independent study may be counted toward the MA degree or toward the PhD degree; in exceptional cases, this limit may be exceeded with prior approval from the Director of Graduate Studies. Doctoral students in the first 5 semesters of the PhD program may only register for an independent study class on an overload basis, and a PhD independent study cannot take the place of regular PhD course offerings. Because an independent study should have academic content comparable to other economics electives, a “research assistant” assignment and/or a job are not acceptable as an independent study.