Guide for Current Students

Student Milestones, Required Examinations, and Monitoring of Progress to Degree

There are six program milestones: (1) Preliminary Examination, (2) Field Paper, (3) Choosing a Dissertation Advisor and Committee, (4) the Dissertation Prospectus Defense (Admission to Candidacy), (5) the Dissertation Proposal Defense, and (6) the final Dissertation Defense itself. Satisfactory performance in the Ph.D. program is defined as maintaining at least a B average, obtaining no grade lower than a B-, and meeting these six milestones on time.  48 credit hours of approved PhD coursework and successful satisfaction of all of these milestones are required for the PhD degree.

  1. The Preliminary Examination: is taken during the summer of the first program year. Failing the micro theory and/or econometrics portion(s) of the exam entitles a student to retake the failed portion in January of year II. Failing a second time is cause for dismissal. Students who fail a second time and are otherwise in good standing are typically allowed to continue in the program through the fourth semester. Satisfactory performance in 36 credit hours of approved graduate courses allows them to earn the degree of M.S. in Economics.
  2. Field Paper: In year II, students should choose a Field Paper Chair and, together with this Chair, form a Field Paper Committee. The Committee must have at least three faculty members on it, including the Chair. The Chair and at least one other Committee member must be tenured or tenure-track professors of Tulane University's Department of Economics. The third Committee member must be a tenured or tenure-track faculty member of Tulane University, from Economics or another discipline. Additional members from Tulane or other academic institutions may be added at the Chair's discretion. The student is to have a Field Paper proposal approved by the Committee by May 15 of program year II. By May 15, all second year Students must register for a 3-credit Independent Study called "Summer Field Paper" under the supervision of the Director of Graduate Studies. This will figure as a 3-credit fall class. Field Paper is then written during the second summer. A full draft of the paper is to be handed in to the Chair by August 15, and a final version of the paper is due to the full Committee for approval by September 15. The Field Paper grade will be the grade assigned by the Committee. Credit for this course will be given when the student has formally constituted a Dissertation Committee (see next paragraph).
  3. Dissertation Committee: The Field Paper Chair and Committee structure often evolve naturally into Dissertation Advisor and Dissertation Committee. However, this two-step structure also provides a natural opportunity to modify or entirely change the supervision of a student. It is expected that the Dissertation Committee will be formally constituted by December 15 of program year III. While there is no formal paperwork concerning this step, it is expected that the student will notify the Director of Graduate Studies via email, with copies to his Dissertation Committee members and to the Chair of the Department of Economics.
  4. 3rd Year Prospectus Defense: With the Field Paper approved, the remainder of the Fall III semester is spent coming up with dissertation topics and choosing a Dissertation Committee. In order to aid the process of research topic development, third-year students are required to take ECON-7980, “Research Methods,” a class in which ideas are developed and presented on a weekly basis. Spring III is spent refining a dissertation prospectus under consultation with the Dissertation Committee, with the goal of a formal 3rd Year Dissertation Prospectus Defense by May 15 of year III. Successful 3rd Year Prospectus defense and satisfactory completion of the requisite coursework advances the student to Ph.D. Candidate status. It is the student’s responsibility to (i) schedule the defense with her/his Committee, (ii) obtain signatures for and submit to the Dean the “Approval of Dissertation Prospectus” and “Admission to Candidacy” forms, and (iii) give one copy to the Director of Graduate Studies and one copy to the Office Manager. A link to the required forms appears below.
  5. 4th Year Dissertation Proposal Defense: Economics dissertations typically consist of three research papers. Years IV and V are entirely devoted to writing the dissertation. Students will be going on the job market in the fall of year V and job applications typically require submitting at least one fully polished dissertation paper to prospective employers by mid-October. With this objective in mind, the 4th Year Dissertation Proposal Defense should take place no later than May 15 of program year IV. The 4th Year Proposal must consist of at least one fully developed paper and well-developed drafts of the rest of the dissertation. A successful 4th Year Dissertation Proposal Defense implies certification by the Dissertation Committee that (a) a fully polished paper will be ready by the October job market deadline and (b) that it is feasible to complete the entire dissertation within the remaining Program year. Students must complete the 4th Year Dissertation Proposal Defense form, obtain Committee signatures, and then email it to the Director of Graduate Studies and to the Department’s Senior Program Coordinator.
  6. Oral Defense: It is expected that the PhD in Economics will be earned in five years. Once the dissertation has been completed, the School of Liberal Arts requires an Oral Defense of the dissertation. In order for the degree of PhD in Economics to be completed the student must organize an oral defense of her/his dissertation, have the Dissertation Committee members sign the Oral Defense Approval Form, turn in a copy of the completed Form to the Economics Department Director of Graduate Studies, and submit the original signed form to the SLA Graduate Programs office immediately following the Defense.  Students are responsible for knowing the SLA deadlines for degree application and also knowing the requirements for format, paper type, number of copies to be submitted, and so on. These guidelines can be found under the heading “Directions for Completion of Graduation Requirements and Submission of Doctoral Dissertation” at this website:

A NOTE ON RESIDENCE REQUIREMENTS: Students should expect to complete the PhD program in five years and yet they will typically finish taking classes in the first half of that time.  The dissertation-writing phase thus accounts for at least half of the program. This is a very important, formative time when students mature as professional economists. They interact with the faculty, learn to teach and perform research by working with faculty members as RA’s or TA’s, present their own work in workshops and seminars, travel to conferences, participate in departmental seminars, and meet with visiting speakers. Students who choose to leave during this period typically never complete the PhD degree. It is therefore expected that all PhD students will remain in residence in New Orleans during this very important and formative period. Leaving New Orleans without obtaining explicit written approval from the student’s dissertation advisor and from the Director of Graduate Studies will constitute grounds for terminating financial support permanently.  Any such written approval must be obtained by the end of the first month of the semester before the intended absence.

Funding for PhD Student Conference Travel

The Department of Economics strongly encourages you to present your research work at professional conferences and attend workshops to continue building your skills.

Once you have formed your dissertation committee, the Department will provide you with up to $5,000 over the course of your remaining time at Tulane for these purposes. Note that this support is in addition to your $1,500 Department research fund and in addition to any Tulane funding you are able to obtain outside of the Department. However, it is subject to the conditions stipulated below.

Conferences: Departmental support is for qualifying conferences only. This automatically includes the meetings of the American Economic Association, both national (ASSA) and regional (e.g., the Southern and Western meetings), as well as a list of field conferences that will be distributed separately. Funding for travel to conferences not on these lists must be pre-approved by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).


To qualify for the above Departmental funding, you must be in good academic standing and present evidence that one of your papers or poster sessions has been accepted. All travel arrangements must be pre-approved by Erin Callhover before booking travel.

Tulane University provides graduate student paper presentation funds through the GSSA and through the Provost’s Office to cover transportation, registration, lodging, and food. So, you have to provide us with evidence that you have tapped them, and that funding from these sources is insufficient to cover the cost of presenting your research at a venue outside of New Orleans. You can then rely on the Department as an additional source for you. For each conference, we will add up to $1,200 towards the cost of attending if your work is accepted for presentation outside of New Orleans, and travel costs are not covered by your research account and by non-Department funding sources.

We are fortunate that many qualifying conferences take place in our lovely city. The Department will therefore pay your registration fee for any qualifying New Orleans conference, whether you are presenting a paper, or not. We will not provide travel or lodging expenses for local conferences.

Workshops: We also encourage students to use the funding to attend workshops that build their methodological skills. These, too, are subject to the rules outlined above (e.g., being in good standing and getting approval from Erin Callhover). All such workshops need to be approved by the DGS.

View the list of pre-approved conferences and workshops (PDF). Make sure that you clear all travel plans with Erin Callhover before committing any resources.