Throughout their program, each student will have a faculty advisor who will be the student’s point of contact and who also will be responsible for an annual assessment of whether the student is making satisfactory progress in the program.  In their first year, this advisor will normally be the Chair of the Graduate Program.  In the second and perhaps into the third year, it will normally be any faculty member in the student’s likely field.  At the appropriate point, typically in the third year, it will be the student’s dissertation advisor.

At all points in the program the student must be making satisfactory progress.  Satisfactory progress will depend in part on the precise point at which the student is working, but minimum requirements are that the student be in regular communication with their faculty advisor, regularly attend department seminars and workshops in their field, and meet deadlines for proposing and defending their dissertation.  Failure to achieve satisfactory progress will result, after consultation with the Graduate Chair, in a written recommendation for corrective action or even termination from the program.


The PhD program for each student has two phases: The Course/Exam phase followed by the Dissertation phase.  The Course/Exam phase consists of course work (described separately), leading up to the taking of the comprehensive and field examinations.  This phase should be completed within two years of entry into the program.

A student moves into the Dissertation phase upon successful completion of required course work, the comprehensive examinations, and the field exam.  The comprehensive exam is normally taken at the end of the first year.  The field exam is normally taken at the end of the second year.

In the Dissertation Phase, the student must:

      • Prepare a dissertation proposal
      • Present and defend the proposal before a Proposal Review Committee
      • Write a dissertation based on that proposal demonstrating the ability to do original research
      • Successfully defend the dissertation.
Field Exams

The PhD program emphasizes a foundation in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics followed by field coursework. The department currently offers two two-course field sequences every academic year – one in labor and one in industrial organization. Students are required to take four field courses, which would normally consist of these two two-course field sequences. In the future, the field sequences may be extended beyond labor or industrial organization. Students, with the permission of the PhD program director and the professors teaching the relevant courses, may substitute one health or development course for one of the labor and IO field courses, but this substitution will be permitted when it improves the student’s training, not just to relax the requirements of the program. Students must also take one field exam which would normally be based on a two-course sequence offered by the department.

Students must pass field exams in their chosen field. Students may retake the exam if they don’t pass the first time. Students may appeal to the department to take the field exam a third time. In no case will students be allowed to take the field exam more than three times.

When the department offers only one PhD course in a field (as is currently the case with health economics and development economics) students may request permission from the PhD program director and the relevant instructors to satisfy one of their two two-course field sequences with a customized sequence. Students may also request permission to take a customized field exam. For example, a student may request to have a field exam based on one course in labor and one in development. In no case will PhD students be allowed to take less than four PhD level field courses and take fewer than one of the program’s standard two-course field sequence.

Customized field exams are offered so that students can focus their dissertation research in additional fields. They are not offered in order to in any way reduce the PhD program’s standards or requirements, or to reduce the number of field courses students take. Students always benefit from being exposed to as many field courses as possible. Students who plan to focus their research in a field for which a standard two-course sequence is available are always best served by taking the field exam is that field.

Proposal Review

PhD proposals are to be reviewed and approved within one year of entry into the Dissertation Phase, which is normally by the end of the third year. Students must complete the proposal review within two years of finishing their coursework. Students who have not completed the proposal review within one year of passing their field exam must submit a status report and timetable for their proposal for approval by their dissertation advisor and the Graduate Chair. Students who have not completed the proposal review within two years of finishing their coursework, and who do not have an extension granted by the university, will not be eligible to continue in the program.

As described below, students must also complete their dissertation defense within five years of finishing their coursework, and postponing the proposal review does not alter the total time that students may use to compete their PhD.

Each student will have a dissertation committee chaired by a faculty member chosen by the student, and at least two other members (at most one from outside the department) agreed to by the chair and the student. At least the chairperson should be identified within the first year of the Dissertation phase, and the entire committee determined before the proposal review and defense.

A PhD dissertation proposal is a written document no more than 30 pages, inclusive of everything, in 11-point font, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins. It should describe and motivate the research questions, explain their relationship and importance to the literature, outline the content of the dissertation (model, data sources, specific hypotheses, econometric issues, etc.), and indicate the contributions the research is expected to provide.

The student’s primary advisor must confirm to the PhD Program Director that the proposal is ready for a review and defense. Announcement of the Proposal Review must be made at least one weeks in advance. The announcement must be accompanied by an abstract of the dissertation proposal and the names of the dissertation committee members.

The Proposal Review is attended by the three members of the student’s dissertation committee as well as any other interested faculty and students (students may be present via audio or video). The event is a presentation and evaluation of the student’s proposal, not a seminar. It is intended to elicit comments and suggestions, provide an agenda for the student, and ultimately to decide on its acceptability. The decision on acceptability is made jointly by the three members of the student’s dissertation committee. If acceptable, all members of the dissertation committee sign a Proposal Approval Form. If it is accepted with revisions, those revisions should be noted.

Upon successful completion of the Proposal Review, students will become dissertation candidates. Candidacy makes students eligible for higher stipends and is an essential step in making satisfactory progress.

PhD Dissertation

The student is expected to follow the agreed-upon proposal in writing the PhD dissertation.  Where unforeseen circumstances require substantial modifications, this requires agreement by all three committee members.  The student is normally expected to present the proposal in its various stages at least once per year in either the field workshop, as a department seminar, or at a research conference.

The PhD dissertation may include co-authored essays, but at least one essay must be sole authored.  Ideally, the lead essay (“job market paper”) should not be co-authored.

Dissertation Defense

The dissertation defense is held before the student’s dissertation committee and any other faculty members or students who choose to attend.  One month in advance of the prospective date of the defense, the completed dissertation that is to be defended must be circulated to the committee members.  At that time, all members of the committee must sign off on their agreement that the dissertation is ready for defense.  The date, time, and other pertinent information about the defense are to be posted by the department and an announcement of the Defense must be made at least two weeks in advance.

The committee chair also chairs the defense.  The defense consists of a brief overview of the entire dissertation by the student followed by the posing of questions first by the committee and then by any other faculty members.

On completion of the questioning, the dissertation committee by itself, without attendance by others, makes its determination about the acceptability of the dissertation.  If revisions are required, ordinarily only the committee chair reviews them, although any member may ask to participate in that review.  Any requirements for revisions are to be accompanied by a timetable for their completion.  Once revisions are submitted and approved, all three committee members sign a form indicating their agreement that the dissertation is accepted.

The dissertation defense normally takes place during the student’s fifth year. Those who have not defended by the end of their 5th year must submit a status report and timetable for approval by their dissertation advisor and the Graduate Chair.

Students who have not completed the defense within five years of finishing their coursework, and who do not have an extension granted by the university, will not be eligible to continue in the program.