Skip to Main Content
Maxwell School
Maxwell / Department of Economics

Ph.D. Program

Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. degree in Economics at Syracuse is designed to be completed in four years, but five years to completion is common. In the normal program, after 30 credits of graduate course work in economics, students in the Ph.D. program qualify for a master's degree in economics and may apply for one in the Department office.

The Ph.D. program consists of three stages:

  1. Completion of graduate course work with an average grade of B or better.
  2. Satisfactory performance on both the qualifying examination and the field comprehensive examination(s).
  3. Submission and successful defense of the dissertation

In practice these stages are intermingled, but it is useful to describe them separately:

Course Work

For students entering with no prior graduate work, the course work generally consists of 2½ to 3 years (51 credits) of graduate work credits and 21 hours of dissertation credit hours. The program builds on a set of core courses and includes elective courses that allow for breadth of study in economics.

The core courses include:

1. 601, 611, 612: Microeconomic Theory I, II, and III

2. 613, 614: Macroeconomic Theory I and II

3. 605, 620, 621, 622: Mathematics for Economists, Mathematical Statistics, and Econometrics I and II.
    605 and 620 are taken in the summer of the students' first year.

In addition to the core courses, each student studies two fields, in which they develop considerable expertise. The course work beyond the core is applied toward the field courses and the fulfillment of program breadth requirements.

4. Field Work: Two Ph.D. - level courses in each field. Students supplement with related courses offered in the Department.

5. Breadth Requirement: The breadth requirement may be satisfied by ECN 615 (History of Economic Thought), ECN 720 (Advanced Econometrics) and other courses offered in applied economics fields in The Maxwell School or courses related to Economics. Students should consult about fulfilling the breadth requirements with the Director of the Graduate Studies as well as with other economics faculty members who may serve as graduate advisors.

6. Dissertation Workshop I and II: In Dissertation Workshop I, ECN 820, students learn essential research skills, develop a dissertation proposal, and write basic dissertation chapters. Dissertation Workshop II, ECN 821, is a seminar with students presenting dissertation research in progress.

A typical course schedule for a student on a graduate assistantship is as follows:

Summer 1
ECN 605, Math for Economists
ECN 620, Statistics

ECN 601, Micro I
ECN 613, Macro I
ECN 621, Econometrics I

ECN 611, Micro II
ECN 614, Macro II
ECN 622, Econometrics II

Summer 2
Qualifying Examination

ECN 612, Micro III
ECN Field I, Course 1
ECN Field II, Course 1

ECN Field I, Course 2
ECN Field II, Course 2
ECN 820, Dissertation Workshop-I

Summer 3
Field Examination

ECN 821, Dissertation Workshop-II
ECN Breadth
ECN Breadth

Transfer Credits

A student who has taken graduate course work at another institution and wishes to matriculate in our Ph.D. program can transfer course credits to Syracuse University. A student may transfer up 24 credits of course work from another institution. A graduate course is eligible for transfer credit if the grade in the course is 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) or better. Students who transfer courses should review their programs of study with the Director of Graduate Studies before they begin their course work at Syracuse, so that courses are not repeated.


The department regularly offers four applied fields. These fields are labor economics, international economics, public economics, and urban.

Special Fields

A student with a particularly strong interest may also apply to the Graduate Committee for a field in economic theory or econometrics. The course work for an economic theory field is selected in consultation with a professor who will assume responsibility for both the supervision of the field and the comprehensive examination in the field. A field in econometrics requires two courses (in addition to ECN 620, 621, 622): consisting of two separate offerings of ECN 720, Topics in Econometrics.

Financial Economics

A student whose interests and research goals would benefit from a deeper understanding of financial economics may be permitted to take a second field in financial economics. Course work and the comprehensive examination in this field are administered by the Finance Department in the School of Management.

The field can focus on either corporate finance or investment. Completion of the following courses with a grade of B or better is required in order to take a comprehensive exam in financial economics: FIN 601, 751, 855, and 960 (Topics in Corporate Finance). FIN 601, 756, 758, 960 (Topics on Investment) must be completed for a concentration in investment. The Economics Department can make no assurance as to the availability of these classes or to the timing of the examination. A student wishing to take a field in financial economics must receive the explicit approval of the Graduate Committee and the Chairperson of the Department of Finance.


Students take two sets of comprehensive exams: separate qualifying examinations covering microeconomic theory, and econometrics; and at least one comprehensive examination in one of the four fields. Students not passing an examination are able to retake it once.

Qualifying Examination

Students take the qualifying examinations in late June, after one year of study. By that time, students will have completed courses in Microeconomic Theory (601, 611) and Econometrics (620, 621, 622). An average grade of B or better in these courses is normally required to take the qualifying examination, although the Director of Graduate Studies can make exceptions for unusual cases. Students who do not pass either qualifying examination in late June, may retake the examination late July of the same year.

Field Examinations

Students must take a comprehensive examination in their primary field which will be one of the four fields. The field exam is normally given in late May after the completion of the second year of study. The second field may be fulfilled through course work if the course grades are high enough, or through a comprehensive examination. Students will normally take the field examinations at the next scheduled sitting following the completion of the field examination sequence (even if a grade of incomplete is recorded). Not taking the examination at the next scheduled sitting will count as a failure.

Field 1: At least two courses must be completed in the primary field, which is one of the four fields offered within the department. The exact sequence of courses varies according to field. Grades of B or better in both courses are required to take the comprehensive examination in the field.

Field 2: At least two courses must be completed in the second field. The second field is usually one of the department's four regularly offered fields. If the student receives an average grade of B+ or better in the course work for the second field, the requirements for the second field are complete. Students without a B+ average in the course work will take a comprehensive examination in the second field or follow some other approved remedial action. The rules governing Field 2 apply to students taking a field in econometrics. Separate arrangements for examination are made when a student takes a field in economic theory.


The dissertation involves original, independent (though guided) research, using economic theory and quantitative methods to solve research problems of interest to the student and the profession. Our program is designed so that students begin planning dissertations during their third year (or earlier) and aim to finish them by the end of their fifth year. The dissertation workshop sequence beginning in the second year introduces research topics of interest to the profession, guides the selection of a topic and an advisor, and help the candidate make a smooth transition from course work to research in the economics profession.