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Milestones and Timeline

Our PhD program is organized around various milestones. Learn more about what's required to earn the degree.

Grduate program milestones and timelines
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Graduate School Requirements

Registration. Students must register with the Graduate School for the fall and spring semesters of six years or until the dissertation is submitted. The registration must be continuous unless a formal leave of absence is obtained. During the six-year period, failure to register without a leave of absence is the same as withdrawal from the program. The Graduate School may refuse to register a student who has not met either the School’s requirements or those of the Economics Department for adequate progress. Refusing to register students withdraws them from the program.

Residence Requirement. Students are required to reside in the New Haven area for at least three years while studying for their Ph.D.

Advancement to Candidacy. A student is advanced to candidacy after having completed all requirements but the dissertation. These requirements are described below. Important Graduate School regulations regarding advancement to candidacy are the following:

  1. Students must advance to candidacy prior to registration for the seventh semester. Students will not be permitted to register if they are not advanced to candidacy by that time. 
  2. Students who have advanced to candidacy must continue to register through the sixth year or until submission of the dissertation, whichever comes first.

Registration Limit. Students may not register for more than six years (i.e., 12 semesters), unless they receive a waiver of this rule from the Graduate School. Waivers are granted for students whose dissertation research requires, for instance, extensive fieldwork or learning a foreign language. Students may, however, submit dissertations after the six-year limit, provided they have advanced to candidacy. Students who are not registered are not eligible for financial aid and may not earn money as teaching assistants or part-time acting instructors. 

Two Honors. Before registering for the third year of study, students must receive a grade of honors in at least one year long graduate course or two semester graduate courses in economics. As the Graduate School does not distinguish the grades of H+, H, and H–, this requirement may be met by receiving at least an H– in two graduate courses in economics.

Qualifying Examination. Students must pass a general examination separate from course examinations. In the Economics Department, two field qualifying examinations fulfill this requirement.

Prospectus.A dissertation prospectus must be submitted to at least two department faculty members, be signed by them, and then approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. The prospectus should describe the topic of research, and contain an explanation of its importance, a quick review of what has been done by other researchers on the subject, a description of the dissertation’s contribution and of the methods and source material to be used, a tentative outline of the dissertation, and a provisional timetable for the feasibility of completing it within two or three years. A more detailed description can be found in the Economics Department Expectations for the Prospectus.

Fields of Study

Fields include microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, labor, public finance, industrial organization, international trade and finance, financial economics, environmental economics, economic development, economic history, political economy and behavioral economics. 

Economics Department Requirements

Exceptions to the requirements described below may be obtained only by vote of the Economics faculty and will be granted only in recognition of extenuating circumstances. 

Prior to Registration for the Second Year

(1.1) Students must have taken for credit and passed at least six economics graduate courses.  With the permission of the DGS courses in related fields can be used to fulfill this requirement.  (Courses in the International and Development Economics Master’s Program do not satisfy this requirement.) (1.2) Students who earn a grade of HP- or better in each of the four first-year semester courses in microeconomics and macroeconomics may proceed directly to the second year.  In June and August of each year, the department will give waiver exams in micro and macro, written and graded to the extent possible by a committee of faculty who have taught the first-year courses in the previous year.  First-year students who do not earn a grade of HP- or better in each of the first-year micro or macro courses must either take and pass the corresponding exam in June or take the exam in June and then (in the event of failure) take and pass the exam in August in order to continue in the program. 

A student who obtains an HP- or better in one semester of a sequence, but not the other, must take (and retake, if necessary) only the waiver exam corresponding to the semester in which they failed to obtain an HP- or better.  Students who have not passed all the required examinations prior to the second year of study may register as master’s candidates for the following fall term for the purpose of completing enough courses to be eligible for the Master of Arts degree. 

Exceptionally well-prepared incoming students may petition the Director of Graduate Studies and the faculty in the field to take the waiver exam before their first year, with an eye toward placing out of either one or both semesters of either of the first-year micro or macro courses.  Incoming students taking the waiver exam will be exempt from the corresponding course only if their performance is an exemplary (rather than marginal) pass. 

Prior to Registration for the Third Year

(2.1) Students must have met the Graduate School’s two-honors requirement.  (2.2) Students must have taken at least fourteen term courses in economics and have received a grade of at least a P- in each of them.  With the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies, courses in related fields and independent reading courses can be used to fulfill this requirement.  Workshops may not be used to satisfy it.  (2.3) Students must have received an average of at least HP in the courses they have taken.  The admissibility of courses for this requirement is the same as for the fourteen-course requirement, (2.2).  Grades within the Economics Department include pluses and minuses.   The grade average is computed as follows.  A failure counts as a zero, a P- as a 1, a P as a 2, a P+ as a 3, an HP- as a 4, and so on up to a 9 for an H+.  The arithmetic average of these numbers must be at least 4.5.  (2.4) All students must have submitted a draft of their empirical paper, discussed under heading (3.3) below.  (2.5) All students must make their first attempt at each of two qualifying examinations by June 30 of their second year in the program.  The examinations test a student’s general analytic ability in economics and knowledge of two fields chosen by the student. Fields are typically drawn from microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, labor, public finance, industrial organization, international trade and finance, financial economics, environmental economics, economic development, economic history, political economy and behavioral economics.  Students may request examination in a special field designed in consultation with Economics Department faculty.  The choice of fields must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.  Students may list two preferred examiners in each field.  The Director of Graduate Studies office strives to satisfy these preferences subject to faculty availability and the number of students making similar requests.  The nature and format of the field qualifying exams will be determined by the faculty in the field (i.e. these exams might require written work depending on the field).  If a student fails a field qualifying exam in the spring of the second year, the student must either retake the exam in that field or may take an exam in a different field.  In either case, the student must pass this second attempt, whether in the same field or not, in the fall of the third year to remain in the program.   

Admission to Candidacy

The Economics Department adheres strictly to the Graduate School requirement that students be admitted to candidacy prior to registration for the fourth year of study.  Students are recommended to the Graduate School for admission to candidacy by vote of the Department of Economics faculty after having completed requirements (2.1), (2.2), and (2.3) above, the Graduate School’s prospectus requirement, and the following additional requirements.  (3.1) Students must have completed two one-term prospectus workshops, one in each term of the third year.  All prospectus workshops have the word “prospectus” in their title.  If students can find no prospectus workshop corresponding to their interests, they may substitute other workshops to meet this requirement.  In order for two workshops to count toward the prospectus requirement, students must make a presentation in each workshop and present original work in one of them.  This stipulation applies even if a workshop is not labeled as a prospectus workshop.  If students can find no workshop whatsoever in their area of interest, they may substitute an independent study course guided by a faculty member, provided the independent study leads to a dissertation prospectus that is accepted.  (3.2) Students must receive a grade of HP- or better in Economics 551 (Econometrics II) or Economics 552 (Econometrics III).  More advanced courses may be substituted for these with permission of the Director of Graduate Studies.  (3.3) Students must receive a grade of Satisfactory on an empirical paper, which is evaluated by a faculty advisor or an instructor of Econ 556.  In the paper, the student should (a) specify an economic model useful for the investigation of an interesting economic problem, (b) select data and econometric methods appropriate to the question, (c) conduct proper statistical analysis, and (d) interpret the results in an intelligent way.  The Department’s posted description of the Empirical Paper Requirement should answer any questions about it.  The paper may be written in the course Economics 556 or independently with the help of a faculty advisor, the standards for a satisfactory paper being the same in both cases.  The paper is not expected to be of publishable or nearly publishable quality but should demonstrate facility in the application of econometric methods to an economic question. Note: Jointly authored papers will not be accepted.  (3.4) Students must complete with a grade of at least HP- a term of economic history, drawn from a list of courses approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and the economic history instructors.  (3.5) Students must pass two field qualifying examinations given by committees of faculty members.  These exams are discussed under heading (2.5) above. 

Additional Requirements

(1) All students must give a dissertation prospectus to their advisory committee by the second Friday in May of their third year.  (2) Students must provide, via email,  the names of their advisory committee consisting of two members to the Director of Graduate Study’s office by February 1 of the third year.  The student should indicate which faculty member is the main advisor for the purpose of reviewing your annual DPR (Dissertation Progress Report).  (3) In each academic year after the second, all students must regularly attend at least two workshops.  At least one of them must be an “informal” prospectus workshop lunch or reading group, and at least one must be a “formal” research workshop.  Each student must present at least once a year in one or other of the workshops that they regularly attend in the third and fourth year.  (4) Third year students who have not yet satisfied the empirical  paper requirement must submit an empirical paper by February 1. 

The Dissertation

The dissertation should make an original contribution to economics that demonstrates the student’s mastery of relevant resources and methods.  Although the dissertation may cover several related topics, it should have a unifying theme.  The dissertation may consist of one or more than one essay.  The dissertation is guided by a committee of two advisors, at least one of whom must be a member of the Economics Department.  The second advisor need not be from the Economics Department or even from Yale University.  Second advisors from outside the Yale Economics Department must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.  The two advisors serve as readers.  After the student has completed a first draft of the dissertation, the Director of Graduate Studies appoints a third reader.  The student and the committee may recommend third readers, but the choice remains with the Director of Graduate Studies, since the third reader serves as an independent referee. 

Collaborative Work in the Dissertation

The Economic Department’s objective regarding collaboration is to achieve a reasonable compromise between two goals.  While the Department wishes to encourage collaborative research among students and between students and faculty, a dissertation should demonstrate the student’s ability to do independent research.  The dissertation committee and the Director of Graduate Studies must approve the inclusion of collaborative work in the dissertation, and students must acknowledge and describe any collaboration in the preface to the dissertation. 

Expiration of Admission to Candidacy  Advancement to candidacy expires ten years after the date it is granted, if no dissertation has been submitted and approved in the intervening period.

Recommended Sequence of Study

Normal Sequence of Studies

The following timeline is a recommendations not a requirement. 

First year (fall):

  • Economics 500 (General Economic Theory: Microeconomics)
  • Economics 510 (General Economic Theory: Macroeconomics)
  • Economics 550 (Econometrics I)

First year (spring): 

  • Economics 501 (General Economic Theory: Microeconomics)
  • Economics 511 (General Economic Theory: Macroeconomics)
  • Economics 551 (Econometrics II)

Students who are well prepared in econometrics may take an advanced econometrics course instead of Economics 550 in the fall of the first year after consulting the Director of Graduate Studies and an appropriate econometrics faculty member.  Students typically also take a course in Economic History in either the fall or spring semester, that would satisfy the economic history requirement if a grade of at least HP- were obtained.  (See Economics Department Requirement 3.4.) Taking the history course in the spring may be more appropriate for students concerned about making the transition to graduate school in the fall.   

Second year:

  • Economics 556 (Topics in Empirical Economics and Public Policy)
  • Satisfy the empirical paper requirement
  • Courses in specialized fields:

Behavioral Economics 
Economic Development
Economic History
Economic Theory
Environmental Economics
Financial Economics
Industrial Organization
International Trade and Finance
Political Economy
Public Finance

These courses serve as preparation for the qualifying examinations and allow students to identify potential areas of study for dissertation research.   As they identify an area, students should locate a faculty advisor to advise them about their studies. Students may also take courses related to economics from other departments.  

Third year:

This is normally devoted to finding a dissertation topic and to beginning research on it.  In this year, students are expected to make the transition from being a taker of classes to a participant in research.  Important elements in achieving this transition are:

  • Thinking critically about material learned
  • Reading widely
  • Choosing research topics that are feasible and of interest to the student
  • Gaining contact with faculty.  Students should expect to take the initiative in making such contact.
Combined Doctoral Degrees

Combined Degree defined.  A combined degree results in the award of one PhD with two departments named.  It is not two separate degrees, and the student is not expected to fulfill all the requirements of both departments. 

Purpose.  Combined degrees are intended to provide a sufficiently broad training program for a student wishing to complete an interdisciplinary dissertation. 

Program design.  Combined degree programs are designed on an ad hoc basis by the student, the DGSs of the two departments, and the appropriate associate deans of the Graduate School. 

Timing. Most combined degrees are proposed by students during the summer after the first year of study.  Students are not given extra time or funding to complete combined degrees.  In particular, students must advance to candidacy by the end of their third year of study. 

Degree of Integration.  A combined program should synthesize the knowledge and methods of the two departments into a single study.  Ideally the dissertation should be equally strong in both fields.  For example, a dissertation with the first half focused on economics and the second half focused on political science would not be acceptable. 

Administrative requirements. An ad hoc combined degree program is established in the following steps. 

  1. A program is initiated by writing of a pre-prospectus by the student.  This is a document that describes how and why the two fields are to be integrated. 
  2. The student recruits a faculty dissertation advisor from each department and obtains their approval of the pre-prospectus, perhaps modified in response to their advice. 
  3. The student recruits two other faculty members to serve on the dissertation committee, one from each department. 
  4. The student discusses the requirements for a combined degree with both departmental DGSs. 
  5. The student prepares a comprehensive study plan that contains a list of courses and examinations agreed on by both DGSs and approved by both departments.  The goals of the course selection are to give some breadth of knowledge of both fields and prepare the student to complete the dissertation.  A key to success in combined programs is not to require too many courses and to focus on preparation for dissertation research.  Requirements include successful completion of Econ 500a, 510a, 501b, 510b with grades of at least HP- (please see Section 1.2 under Economics Department Requirements for complete requirement description).  Normally the two departments administer qualifying examinations.  This procedure may require the production of examinations that both departments evaluate simultaneously.  The plan of study should contain the following: i) A cover sheet for approvals by both dissertation advisors, both DGSs, and by the appropriate associate dean of the Graduate School, ii) an introduction where the student explains the rational for proposing the ad hoc combined degree, and iii) a semester-by-semester time line listing all classes, teaching, and required examinations. 
  6. Both departments must accept the dissertation prospectus. 
  7. The plan of study is a contract, and the student must receive written permission in advance from both DGSs and the appropriate associate dean of the Graduate School for any changes to the plan. 
  8. Once everyone agrees and the plan of study is approved, the combined program is recorded in Banner. 

Funding and Teaching. The department that first admitted the student is the “primary department.” The student’s funding is from the primary department as is the teaching expectation.  Ideally students should obtain teaching experience from both departments. 

Master's Degree Requirements

M. Phil.  The Master of Philosophy degree is awarded to students in the Ph.D. program upon completion of all the requirements for advancement to candidacy for a doctorate in economics except the prospectus and the prospectus workshop requirements.

M.A.  Students who withdraw from the Ph.D. program may be eligible to receive the M.A. degree if they have met the requirements and have not already received the M.Phil. degree. For the M.A., students must successfully complete at least eight term graduate courses in the Department of Economics. At least six of these courses must be Ph.D. courses in the Department of Economics (not courses from the International and Development Economics master’s program). The average grade of all the graduate courses taken that are listed or cross-listed by the Department of Economics must be at least a High Pass, and at least two of these grades must be Honors. Students must complete at least two of the three first-year two-course sequences in microeconomics, macroeconomics, or econometrics. In computing the grade average, the relevant grades are those reported to the registrar and so do not include pluses or minuses. A Fail counts as a zero, a Pass counts as a 1, a High Pass counts as a 2, and an Honors counts as a 3. To say that the average grade must be High Pass means that the arithmetic average of these numbers must be at least 2. Candidates in combined programs will be awarded the M.A. only when the master’s degree requirements for both programs have been met.

J.D./M.A. in Economics.  Students working toward a J.D. in the Law School may earn an M.A. degree in economics.  The degree requirements that apply to these students are the same as those described above for the M.A. degree en route to Ph.D. for students in doctoral programs other than Economics.  Students wishing to join this J.D./M.A. joint degree program must apply for separate admission to the Economics graduate program.  Students admitted to this program pay three years of tuition to the Law School and one year of tuition to the Graduate School.  The Graduate School does not offer fellowship support to J.D./M.A. candidates. 

The M.A. in International and Development Economics is described under International and Development Economics.