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Progress to the Degree

Our Ph.D. program is designed so that the degree can be awarded after five years of diligent study.

This page is a summary of the requirements for making satisfactory progress toward the Ph.D. in Economics. Any variations or exceptions for an individual student must be approved in writing by the Executive Committee of the Field of Economics and by the student's special committee (or the Director of Graduate Studies, for first and second year students without full special committees).

First Year

Students are expected to qualify before the beginning of their second year in four areas:

Mathematics for Economists 
Microeconomic Theory

Qualifying in Econometrics, Macroeconomics and Microeconomic Theory requires passing qualifying examinations in these areas during May/June of the first year (or, if necessary, passing a re-take in July/August of the first year). To prepare for these examinations students should take the following courses in their first year:

Econometrics I and II (Econ 6190 and 6200)
Macroeconomics I and II (Econ 6130 and 6140)
Microeconomic Theory I and II (Econ 6090 and 6100)

To qualify in Mathematics for Economists, students must pass the Mathematics Proficiency Examination given at the beginning of the first year of graduate study or achieve a grade of at least B- in Intermediate Mathematical Economics I (Econ 6170).

The first-year economics Ph.D. courses (Econ 6090, 6100, 6130, 6140, 6170, 6190, and 6200) are intended for doctoral students in economics and related disciplines. First-year economics Ph.D. students are automatically enrolled in these courses. The permission of the instructor is required for all other students.

Second Year

Participation in at least one workshop in the second year is strongly encouraged. After the second year, students must participate on a full-time basis in at least one workshop program. With the approval of the special committee, a student may substitute regular participation in a workshop other than the ones listed below. Workshop schedules are here. The list of workshops currently offered is:

Applied Economics 
Applied Microeconomics 
Behavioral Workshop 
Development Economics 
Institute for Health Economics
International Economics
Labor Economics 
Macro/Monetary Economics 
Microeconomic Theory 
Policy Analysis and Management 
Public Economics

    Research Project
    Students are required to write a complete, independent research paper in the second year, which is due in August of the summer of the second year. They are expected to present this work in the Fall semester of the third year in the Third-year Research Seminar (Econ 7850). Attendance at this workshop and presentation of the second-year paper is required for all third-year students.

    Special Committee
    Students are assigned a special committee chair upon initial enrollment. Usually, this is the Director of Graduate Studies. This assignment is temporary. A permanent chair must be selected prior to registering for the third year (fifth semester) of study. Prior to registering for the sixth semester (January of the third year), students must form a permanent special committee to advise them on courses and research. The committee consists of a chair and at least two other members. The chair represents the student's major concentration of research and the other members represent minor concentrations.

    Major and Minor Concentrations
    Students must also qualify in one major and at least two minor concentrations. This is typically done in the second and third years. The requirements for qualifying in concentrations are determined by the committee member representing each concentration. A student's major concentration must come from the field of economics. Minor concentrations may be in the field of economics or may come from other Cornell graduate fields. 

    Third Year

    The A Exam
    Students are expected to pass an admission to candidacy examination, called the A Exam, administered by the student's special committee during the third year of graduate study. This examination must be passed by the end of the third week of the fourth year. Failure to complete the A Exam in a timely fashion may result in the suspension of all financial aid or termination from the Ph.D. program.

    The Fourth Year and Beyond

    The Dissertation and the B Exam
    Students are expected to begin work on the doctoral dissertation in the third year of study and to finish the dissertation by the end of the fifth year of study. The program is designed so that the Ph.D. can be awarded in five years and students should plan to finish in five years. Completing the Ph.D. requires passing an oral examination, the B Exam, administered by the student's special committee, followed by filing with the Graduate School a completed doctoral dissertation approved by the committee.

    Updated: December 3, 2012

    Related Links

    Main Office
    Department of Economics
    404 Uris Hall
    Cornell University
    Ithaca, N.Y. 14853
    Phone: (607) 255-4254
    Fax: (607) 255-2818