Information for Prospective/Incoming Grad Students
Our Ph.D. program faculty consists of 91 economists drawn from the Cornell University Economics Department, the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Johnson School, the Department of Policy Analysis and Management, the Division of Nutritional Sciences, the Hotel School, and the Law School. The Ph.D. degree in Economics is administered by the Cornell Graduate School as the only degree offered by the Graduate Field of Economics. To view our program field faculty, click here.
The breadth of our faculty offers students many opportunities. Students can focus their doctoral research on a wide range of economics-related topics provided at least two Ph.D. program faculty members approve the topic and agree to supervise the student. The full committee consists of a chair from the Ph.D. program faculty and two or three additional members of the Cornell Graduate Faculty. This flexibility allows students to form dissertation committees that reflect very specific specializations from around Cornell.
Cornell is also what we call an open campus. Students may take courses in areas other than economics and participate in interdisciplinary work. Indeed, many doctoral-level courses in economics are offered by faculty members in colleges and schools across the campus.
- Historical Placement of Ph.D. Students
- Please contact the Graduate Field Coordinator at email@example.com if you would like a copy of our Math Proficiency Practice Exam.
Our first semester courses presume a thorough knowledge of microeconomics at the level of a rigorous treatment of undergraduate intermediate theory. More economics background is preferred, but an economics major is not required.
We admit students from a variety of academic backgrounds. Those whose prior education was primarily in economics typically excelled in advanced undergraduate or graduate (e.g., Master's) courses, including proof-based mathematics courses at least through linear algebra. With applicants whose previous degree was not in economics, we look for especially strong technical skills as well as some economics coursework.
Courses called Mathematics for Economists, Mathematics for Social Scientists, and Econometrics are not a substitute for formal mathematics.
A mathematics review course is offered before classes in the first three weeks of August. Although it is not required, in our experience most entering students benefit significantly from this course.
Admissions and Financial Aid
Graduate School Admissions
Graduate School Admission Policies (Read these policies carefully: you may not apply to two different Cornell graduate programs simultaneously.)
*Students in Economics may only start in the Fall semester. The field of Economics no longer accepts paper application materials. Please click here to use the online application.
*There is no preadmission application in Economics.
*The Ph.D. program in Economics does not require an applicant to have completed an undergraduate degree in economics or in mathematics for admission.
Applications, including letters of reference, GRE and TOEFL/IELT scores, should be completed online by January 15th. Admissions are generally announced in mid-March.
Cornell University, like most prominent American graduate schools, is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools in the United States. Most Canadian graduate schools have also accepted the Council's application and admission guidelines. As a member of this group, Cornell may not consider an acceptance (of admission and/or aid) from a student to be binding until after April 15th. (The applicant may renege on the acceptance of any school's offer by writing that school before April 15th.) Because early acceptance of an offer from a university is not binding on the student, we make most financial aid offers in mid to late March.
The first-semester courses presume a thorough knowledge of microeconomics at the level of a rigorous treatment of undergraduate intermediate theory. More economics background is preferred, but an economics major is not required.
The student must have a minimum of four semesters of calculus and linear algebra and at least two semesters of advanced mathematics including a course in analysis. This is an absolute minimum and is rarely seen as competitive for a financial aid offer. There is a strong admissions and financial aid bias towards students with more mathematics: differential equations, real or complex analysis, mathematical probability and statistics, optimization, topology, and stochastic differential equations, among many others. Many successful applicants are double majors in economics and mathematics.
Courses called "Mathematics for Economists," "Mathematics for Social Scientists," and "Econometrics" are not a substitute for formal mathematics.
As part of the admissions process, the indicated mathematics and economics courses should be completed prior to the application deadline in January. If courses in mathematics or microeconomics are completed after the application transcript has been sent, the student is strongly advised to send an updated transcript (a copy or unofficial version will do) showing the grades in these courses. Updated admissions material may be sent directly to the Graduate Field Assistant. Email GFA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A three-week mathematics review course is offered before classes begin. In our experience most entering students can benefit significantly from that course, though it is not required.
Three letters of recommendation are required. Applicants should ask their references to address not only their academic prospects in their letters, but to also address their prospects as a teacher and research assistant. Academic references should preferably be from professors in one’s major subject and possibly from a mathematics professor in an advanced mathematics class. If others would know more about the applicant’s prospects as a teacher or research assistant, supplementary letters can be provided from professors for whom one has taught, given oral presentations, or done research.
The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is required for the Fall 2023 admissions cycle. The Department will accept at-home GRE exams. GRE subject examinations are optional.
To be included in the application, the graduate school must receive all scores prior to the application deadline.
All official test scores should be reported directly to Cornell University. Please be sure to use the exact spelling of your name on both your application and test score report.
The GRE institutional code is 2098. Department codes are not used for matching scores to applications.
GRE test scores are valid for five years from the test date.
The TOEFL or IELTS examination is required of all applicants from countries where English is not the official native language, unless the applicant meets one of the Graduate School's two exceptions.
Please click here to consult the English Language Proficiency Requirement page. Please note that the field of Economics cannot admit candidates who do not meet the Graduate School's English language requirements. These are minimum required scores; most accepted students have TOEFL IBT scores over 25 in all four categories. If your English-language degree will not be awarded by the time of enrollment, you must take the TOEFL and/or IELT. Do not request exceptions. None will be granted.
Non-native English speakers are strongly advised to get supplemental letters of reference from native English speakers if at all possible.
These letters should address your likely "presentational skills" in English (e.g., potential for success as a teaching assistant or presenter of a scholarly paper). The writer need not be one of your professors; in practice these letters often come from visiting American academics, sometimes visiting departments other than Economics at your school for a seminar or a semester whom you have asked to have a conversation with you for the purposes of such a letter. Further, many Universities have English language departments with American (or British) faculty members.
Financial aid is not "need-based." All applicants are considered for financial aid awards based on academic merit and potential success as a teaching or research assistant.
Financial aid packages for incoming students are typically guaranteed, given satisfactory performance, through the Spring semester of the fifth year of study (if five years are actually needed to complete the degree). Most of the aid packages are in the form of fellowships/assistantship combinations (approximately 15 per year). The normal package includes one fellowship year, which must be used during the first year of study. The first-year fellowship enables the student to focus on the core program. Subsequent financial aid normally takes the form of graduate research assistantships and teaching assistantships.
Graduate research and teaching assistantships also cover the tuition as well as an academic year stipend and medical insurance. Those without full funding are required to purchase medical insurance.
Some successful students with self funding in the first year may be funded in subsequent years if they are likely to be outstanding teaching or research assistants. A key criterion for a teaching assistantship is teaching excellence; those who are deemed to be unlikely to excel in teaching in English will in most cases not receive financial assistance. (I-20 visa guarantees are taken seriously, only a few self-funded non-native English speakers will receive financial aid.)
Research assistantships may be available from individual faculty members. These are awarded to qualified graduate students whose research interests are clearly similar to those of the faculty member with the research funding, and generally to students with strong academic performance and/or special skills (e.g., programming).
Aid decisions for many students are contingent upon the acceptances or rejections of those who have the initial aid offers. The aid market, therefore, is very active between April 1st and April 15th. Applicants are advised to make certain we know how they can be reached quickly (by e-mail, or if necessary fax or telephone) during that time.
Teaching Assistantships (TA)
One of the primary concerns at Cornell is teaching excellence. This is desirable in its own right, and it is valuable for the student to be able to establish excellence in teaching for the job market. We have a variety of programs available to assist students in becoming good teachers. Some of these programs are required, others are voluntary supplements.
All students who will be serving as teaching assistants for at least the first time are required to arrive at Cornell for training about ten days before the semester starts. Incoming student teaching assistants for whom English is not their native language are generally required to show up in early August for additional training, for which there is a stipend supplement for the additional living costs. (All teaching assistants are required to arrive five days in advance of classes and to remain on campus until all course grades are completed.) Students with undergraduate degrees from countries where English is not the official language are required to take an oral examination prior to being employed as a TA. This assessment is administered by the Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence. Click here to visit the Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence website. Depending upon the results of this assessment, international students may have additional training requirements designed for non-native English speakers.
For Further Information
For further information about the Economics Ph.D. Program, you may contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Prof. Levon Barseghyan, with questions about background, preparation or degree content. To e-mail Prof. Levon Barseghyan, click here.
Contact the Graduate Field Assistant (to e-mail GFA, click here); postal address: Field of Economics, Uris Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 14853-7601, USA; telephone: +1-607-255-4893; fax: +1-607-255-2818) with questions about applications, admissions, or other procedural matters.
A crucial source of information about any program is the doctoral students who are in the program. Our students can be contacted at through the GSAFE site. Introduce yourself and ask any questions you would like about study at Cornell. To view the GSAFE site, please click here.
For further information about the Graduate School and its programs, please click here to contact the Admissions Office at the Cornell University Graduate School .
Helpful Admissions Links
- Online application (paper forms are not accepted)
- Important admissions policies (read these carefully)
- English language proficiency requirement (These are minimum required scores; most accepted students have IBT TOEFL scores over 25 in all four categories. If your English-language degree has not been awarded by the time of application, you must take the TOEFL or IELTS. Do not request exceptions. None will be granted.)
- Information from the Graduate School about the Graduate Field of Economics
Non-Degree Visiting Students
Non-degree students are limited to a maximum enrollment of two semesters and may not enroll in a degree-granting program at Cornell without formally applying and being approved for admission.
Non-degree students enrolled during a regular semester are required to pay tuition. There is no tuition charge for the summer.
Like degree-seeking students, non-degree graduate students are automatically enrolled in Cornell’s Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP). If a student has coverage through another health insurance plan that is comparable to the SHIP, s/he may file a written appeal with the Office of Student Health Insurance. International students are required to purchase SHIP. For more information visit the student insurance website here.
- Education Credentials--All students enrolled in the Graduate School must possess education credentials equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree. At a minimum, international non-degree students must be pursuing graduate-level studies in their home country. On the application form, applicants should describe their postsecondary education history and provide applicable transcripts and diplomas.
- English Proficiency--International applicants must demonstrate English proficiency even if they will not be taking classes or supervising students. Unlike degree-seeking applicants, non-degree applicants may submit old scores or copies of a paper score report. Click here to review Cornell’s English proficiency requirements.
International students must provide evidence of adequate financial resources. These resources should be sufficient to cover the costs of attendance, including living expenses, for the duration of their stay at Cornell.
Incoming Students Fall 2021
If you were admitted with financial aid or placed on the waiting list, you should have received detailed information by email from the admissions coordinator (email@example.com). If you have received an email from the Director of Graduate Studies, then your formal offer letter is in progress. If you have not received such information, you have not been admitted or placed on the waiting list yet. Notice of rejection also comes from the admissions coordinator.
The Economics Ph.D. Math Review Course will run Monday, August 2 through Friday, August 20 online. It consists of 15 half-day lectures and three problem set sessions. This course is strongly recommended for all entering students. There is no tuition charge for students in the Economics Ph.D. program.
Mandatory teaching assistant training, for those students who will be TAs at Cornell for the first time in the 2021-2022 academic year, is TBA. Graduate School orientation series occurring throughout August. See calendar for details. Classes begin on Thursday, August 26. (To view the Cornell Academic Calendar 2021-2022, click here.)
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).
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, II, and III (Econ 6090, 6100, 6110)
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, 6110, 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.
Participation in at least one workshop per semester in the second year is required. After the second year, students must be registered in at least one workshop program each semester. With the approval of the special committee, a student may substitute regular participation in a workshop other than the ones listed below. View Workshop schedules 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
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.
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.
Click here to view 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.
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.
Guide to Concentrations in the Field of Economics
The concentrations in Economics are listed below in alphabetical order. After each concentration, there is a list of courses that students often take for that concentration. There is one extremely important caveat: the exact courses required to meet a particular concentration are determined by a student’s special committee and not by the field or DGS. Any member of the special committee may require additional or different courses as a condition of representing a particular concentration on a committee. This is why you cannot pick concentration courses independently from the selection of a special committee. That said, taking courses in your intended concentrations is one time-tested way of selecting special committee members. New concentrations under consideration by the field are listed next. Finally there is an incomplete list of concentrations in other fields that have been historically part of some Economics committees as minor concentrations.
The Graduate School’s official list of faculty and concentrations in Economics is here. This should correspond to the choices offered online in the Student Center. Faculty or students who find discrepancies should notify the DGS and GFA in Economics.
The chair of a special committee in Economics must be a member of the graduate faculty in the Field of Economics and must represent a concentration from the official graduate school list for Economics. Be careful when selecting a special committee chair in the online Student Center to choose the field of Economics and a concentration from the Economics list. Many faculty members belong to multiple fields. A member of the graduate faculty who belongs to fields in addition to Economics may represent another field and a concentration from that field on an Economics committee as long as that person is not the special committee chair. Always consult with the potential committee member in advance of selecting such an option.
The field-maintained list of members is here. Research interests shown on this page do not correspond exactly to the official graduate school concentrations. They are intended to guide students to faculty members with appropriate research specializations.
Official Economics Concentrations
This is a catch-all concentration generally used when there are two members of a committee representing the same concentration (not allowed by the Graduate School on three-person committees) so that both can be officially recorded on the committee. The other uses of this concentration include specializations that have formal course sequences but are not designated as official concentrations (e.g., behavioral economics and the economics of education) and concentrations outside of economics where the committee member still wants to be shown in the field of economics (e.g., a member of the field of economics who is also a member of the field of management may represent “Applied Economics” on the committee or a concentration in management, according to the wishes of the student and the committee). A committee member representing “Applied Economics” could require any of the courses listed under any concentration or other courses not listed here.
Research Workshop: Econ 7843 Applied Economics Workshop
Econometrics and Economic Statistics
In addition to econometrics classes, courses in computational and statistical methods have been collected into this section. See below for additional information about the Computer Science minor concentration.
- Econ 7190 Advanced Topics in Econometrics I
- Econ 7200 Advanced Topics in Econometrics II
- Econ 7230 Semi/Non Parametric Econometrics
- Research Workshop: Econ 7841 Econometrics Workshop
- PAM 6090/Econ 6590 Empirical Research Methods I
- PAM 6091 Empirical Research Methods II
- Econ 7480 Applied Econometrics I
- Econ 7492 Applied Econometrics II
Other econometrics sequences
- AEM 7100 Econometrics I
- AEM 7110 Econometrics II
- ORIE 5340/CS 5722 Heuristic Methods for Optimization
- ORIE 5630 Computational Methods in Finance
- CS 6220 Data-sparse Matrix Computations
- Econ 7760 Computational Economics
Related information science courses
- INFO 7470/Econ 7400 Social and Economic Data
Economic Development and Planning
Economic development and related courses are offered around the university by faculty in the fields of Economics, Applied Economics and Management, Developmental Sociology, Nutritional Science, and others. Selected courses are listed below. They may be taken in any order.
- AEM 6670/Econ 7700 Topics in Development Economics
- AEM 7350/Econ 7350 Topics in Public Economics
- AEM 7620 Microeconomics of International Development
- AEM 7650 Development Microeconomics Graduate Research Seminar
- Econ 7711/NS 6850 Empirical Methods for the Analysis of Household Survey Data: Applications to Nutrition, Health, and Poverty
- Econ 7720 Economics of Development (Note: this class may be taken before or after Econ 7730).
- Econ 7730 Economic Development (Note: this class may be taken before or after Econ 7720.)
- AEM 7670/Econ 7670 Topics in International Finance
- Research Workshop: Econ 7847 Development Workshop
Economics of Education
These courses may be taken in any order.
- Econ 7470 Economics of Education I
- ILRLE 7471/PAM 6471 Economics of Education II
Make special arrangements with Profs. George Boyer or Sean Nicholson, currently the only members of the field who will represent an economic history concentration.
- NRE 5030/Econ 6110 Microeconomic Theory III/Game Theory and Applications
- Econ 6180 Intermediate Mathematical Economics II
- Econ 6760/CS 5846 Decision Theory I
- Econ 6770/CS 5847 Decision Theory II
- CS 6840 Algorithmic Game Theory
- CS 6850 The Structure of Information Networks
- Econ 7170 Mathematical Economics
- Econ 7570 Economics of Imperfect Information
- Research Workshop: Econ 7842 Microeconomic Theory Workshop
- PAM 6410/Econ 6410 Health Economics I
- PAM 6420/Econ 6420 Health Economics II
- Research Workshops: PAM Seminar Series; Institute for Health Economics Workshop
Click here for further information on Health Economics.
Students planning to do industrial organization as a concentration are strongly advised to take the Applied Econometrics course sequence (Econ 7480 and 7492) during the second year.
- NRE 5440 Empirical Methods in Dynamic Industrial Organization
- Econ 7510 Industrial Organization and Regulation I
- Econ 7520 Industrial Organization and Regulation II
- Research Workshop: Econ 7853 Applied Microeconomics
- AEM 7670/Econ 7670 Topics in International Finance
- Econ 7420 Seminar in Labor Economics I
- Econ 7430 Seminar in Labor Economics II
- Research Workshop: Econ 7845 Workshop in Labor Economics
Monetary and Macroeconomics
- AEM 7670/Econ 7670 Topics in International Finance
- Research Workshop: Econ 7846 Macroeconomics Workshop
- PAM 6970/Econ 6970 Empirical Public Finance and Taxation
- AEM 7350/Econ 7350 Topics in Public Economics
- Econ 7360 Public Finance: Resource Allocation and Fiscal Policy
- Econ 7380 Public Choice
- Research Workshop: Econ 7848 Public Economics Workshop
Specializations That Are Not Official Economics Concentrations
- NRE 5340 Doctoral Seminar in Behavioral Finance
- Econ 7580 Behavioral Economics I
- Econ 7585 Behavioral Economics II (Note that Behavioral Economics I is not a prerequisite for this course. The courses in behavioral economics may be taken in any order.)
- Research Workshop: Econ 7849 Behavioral Workshop
Selected Concentrations outside the Field of Economics
The concentrations and fields listed here are selected from the hundreds of offerings by the graduate faculty at Cornell. The courses listed are the ones taught by members of the field of Economics who are also members of the field offering the concentration and selected others who have served regularly on Economics Ph.D. committees.
Field: AEM; Concentrations: Environmental Economics, Resource Economics
- AEM 7500 - Resource Economics
- AEM 7510 - Environmental Economics
- Research Workshop: Environmental and Urban Economics
Field: AEM; Concentration: Finance
- AEM 6940 Graduate Special Topics in Applied Economics and Management: Topics in Empirical Finance
Field: Demography; Concentration: Minor only
- PAM 6280 Family Demography
- PAM 6720/DSOC 6720 Demography Pro-Seminar
Field: PAM; Applied Economics (any concentration)
- PAM 6370 Microeconomics for Policy Analysis
Field: Management; Concentration: Finance
Each of the following courses is offered every other year. Students preparing for the management field’s finance concentration take all seven and a qualifying exam in their third year.
- NRE 5340 Doctoral Seminar in Behavioral Finance
- NRE 5360 Doctoral Seminar – Introduction to Asset Pricing Theory
- NRE 5020 PhD Seminar – Market Microstructure
- NRE 5060 PhD Seminar in Corporate Finance Theory
- NRE 5280 PhD Seminar in Empirical Asset Pricing
- NRE 5110 PhD Seminar in Empirical Corporate Finance
- NRE 5270 Doctoral Seminar – International Finance
Field: Computer Science; Concentration: Minor
Any member of the graduated field of Computer Science may serve on an economics committee representing Computer Science as a minor concentration. Normally, that person will require at least four graduate CS courses for the minor. Any course labeled CS above would count. In addition, students may wish to consider the following courses.
- CS 6110 Advanced Programming Languages
- CS 6210 Matrix Computations
- CS 6700 Advanced Artificial Intelligence
- CS 6702/INFO 6702 Topics in Computational Sustainability
- CS 6766 Reasoning about Uncertainty
- CS 6820 Analysis of Algorithms
- CS 7810 Advanced Computational Complexity
Graduate Field Assistant & Placement Coordinator
Uris Hall, Room 406