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Jason Abrevaya, Chair 2225 Speedway, Stop C3100, Austin, TX 78712 • Admin: 512-471-3211 & Advising: 512-471-2973

Ph.D Program

The Doctor of Philosophy degree is based on satisfactory performance in courses, comprehensive exams, a single-authored research paper submitted in the summer following the student's second year, and the successful completion of a dissertation. The program of study emphasizes rigorous training in the core courses to provide the necessary skills for independent creative research in the student's chosen fields. The student's program must include at least twenty-four semester hours of approved work taken in residence.

The recommended program of study is given below. Exceptions may be permitted with the approval of the Graduate Advisor. Graduate students are encouraged to complete their Ph.D. work in four years. Unless an extension is approved by the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee for extraordinary circumstances, the automatic cutoff for a graduate student's program will be eight years. If the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee approves an extension, he might impose conditions to assure that the student's knowledge is not outdated by the lapse of time. Specifically, the student might be required to repeat core courses taken earlier. The following information describes the doctoral requirements in detail.

Modern economics requires significant skills in mathematics. A three-week intensive course is offered each August to help incoming graduate students prepare for our rigorous theory and econometrics courses. Although it is not mandatory, students are strongly encouraged to take this course. At the end of the course, a diagnostic exam will be given to assess the student's mathematical knowledge and readiness to enter the core theory courses. Those students who do not take the course will still be expected to take the diagnostic exam. Students who do not display satisfactory mathematical skills may be required to take additional mathematics courses in concert with the core theory courses.

Requirements for the Ph.D

1. Core Courses

All students must take nine core courses: Microeconomics I and II, Macroeconomics I and II, Probability and Statistics, Mathematical Economics, and Econometrics I and II. Each student must receive a grade of at least C in every core course, and no more than three grades of C or below, including initial grades for retakes, for all core courses.

Students entering the Ph.D. program who have completed the entrance requirements described in the Requirements for Admission (including mathematical background), are recommended to take the courses listed below during their first year of study to acquire a firm foundation for their subsequent field work.

Fall Semester

  • ECO 387L.1: Microeconomics I
  • ECO 387L.2: Macroeconomics I
  • ECO 392M.1: Probability and Statistics
  • ECO 387L.24: Mathematical Economics

Spring Semester

  • ECO 387L.3: Microeconomics II
  • ECO 387L.4: Macroeconomics II
  • ECO 392M.2: Econometrics I
  • Under exceptional circumstances and with permission of the Graduate Advisor, a student may modify this schedule. Certain core courses may be postponed for a good reason; for example: (1) to take a skill-building course, usually in mathematics, or (2) to take a course from a distinguished visitor, a one-time opportunity.

Students entering with an M.A. or M.S. in Economics from another university are generally expected to take the core courses, and in all instances must pass comprehensive examinations on the same basis as all other students.

2. Core Comprehensive Exams

Doctoral students are required to pass written comprehensive examinations in microeconomics and macroeconomics. As a condition for continuing in the program, students are required to pass at least one core comprehensive exam following their first two semesters and both by the first examination date following their fourth semester. It is recommended that the student take these exams at the first opportunity following the completion of the core sequence. Both exams are offered in June and August, and are administered by the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee.

Students need retake only the exam or exams they failed in the previous attempt(s). The exams may be retaken more than once, if necessary, but must be completed by the relevant deadline (specified above).

3. Field Courses

In addition to satisfying the core course requirements and passing the core comprehensive exams, each doctoral student must take a minimum of two graduate courses in each of two chosen fields of specialization and must earn at least a B in each of these courses. Unless advance approval has been given by the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee, research or reading courses (ECO 380) may not count towards the field course requirements. Generally, students should not take their field courses until the second year in the program.

In addition to completing two courses in each of two fields of specialization, students must pass two additional graduate courses with a grade of at least B in each course. These courses will usually be drawn from the graduate course offerings in economics and may, but are not required to, comprise a third field. In some cases, it may be appropriate for one or both of these courses to come from outside the department but such plans must be approved in advance by the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee. Unless advance approval has been given by the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee, research or reading courses (ECO 380) may not count towards these additional course requirements.

4. Second Year Paper

All students are required to write a second year research paper. The field courses are designed to prepare students to write a single-authored paper to be submitted following the spring semester of their second year. The second year paper requirement is intended to test a student's ability to create and execute a research project rather than simply solve a well-defined problem on a theory comp. By mid summer, each student will receive an anonymous referee report with suggested revisions. Revisions are due the first week of August. Between the date of the first submission and the date of the revision, the only faculty contact person is the Graduate Studies Chair; any points of clarification should be emailed to both the Graduate Studies Chair (at this time Maxwell Stinchcombe) and the Graduate Coordinator (at this time Vivian Goldman-Leffler). The final Pass/Fail decision is made before the beginning of the fall semester. Failure on the second year paper also leads to dismissal.

To assess the student, the department implements a journal evaluation process. There is a Graduate Research Committee (GRC) composed of the Graduate Studies Chair and two other faculty. The GRC is chosen to be representative of the different fields in our department. Each student paper is assigned an anonymous referee in his or her field by the GRC. The revised paper is independently graded by the anonymous referee and a member of the GRC. These grades are passed along to the GRC which makes the final Pass/Fail decision. Rankings of the papers are also made by the GRC and the top paper(s) receive an award with a fellowship.

To pass the second year paper requirement, the student must submit a single-authored paper of no more than 15 pages which meets each of the following guidelines: (i) statement of a well defined, important question; (ii) a brief (2 page at most) discussion which argues that the question has not been addressed and how your paper will differ from the existing literature; (iii) an economic framework to address the question; (iv) at least one actual result ( e.g. a well-worked example leading to some propositions or testable implications of a decision problem or preliminary data analysis/simulations/experiments associated with one's question). Parts (i)-(ii) demonstrate creativity. Parts (iii)-(iv) demonstrate a student's ability to execute a project. All 4 criteria are necessary conditions to pass the requirement. Examples of previous second year papers that won our awards are available in the Graduate Coordinator’s office.

The specific deadline dates for the year 2014 are: (1) May 19, 50 word paper abstracts (including field designation and question) due by 9 am; (2) May 27, papers due by 9 am; (3) June 16, reports due to GRC by 9 am; (4) on or before June 17, referee reports back to students; (5) August 4, revisions due to GRC by 9 am (revisions should include a separate detailed summary of how you responded - with explicit reference to page numbers - to the referee’s suggestions; and (6) on or before August 11, final decisions.

5. Writing Courses 

PhD students beyond their second year are required to present their research papers in an area writing class which is broken up roughly into 3 groups (depending on supply/demand conditions there may be more than one course in each area):

  • Applied Micro – Econometrics, Labor, Public Finance, Environmental

  • Theory - Game Theory, Experiments

  • IO/Macro/International

The Area Writing Courses are run by faculty chosen from each area and required of all third and fourth year students. They are graded courses that are used to evaluate funding decisions in the latter years of a student's tenure. Students beyond their fourth year are highly encouraged to enroll to present their job market papers. 

6. Workshop Research Presentation

All students must present their research in the writing workshop in their area by the end of the Fall semester of their fourth year. They must receive a “pass” by the workshop faculty coordinator and one other faculty member invited to attend whom the student plans to put on their dissertation committee. If they wish, the two faculty members may require a written version of the student's research as well for a passing grade. If a student fails to satisfy this requirement the first time, he/she can present it again by the end of the Spring semester of his/her fourth year. Failure to pass the requirement the second time is considered inadequate progress in the PhD program. 

7. Supporting Work

According to the Graduate School, each doctoral student must pass at least three acceptable courses of supporting work. However, Probability and Statistics, Econometrics I, and Econometrics II all may count as supporting work. Thus, a student taking the required core courses automatically satisfies this requirement.

8. Admission to Candidacy

Every student seeking a Doctor of Philosophy degree must be admitted to candidacy by the Dean of Graduate Studies. A doctoral student is eligible to apply for admission to candidacy once he or she has met the following conditions:

  • 1. Satisfied the core courses requirement,
  • 2. Passed both the microeconomics and macroeconomics comprehensive exams, and
  • 3. Passed the second year paper requirement.
  • 4. Satisfied the workshop presentation requirement

Admission to candidacy further requires a grade point average of 3.3 or higher on all courses included in the program of work taken on this campus. All courses in a student's required program of work must be taken on a letter grade basis (not Credit/No Credit). "Conference" or "research" courses numbered 380 will not normally be allowed to satisfy a requirement for admission to candidacy. Only under unusual circumstances may this rule be eased. In such cases, the student must demonstrate in advance, with a written course plan approved by the course professor and the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee, that the proposed 380 course is fully equivalent to an organized course in the field.

Additionally, the candidate must have a prospective dissertation topic and a supervising committee composed of a chairperson(s) and at least four other members, both of which are subject to the approval of the Graduate Advisor and the Dean of Graduate Studies.

In applying for candidacy, the doctoral student must prepare a Program of Work in consultation with the prospective supervising professor and probable members of the supervisory committee (and with the advice of the Graduate Advisor), subject to the approval of the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee.

This Program of Work for the Doctor of Philosophy degree indicates the pertinent details of the student's record, both past and prospective. It lists courses in the required core; it lists courses, past and prospective, in the elective and/or major fields of specialization; and it lists the supporting work courses. The total Program of Work must include at least twenty-four semester hours of approved work completed on this campus.

The student should apply for candidacy as soon as the above conditions are met, to allow the supervising committee time to guide the remaining work on the degree, including coursework. In normal cases, this should be by the end of the third year.

In each semester following the student's third year, the student's progress toward completing the dissertation will be assessed by the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee, in consultation with the chair of the student's supervising committee. The assessment will take the form of a one or two page written progress report over the previous report by the student, signed by the supervisor with any comments he/she sees fit to add. After three years, renewal of candidacy is not automatic and depends on satisfactory progress toward completion.

9. Completion of Dissertation and Oral Defense

10. Recommended Plan of Study

The ideal course sequence for students in the PhD program is shown below. A student may have to delay one field course sequence until his/her third year, depending on the student's fields of interest and the department's field course offerings in a given year.

Year 1

August

Math Prep Class

Fall

Microeconomics I
Macroeconomics I
Probability & Statistics
Mathematical Economics

Spring

Microeconomics II
Macroeconomics II
Econometrics I

June

Comprehensive Exams in Micro and Macro

Year 2

Fall

Econometrics II
Field 1, Part 1
Field 2, Part 1

Spring

Non-Field course
Field 1, Part 2
Field 2, Part 2

June

Second Year Paper Requirement

Year 3

Fall

Writing Course, Part 1
Elective Course
Research Seminar

Spring

Writing Course, Part 2
Elective Course
Research Seminar

Year 4

Fall


Writing Course, Part 3
Research Seminar
Dissertation

Spring


Writing Course, Part 4
Research Seminar
Dissertation

Completion of Research Presentation Requirement

11. Exceptions

Exceptions to any requirements of the graduate program will be made only for valid reasons at the discretion of the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee; students must obtain advance approval in writing. Students have the right to appeal to the Graduate Subcommittee on Rules, consisting of the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee, Graduate Advisor, Chair of the Committee on Graduate Admissions and Awards, and the Associate Chair of the Economics Department. In case of a tie vote, the vote of the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee will decide.

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