2014-2015 Graduate Course Catalog 
    Jul 14, 2024  
2014-2015 Graduate Course Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Economics, PhD

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The Ph.D. in economics at Syracuse is a research-oriented degree, designed for those who want to do applied economics in higher education, government, international agencies, independent research organizations, or private businesses with a substantial research mission.

Entering graduate students should have had at least one year of calculus, a course in mathematical statistics, and a course in linear algebra. In their class work, Ph.D. students take a course in mathematical economics, three courses in microeconomic theory, two courses in macroeconomic theory, three to four courses in econometrics, fulfill the requirements in two fields, as well as breadth requirements and electives totaling 51 credits. Counting dissertation hours, the total number of credits in the program is 72 hours. Students may choose two fields from among labor economics, international economics, public economics, urban economics and econometrics. Students with particularly strong theoretical interests may take fields in microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory. A student with strong interest in finance may take a field in it through the finance department of the School of Management. A student wishing to take a field in an area other than microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, labor economics, public economics, international economics, or urban economics must receive the explicit approval of the director of graduate studies of the economics department.

Faculty and graduate students work closely in research, teaching, and graduate study. For example, Ph.D. students often write papers for journals and conferences with faculty members.

In addition, some graduate students participate in a special University program that helps form good teaching practices. Syracuse University is one of a few universities that provides graduate students with a formal program to learn about college-level teaching practices.

Admissions Requirements

Applications from all interested individuals are welcome. Present graduate students have varied undergraduate backgrounds, including economics, physics, and mathematics. Completion of a master’s degree in economics is not required to enter the Ph.D.

Persons interested in studying for the Ph.D. should complete the application form found in the Maxwell School catalog or at the web site, www.maxwell.syr.edu, and have three letters of recommendation sent on their behalf. In addition, all applicants should submit their scores from a recent general Graduate Record Examination and transcripts of all collegiate and post-collegiate work. Applicants whose first language is not English should submit the results of a recent TOEFL examination. Preference for graduate assistantships is given to students with TOEFL (iBT) scores of 100 and above.

Financial Support

Merit-based financial aid awards are available to support study in the Ph.D. program in the form of fellowships and graduate assistantships. Financial support is renewed each year for five years of study, subject to maintaining satisfactory performance in the Ph.D. program. The deadline for submitting applications for a University Fellowship or the deadline for a graduate assistantship is February 15, although later applications are considered for the assistantship awards. Candidates for admission who do not require University financial support may apply at any date.


Fellowships Economics applicants compete with applicants to other departments at Syracuse University for University Fellowships. Winners receive a fellowship in their first and fourth years of study and receive graduate assistantships in their second, third and fifth years. Fellowships include a stipend of approximately $23,830 (2014-15) and a full-tuition scholarship for 30 credits for the academic year. Students receiving a fellowship have no service responsibilities to the University during the years that they are on the fellowship. Recipients generally take 12 credits each semester that they are on fellowship. Fellowship recipients can opt to have University health care insurance coverage at a modest fee. Fellowship stipends are taxable under the state and federal government laws.

Graduate Assistantships

The economics doctoral program provides opportunities to obtain teaching experience and to participate in research projects with faculty. Most entering and continuing graduate students have teaching assistantships. All teaching assistants participate in a unique Teaching Assistant Orientation Program conducted by the Graduate School. As a teaching assistant, students eventually gain experience in all aspects of teaching, from exam preparation and grading to lecture preparation and presentation. Some advanced doctoral students conduct their own classes, usually teaching at Syracuse University Continuing Education (SUCE).

Advanced graduate students may elect to compete for research assistant positions. Research assistantships are available, for example, through the Center for Policy Research, a research institute within the Maxwell School, or through faculty members who have externally sponsored research projects. In fact, many students serve as both teaching and research assistants during their time in the doctoral program.

Graduate assistantships are renewed each academic year on the basis of satisfactory progress in the Ph.D. program and of the recent performance as a teaching or research assistant. Assistantships include a stipend of $17,500 for the 2014-2015 academic year. Graduate assistants can opt to have University health care insurance coverage at a modest fee. Assistantships require up to 20 hours of service per week in teaching, grading, or research. A full graduate tuition scholarship for 24 hours of coursework per year is also awarded with the assistantship. Students with assistantships take 9 hours of courses during each semester, and students should use their remaining 6 hours during the summer to register for additional courses or for dissertation credits.

Graduate stipends are subject to tax by state and federal governments but, at this time, are not subject to the social security payroll tax.

Summer Support

The economics department offers opportunities for teaching, research, and summer fellowship support. Summer funding is also available to graduate students through externally funded research projects. All summer support is subject to taxation by the state and federal governments but, at this time, is not subject to the Social Security payroll tax.

Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. degree in Economics at Syracuse is designed to be completed in five years. After 30 credits of graduate coursework in economics, students in the Ph.D. program should file for a master’s degree in economics. That process begins in the department office.

The program consists of three stages: (1) completion of graduate coursework with an average grade of 3.0 or better, (2) satisfactory performance on the two qualifying examinations and the field comprehensive examination(s), and (3) submission and successful defense of the dissertation. In practice these stages are intermingled, but it is useful to describe them separately.


For students entering with no prior graduate work, the coursework generally consists of 2 1/2 to 3 years (51 credits) of graduate course 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:

Additional Information

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

Field Coursework:

Two Ph.D.-level courses in each field. Students supplement with related courses offered in the department.

Breadth Requirement:

This consists of two courses outside of the student’s two main fields.

Two-Breadth Requirement

The two-breadth requirement may be satisfied by ECN 720  (Advanced Econometrics) and other courses offered in economics fields or at Syracuse University. Students should consult about fulfilling the breadth requirements with the graduate studies committee as well as with other economics faculty members who may serve as graduate advisors.

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

Course Schedule

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

Summer 2015

Examinations in Micro and Econometrics

Fall 2015

Spring 2016

Summer 2016

Field Examination, Dissertation hours

Fall 2016

Spring 2017

The fourth and fifth years are dedicated to dissertation research and writing. Students with graduate assistantships should register for up to six dissertation hours or take courses during the summer semesters. Students on fellowships follow a modified schedule from that just outlined.

Transfer Credits

A student who has taken graduate coursework at other institutions and wishes to matriculate in our Ph.D. program can transfer course credits to Syracuse University. A student may transfer up to as many credits from another institution as the number of course credits that will be taken at Syracuse. For the typical student who will have 51 course credits and 21 dissertation hours to complete the Ph.D., he or she may transfer 24 credits of coursework 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 coursework at Syracuse, so that courses are not repeated.


The department regularly offers five fields. These fields are public economics, labor economics, international economics, urban economics, and econometrics.

A student with a particularly strong interest may also apply to the director of graduate studies for a field in microeconomic theory or macroeconomic theory. The coursework 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 different course offerings of ECN 720  Selected Topics in Econometrics (in addition to ECN 620 , ECN 621 , ECN 622 ).

A student whose interests and research goals would benefit from a deeper understanding of financial economics may be permitted to take a field in financial economics. Coursework 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 751 , FIN 855 , and FIN 960  (Topics in Corporate Finance). FIN 756 , FIN 758 , FIN 960  (Topics in 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 studies committee of the economics department and the chairperson of the Department of Finance.


Students take two comprehensive qualifying examinations in areas of microeconomic theory and econometrics; and a comprehensive examination in one of the fields. Students not passing an examination are able to retake it once. Progress toward the degree and grades to that date generally determine whether the student is advised to continue in the Ph.D. program.

Qualifying Examination Students take the qualifying examination in the summer, after one year of study. By that time, students will have completed courses in Microeconomic Theory (ECN 601 , ECN 611 ) and Macroeconomic Theory (ECN 613 , ECN 614 ) and Econometrics (ECN 620 , ECN 621 , ECN 622 ). An average grade of B or better in these courses is normally required to take the qualifying examination, although the graduate studies committee can make exceptions for unusual cases. Students who do not pass the qualifying examinations may retake the examination later that same summer.

Field Examinations

Normally, students take a comprehensive examination in their primary field in the summer after their second year of study. The fields (primary and secondary) may be fulfilled through coursework 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 course 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. 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. If the student receives an average grade of B+ or better in the coursework for the second field, the requirements for the second field are complete. Students without a B+ average in the coursework will take a comprehensive examination in the second field or follow some other approved remedial action.

Separate arrangements for examination are made when a student takes a field in economic theory.


Our program is designed so that students begin planning dissertations during their third year (or earlier) and finish them during their fifth year. Students are also required to write an acceptable dissertation containing a contribution to knowledge, conforming to professional standards of evidence and argument, and presented in clear and correct language. After completion, the dissertation must be successfully defended in an oral examination. Students must provide all members of the guidance committee a complete draft of their dissertation no later than one month before the scheduled date of the oral examination.

Dissertation Workshops 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.

Satisfactory Progress

Only students making satisfactory progress are eligible for departmental support. A student is making satisfactory progress as of the beginning of the second year if he or she has

  • passed all first year core courses;
  • maintained a cumulative average of 3.0 or better;
  • earned a grade point average of 3.0 or better in ECN 613  and ECN 614 ; and
  • passed both the econometric and microeconomic qualifying examinations

A student is making satisfactory progress at the beginning of the third year if he or she has

  • passed all second year core courses;
  • maintained a cumulative average of 3.0 or better; and
  • passed his or her preliminary field comprehensive examination

A student is making satisfactory progress at the beginning of the fourth year if he or she has

  • maintained a cumulative average of 3.0 or better; and
  • completed his or her secondary field requirements

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