Graduate Requirements

PhD Requirements


Summer Before the First Year (August)

  • Mathematics Review and Statistics Review

Year 1

Core Courses: 

  • Fall Semester/Spring Semester
  • 501 Macro I /502 Macro ll
  • 503 Micro l /504 Micro ll
  • 511 Quantitative Methods l 
  • 5161 Applied Econometrics /512 Quantitative Methods ll

Year 2

  • Preliminary exams in late August, retake preliminary exams (if necessary) in January
  • Field courses
  • Research paper proposal 

Year 3

  • Complete research paper
  • Field courses
  • Dissertation proposal 

Year 4

  • Work on dissertation
  • Prepare and present job market paper

Year 5

  • Enter the job market
  • Finish and defend the dissertation

Year 6

It is our expectation that the typical student will finish the PhD in five years. In some cases, a sixth year of study may be necessary, but at this stage the onus is on the student and the student's dissertation supervisor to convince the Director of Graduate Studies that the student remains in good academic standing. Students who are not in good academic standing will not receive financial aid. 


A Economics requires a minimum of 30 credit hours in 500-level courses with a 3.0-grade point average with not more than 33 units of readings (597) and research (598) and workshops (5991, 5992, 5993, 5994, 5995, 5996, 5997, 5998).

Students may transfer up to 24 units of graduate work completed elsewhere but are advised to make such a transfer only after consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies.

The credit hours must include:

  1. Microeconomic Theory and Macroeconomic Theory: 12 hours (501, 502, 503, 504);
  2. Quantitative methods and econometrics: 9 hours (511, 512, 5161).

Students should always consult with the Director of Graduate Studies concerning questions about their course work, particularly courses the student wishes to register for which may lie outside a normal curriculum for an economics graduate student.  Prior to registration for the fall of the second year in the program, each student must have their second-year program of courses approved by the Graduate Curriculum Committee.  

Decisions for First Year Students

We expect students entering the program to have at least two (or more) semesters of calculus (equivalent to Math 131 and Math 132 at Washington University), a semester of matrix or applied linear algebra (equivalent to Math 309 ), and a semester of statistics. Even students with this background must take the math review course in August. This is not a remedial calculus review. Rather it is designed to introduce students to topics in mathematics (including linear algebra, basic topology, and constrained maximization) that they are unlikely to have had in even three or more semesters of college mathematics.

Course decisions for first-year students are:

  • Whether to ask to be excused from Econ 511 and/or Econ 512 and which math courses to take instead. A few students may have had sufficient previous course work in mathematics or statistics to warrant not taking one or both quantitative methods courses. They may request a written waiver from the instructor of the corresponding course to be submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies and take a math course instead.
  • Whether to take a fourth course in the Spring semester and, if so, which one. Even students who do not intend to do advanced work in theory or econometrics may benefit from a linear algebra course, say, Math 429 in addition to Econ 511.

Preliminary Exams

Preliminary Exams

In order to continue the PhD program beyond the second year, students must demonstrate that they have achieved competence in the three core areas of study: microeconomics (Econ 503-504), macroeconomics (Econ 501-502), and econometrics (Econ 5161-512).

Students can demonstrate competence in the following ways:

  1. By achieving course grades of A– or better in both semesters in a particular area, the student has demonstrated competence in that area.
  2. By obtaining a grade of "PhD Pass" on the written preliminary examination (hereafter, prelim) in an area, the student has demonstrated competence in that area.

The written prelims are held in August at the start of the student's second year. Dates for the prelims will be announced well in advance by the graduate secretary. Students will be informed before October whether they have demonstrated competency in all three areas of study. If, at that time, a student has not demonstrated competency in an area, the student may take a second prelim in that area. The second prelims will be held in January of the second year.

In extraordinary circumstances, an appeals process can be initiated, but only by a tenured faculty member. In such cases, the decision on the appeal will be made by the entire faculty. Students will be notified of the outcome of any appeal before the end of the spring semester of the second year.

A grade of "AM Pass" is also obtainable on the prelim. A grade of AM Pass in an area does not count as a demonstration of competence in that area, as required for admission beyond the second year of the PhD program. But students who obtain a grade of AM Pass in all three areas will receive a master's degree if they also complete the other master's degree requirements.

Prelims for recent years are available from the graduate program administrator.

Paper, Presentation, and Teaching Requirements

Research Paper

The research paper is intended as a stepping stone to the dissertation – a stage in the student’s transition from consumption of economics to production. The goal is to write a paper in the style of published work in economics, that will ultimately serve as part of the student’s PhD dissertation, and be publishable in an economics journal. Research paper projects will proceed as follows:

  1. By March 31 of the second year, the student must register with a faculty member, who is willing to act as main advisor for the second year paper.
  2. By September 15 of the third year, the student must submit a completed research paper which will be sent to the Director of Graduate Studies and to each of the advisors listed in your form submission.

NOTE: It is the student's responsibility to make regular progress reports to the student's advisor. The advisor will determine (in consultation with the student) the appropriate deadline for the second year paper.

Oral Presentation Requirement

The Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences requires students to have given a minimum of four public oral presentations of their work, not counting the dissertation proposal and final defense.

Teaching Requirement

Because the majority of our graduates will teach at the university level, and high-quality teaching ability helps on the job market, we require extensive training, specified as follows.

  1. Professional Development – Teaching (MTE)
    1. In general, graduate students must complete 6 semester-long Mentored Teaching Experiences (MTEs), and this generally occurs over years 2, 3 and 4.  Acceptable MTEs include – but are not limited to – serving as an Assistant in Instruction for a class, providing research assistance to a faculty member, or teaching independently (e.g., Econ 493, Econ 494).
    2. If the department or another part of the university requires or authorizes the student to take part in another educational experience as part of her/his studies, then the DGS can reduce the number of required MTEs accordingly.  Every student must have at least two successful MTEs.
    3. The MTE teaching requirement is a condition of graduation with a PhD.  Sanctions, such as academic probation, may be imposed if the MTEs are not completed in a timely and effective manner.
    4. PhD students who entered in the Class of 2015 or earlier: semesters with Assistant in Instruction or Research Assistant duties will be counted as successful MTEs.
  2. Professional Development - Speaking and Presentation skills
    1. With rare exceptions, all students who submitted the TOEFL (or IELTS) as part of the PhD application will complete an "Instructional Readiness Assessment") in the spring of the first year.  English Language Programs course recommendations may result from these exams, and students must complete these courses as early as possible.
    2. All students whose native language is not English – regardless of whether the TOEFL was taken – must complete U15 ELP 170 “Presentation Skills for the Humanities and Social Sciences,” ideally by the end of the second year of study.  Tuition is free only for students early in their graduate work.
    3. Students whose native language is not English are encouraged to explore other course options in the English Language Programs (ELP) department:
    4. All students should explore teaching, presentation, and writing workshops presented by the Teaching Center.  This is particularly true for students ineligible for ELP coursework.  The Teaching Center offers several programs through which students can receive formalized training in teaching pedagogy:
  3. The professional development component of the teaching requirement will consist of “Mentored Teaching Experiences” (MTE’s). Students will be allocated slots according to class enrollments, abilities, interest, and other related criteria.
  4. The professional development component of the teaching requirement is met by 6 successful mentored teaching experiences. Usually, without a special dispensation from the DGS, students will have one in each term of the second, third and fourth year.
  5. If the department or another part of the university requires or authorizes the student taking part in another educational experience as part of her/his studies, then the DGS can reduce the number of required “Mentored Teaching Experiences” accordingly.  Every student must have at least two successful “Mentored Teaching Experiences.”
  6. The DGS shall reduce the number of required monitored teaching experiences for students registered before FL 2015.  The reduction should be the number of terms the student spent as an Assistant in Instruction or Research Assistant. Recipients of McDonnell and Olin fellowships, who fulfilled their mentored teaching obligation, will be exempt from further teaching duties as well.
  7. The academic coordinator is in charge of coordination of the MTE’s.  The coordinator will send out e-mail messages closer to the beginning of the semester detailing the duties of each student (as in the past).  If a student receives such an e-mail and believes that they are exempt from an MTE that term, the student must contact the DGS and academic coordinator to inform them immediately.  Otherwise, the department will assume that the student is fine with the assignment, and performing the MTE well will be part of the student’s duties.
  8. Students must complete the teaching requirement to graduate with a PhD. Sanctions may be imposed if it is not completed in a timely and effective manner.

Dissertation Proposal

  • The dissertation proposal must be passed before the end of the third academic year.
  • There are two parts to the dissertation proposal: (i) the written proposal; (ii) the oral presentation.
  • Before submitting the written dissertation proposal, the student must select a three-person Research Advisory Committee, consisting of three tenure-track or tenured faculty members in the Department of Economics. The student must choose one member of this committee to serve as Dissertation Chair. The Dissertation Chair will have primary responsibility for supervising the student’s dissertation. Each person on the Research Advisory Committee must agree to serve on the committee.
  • When the Research Advisory Committee is chosen, the student submits to the committee a written dissertation proposal, which consists of two parts. The first part should follow the instructions for the “Title, Scope, and Procedure Form” from the Doctoral Dissertation Guide. The second part should include what the student has written to date, along with a summary of planned work on the dissertation. A typical economics dissertation consists of three essays, which are self-contained papers that will ultimately be submitted to economics journals for publication. There are no hard-and-fast rules though, and the exact format for the dissertation is a matter to be negotiated by the student with the Research Advisory Committee prior to the proposal and during the oral portion of the proposal. For the written proposal, the student may want to include a completed research paper, along with other work in progress. A plan, with as much detail as possible, should be included for each proposed chapter of the dissertation.
  • When the Research Advisory Committee receives the written dissertation proposal, the Committee and the student must agree on a date for the Oral Proposal. Once they have agreed, this information must be communicated to the Graduate Secretary at least two weeks prior to the proposal date.
  • The Oral Proposal is open to all faculty and students. The Oral Proposal represents an opportunity for the student and the Research Advisory Committee to agree to a contract regarding what will constitute an acceptable dissertation. A majority of the Research Advisory Committee must agree for the Proposal to pass. It is possible for the Committee to request a revision of the written proposal before agreeing to pass it, or to request another oral presentation. 

OFFICE OF GRADUATE STUDIEs' Title, Scope, and Procedure (PDF)




During the Dissertation phase of the program, the student’s three-person Research Advisory Committee is of critical importance, in particular the Dissertation Chair. Students should start considering which faculty members would be preferred members of their Research Advisory Committee as early as the first year of the program. The research paper phase of the program represents an opportunity to begin forming a committee, as a three-person committee is required to supervise the research paper. Typically, a student’s research paper committee will continue as the Research Advisory Committee.

Students who are having difficulty choosing a committee, or who are dissatisfied with their committee, should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Student Counseling

Student Counseling Service provides counseling services for graduate students. The office is located in Karl Umrath Hall, Room 216, extension 5-5980.

Health and Wellness

For issues involving medical and health care and mental health, consult the Habif Health and Wellness Center, 6643 Shepley Dr., 314-935-6666.

Academic Probation and Dismissal

The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) may put a student on academic probation for the reasons listed below.  If the transgression is severe or if the student does not correct his/her behavior, the DGS may remove the student from the program with the consent of the chairman or - in his absence - his deputy or acting deputy.  The student cannot be removed from the program if the DGS and the chair (or the deputy chair) disagree. 

The procedures and regulations of the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts and Sciences (GSAS) supersede the regulations of the Economics department.  Therefore, no part of this document can be used as a justification for an exception to the regulations of the GSAS. 

  1. Absent permission from the DGS, students are required to take the core courses in the first year. 
  2. The student has to submit a thesis proposal and form a dissertation committee by the end of the third year of graduate school.
  3. Absent permission from the DGS, students are required to attend seminars and reading groups in their field of research, even after they finished their coursework.
  4. Departmental regulations require students to submit proposals and research papers at various stages of the program.  When the department sees a need to change these requirements, it will notify the students by email and give them enough time to prepare for the changes.
  5. The student has to become familiar with the cultural expectations regarding contact with undergraduate and graduate students, and faculty as well.
  6. The student is required to participate in all the classes and seminars the department deems necessary for his/her training as an Assistant in Instruction and future teacher.
  7. As Assistant in Instruction or Research Assistant, the student has to coordinate with his/her faculty member to benefit from the learning experience of all aspects of the teaching process.
  8. When working on his/her thesis, the student has to report to his/her main advisor on a regular basis, at minimum once a month.  It is the duty of the student to contact his/her advisor.
  9. With the consent of his/her main advisor, the DGS may put a student on academic probation or remove him/her from the program for a lack of effort in pursuing his/her thesis.  Removal of the student is only possible with the consent of the chairman or - in his absence - his deputy or acting deputy.  The student cannot be removed from the program if the DGS and the chair (or the deputy chair) disagree.

AM without Thesis Requirements for PhD Program

For PhD students, the Master of Arts (AM) degree in Economics can be awarded prior to receiving the PhD degree. Students are encouraged to file for the Master of Arts (AM) degree as soon as they have fulfilled all the requirements, as this may affect compensation for teaching for University College or in summer school.

Course Work

The Master of Arts (AM) degree in Economics requires 30 hours of graduate work (500-level courses) in economics or other approved courses with at least 18 hours of 500-level courses in Economics including Macroeconomics I (501), Macroeconomics II (502), Microeconomics I (503), Microeconomics II (504), Quantitative Methods in Economics I (511), Quantitative Methods in Economics II (512), and Applied Econometrics (5161). The student must attain a grade point average of at least 3.0.