The First Two Years


The following required courses are completed during the first two years: Core macro and micro series Ec 2010a, 2010b, 2010c, 2010d; Quantitative Economics Ec 2120 and Ec 2140; and the distribution requirement.

The Written Field Examination

The written examination is taken in two areas of concentration. Students must take two approved courses for credit in order to satisfy the requirements for testing in a field. As such, a minimum of four courses needs to be taken for credit.

By mid-March of the second year, students will complete a “Field Exam” Form, which requires students to indicate their two fields and the four courses they completed in accordance to the requirement. The Director of Graduate Studies will sign off on the form to confirm the appropriateness of the courses and fields selected.

The Field Exam is completed in May of the students’ second academic year, (during the week following the spring term exams). Field exams can only be delayed after permission is granted by the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the student’s advisor. Extraordinary circumstances such as health related issues are also taken into consideration when determining timing.


Students are assigned a designated faculty advisor during their first and second year. In subsequent years, students may either remain with the first year advisor or choose an advisor on their own. A formal advising committee, consisting of at least two faculty members must be assembled prior to the fall semester of the third year. Most students choose to have a member of their dissertation committee also serve as their advisor. This, however, is not required. Students choose the dissertation committee, which is responsible for conducting the dissertation defense and approving the dissertation. This committee typically consists of three faculty members, one of whom must be a senior faculty member. One of the faculty members on the dissertation committee may also serve as the student’s main advisor. 

Year Three and Forward

Students must register for Ec 3000 in their third year and complete a research paper under the guidance of their faculty advisor. Students have one year to complete the paper and he/she must submit to the Graduate Office with the signature of at least two faculty members. The Ec 3000 paper can be co-authored.

Time Limits

For the student to remain in good standing, the requirements enumerated to this point must be completed within the first three years.

Year Three Working Seminar

After passing the written examination, students must enroll in a working seminar or participate in an informal lunchtime seminar group. Students in their third year and above must present in a working seminar (or informal lunchtime seminar) each term.

Dissertation Committee and Research Plan

Prior to the beginning of the spring semester of the third year, students must assemble a dissertation committee consisting of at least two faculty members, and must complete a preliminary research plan of, at most, five pages, which is signed by the dissertation committee by the beginning of the fourth year.

After Year Three Working Seminars

Students must present a paper on results of the dissertation research to a working seminar. To accomplish this end, students must continue to enroll in a working seminar each term.

Time Limits

Students must complete the dissertation within three years of residency after passing the oral general examination or face a lapse of candidacy. Students are allowed one year of leave and may apply for an additional year of grace. Nevertheless, the dissertation must be completed within a maximum of five years after passing the written field examination.


The Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee typically consists of three faculty members, one of whom must be a senior faculty member. At least one additional committee member should be a member of the department. The third member can be from another department or from another university.

The Special Examination

The special examination is administered in conjunction with the dissertation defense. It is much like the defense, but the questions are not limited to the dissertation itself.

Time and Place of Defense and Special Examination

The date and time for the defense and special examination are determined by the student after consulting with the dissertation committee. The date should allow time for any revisions to be made to the dissertation before it is bound and submitted to the registrar.


Brenda Piquet
Assistant Director, PhD Programs
Department of Economics
Littauer Center 201
Cambridge, MA 02138