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Business Economics

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Questions about these requirements? See the contact info at the bottom of the page. 

Program of Study

Each candidate’s program of study will be developed in consultation with the chairs of the Programs and Admissions Committee. The normal program is outlined below.

The First Two Years


Regular guidance through contact with faculty advisors is an essential component of doctoral education. Students should maintain close contact with their official advisor(s) throughout their enrollment in the program. Students are encouraged to develop informal advising relationships with several faculty members in addition to their official advisor. 

First-year advisors provide assistance during the initial stages of the program, but do not necessarily advise the student throughout their studies. Students are matched with initial advisors based on their research interests. As students familiarize themselves with program faculty during coursework, research work, seminars/workshops, and other activities, they may change their official advisor(s) as their academic and research interests develop. 


  • Two one-term courses in microeconomic theory (Econ 2010 a, b) are required.
  • Two one-term course in macroeconomic theory (Econ 2010 c) is required.
  • Two one-term courses in graduate quantitative methods (Econ 2110 and 2120) or a more advanced course in econometrics are required.
  • Completion of the business history requirement. The business history requirement may be completed in several ways including the Business History Seminar, a pre-approved individual studies course, or a pre-approved MBA course.
  • Four one-term courses to satisfy the course requirement of the Special Field Exam, which occurs at the end of the student’s second year. See Special Field Exam for additional information.
  • Two one-term MBA Elective Curriculum courses.
  • Students enroll in a Research Preparatory course Econ 3000 in their third year and complete a research paper under the guidance of their faculty advisor. The paper must be complete and physically present in the student’s file in the department’s graduate office before the written field examination can be taken.
  • All courses should be completed with a grade of B or better.

Field Research Requirement 

The field research requirement provides students with the opportunity to engage in a field experience that will expose them to organizations and markets dealing with real-world challenges and help them advance their own research agenda. The doctoral programs office is committed to funding this opportunity and for providing assistance, if needed, in finding appropriate field research sites. As an example, a student whose research involves analysis of economic policy or financial markets could use this opportunity to visit the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to gain exposure to policymakers, applied economic research, data, and financial market activity. 

Faculty advisor(s) will be responsible for approving a submitted field research plan to ensure that it is in line with the student's research agenda. Students are expected to prepare a report and present their work according to a timeline established by the faculty advisor(s) and doctoral programs office. Further considerations are detailed on the doctoral programs intranet site.

Year Three and Beyond

Teaching Requirement

Students are required to complete a teaching engagement of one full academic term that includes at least 8 hours of front-of-class teaching experience and at least 16 hours of teaching preparation time.

Graduate Student Workshops 

Students are required to begin presenting in a Graduate Student Workshop during the spring term of the third year. Students continue to attend and present in at least one workshop each term. 

Thesis Proposal

By the end of their third year, students are required to present their research ideas to a committee composed of at least two faculty members, including representatives from HBS and FAS. The committee will provide feedback and decide if the student is making satisfactory progress toward the degree. Students will receive coordinated advice from faculty regarding their progress and be given detailed recommendations for future research plans, particularly with respect to possible job market paper and dissertation plans. If both faculty committee members are present for a student’s seminar presentation (e.g., the PhD Finance Lunch), this could fulfill the Research Progress Report requirement in terms of demonstrating a student’s research development, so long as the student schedules a meeting with each faculty committee member for coordinated feedback post-presentation.

The Dissertation

The student selects a faculty dissertation committee consisting of three members of the Harvard faculty, one of whom must be a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (and one must be from the Business School). Under the dissertation committee’s advisorship, the student will proceed to complete the dissertation research. The dissertation should demonstrate the candidate’s ability to perform original research that develops in a scholarly way and is a significant contribution to the knowledge and understanding in the chosen special field. For the student to meet the requirement, analysis and evaluation of relevant data must yield significant and independent conclusions.

Contact Info

Business Economics Website

Harvard Business School
Doctoral Programs Office

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