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PhD Program


The main requirements for the doctoral degree in economics at Michigan State University include:

  1. A comprehensive examinations in Economics and Economic Methods.
  2. A comprehensive examination in a field of specialization.
  3. Competence in mathematical methods and statistics and at least two courses in econometrics.
  4. A course in history of thought or economic history.
  5. A substantial research paper completed by the end of the student's third year.
  6. A public defense of a dissertation proposal.
  7. The doctoral dissertation.

There are complete, detailed rules available for the Doctoral program. An exceptionally well-prepared student may complete the program in four years. Most students take five to six years from their date of entry to complete the requirements.

Typically the first year is taken up with establishing a firm foundation in quantitative methods -- mathematics, statistics, and basic econometrics -- and in micro- and macroeconomic theory. The comprehensive exam in Economics and Economic Methods is taken at the end of the first year.

During the second year the student completes most remaining coursework. This includes fields of specialization and history of economic thought or economic history. A comprehensive exam is taken before the third year in a field of specialization.

As the student moves into the third year, he or she should be making the transition from classroom student to researcher. A substantial research paper begun during the second year is completed during the third year and presented at a departmentally-sponsored conference during the spring semester of the third year. At this time the student should also be forming a dissertation committee of faculty advisors and developing a dissertation proposal.

The fourth year is devoted to defending a dissertation proposal, continued work on the dissertation, and finding a job for the following year. The primary job market in the economics profession operates from January through March for jobs starting the following September. Thus it is crucial to have the dissertation in a presentable state eight months before you expect to begin employment.

The current complete set of program rules is available online or in pdf format.

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The First Year Courses

Mathematical Methods, I (EC 811A). Applications of mathematical tools in economic analysis for PhD students. Matrix algebra, derivatives, partial derivatives, optimization, integration and linear differential equations. This course is taught in conjunction with EC812A.

Microeconomic Theory, I (EC 812A). Consumption theory, including choice under uncertainty. Theory of production in perfectly competitive markets. General equilibrium in the presence of perfect competition. Efficiency properties of competitive equilibria.

Macroeconomic Theory, I (EC 813A). Static and dynamic macroeconomic models. Search asset pricing, new classical theories of business cycles and growth. Rational expectations and the government budget constraint.

Econometrics, I (EC 820A). Statistical tools for econometrics. Applications of statistical tools, including probability distributions, estimation, hypothesis testing, and maximum likelihood to econometric problems.

Mathematical Methods, II (EC 811B). Static and dynamic decision models in economics. Concepts of equilibrium, stability, comparative statics and duality. This course is taught in conjunction with EC813B.

Microeconomic Theory, II (EC 812B). Introduction to social choice. Market failure, including externalities, public goods, imperfect information and market power.

Macroeconomic Theory, II (EC 813B). New classical theories of business cycles and growth. Theories of price and wage rigidities, search, imperfect competition, and credit rationing in macroeconomic models. Asset pricing.

Econometrics, II (EC 820B). The single equation regression model. Properties of least-squares estimators under various specifications. Multicollinearity, generalized least-squares, errors in variables, seemingly unrelated regressions. Identification and estimation in simultaneous equations models.

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Fields of Specialization (2nd year courses)

All departments vary in the strength of their specialized fields of study. Due to the relatively large size of our graduate faculty, MSU can pride itself on strength in a broad range of fields. We recommend that you show your advisor the descriptions in this brochure and the accompanying list of faculty and have him or her advise you on the strengths of Michigan State University in your fields of interest. In addition to the courses listed below, PhD offerings include an applied econometrics course, an economic history course, advanced econometrics courses, as well as occasional courses in special topics, such as Health Economics, Transition Economies, Law and Economics, or Urban Economics.

The fields that we offer regularly are:

Econometrics (EC821 and EC822) Econometrics is a traditional strength of the graduate program at Michigan State and a popular area of specialization. Following the introductory sequence is a full-year sequence that treats standard econometric topics with considerable rigor. The faculty is well known for its theoretical and applied work in both cross-sectional and time-series settings, and is an exceptional resource for faculty and graduate students doing applied work in all fields of economics. An econometrics workshop meets regularly throughout the academic year.

Advanced Macro (EC830 and EC831) Advanced Macro is a young and exciting field at Michigan State. The newly created field builds on the department’s strength in macro-economics and provides students with the skills to conduct research on the frontiers of theoretical and empirical macroeconomics. Faculty conduct research in many areas of the field. Macro and monetary papers are presented regularly in department workshops.

Public Economics (EC835 and EC836) The large faculty group in public economics encompasses a wide range of interests and approaches to research. Research is ongoing in economic theory, computational general equilibrium models, and econometrically-based empirical studies. Topical areas include traditional public finance topics as well as health economics, income distribution, the economics of education, environmental economics, and state-local public finance.

International Trade (EC840 and EC843) The program in international trade at MSU is designed to prepare students for a research career in the microeconomic aspects of international economics. The two-course sequence covers the theoretical underpinnings and empirical relevance of advantage, trade based on economies of scale, international labor mobility, multinational firms, governmental policies pertaining to international commerce, and an array of specialized topics.

International Finance and Open Economy Macro (EC841 and EC844) The program in international economics at MSU is well balanced between open economy macro and international finance. The coursework involves both theoretical models and also empirical evidence on the testing and modeling. Students have the opportunity to profit from the university's many programs of international research, education, and service, both in East Lansing and a number of overseas locations.

Economic Development (EC850 and EC851) The MSU Department of Economics has long been a leader in the study of economic development, which concerns the study of low-income economies and their transformation over time. The faculty has broad experience in the analyzing the behavior of households and firms as key intermediaries in the development process. Faculty research encompasses areas which impact on poverty in developing economies: human resource investments and their impacts, labor markets, small-scale and micro enterprises, evaluation of local public and private sector programs and policies, and evaluation of local institutions. Faculty have been active in all regions of the developing world: Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Industrial Organization (EC860 and EC861) Industrial organization is the study of firms and firm behavior. The courses in the field examine how these firms perform and when markets should be regulated. The theoretical component covers basic and advanced (game theoretic) models of firm organization and competition in oligopolistic markets. The empirical component focuses on using game theoretic tools and econometrics to estimate equilibrium configurations.

Labor Economics (EC880 and EC881) Labor economics is a field of applied microeconomics that combines economic theory and econometrics to address central issues in labor market policy. Michigan State's labor economics faculty have a strong record of research on a wide range of issues, including, poverty, unemployment, workplace injuries, program evaluation, and the implications of social insurance programs for economic performance. Michigan State's economics PhDs specializing in labor economics have gone on to successful careers in academe, government, research institutes, consulting firms, and the private sector.

Advanced Economic Theory (EC911 and EC912) These more intensive treatments of topics at the frontiers of microeconomic theory are available for those who wish to specialize in theory or to emphasize theoretical research in an applied field. The courses are conducted by faculty who are active researchers in the areas they teach.

Environmental and Resource Economics (AEC925 and AEC923) A field in environmental and resource economics allows a PhD candidate to develop expertise in the application of economics to problems of environmental and natural resource use and policy. Boundaries of the field are sufficiently flexible to enable the student to achieve depth in theory, analytical techniques or subject matter. In completing the requirements of the field, a student is expected to acquire an understanding of the historical and institutional components of environmental and resource economics, a working knowledge of contemporary natural resource and environmental policy, and an expertise in the elements of economic theory that are particularly relevant to natural resource and environmental issues.

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Job Placement

Graduates of the Department of Economics at Michigan State University hold positions at many leading universities and numerous government agencies and research institutions, both within the United States and around the world. MSU economics Ph.D.'s currently hold faculty appointments at many state universities including Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Virginia, Wisconsin (both Madison and Milwaukee), and Washington State, as well as other prestigious public and private universities such as Cornell, Clark, Drexel, Marquette, Miami (Ohio), The Naval Postgraduate School, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Temple, Trinity, and Tulane. Michigan State graduates also hold positions at such agencies as the Federal Reserve Banks of Cleveland and Kansas City, the U.S. Public Service Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. Placement of new MSU Ph.D.s continues to be strong, with most graduates taking academic positions emphasizing both teaching and research. A sample of placements since 1996 includes faculty appointments at Arizona, Arizona State University, the University of Colorado (Denver), Hawaii, Kansas State, the University of Missouri, Northern Illinois University, University of North Texas, Southern Illinois University, Vanderbilt University, and Wayne State University. Nonacademic appointments include the Federal Reserve Banks of St. Louis and Chicago, the Comptroller of the Currency, the U.S. General Accounting Office, and Data Resources Incorporated.

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Contact Information

For additional information contact:
Director of Graduate Programs
Department of Economics
Michigan State University
486 W. Circle Drive
110 Marshall-Adams Hall
East Lansing, Ml 48824-1038
Tel: 517.355.6579
E-mail: ecgrdsec@msu.edu

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Michigan State University Department of Economics