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Program Structure

Our graduate program curriculum is structured to give students a well-rounded foundation of knowledge in the first year, the flexibility to create a personalized course path through the second year, and the opportunity to begin research and collaborating with faculty before and during the third year.

In the first year, all students take core courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics, as well as supplemental mathematics courses starting in an intensive three-week summer session. Students must pass a qualifying exam at the end of the first year to continue in the PhD program.

Second year students begin taking advanced courses, which include three core classes, one methods class, and three additional advanced courses. Most students take three of the seven required advanced courses each semester of their second year and one course in their third year. Students work with an advisor to choose which classes best fit their professional goals, as well as a guidance committee to help them begin their individual research.

While our course selection changes from year to year, we have structured the program so that we can offer at least one course in all of our primary fields each year:

  • Microeconomic Theory
  • Macroeconomics
  • Development Economics
  • Econometrics, Cross-Section
  • Econometrics, Time Series
  • Environmental and Resource Economics
  • Industrial Organization
  • International Trade
  • Labor Economics
  • Public Economics

In recent years, we have also offered courses in the Economics of Education and Health Economics.  Please see Michigan State’s schedule of courses for a complete and up-to-date course offering.

During years three through five, students complete the research necessary for their dissertation, ideally comprised of publishable papers.  We include several milestones during these years, including a paper presentation in year three and dissertation proposal presentation in year four, to aid students in their progress. Due to our focus on beginning research in the second year, many of our students are able to finish the program in five years.

To further tailor our program to the individual interests of our students and make use of the broader MSU community, our department allows for dual major PhDs.  In recent years, students have pursued dual major PhDs with the Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics Department, the Environmental Science and Policy Program, and the Department of Finance.  The Director of Graduate Studies can provide further information about such opportunities.

To see the complete set of program rules, please see our Graduate Handbook.

To see the research interests and projects of current faculty, visit the department’s faculty page.
Michigan State University Department of Economics