This page outlines the course of study and grade requirements for the program.
Requirements for the Degree
The General Examination
Normal Progress and Failure
Conditions for Leaving the Program
Timing of Examinations
Third Year Research Paper
Choice of Advisor Requirement
Progress Toward the Ph.D. Dissertation
Preparation for the Ph.D. Dissertation
Seminars and Workshops
Requirements for Post-Generals Students
Normal Course Load and Grading
Requirements for the Degree Back to Top
There are two sets of requirements for the Ph.D. degree candidate. The Graduate School Requirements consist of: one year in residence, passing the General Examination, submitting an acceptable dissertation, and successfully defending it in a Final Public Oral Exam. The Department has a mathematics requirement: a basic knowledge of mathematics must be exhibited through a written examination. All entering students who did not take and pass the examination given over the summer and in September are urged to take S500. A second examination will be given at the end of the fall semester.
The General Examination
The General Examination consists of three parts:
- First year students are required to take Econ 501 and 502 (micro), Econ 503 and 504 (macro) and Econ 517 and 518 (econometrics). Exams for 501, 503 and 517 are offered in January. They are in May for 502, 504 and 518. The students must pass (C- or better) all six exams and the average number of the numerical grades must average a grade of 2.5 where numerical grades are assigned as follows:
Make-up exams will be offered before the beginning of the Fall semester of the second year.
- In the second year, students are required to take field examinations. Each field examination will be associated with a number (in most cases 2) of courses. In addition to field examinations, a student must take and pass (C- or better) 6 courses and achieve a GPA of 2.5. Up to two of the six courses can be taken outside the Department. Each general is written and graded by at least two faculty members. All aspects of the course evaluation are left to the discretion of the instructor.
Normal Progress and Failure Back to Top
Our program is designed to take five years. This requires that the General Examination be completed in a timely manner. To pass generals, a student must receive an average grade of 2.5 or better in six courses beyond the core as well as pass two field examinations with a B- or better.
Students normally complete the first-year courses by the end of their first year, the full General Examination by the end of their second year, and the research paper after the fall break of their third year. Passing of at least four of the first-year courses by the end of May of the first year, and all first-year courses by October of the second year is normally considered a necessary condition for continuation in the program. A student who does not complete the General Examination by the end of the second year (May) is required to obtain written permission from the Director of Graduate Studies.
To prevent a second failure of the General Examination and, hence, automatic termination of the Ph.D. degree candidacy, the general exams must be completed by May of the third year. Also, if the General Examination requirement is not completed by February 1 of the third year, then in order to continue in the program, the student must present evidence to the Director of Graduate Studies that thesis work is progressing in a satisfactory manner.
As noted above, students are expected to complete the program in five years. Students who are unable to do so cannot expect to receive support from the University.
A student will be asked to leave the program if he or she fails to pass generals in a timely manner. Students are expected to take two field (general) examinations and compete six courses beyond the core in their second year. Students who do not pass the field exams or the post-core courses in their second year are expected to re-take the necessary exam(s) and courses as soon as is practical. Students may take no more than four field (general) examinations in total, may take any single examination at most twice, and may sit for at most two examinations in any exam period.
A student who is asked to leave the program will be granted a Master’s Degree if he or she has passed the core courses with an average of 2.5 or better and has passed two field (general) examinations or six courses beyond the core with any passing grade.
Timing of Examinations Back to Top
Course examinations are offered in the examination period following the semester in which they are taught. Make-up exams are offered in September. Field (general) exams are also offered in either October or January, but not both. The determination of which fields are offered in October and which in January will be made by the Director of Graduate Studies, taking into account the expressed preferences of students who have failed to complete their General Examination by the previous May.
Students normally take each examination only once, although they are allowed to repeat examinations. But no field examination may be taken more than twice.
Timing: The paper should be written over the summer after the second year and the beginning of the third year. Students are required to turn in a first draft to their advisors on the first day of classes in the fall, and submit a final paper on the Monday after fall break.
Advising: Each student is responsible for finding his or her own advisor—presumably someone from a field in which the student has done well on a general exam. Students who have trouble finding an advisor can ask the DGS for help in finding someone. Students should talk to their advisor in May, to identify a topic. They are expected to work on their projects in a fairly independent manner over the summer. Students who are working as RAs for faculty over the summer may naturally want their paper to be related to their summer work.
Grading (mechanics): Each paper will have a first reader (the advisor) and a second reader. Each first reader will be asked to second-read one paper. The final grade will be an average of the two, with the second reader given more weight in the event of a tie (e.g. an A from the first reader and a B from the second reader would be given a grade of B+; an A from the first reader and an A- from the second reader would get an A-).
Grading (standards): Grades of B or better will go to papers that are good enough to be included as a third chapter in a thesis, i.e., they should be of publishable quality. Papers in the B range will include relatively minor extensions of existing papers, or replications of previous papers using new data and/or methods. Papers that receive grades in the A range are expected to be more innovative, and make a substantive contribution to the topic. Literature reviews are not acceptable.
Progression to the 4th Year: The paper is not part of the general exam. However, students are required to get a grade of B or better on the paper to progress to the 4th year. Students who get less than a B the first time will be given an opportunity to revise the paper, or to find a new advisor and write another paper. However, in either case, the deadline will be no later than the end of the third year.
Special cases: The DGS may extend the deadline for the paper for students who have failed one or more general exams. However, in no case will the paper deadline be extended past the end of the third year.
Presentations: Although this is optional, it would be great if third-year students presented their papers in one of the informal faculty-student research seminars.
Guidelines for the Paper: The third year paper will normally not be more than twenty pages in length. Although it is not necessary that it be a publishable piece in either form or substance, it must be well-crafted and display an element of originality, or provide a synthesis. What follows are some examples of what we have in mind. They are not intended to be exhaustive.
- A paper which poses a good research question and explains the methods, model, and data that will be used to address the question. (This might form the basis of a proposal to obtain funds for dissertation work.)
- A paper which replicates, or attempts to replicate, an existing empirical result. It should contain some details and try to account for differences in findings.
- A synthesis of several papers in the literature, which explains relationships in a critical manner.
- A paper which is suitable for publication in a journal as an article, note or comment.
Students are encouraged to be creative and should not be confined by the boundaries of a course. We expect that many papers will be started during the second year. Work completed prior to enrollment in graduate study at Princeton will not usually be eligible. Finally, papers are expected to be well crafted. This means that spelling, writing style, the preparation of data, organization, mathematics, etc. must be at a professional level.
Choice of Advisor Requirement Back to Top
Students who have passed the General Examination should approach a faculty member to determine whether that faculty member wishes to serve as chairman of the student's dissertation committee. The Director of Graduate Studies can make suggestions on whom to approach.
Students are required to choose an advisor before the end of their fifth semester of study in the program. The advisor must agree to supervise the student’s research for (at least) the remainder of that year. Though this initial advisor does not necessarily become the chairman of the student's dissertation committee, students are required to have an advisor who agrees to chair the committee by the beginning of the seventh semester of study. This latter deadline is an outer limit, not a recommendation. Ideally students should find a dissertation committee chair during the third year.
No student will be recommended by the Department for admission for a seventh semester of study unless the department is satisfied that they have made adequate progress during the third year of residence.
Preparation for the Ph.D. Dissertation Back to Top
Perhaps the most difficult part of a graduate education is the selection of a thesis topic and the writing of the thesis. Since the University can offer a student financial aid for only a limited number of years, delays in thesis writing may be extremely costly to the graduate student who may be forced to accept employment before substantially completing the thesis. Being employed may slow thesis work even more. Moreover, the evaluation of a student by prospective employers is heavily influenced by the student's ability to complete a good dissertation within a reasonable period.
The complete dissertation should be presented to the principal thesis advisor one month before the advisor is required to hand a readers' report to the graduate administrator. The date and time for the final public oral examination should be chosen at least four weeks in advance, and all paperwork submitted to the graduate administrator with adequate time to prepare for the Graduate School deadline (two weeks before the defense date).
Seminars and Workshops Back to Top
The Department has several seminars that meet throughout the academic year. Research papers are presented by visiting scholars, by Department faculty and by graduate students. Seminar attendance is an integral part of the Ph.D. program. In seminars, students learn about current research in their areas of interest, and become acquainted with the scholars doing research in their specialties. Students also learn how to present research results.
Ph.D. candidates who have completed the General Examination are expected to attend regularly at least one or more seminars in subjects in which they wish to specialize or are interested, and they are expected to present their dissertation research in seminars before completing the Ph.D. All fifth year and beyond students normally make a research presentation in the fall semester. The student and the advisor determine together what forum(s) are best suited for the particular research. Pre-generals students are also urged to attend research seminars.
Post-generals students must enroll in (at least) one of the graduate research seminars. Faculty in charge of the seminar will be responsible for awarding a P/F grade to each such enrolled student at the end of the academic year according to criteria deemed by them to be appropriate for that field. The student’s adviser may be consulted before the grade is awarded. A passing grade will be required for enrolled students to be readmitted and for students to be recommended for the non–enrolled status of DCC (degree candidacy continuing).
Normal Course Load and Grading Back to Top
There are two grading options: (1) regular grades (A, B, C, D, F); (2) audit. Some courses may provide only one of these options. The requirements for "audit" are set by the instructor (i.e., in order that the Registrar record an "audit" for the course, the instructor may require students to complete certain work). Students may drop courses or change from one grading option to another in any course until the date set by the Registrar’s office for the availability of SCORE.
As a normal part of graduate training, students are required to serve as Assistants in Instruction during their third, fourth and fifth years, teaching class sections or grading papers for either graduate or undergraduate courses. Experience gained in being an AI is very valuable for those seeking academic jobs. AI's are remunerated by the University.
The Graduate School awards fellowships to all entering Ph.D. students in economics except those who have an external source of funding. In subsequent years, new fellowships are awarded at the same level or fellowship levels are increased to account for the cost of living. Fellowship awards, research appointments, summer support, and occasional other grant awards are conditional on satisfactory progress and on being readmitted as a student for the year in question. All students on Graduate School Fellowships will be required to serve as AI's in each semester of their third, fourth and fifth years.
All students who deem their fellowship support inadequate are urged to apply for outside fellowships.
A student may appear on the placement list at most two times. A student may appear for a second time only if (1) he or she did not accept a tenure track/permanent position after the first appearance and (2) he or she was on the (November 1 version of the) placement list no more than two years earlier.