Frequently Asked Questions


 
1. What are the main admission requirements in the PhD program?
2. Can I take preparatory courses at the Masters level?
3. What is the time schedule of the PhD program?
4. Has the program received the STEM designation?
5. How many students are usually admitted into the program?
6. Do PhD students have their own office?
7. How can I choose my PhD advisor/committee?
8. What are usual teaching and research assignments?
9. Do PhD students publish their work at top-held journals?
10. What is “Students’ Job Placement?”
11. Can I concurrently complete an MS degree in Statistics at WSU?
12. Other useful information about WSU and Pullman.



1. What are the main admission requirements in the PhD program?

GPA score. The average GPA score into our Ph.D. program is above 3.4 (out of 4), but it varies depending on the coursework the applicant did in undergrad (for instance, we understand that your GPA can be lower than 3.4 if you took several math or Master-level courses).

MS degree. A Master degree is not required for acceptance. However, most of our recently accepted applicants had a Master degree in Economics, Agricultural Economics, Finance, Engineering, or related fields, before entering our program. A few students start the Ph.D. program right after finishing their undergraduate education, but in those cases, students have a strong GPA and took several courses in advanced Math in undergrad (such as completing a Math minor). Besides the overall GPA, we also look for a good performance in specific courses, such as Master’s Microeconomics, Master’s Macroeconomics, and Master’s Statistics/Econometrics. We also expect applicants to have taken at least two semesters of calculus, and Intermediate-level linear algebra or Mathematics for economists during their undergraduate or MS degrees.

GRE exam. We do not have a minimum GRE score. However, the average GRE score in the quantitative section (the most important section for our application process) is around the 75th percentile (157 points), but most funded students are above the 85th percentile (162 points). Most of our admitted students also perform relatively well in the analytical section of the GRE test, with scores above 3.5 (especially those receiving a funding offer from our School, who often score above 4.5). If you took your GRE test longer than 2 years ago, please contact us to check if you should include a more recent score in your application.

TOEFL exam. The minimum TOEFL score is 213 in the computer version (which corresponds to 550 in paper version and 80 in the internet version). Most students receiving a funding offer from our School score above 97 points in the TOEFL exam. In case you took the IELTS exam, the minimum IELTS score is 7. The TOELF/IELTS exams are waived to students graduating from universities where English is the language of instruction.

Unofficial transcripts. Applicants must submit transcripts from both their undergraduate and graduate-level courses, clearly reflecting the grade obtained in each course. However, transcripts submitted in your application can be unofficial. If admitted into our program, the WSU Graduate School may contact you asking official copies of all documents.

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2. Can I take preparatory courses at the Masters level?
Yes. Strong applicants who do not make it to the top of our pool (especially those without an MS degree but excellent applications) may be recommended admission into our PhD-bound program:

In this program, students are conditionally admitted into the PhD program, but take MS-level courses for one academic year. If they maintain good grades (a 3.5 GPA or higher), they can start taking PhD-level courses the following academic year. In most cases, students in this program receive a graduate assistantship when he/she starts taking PhD-level courses.

The student is not funded while taking MS-level courses (although we may be able to offer scholarships of around $4,000), he/she is often funded when taking PhD-level courses. This funding then continues for a total of 4 more years, conditional on good academic progress, and can be extended one more year depending on funding availability.

From our experience, this option helps students transition more smoothly from undergraduate-level to PhD-level courses and has been followed by some of our best PhD students. If you are interested in this option, please mention it in your PhD application materials.

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3. What is the schedule of the PhD program?

Summer Math Camp. We organize a summer math course, from July 22nd to August 14th (tentative dates). This course is free, voluntary, but highly recommended to all incoming PhD students. If you cannot attend to some, or all, classes, please contact the instructor so you can review the materials covered in the course and send your homework assignments via email. The material is probably familiar, but some of you may have covered it years ago. From previous years, we know that a good performance in this course can help you perform better in all PhD-level courses. Also, you will be tested about the content of this summer course with a short exam in EconS 506 (Mathematics for Economists) in the first few weeks of the Fall semester. You can visit the website of the last edition of the course, as a reference: https://www.joepatten.com/teaching/math_bootcamp_2019/syllabus

Graduate student orientation. We also organize a few days of orientation to all graduate students where we provide you additional information about our School, our PhD program, library services, computer labs for graduate students in Econ, social security application, etc. We will send you a tentative schedule of these orientation sessions over the summer.

First Year

Fall semester: All students must take Mathematics for Economists, Microeconomics I, Macroeconomics I, and Statistics for Economists. We don’t recommend you enrolling in elective courses during the first year (Fall or Spring) since the above courses are rather intense.

Spring semester: All students must then take Microeconomics II, Macroeconomics II, Econometrics I, and one credit of EconS 800 (Doctoral research with your advisor).

Summer semester: Around mid-June, students sit on comprehensive exams for three exams (Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Stat/Econometrics). If a student does not pass some or all these exams, he can take the exams he didn’t pass in mid-August. If a student hasn’t passed some of these three exams after the second try in August, he must leave the Ph.D. program. However, we can work with the student so he can transfer his course credits towards an MS degree in Applied Economics, completing it by December while we keep his funding in most cases. We must admit that most students admitted into the program, and especially those receiving a funding offer from our School, rarely fail comprehensive exams in August. On average, only 1-2 students leave the program out of an incoming class of around 20 students.

Second Year

All students must take Econometrics II (EconS 512) and any electives of their choice. You can find more information about the courses offered most academic years here: http://ses.wsu.edu/phdcourses/. Students must enroll in at least 10 credits per semester, which includes the possibility that you enroll in more than one credit on EconS 800 (Doctoral Research) with your advisor.

Second-year courses are mostly structured around writing research proposals and the first drafts of your papers, in small steps, so you can finish this academic year with at least 2-3 relatively completed papers.

Summer semester: Most students then use the summer between the second and third year to coordinate with their advisor about which papers have the most potential and work on further completing at least one of these papers. This time plan helps most students to have a chapter of their dissertation completed before the beginning of their third year, and one more chapter with a detailed description of their model and at least some preliminary results. This explains why many students can submit one of their papers to conferences at that point. (We support students’ presentations at conferences, either fully or partially depending on the conference venue, so all PhD students can present in at least 1-2 conferences per year, starting in their third year.) In some cases, and if your advisor agrees, you may consider submitting the paper for publication at top-field journals in your third year.

Third Year

Most students still take 1-2 courses (e.g., one per semester), focusing the rest of their time on their research papers.

In the Spring semester of the third year (around April) students are expected to defend their oral examination, which entails presenting the status of your research papers to all the faculty members in your PhD committee. In this presentation, students are expected to have a solid paper, another paper with several results and with perhaps a few extensions you are still planning to complete in a few months, and a research idea with very preliminary results.

Fourth Year

In the fourth year, most students start submitting job applications around November and defend their PhD thesis around April. We closely guide students through the job application process, from its early stages with their research papers to their decision of which universities to apply to, their CVs, practicing interviews with different faculty members, and research seminars. For a reference, visit: http://ses.wsu.edu/graduatestudies/phdprograms/jobmarketguide/.

Conditional on the students’ progress and funding availability, you may be considered for fifth-year funding, so you defend your thesis in April of your fifth year.

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Has the program received the STEM designation?

Yes, our PhD program received the STEM designation by U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. This gives international students the possibility to extend their Optional Practical Training (OPT) for up to two years before moving to a work visa (such as the H1-B).

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5. How many students are usually admitted into the program?

On average, our incoming class has around 18-23 students. Most of our students complete the program in 4 years, and a few students complete it in 5 years. Overall, we often have more than 80 students in our PhD program. You can learn more about the Economics Graduate Student Association, their activities, and resources here: http://ses.wsu.edu/graduatestudies/resources-for-students/sesgradstudentassociation/.
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6. Do PhD students have their own office?

PhD students are provided with an office, often shared with another PhD student in their incoming class, in the same building as the offices of our faculty members to promote interaction and collaboration. Most offices are alternated between faculty members and PhD students. You will be taking all your Economics courses in the same building (Hulbert Hall), and the computer lab reserved for Econ Graduate students is in this building too. The building also offers a lunch area and kitchen with a fridge and microwaves for graduate students.

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7. How can I choose my PhD advisor/committee?

The Graduate Studies Chair will be assigned as the graduate advisor of all incoming PhD students by default, but you can choose a different advisor given your research interests at any point of your PhD studies. You are welcome to do that from the second year of our PhD program once you start taking elective courses. When you are ready, you only need to contact the faculty member that you would like to work with, briefly explaining your research plans and asking him/her if they are open to being your advisors. Then see our Graduate Studies Coordinator, Jaimie Dahl, to complete the paperwork to change your advisor, add committee members, or change them. This paperwork is minimal and can be completed in a few minutes.

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8. What are the usual teaching and research assignments?

We seek to assign students as research assistants (RA) some semesters and as teaching assistants (TA) of a faculty member for other semesters, to give everyone a balanced training. Also, most students are assigned as TA of the same course for 1-2 semesters, and then they are offered to teach that course as lead instructors during the summer session (normally from early May to early June). Teaching this course is relatively straightforward after the student worked as the TA before, knowing the material and book well, and provides him with a teaching experience that most hiring institutions nowadays demand when hiring PhD economists. What are the usual teaching and research assignments? We seek to assign students as research assistants (RA) some semesters and as teaching assistants (TA) of a faculty member for other semesters, to give everyone a balanced training. In addition, most students are assigned as TA of the same course for 1-2 semesters, and then they are offered to teach that course as lead instructors during the summer session (normally from early May to early June). Teaching this course is relatively straightforward after the student worked as the TA before, knowing the material and book well, and provides him with a teaching experience that most hiring institutions nowadays demand when hiring PhD economists.

At this point, common assistantships (with a 20-hour per week work obligation) pay an estimated monthly stipend of $1,949. The stipend is provided for the nine-month academic year. Health insurance and most tuition costs are provided to you in addition to the stipend, resulting in a total award value of up to $46,396 depending on residency status. Also, students in good academic standing typically receive one additional month of pay for teaching and/or research assistance during the summer. Therefore, Ph.D. students with a 9-month assistantship plus one-month of summer pay receive a total stipend estimated at $19,490 per year. Please note that we plan to increase monthly stipends starting every year, conditional on funding availability.

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9. Do PhD students publish their work at top-held journals?

The collaboration between students and professors is close, our offices are often next to each other, and it is common for professors to coauthor papers with PhD students, which turn into journal publications. In the last years, coauthored papers with our students were published in journals such asScience Magazine, Economic Inquiry, BE Journal of Macroeconomics, Canadian Journal of Economics, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, and Economic Letters, among others. Also, the environment between students and professors is very collegial, and we meet once a week (normally after seminars) for drinks in a relaxed environment.

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10. What is “Students’ Job Placement?”

The job market placement of our recent PhD graduates has been extremely positive, including positions at the University of Arkansas, Penn State University, Yale University (Post-Doc), University of Connecticut, Purdue University, California State University, College of William and Mary, Cornell University (Post-Doc), Colorado State University, University of New Mexico, Illinois State University, University of Kentucky, Hamline University, University of Oklahoma, University of Georgia, and University of Nebraska; City University of Hong Kong, Renmin University, University of International Business and Economics, and Southwestern University of Finance and Economics (China); Higher School of Economics (Russia); at government agencies such as the US Department of Agriculture, Freddie Mac, the United Nations; and at firms such as JP Morgan-Chase, Amazon, BNP Paribas, Charles River and Associates, Amgen Corporation, FedEx, and American Express.

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11. Can I concurrently complete an MS degree in Statistics at WSU?

To further strengthen their quantitative training, some students simultaneously pursue a Master degree in Statistics (at least 2-3 students pursue this option every year).

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12. Other useful information about WSU and Pullman:

WSU Housing. WSU offers housing for students and their families on campus. Please check their website for more details on the apartments/houses available for rent: https://housing.wsu.edu/home/. You can also contact real estate companies for rentals as soon as possible. The average one-bedroom apartment was around $650/month in 2019. Pullman is extremely safe, all neighborhoods are just a few bus stops away from campus, and relatively inexpensive when compared to large cities in the region.

WSU Transportation. All students have access to the WSU Card (“Cougar” card) which gives you free rides in all public transportation. WSU also offers carpool services, zipcars, and rides home if you are studying on campus after your bus route stopped its daily service. You can find more information here: https://transportation.wsu.edu/transportation-options/.

Visa application. If you need a student visa, you will be contacted by the WSU Graduate School or the WSU International Programs office around late April. If you are not contacted, please don’t hesitate to email us to confirm the status of your I-20 documents. Once we receive your I-20, we will send it to you via FedEx, providing you with a tracking number. You can then schedule your interview at the US Embassy accordingly.

WSU and Pullman. WSU is a public research university with over 30,600 students in 2019, with its main campus located in Pullman, WA. Our airport connects with Seattle, WA, about 5-6 times every day, and we are about a one-hour drive from Spokane, with a much larger airport. Weather-wise, we have mild summers, with average temperatures in the low 80s (around 27 degrees Celsius) with cool nights, winters in the low 40s and high 30s (3 degrees Celsius) and little precipitation.

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