Welcome to the PhD Program

Please take a few minutes to view our welcome.  (It’s in PDF format)

Worksheet for PhD in Economics or Agricultural Economics (PDF)

PhD Programs in Economics and Agricultural Economics

The School of Economic Sciences offers two doctoral programs: the PhD in Economics and the PhD in Agricultural Economics.

  • The PhD in Economics is designed to prepare students for careers as professional economists in academia, government, and the private sector. The program is structured so that a student with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and an appointment as a graduate assistant should be able to complete the required coursework within three academic years, excluding summer sessions. Students with a Master of Science in Applied Economics degree may be able to complete the required coursework in less time, depending on the content and quality of previous work. The length of time required to complete the dissertation varies greatly but students usually complete the entire program, including the dissertation, within four years.
  • The PhD in Agricultural Economics is designed to provide the student with an excellent foundation in the theory and methods of economic analysis as well as experience in applied analysis of agricultural, agribusiness, and/or resource economics problems. Career opportunities for agricultural economists also include academia, government, and the private sector. Many academic positions (especially at land grant universities) include salary support for a combination of teaching, research, and/or outreach related to the food and fiber sectors and the natural resource base that supports them. The time required to complete the doctoral degree in agricultural economics is comparable to that required for the economics PhD.

We next list key features of our PhD programs:

  • The PhD programs enhance the marketability of graduates in all degrees by deepening their training in economic theory and econometrics. To further strengthen their quantitative training and with the consent of their advisory committee, students may simultaneously pursue an MS degree in Statistics.
  • The collaboration between students and professors is really 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 as American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Economic Inquiry, BE Journal of Macroeconomics, Canadian Journal of Economics, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, and Economic Letters, among others. In addition, the environment between students and professors is very collegial, and we meet once a week (normally after seminars) for drinks in a more relaxed environment.
  • We fund most of our PhD students (covering your tuition and a monthly stipend), with the remaining students being funded by government agencies or foundations from their home country.
  • 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, California State University, Cornell University (Post-Doc), University of New Mexico, Illinois State University, University of Kentucky, University of Oklahoma, University of Georgia, and University of Nebraska; at government agencies such as the US Department of Agriculture and the United Nations; and firms such as JP Morgan-Chase and American Express.

The PhD requires core courses in economic theory and econometrics, advanced topics courses in applied fields, and the completion of a dissertation. The first year, study in the doctoral program is tightly structured. During the first year, full-time students take four core theory courses, one core course in statistics for economists and one core econometrics course. Because the fall core courses offered in the first year are prerequisites for subsequent courses, students generally must begin the program in the fall semester. Additional core courses are taken in the second year. Field courses are taken in the second and (possibly) third years. Total requirements for the PhD degree include a minimum of 72 credits beyond the baccalaureate, including at least 39 credits of coursework from the core and field courses and 20 credits of doctoral research.

While an advisory committee tailors each student’s program to his or her interests, all programs are designed to meet the following requirements.

Core courses: A 27-credit core curriculum ensures that each PhD student receives advanced training in economic theory and quantitative methods: (1) theoretical foundations of economics–12 credits (EconS 500, 501, 502, 503) or their equivalents; and (2) tools for research and empirical analysis–12 credits (EconS 510, 511, 512, and 521) or their equivalents.

Directed elective: Students take one 3-credit, 500-level course as a directed elective with the approval of their academic advisor.

Fields of specialization: A student’s program is required to demonstrate an area or areas of concentration that prepare the student for the dissertation. Through field courses, the students receive additional preparation in at least two areas of specialization. Together with individual research activities and mentored study, the field courses prepare the students to apply economic theory and quantitative methods to real-world problems.  Selections among field courses allow students to tailor their graduate program to specific interests and to interact with faculty working in their area. The fields of study offered are: Econometrics; Environmental & Natural Resource Economics; International Economics; Industrial Organization; Public Economics; Agricultural Economics (required for Agricultural Economics PhD) .

Advanced topics are taught in a repeatable, variable-credit course in each field area. Students take a minimum of six credit hours in each of two fields, and 12 credits overall in field courses.

Additional credits: Additional coursework and research credits are used to bring the student up to 72 credits.

PhD Field Requirements

Foundation Classes

Foundation classes in economic theory, mathematics, and quantitative methods are normally taken in the student’s master’s program and satisfy prerequisites for the theory and quantitative methods outlined above. When missing from the student’s preparation, foundation classes are taken as remedial and do not count towards core requirements.

Residence Requirement

The residence requirement for the doctoral degree is three years (six semesters) beyond the baccalaureate degree. At least two of these years must be spent in residence at Washington State. A minimum of two regular semesters must be continuous. Full-time enrollment for three summer sessions may be substituted for two academic-year semesters.

Transfer Credit

Credit earned in other recognized graduate schools may be applied (subject to School and Graduate School approval) toward the doctoral degree, if appropriate to the student’s program, and representing work of acceptable quality (grades of 3.0 or higher). Transfer credit does not substitute for residence requirements. The amount of transfer credit allowed on a doctoral degree is subject to School recommendations and approval by the Graduate School.

Seminar Requirement

All doctoral students are encouraged to present a seminar based on their research (dissertation). The purpose of these seminars are to improve communication of research activities among interested members (students and faculty) of the School. Timing of the seminar is at the discretion of the student and his/her committee but is normally done in conjunction with the student’s preliminary or final examination.

Teaching Experience

Although no formal teaching experience is required for advanced economics degrees, the School encourages PhD students to obtain teaching experience. Teaching experience can be obtained formally as a graduate teaching assistant and/or informally through mentoring relationships with faculty. All PhD students should seek opportunities to make classroom presentations.

Written Core and Preliminary Examinations

Students seeking the PhD must take comprehensive written examinations following the completion of applicable core courses or their equivalents. All students are required to take these exams. After the written examinations have been passed, the student continues with coursework that leads to a written research proposal and takes a comprehensive oral preliminary examination administered by the Graduate School. For further explanation of the written and preliminary examinations, see the section entitled “Examinations.”


Each student seeking the PhD must prepare a dissertation. It must be an original, scholarly work representing a significant contribution to knowledge in economics. A final examination consisting of an oral defense of the dissertation must be taken when the dissertation has been completed. This examination is required by the Graduate School and represents the capstone of the student’s program.

Final Examination

Doctoral candidates must pass a final oral examination which is primarily a defense of the dissertation, but which may also cover the general field of knowledge pertinent to the degree.

Application Process

For more information, please visit the following link, which provides instructions about the on-line application process and all necessary application materials: Application Process. Please note that applications to our Ph.D. program require you to submit your CV, your undergraduate transcripts (and, if applicable, transcripts from your Masters or other postgraduate courses), your scores in the GRE exam, your scores in the TOEFL exam (unless you can show that your undergraduate education was taught entirely in English), a statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation on your behalf.

  • 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 80-85th percentile (about 159 points or above). If you took your GRE exam in the last 1-2 years, 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). In case you took the IELTS exam, the minimum IELTS score is 7. Please note that the TOEFL/IELTS exams can be waived if you completed a degree (or at least an entire academic year) at a university in the which all coursework was taught in English.
  • GPA score. The average GPA score into our Ph.D. program is around 3.4, 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, many of our recently accepted applicants had a Master degree in Economics, Agricultural Economics, Finance, Engineering, or related fields. Other students start the Ph.D. program right after finishing their undergraduate education, but in those cases students have a strong GPA and took several Math courses in undergrad. 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.

PhD Prerequisites

Prerrequisites for the PhD degree include: Master’s-level microeconomic theory, Senior-level macroeconomic theory, Two semesters of calculus, Intermediate-level linear algebra or mathematics for economists, Master’s-level econometrics, Intermediate macroeconomic theory.

Contact Info

Dr. Jill McCluskey
Chair, Graduate Studies Committee
Hulbert 111E

Graduate Coordinator Web Page

Helpful Information

Washington State University