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Doctor of Philosophy in Economics

The PhD program in economics prepares students to become professional, independent economic researchers applying state-of-the-art methods to analyze economic phenomena.

Ph.D.Doctor of Philosophy in Economics

The PhD program in economics prepares students to become professional, independent economic researchers applying state-of-the-art methods to analyze economic phenomena.

Learn more about the Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Stream.

The PhD program in economics prepares students to become professional, independent economic researchers applying state-of-the-art methods to analyze economic phenomena.  Graduates primarily pursue one of two career tracks. One track is an academic career as a professor of economics.  We regularly place our graduates in academic positions, both in departments of economics and interdisciplinary settings with a strong economics focus, such as schools of public policy. A second track is a non-academic career in the public- or private-sector.  Again, we regularly place our graduates in good research positions within government ministries and agencies, such as the Department of Finance and Bank of Canada, as well as international organizations, and, less regularly, the private sector. Further information on placements of recent graduates can be found under Placements.

In addition to the research excellence of department faculty, faculty members lead or are affiliated with a number of research facilities and centres as McMaster that support economic research, including research by graduate students.  The Secure Analysis Empirical Lab (SEAL) houses a wide range of confidential micro-data that can be used to support research in the areas of education, charities, and public services, with data holding expanding on a continuous basis.  The Statistics Canada Research Data Centre (RDC) (B. Spencer, Director), houses the masterfiles of a wide variety of Statistics Canada survey data plus an increasing array of public-sector administrative microdata (e.g., census data, vital statistics, employment data, justice system data) that support economic research.  The McMaster Decision Science Laboratory (McDSL) (S. Mestelman, Director), Canada’s first computer-mediated experimental economics laboratory, provides the capability for conducting controlled economic experiments across a wide range of fields in economics.  Importantly, the Faculty of Social Science is committed to building state-of-the-art empirical research facilities, including expanded facilities for the analysis of microdata and for the conduct of economic experiments, in the L.R.Wilson Hall. 

The PhD program offers the following Areas of Specializations: Econometrics, Growth and Monetary Economics, Health Economics, International Economics, Labour Economics, Population Economics, and Public Economics.

We usually admit 5-8 PhD students each year which, combined with our limited Masters enrollments, leads to small class sizes and substantial interaction between students and faculty.

Students in the Ph.D. program who have successfully completed the comprehensive examinations may apply for the co-op option associated with this degree program.

Phase 1

The first phase is passing the comprehensive exams in microeconomics and macroeconomic theory. Students must complete the following courses:

  • two microeconomics theory courses (Economics 721** and 722)
  • two macroeconomic theory courses (Economics 723** and 724)
  • two econometrics courses (Economics 761* and 762)
  • Econ 765 (as it is a required course)
  • elective courses must be passed prior to writing comprehensive examinations in any area (see phase 2)

Students entering the PhD program from our MA in Economics program will already have completed the required courses and two electives; such students would require approximately six more electives. Students entering the PhD program from another university may be given credit for Economics 761 provide they pass the econometrics waiver exam.  Electives must be chosen so that the student satisfies the coursework requirements of his or her chosen fields for comprehensive exams (see the list below).  Most electives are chosen from those offered by the department of economics, but a student is allowed to take up to two graduate courses offered by other departments, with the approval of the graduate chair (economics) and of the course instructor. Students in recent years, for example, have taken finance courses offered by the DeGroote School of Business, health-related courses offered by the Faculty of Health Sciences, and statistics courses offered by the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

The comprehensive exams in micro and macro theory are normally written in May or June following the satisfactory completion of the first year of coursework.

Phase 2

The second phase is passing the comprehensive exams in two areas of specialization and writing a research paper. Certain courses, selected at the discretion of the field examination committee, must be completed before attempting these exams. The usual areas of specialization, and typical course requirement for each of them, are given below however additional areas of specialization in which the department has research strength may be allowed with the permission of the graduate chair if they are based on courses offered by the department.

Currently the available fields are:

• Econometrics
• Growth and Monetary Economics
• Health Economics
• International Economics
• Labour Economics
• Population Economics
• Public Economics

Comprehensive field exams are normally written after the satisfactory completion of the second year of coursework. Candidates are allowed up to two attempts to pass each comprehensive exam. Students must complete the micro and macro theory comprehensive exams within 18 months of starting the program. All comprehensive exams must be completed within 24 months of starting the program. The research paper requirement must be met within twenty-seven months of entering the doctoral program. The research paper will be presented in the Fall term during the PhD workshop discussed below. The research paper must be accepted by the supervisory committee.

Phase 3

The third phase is the thesis. A student may choose to take additional courses at this stage if the courses are germane to the student’s proposed research. Up to four half courses may be taken outside of the department with the approval of the Graduate Chair. In addition to writing a thesis and taking courses, students must achieve the Active Researcher Milestone which involves participating in the department’s research activities (for example, by attending seminars, PhD workshops and meeting with visiting speakers) and regularly presenting their research. The Active Researcher Milestone must be achieved annually until graduation.

A student at this stage is required to complete the following seminar courses. Students who have passed all their comprehensive examinations should register for Econ 798 in the Fall term that immediately follows and present the research paper. Doctoral students typically take a total of 12-14 graduate courses at this university.

ECON 798: Workshops in Economics I
ECON 799: Workshops in Economics II

Co-op Option Students in the Ph.D program who have successfully completed the comprehensive examinations may apply for the co-op option associated with this degree program. The number of students who will be accepted will be small and will depend on available placements.  To complete the Ph.D. co-op option, the student must work a total of eight months in either one or two placements and successfully complete both ECON 796 Economics Co-op Work Term I and ECON 797 Economics Co-op Work Term II.


  • *A student who has a particularly strong background in econometrics can elect to write the econometrics waiver exam. Students who pass the waiver exam are allowed to replace economics 761 (term 1 of econometrics) with an elective course. Such students take economics 762 in term 2 and complete the econometrics project. Credit for economics 761 will appear on their transcripts.
  • **All students registering in economics 721 (Micro Theory 1) or 723 (Macro Theory 1) are encouraged to take the mathematics preparation course Economics 765, an intensive ten-day refresher course in mathematics. This course is given in August, prior to the start of regular graduate courses for the fall term.   After the completion of this course, students are tested regarding their mathematics preparation.  The course has two parts.  Part I covers topics related to 721-Micro Theory I and part II covers topics related to 723-Macro Theory I and matrix algebra.  Each part has it own final examination.  Students registered in 721 (723) must write the exam related to part I (part II).  A student’s score on the part I (part II) exam counts as 10% of the student’s final grade in 721-Micro Theory I (723-Macro Theory I). 
  • ***Incoming students are strongly encouraged to register for ECON 4T03 in order to be well prepared for first term micro so the preparation is strong and recent


Admission Requirements for the Ph.D. Program

Portal opening November 15, 2021

As a minimum, a standard Canadian entrant into our PhD program will have a Masters degree in economics from a recognized university and will have maintained B+ average in their master’s study. We emphasize that these are minimum standards; those admitted typically have stronger academic records.

Students from foreign universities are expected to have equivalent backgrounds. Although equivalency is difficult to determine, here are some guidelines for a few countries from which we commonly receive inquiries:

  • India: First class standing for the Bachelors degree and upper-second-class standing in the Masters degree.
  • Bangladesh and Pakistan: First-class standing in both the bachelors and masters degrees.
  • China: A four-year degree with an average of at least 85%. The subject area must be ECONOMICS, not business. Strong skills in mathematics and statistics/econometrics are expected.

A student whose native language is not English, and who has not completed an English-language degree in a predominantly English-speaking country, must submit a TOEFL or IELTS score. The minimum acceptable TOEFL score for the Dept of Economics is 580 (237 on the computerized exam; 92 iBT); the minimum acceptable IELTS score is 7.5.  Please note, the minimum requirement for the Dept of Economics is higher than the School of Graduate Studies minimum of 6.5.

If you have any questions email them to Please be patient all emails will be answered.

**If your transcript states the medium of instruction was English or you submit a letter with your application from the University stating your medium of instruction was English then that will waive your ELP requirement and a test result will not be required**

Please note if you submit a score lower than 7.5, your application will not be reviewed. It is imperative that you meet the testing requirements noted above. 

Required Document Checklist

  • Application Form and Fee
  • Two letters of reference
  • Academic transcripts
  • Statement of interest
  • Writing Sample (Paper or Essay - there is no minimum words and it must be single author)
  • CV/ Resume

As reference links are sent after your application is submitted, it is highly recommended that you apply at least one week before the January 15th deadline, as this will allow for references and other documents be received in time.


For more information on this program please visit our FAQ's section for the PhD in Economics.

Information on Graduate Program fees can be found on the Student Accounts and Cashier's website. To visit this page, click here.

Financial Aid


Students to whom we offer admission are automatically considered for financial assistance – no special forms need be filled out. Funding is awarded on academic excellence and the availability of funds. Funding is open to all domestic and international students.

All students admitted to the PhD program are offered two forms of financial assistance. The first is a Teaching Assistant (TA) position, which normally requires the student to perform 130 hours of marking or tutoring in each of the fall and winter terms. The second is scholarship support. In addition, many upper-year PhD students receive support in the form of a Research Assistantship (RA) in lieu of a TA, in which they work on a research project with a faculty member. The minimum annual financial assistance provided to a PhD student is $17,500 during each of first four years of doctoral study. If a student’s study extends beyond four years, financial assistance as a TA or RA may be available, but it is not guaranteed. Finally, in addition to the financial assistance provided in a letter of offer, students are eligible for TA and RA positions during the spring and summer terms, which provides support above that available during the Fall and Winter terms.


Trudeau Scholarship: Students in the 1st or 2nd year of the doctoral program or those applying to the doctoral program are eligible. For more information regarding eligibility and the application process, please click here.

Additional information on external scholarship support can be found at the following sites:


For a complete list of courses offered in the Department, please click here.

A list of Popular Business Electives include:

*These courses have been pre-approved by our graduate chair, you must now get approval from the department/instructor.

Business PhD courses:

MFIN courses: Program Administrator, at

  • MFIN 601: Introduction to Finance

  • MFIN 708: Fixed-Income Securities

  • MFIN 710: Financial Theory

  • BUS F717: Financial Statement Analysis

  • Finance F712: Risk Management – Principles and Practices

  • MFIN 600: Financial Reporting and Modelling followed by

  • DPA *603: Financial Reporting and Analysis

Please note not all courses are available every year, please consult the timetable to see what is on offer. Courses with no instructor name are usually not currently being taught.

PhD in Economics FAQs International Student Services Graduate Students Association Apply Now
For more information:
Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economics, Graduate Program
KTH 426
905-525-9140 ext.24731
4 Years
Required Credential:
Masters degree in economics from a recognized university
Program Type:
Thesis based
Program Options:
Typical Entry:
Current Deadline:
January 15th