Applied Economics PhD


Snow covered trees

The Applied Economics PhD program provides training valuable for success in academic, analytical, and policy positions. Students focus on quantitative economic analysis of problems and policies in areas primarily related to agriculture, natural resources and the environment, trade, development, energy, marine and coastal resources, and health care. Our graduate program learning outcomes are here.

The program emphasizes rigorous immersion in economic theory, econometrics and other quantitative methods, and in their uses and applications in the student’s concentration areas. The curriculum draws on core courses offered within the Applied Economics graduate program – and on concentration and elective courses from the Applied Economics Department, the Colleges of Forestry, Agricultural Sciences, Liberal Arts, and Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, and the School of Public Health.

The Applied Economics PhD program prepares students for careers in academia, consulting, and government and in financial services and other industries.

The Graduate Program Director (currently Dr. David Kling) acts as the temporary advisor for students beginning PhD studies. Students are strongly encouraged to find a permanent advisor/major professor by winter quarter of their second year. Ideally this is the same as the advisor for the empirical paper, but it does not need to be. The Director will provide guidance on the first year 1 courses that will be suitable to the program requirements and to the student’s background and interests.

The Applied Economics PhD program is committed to diversity

The overall program consists of five components:

(1) Core courses in microeconomic and quantitative methods

(2) Two concentration areas, each with a minimum three-course requirement

(3) Elective courses

(4) An empirical research paper written during the student's second year, and

(5) Dissertation research

Students must receive a B or higher in all courses meant to fulfill PhD program requirements. PhD program completion time is normally four years.


Core Courses  (course catalog)

AEC 512 Microeconomic Theory 

AEC 525 Applied Econometrics 

AEC 611 Advanced Microeconomic Theory I 

AEC 612 Advanced Microeconomic Theory II 

AEC 625 Advanced Econometrics I

AEC 626 Advanced Econometrics II 

AEC 627 Computational Economics 

GRAD 520 Responsible Conduct of Research 

Concentration Courses 

Concentrations available in the Applied Economics Program are: (a) Natural Resource and Environmental Economics, (b) Development Economics, and (c) An open concentration area developed in consultation with the student’s advisory committee. 

Students are required to complete two concentrations.  Each should include at least three courses, two of which must be at the 600 (PhD) level.  Concentration courses in Natural Resource and Environmental Economics and in Development Economics will be offered in alternate years.

The following courses (course catalogare relevant to the two defined concentration areas:

Natural Resource and Environmental Economics 

AEC 550 Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

AEC 651 Advanced Natural Resource Economics

AEC 652 Advanced Environmental Economics

AEC 653 Empirical Environmental and Resource Economics

Development Economics 

ECON 555 Economic Development

AEC 640 Sustainable Development

AEC 643 Advanced Topics in Development Economics

Electives and Dissertation

A total minimum of 108 credits (500 or 600 level) are needed to complete the PhD program, of which at least 36 must be PhD dissertation credits.  The minimum number of elective credits needed for the degree will be that required – together with the core, concentration, and dissertation credits – to fulfill the 108-credit total minimum. Some examples of previous student dissertations are here

Some example elective classes include (see the Graduate Handbook for more examples): 

Forestry Policy

FOR 531 Economics & Policy of Wildland Fire

FOR 534 Economics of Forest Resource

FE 640 Combinatorial Optimization

MTH 528 Stochastic Elements in Mathematical Biology

Health Economics

H 638 Public & Private Health Insurance

H 659 Health Policy Research Methods II

H 632 Applied Health Economics

Data Science

AEC 555 Program Evaluation

ST 537 Data Visualization

ST 538 Modern Statistical Methods for Large and Complex Datasets

ST 543 Applied Stochastic Models

CS 534 Machine Learning

Program Requirements

To be advanced to candidacy, the student must pass a written preliminary examination (at the end of the first year), write an empirical research paper during the second year, and pass a comprehensive oral qualifying examination (no later than fall of the third year).

Written Preliminary Exam

The written preliminary exam focuses on the microeconomic theory courses taken during the first year, together with applications of the theory covered in the first-year econometrics and quantitative methods courses. Microeconomic Theory III (AEC 613) taken in the second year and Computational Economics (AEC 627), taken in the second year, are not tested on the written preliminary exam.

Second Year Research Paper

All PhD students are expected to complete a research project during their second year in the program. Each student will register for AEC 606 (Special Projects) for each quarter of the second year – 1 credit in the fall and 3 credits in the winter and spring term. The purpose of the empirical project is for PhD students to begin thinking about research and identifying potential advisors and topics early in the program, and to produce a research paper that provides evidence on an original idea. Each student should identify an AEC graduate faculty member to advise the development of the paper. However, ultimately the research paper is the responsibility of the student, though a collaborative effort with the faculty advisor is acceptable. The faculty advisor is the principal source of feedback on the paper and students are strongly encouraged to identify a faculty advisor by the beginning of their second year. This faculty member may, but does not have to, eventually become the student’s permanent dissertation advisor. Similarly, the chosen topic may, but does not have to, develop into (part of) the student’s dissertation topic. The organization of AEC 606 is meant to provide each student with guidance and a set of deadlines to help facilitate completion of the project. There are multiple hard deadlines that will be enforced. The purpose of the deadlines is to ensure steady progress is made throughout the year.

Comprehensive Oral Qualifying Exam

After the student has identified a major professor, assembled a committee, and filed a program of study, he/she must pass the comprehensive oral qualifying examination (no later than fall of the third year). The oral exam has two components: a) A proposal of the student’s intended dissertation research; and b) An oral exam covering all of the student’s core and field course work up to the time of the exam. Once the student passes this exam, he/she is advanced to PhD candidacy.

Summary of Required PhD Credits
Core courses 37
Two Concentrations 18 minimum
Research Dissertation 36 minimum
Electives variable
Sample PhD Program Schedule (Complete in ˜4 years)
minimum 108 credits
  Fall Winter  Spring
Year 1
AEC 512 (4 credits) AEC 611 (4 credits) AEC 612 (4 credits)
AEC 525 (4 credits) AEC 625 (4 credits) AEC 626 (4 credits)
GRAD 520 (1 credit) Other courses Other courses
Other course    
    Written Preliminary Exam
Year 2 AEC 613 (4 credits)    
AREC 627 (4 credits)    
Research/Electives Research/Electives Research/Electives
Second Year Paper Second Year Paper Second Year Paper

File Program of Study

Year 3
Oral Qualifying Exam - Fall term of the 3rd year.
Year 4 Dissertation (minimum of 36 dissertation credits to graduate)