Applied Economics PhD


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 natural resources and the environment, trade, development, energy, marine and coastal resources, and health care.

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 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 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 (37 credits) (course catalog)

AEC 512 (4) Microeconomic Theory I (Fall Term, first five weeks)

AEC 513 (4) Microeconomic Theory II (Fall Term, second five weeks)

AEC 525 (4) Applied Econometrics (Fall Term)

AEC 611 (4) Advanced Microeconomic Theory I (Winter Term)

AEC 612 (4) Advanced Microeconomic Theory II (Spring Term)

AEC 613 (4) Advanced Microeconomic Theory III (Fall Term of 2nd Year)

AEC 625 (4) Advanced Econometrics I (Winter Term)

AEC 626 (4) Advanced Econometrics II (Spring Term)

AEC 627 (4) Computational Economics (Fall Term of 2nd Year)

GRAD 520 (1) Responsible Conduct of Research (Fall, Winter or Spring Term)

Concentration Courses (minimum 18 credits)

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 (minimum 9 credits)

AEC 550 (4) Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

AEC 551 (4) Applications of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

AEC 651 (3) Advanced Natural Resource Economics

AEC 652 (3) Advanced Environmental Economics

AEC 653 (3) Empirical Environmental and Resource Economics

Development Economics (minimum 10 credits)

AEC 543 (4) International Trade

ECON 555 (4) Economic Development

AEC 640 (3) Sustainable Development

AEC 643 (3) 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

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.

Each year, the department presents awards for the best Second Year Paper. In 2017-18, the Best Second Year Paper Award went to David Rossi, and an honorable mention went to Kedar Kulkarni (there was no award for 2018-19). More information is available here

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.

Learning Outcomes: 

1. Produce and defend an original significant contribution to knowledge. 2. Demonstrate mastery of subject material. 3. Conduct scholarly or professional activities in an ethical manner. 4. Effectively communicate in field of study.

Applied Economics
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department of Applied Economics
Class Location: 
Corvallis Campus