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PhD program

The PhD program prepares students for a research career. The program combines coursework in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics; elective coursework in a variety of fields; and own original research. The program is offered on a full-time basis. We have almost 150 PhD graduates who have gone on to teach in universities and colleges, serve as advisors and officials for provincial, state, and national governments, as well as work in a variety of roles in private industry.

Core requirements

For core requirements, please visit the SFU Academic Calendar.

Elective courses

The elective courses are graduate ECON courses different from the required core PhD courses or, with permission from the Graduate Chair, graduate courses in Business or other subjects. Students should ensure that their selection of elective courses gives them adequate preparation for meeting the comprehensive field requirements. By the Western Deans’ Agreement, SFU graduate students may also enroll (tuition is waived) in graduate classes offered at other Western Canadian universities (typically, the graduate program at UBC).

Comprehensive examinations

All PhD candidates must complete comprehensive examinations in Microeconomic Theory (ECON 985) and Macroeconomic Theory (ECON 986). The micro and macro theory comprehensive exams are written in the Summer term of the first year of the program. The microeconomic theory comprehensive exam normally encompasses the topics and readings covered in ECON 802, 803 and 804. The macroeconomic theory comprehensive exam normally encompasses the topics and readings covered in ECON 807, 808 and 809.

In addition, students must complete two Field Comprehensive Examinations. Field examinations are in written form and are organized at the student's request, normally in the second year of the PhD program. The field comprehensive examinations normally encompass topics and readings from elective courses in the respective fields.

The second field comprehensive examination requirement is waived if a student has completed two elective courses each with grade A- or higher. Please contact the Graduate Program Secretary to perform the waiver.

ECON 900 Research paper

ECON 900 is a required course in which, starting from the Fall term in their second year, all PhD candidates must register and present their own original research in progress. To receive a passing grade in ECON 900 students must complete a second-year research paper under the supervision of a faculty member and formally present the paper in the Brown Bag department seminar. Normally, the supervising faculty member would become the student’s senior PhD supervisor, however, students are free to change their supervisor.

Satisfactory progress

To remain in good academic standing, PhD students are required to make satisfactory progress according to PhD Satisfactory Progress Guidelines set by the department. Students who fail to make satisfactory progress will, in normal circumstances, be required to withdraw from the program. In addition to the departmental guidelines, the university requires that all graduate students maintain a minimum CGPA of at least 3.00.

Each PhD candidate’s progress is assessed at least once a year. Students who perform unsatisfactorily are subject to the process described in 1.8.2 Review of Unsatisfactory Progress of the Graduate General Regulations.

Suggested program of study

Late summer

ECON 831 (Mathematical Economics)

Note: This course is offered in the two weeks prior to the start of the Fall semester. Students are graded on a Pass/Fail basis.

First year

Fall Term

Econ 803 (micro), Econ 808 (macro), and Econ 837 (econometrics) are required courses.

Spring Term

Econ 804 (micro), Econ 809 (macro) and Econ 838 (econometrics) are required courses.

Summer Term

First year PhD students are normally awarded a scholarship for the Summer term releasing them from TA duties. Students are required to pass the two comprehensive exams in microeconomic theory and in macroeconomic theory. No more than two attempts for each exam are allowed. The first set of comprehensive exams is normally scheduled in June; and the second set is in August. Students who pass both comprehensive exams on the first attempt are encouraged to audit Summer term courses or enroll in summer programs at other universities (some financial support may be available).

Second year

Register and attend ECON 900 in the Fall, Spring and Summer terms.

PhD students must complete at least four (4) elective courses (students are encouraged to take more than the minimum required).

In each term students should register for ECON 900 plus minimum one elective course for credit.

Arrange to write a comprehensive field exam by the end of the Summer term.

Third year and beyond

Students must fulfill the Econ 900 PhD Field Paper requirement and any remaining comprehensive field exam requirements by the end of the third year at the latest.

At this stage, students should actively pursue their PhD thesis research and should have a PhD supervising committee in place, including a designated Senior Supervisor, meeting with them regularly.

Students are expected to prepare and present in the Brown Bag seminar a second research paper, different from the ECON 900 paper, by the end of Summer term in the third year.

In the fourth and subsequent years of the PhD program students complete their PhD thesis.

PhD thesis

Students must complete an original and significant PhD thesis. Students should choose an area of research as early as possible and work with a senior supervisor specializing in the area. Please consult the Faculty Index for faculty fields of research.

Preparing and Submitting Your Thesis: Information Resources

Research standards and oral examination

PhD theses must meet the standards set out in the Graduate General Regulations 1.9 - 1.11.

An oral examination (defense) of the thesis research is required and should follow the university best practices for the conduct of a thesis defence.

Program length

Students are expected to complete the PhD program requirements in 15 terms.