Doctoral (PhD)

The Economics PhD program prepares students for a research career. The program combines required courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics; elective courses in a variety of applied fields; and original research. The program is offered on a full-time basis.


Interested in joining our graduate program? Please review our Admissions page for admission requirements and documentation.  


PhD Placements

SFU Economics has had a 100% placement rate for our outgoing PhD graduates. Almost 200 graduates have gone on to teach in universities all over the world; serve as advisors or officials in provincial, state, and national governments; or are employed in a variety of roles in the private sector. 

Program requirements

To ensure you are on track towards completion, please refer to the SFU Academic Calendar for the complete most up-to-date PhD program requirements. 

Visit the SFU Academic Calendar

Elective courses

The elective courses are graduate ECON courses different from the required PhD courses or, with permission from the Graduate Chair, graduate courses in other subjects. Students should ensure that their chosen elective courses give them adequate preparation for meeting the field examination requirement. Please see the Satisfactory Progress Guidelines for more details.

ECON 900 Research paper

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

Program guidelines and satisfactory progress

To remain in good academic standing, PhD students are required to make satisfactory progress by following the PhD Satisfactory Progress Guidelines set by the department. Students who fail to make satisfactory progress are normally 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.

Comprehensive examinations

All PhD candidates must pass PhD comprehensive examinations in two of the following three options: Econometrics (ECON 984), Microeconomic theory (ECON 985) or Macroeconomic theory (ECON 986). The comprehensive exams are written in the Summer term of the first year of the program. The Microeconomic theory comprehensive exam encompasses topics and readings covered in ECON 803 and 804. The Macroeconomic theory comprehensive exam encompasses topics and readings covered in ECON 808 and 809. The Econometrics comprehensive exam encompasses topics and readings covered in ECON 837 and 838.

Note: Students admitted before Fall 2020 are required to pass the PhD comprehensive examinations in Microeconomic theory (ECON 985) and Macroeconomic theory (ECON 986).

* Choice of PhD Comprehensive Exam.pdf
Last updated February 2021

Field examination

All students must complete a Field Comprehensive Examination (ECON 987). The field examination is in written form and is organized at the student's request, normally in the second year of the PhD program. The field comprehensive examination normally encompasses topics and readings from elective courses in the respective field.

NOTE: students admitted before Fall 2019 are required to complete two field examinations. However, the second field examination requirement is waived if a student has completed two elective courses each with grade A- or higher. Please contact the Graduate Program Assistant at to perform the waiver, if applicable.

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.

Research standards and thesis defence 

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 PhD thesis defence.

Preparing and Submitting Your Thesis: Information Resources

Students are considered ‘PhD candidates’ after they have completed all degree requirements except for their thesis (ECON 990).

Department guidelines for graduate directed readings classes


  • All student requests for graduate directed readings classes are subject to approval by the Graduate Chair.
  • The Graduate Chair will consider the student's academic progress, research field and needs, and the enrollment in the regular graduate elective classes (ECON 8xx and 9xx) offered in that term.
  • Priority will be given to requests by second- or third-year PhD students who intend to embark on related research with the respective professor.
  • No more than one directed readings class would normally be counted toward satisfying the “minimum four graduate electives” PhD program requirement.
  • Directed readings requests by MA students will normally be approved only in special circumstances and after consultation with the respective faculty member.


1. The student should submit the following five (5) working days before the first day of classes of the term in which the proposed directed readings course would be taken: 

a. Completed form signed by the faculty member who will teach the course

b. Reading list 

Please send the completed form and list to the Graduate Program Assistant at Requests received after the deadline will not be accepted but can be re-submitted in the following term.

2. The Graduate Chair will review all requests submitted before the deadline and approve or deny them before the start of the term, following the guidelines stated above.