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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.

*PLEASE NOTE: Application Deadline has been extended to January 24, 2020. References can be submitted two weeks past this deadline. 

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 Public Economics Data Analysis Laboratory (PEDAL) (A. Payne, Director), 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 Experimental Economics Laboratory (McEEL) (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, which will open in September 2015. 

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.


A doctoral candidate must complete the following coursework: 

  • both microeconomic theory courses (Economics 721** and 722)
  • both macroeconomic theory courses (Economics 723** and 724)
  • both econometrics courses (Economics 761* and 762)
  • approximately eight one-term electives 

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 one-term 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.

Comprehensive Exams

Completion of the degree requires that a student pass comprehensive exams in microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory and two fields. Currently the available fields are:

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

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. 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. 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. PhD Thesis Students have wide latitude in their choice of thesis topic, but each topic must be approved by a supervisory committee consisting of three faculty members. Students at the thesis stage must attend the graduate students’ workshop (Economics 798 and 799) and give several presentations on their research. Once a thesis has been submitted, the student must defend his or her work at an oral examination. Note:

  • *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 required to take the mathematics preparation course Economics 765, an intensive ten-day refresher course in mathematics. This course is given in late 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). 


Admission Requirements for the Ph.D. Program

Admissions will open November 15, 2019 

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+.  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.

Required Document Checklist

  • Application Form and Fee
  • Two letters of reference
  • Academic transcripts
  • Statement of interest
  • Writing Sample (Paper or Essay)
  • CV/ Resume


UPLOADING DOCUMENTS TO AN ONLINE MOSAIC APPLICATION - Upload all relevant documents BEFORE completing an application.  If all documents cannot be uploaded,  submit additional documents via BEFORE January 24, 2020.  Use this format when submitting additional documents (application#_program_lastname_documentname.pdf). All emailed attachments will not be accepted.


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:


Economics Graduate Handbook PhD in Economics FAQs TA Handbook 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:
Full-time, Part-time
Typical Entry:
Current Deadline:
January 24, 2020