PhD Program


Applicants to the Ph.D program do not require a Masters degree in Economics. 

Candidates admitted to the "Ph.D 2" year must satisfy five requirements: 1) coursework; 2) the Ph.D Written Comprehensive examination; 3) the Field requirements; 4.) the third-year paper requirement; and 5) the dissertation and oral defense.

The norm is that students enter in PhD 2. There are then 6 mandatory terms of full-time residency, which usually comprise the fall and winter terms of the first three years, ie:

  • Fall year 1: full time; Winter year 1: full time; Summer year 1: continuing
  • Fall year 2: full time; Winter year 2: full time; Summer year 2: continuing
  • Fall year 3: full time; Winter year 3: full time; Summer year 3: continuing

After these mandatory years of full time status, it is possible to complete the program.  

So after your third year is complete, registration looks like this:

  • Fall year 4: additional session*; Winter year 4: additional session; Summer year 4: additional session
  • Fall year 5: additional session 

*additional session fees are payable every term (ie including summer), whereas you only pay fees for the fall and winter terms during the first three residency terms.  

This continues until the Summer year 6 (PhD 7) term, which is the last permitted term of registration before being in time limitation.  Additional explanation can be found on the student accounts website and in the program requirements section of the ecalendar.


New incoming Ph.D. students must take ECON 709 Microeconomic Theory 3, ECON 711 Microeconomic Theory 2, ECON 712 Macroeconomic Theory 1, ECON 713 Macroeconomic Theory 2, ECON 662 Econometrics 1, ECON 663 Econometrics 2 and ECON 701 PhD Comprehensive Examination.

Students entering the Ph.D 2 year will be required to take up to 12 graduate level courses over two years of study. The immediate aims of coursework at the Ph.D level are to prepare students to be able to pass their comprehensive exams, to help them find a thesis topic and to give them the necessary skills to undertake research on their thesis.

Ph.D Comprehensive Examinations

All Ph.D 2 students take their written Macroeconomic and Microeconomic Theory Comprehensive examinations at the end of the year in May. If they fail either of the two (or both), they would re-do them within a minimum of four (4) months and a maximum of six (6) months. In such circumstances the grade of HH (to be continued) will be used. In the event of a second failure, a grade of F will be reported to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and the student will be withdrawn from the University. The comprehensive exams are denoted by ECON 701: Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination. Students register only once for the comprehensives.  The PhD Comprehensive Exam guidelines can be found here:

Field Requirements

At the start of their second year (PhD 3), Ph.D. students need to select two major fields, and one minor field. The two major fields will be selected from the set of fields offered by the economics department. The field offerings will typically (subject to staffing) include Microeconomic Theory, Macroeconomics, Econometrics, Financial econometrics, Labour Economics, and Development Economics. Additional fields might be offered. The courses underlying the minor field are the student’s choice but are subject to approval by the Graduate Program Director. To complete a major field, a student will need to pass two courses in that field. In addition, a student must enrol and pass the Ph.D. Field Synthesis course for that field. To complete the minor field, a student will need to pass two courses in that field, and at least one of them must be taught at McGill Economics. The PhD Field Synthesis Guidelines can be found here:

Failure policy

A student will be required to withdraw from the University if he/she has two course failures or two comprehensive failures. A course failure is a failure to achieve the graduate passing grade of B- in (i) any course; (ii) any supplemental exam associated with a course; (iii) a re-taking of a course. Each instance is deemed to be a new failure, even if the second instance is in a supplemental associated with the same course as the initial failure. A comprehensive exam failure is a failure to achieve the passing grade in (i) the macro/micro comprehensive exam or (ii) either of the two field comprehensive exams. Each instance is deemed to be a new failure, even if a second instance is in the same exam as the initial failure. Notice that as long as the Macro/Micro comprehensive exams are taken during the same comprehensive exam period, ( i.e., either in May or during the retake) they are considered a single exam and therefore failing one or both of them will be considered as a single failure. See this webpage for course failure and comps failure webpage

Third-year paper and oral defense

Ph.D students who have completed their comprehensive exams are required to participate in ECON 770 PhD Research Seminar 1 and ECON 771 PhD Research Seminar 2. The objective of this course is to ease the transition from consuming to producing research. The final goal is to write, submit to the department, and present a paper. Ideally, this paper should serve as a starting point for the dissertation. The dates for submission and presentation will be determined on a year-by-year basis by the faculty member in charge.

Thesis Submission

About a month before the thesis is ready for initial submission, the supervisor should consult with his/her student and identify one or more potential examiners who are qualified to examine the thesis. Check the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) website for details regarding thesis formatting. In particular, consult the thesis preparation checklist, which can be found on the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) website.  Note however that departmental guidance on substantive content supersedes requirements set through GPS (including those set out in the checklist). In particular, note that manuscript based theses in economics do not require the separate 20 page literature reviews nor the 10 page "Comprehensive scholarly discussion of all the findings." For those elements of the checklist, please just enter "non applicable."

Joint PhD Courses in Economics -- Open to PhD students only

PhD students who have completed their first year of studies may take select courses at other Montreal universities. More information about this can be found on the Joint PhD Course offerings website.


Supervision website

The Supervision: Graduate and Postdoctoral Support website offers research and evidence-based advice to graduate students and their supervisors on how to work together effectively and avoid common problems in supervision.

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