Graduate Programs


Admission Requirements for the Ph.D. Program

Applicants to the Ph.D. program are required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and expected to possess mathematical proficiency equivalent to courses in multivariate calculus (i.e. 3 semesters of university level calculus), probability and statistics (2 semesters), differential equations, and linear algebra. For admission to our Ph.D. program, GRE scores must have a combined score of at least 310 keeping in mind that we weight the quantitative section more heavily. As a general rule, a Bachelor's degree in economics is not required as the program is open to students from other fields such as mathematics, statistics, and engineering. However, all applicants must have a background equivalent to 12 hours of economics, including two intermediate theory courses, one in price theory and another in macro-economics. Note that the University requires video essays of some applicants while this element is officially optional for others. The Department of Economics does not utilize these videos in our application review process. If it is not required for you, feel free to skip it. If the system requires you to upload something you will need to do so but we will still not use it in our review process.

How to Apply

For information on how to apply, please go to, and click on “Apply Now” on the right hand side of the page.  All documents, requests, and correspondence should be sent to the Office of Research & Graduate Studies, P O Box 750240, Dallas TX 75275-0240. In order to be eligible for financial aid, applications must be received by January 15th. Information on additional funding can be found at Final deadline for application submission is May 1. Decisions on admission to the program are based on actual applications the department receives, and offers of assistantships are decided on the merits of the application.    

Length of Program

Upon completing their first year core courses, students will take the qualifying exams. This exam consists of 2 parts taken over 2 days, covering Micro and Macro Theory.  If either portion of the exam is not passed, a  retake opportunity will be offered.  Students must pass both sections of the exam on either the first or second attempt in order to continue in the program. Students begin working on their dissertation research in their 3rd year, and complete it in 2-3 years. Those entering with deficiencies in preparation may require somewhat longer. A sample program of study toward the Ph.D. degree is shown below.

Sample of Ph.D. Program

First Year

Fall Semester

ECO 6371 Introduction to Quantitative Economics
ECO 6372 Econometrics I
ECO 6384 Microeconomics Theory I
ECO 6394 Macroeconomics Theory I

Second Year

Fall Semester

ECO 6375 Econometrics III
Field Course I
Field Course II
Third Year

Fall Semester

Field Course I
Field Course II
Field Course III

Spring Semester

ECO 6374 Econometrics II
ECO 6385 Microeconomics Theory II
ECO 6395 Macroeconomics Theory II

Spring Semester

Field Course III
Field Course IV
Spring Semester
ECO 7004 Workshop for Preprospectus (Third Year Paper)
ECO 8000 Research
ECO 8049 Full Time Status

Students must take the qualifying examinations in theory at the end of the Spring Semester of their first year. In their third year, students are expected to complete and present an original research paper. After the third year, students work on their dissertation research until the dissertation is complete.

Financial Assistance

The department offers graduate assistantships that will help to cover living expenses through teaching and/or research assistantships. The regular assistantship involves tutorial duties, grading, and research assistance, up to 20 hours per week on the average during the academic year (ten months). The assistantships all include a stipend, a full tuition waiver and health insurance.

As a general policy, the department will attempt to provide financial assistance for a period of up to five years for students making satisfactory progress toward a Ph.D. degree. As of 2019, the department will be offering George W. Bush Institute Doctoral Fellowships. These are very attractive fellowships which pay a greater stipend and allow access to working with Bush Institute Researchers and staff. The Office of Graduate Studies also provides fellowships for exceptional students which augment the stipend paid by the department. The Department also has a few additional internal fellowships for advanced students which will either provide upgraded funding in one year or provide some funding in later years of the program. All applicants to the program are automatically considered for these additional funding opportunities.

The University also has a new Fellowship program beginning in 2019, the Mustang Fellowship. These fellowships are intended to attract high quality scholars who will bring a diverse background to SMU. These Fellowships will provide tuition waivers, health insurance and a $30,000 stipend for up to five years. This will involve a separate application which you can complete at the same time as your normal application. The Fellowship is only open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents. If you wish to submit an application for this Fellowship, it will require you to write a brief essay explaining why your background will contribute to the diversity of our graduate programs at SMU. The University notes that examples of diversity include (but are not limited to) first generation college students, underrepresented minorities, underrepresented cultural or geographic backgrounds or veterans. If you are a high quality applicant and you feel your background can provide diversity along some dimension, you are encouraged to apply. The Economics Department is allowed to nominate one candidate for this Fellowship and the University will award up to six per year.