PhD Program

The Vancouver School of Economics at UBC offers a renowned PhD program that provides quality research faculty.

Our small cohort sizes provide extensive opportunities for student-faculty interaction, including joint research projects and active supervision, and a diverse offering of specializations for dissertation work.

Each year we typically admit about 15 new students to our program. As a result, our program is small enough to provide extensive research supervision yet large enough to offer expertise in a wide range of fields. Virtually all of the school’s research faculty hold grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and other funding agencies. Thus opportunities for research assistantships and dissertation support are ample.

The school manages the British Columbia Inter-University Research Data Centre, is home to the Centre for Innovative Data in Economics Research (CIDER), and has onsite use to the FDZ-IAB Data Access Point. As a result, unique training opportunities, research funding, and access to data and computing resources are available to our PhD students.

In addition to studying with the VSE professors, our students can work with economists in UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems and the Sauder School of Business.

Program Overview

Before coursework in September, students undertake a mathematics review that is administered online.

During their first year, students take course sequences in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics. Each course sequence consists of two courses, each a semester-long.

At the end of the academic year, students write comprehensive examinations in microeconomics and macroeconomics.

In the second year, students take advanced courses in their chosen fields of specialization and a one-semester course in applied econometric methods. Students also participate in a one-semester seminar course that introduces them to the research process.

Starting in the second year, students begin attending the many research seminars held by the school, furthering their exposure to the research frontier.

Near the end of the second semester, students submit a research paper proposal. Students spend the summer after the second year working on this paper (which is submitted in the first semester of the third year) to familiarize students with the research process and aid and foster the transition to independent study.

In their third year, students reduce their course load and concentrate on research. Students participate in a PhD research seminar course. This seminar provides an opportunity for "in-class" interaction between faculty and students and an opportunity for students to present work to their colleagues and peers.

By their third year, students regularly participate in VSE research seminars, usually in one or two fields of specialization. Students are also regular participants in one of the weekly lunch workshop series, where students and professors present their work-in-progress and preliminary research in an informal setting.

Throughout the year, students further their research through self-initiated interaction with faculty outside of the classroom setting.

By the year's end, students form a dissertation committee in preparation for admission to candidacy. Admission involves having their dissertation prospectus approved by the candidate's supervisor(s).

In consultation with their committee, students now work full-time on their dissertation. The goal is to prepare a completed dissertation chapter that students can use as a "job market paper."

Job Market Placement

The VSE is involved in preparing our PhDs "job market package," distributed to employers. The VSE will advertise the student's credentials to employers through several formal and informal channels.

Typically, students complete their job market papers by the end of the first semester of the fifth year. During this semester, students are assisted in the preparation of their "job market package," containing their research papers, curriculum vitae, and faculty reference letters.

In late November, faculty members conduct mock interviews with job market candidates to prepare for interviews at the American Economic Association meeting and the Canadian Economics Employment Exchange.

During this period, the VSE reserves its seminar schedule for its job market candidates, so students can practice their "job market seminar" and receive invaluable feedback from faculty in all fields of the VSE.

Initial job interviews are held every year in December and January. Following interviews, students visit universities and other employers and typically conclude their job search by the end of March.


Students typically complete their dissertation at the end of the fifth year. At this time, the candidate is given an oral examination by members of the VSE. Then the candidate defends the dissertation in an oral examination administered by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Upon successful defense, the PhD is granted.

Program Requirements

Students are required to enroll in at least 18 credits of coursework in the first year. The standard first-year course program is:

  • Term 1 (September to December) – ECON 600 Microeconomics I, ECON 602 Macroeconomics I, ECON 626 Econometrics I
  • Term 2 (January to April) – ECON 601 Microeconomics II, ECON 603 Macroeconomics II, ECON 627 Econometrics II (three credits each)
  • Comprehensive Exams in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory are written in June

In the second year, students typically take ECON 628 Topics in Applied Econometrics (three credits) plus an additional 21 credits of economics courses at the 500- and 600-level; of these 21 credits, students may take six for audit. By the end of the second year, students are to have completed 42 credits of coursework.

In the third year of the program, students must take ECON 640 Ph.D. Research Seminar (three credits) and ECON 690 Workshops in Economics (six credits).

The summer paper familiarizes students with the research process and aid and fosters an independent research transition.

A written proposal for the summer research paper is due on March 15, during the PhD program's second year. Students spend the summer after completing the second-year coursework working on the paper.

A first draft of the paper is due at the start of the third year on September 1. After receiving final suggestions for revision from the faculty, a final version of the research paper is due on October 1.

Candidates for the PhD degree who hold a master's degree must be enrolled a minimum of two academic sessions (two years) at UBC before taking the final examination for the PhD degree.
For students admitted to the PhD program with a Bachelor's degree, the total minimum enrolment period is three academic sessions (three years).

Students usually are admitted to candidacy when they have completed their period of residence and required coursework, passed the comprehensive examinations, submitted the summer research paper, and, most importantly, have their dissertation prospectus approved by their research supervisor.

A student who is not admitted to candidacy within three years from the date of initial registration is required to withdraw from the program. The dean may permit an extension of this period under exceptional circumstances.

A candidate for the PhD degree must submit an acceptable dissertation. The dissertation represents a substantial piece of original research and constitutes a contribution to knowledge in the field of the subject chosen.

The candidate selects their dissertation topic in consultation with a dissertation committee.

Before the research has progressed too far, the candidate presents a detailed dissertation prospectus in a seminar setting; at this point, the prospectus is either formally accepted or rejected by the dissertation committee. Students research under the supervision of a faculty member who serves as chairperson of the committee.

When the dissertation is completed, the candidate is given an oral examination by faculty members of the Vancouver School of Economics and is then asked to defend the dissertation in an oral examination administered by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

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