Carnegie Mellon University


This program is rather flexible, allowing students to redefine their educational goals as their interests grow and change. The design of this Ph.D. program is based on a full-time commitment, including summers, and on the completion of the activities listed below.

The key requirements for completing the degree are:

  • Course work
  • First-year and second-year summer research paper
  • Qualifying examination
  • Dissertation proposal and defense

Details on each of these, as well as additional information on degree policies, are below.

Course Work

12 semester-length Ph.D. courses, with at least four of these courses being methodology courses. Students may use at most one independent study toward completion of the non-methodology coursework. Courses must be completed by the end of the 5th semester and only grades of B or better will be counted toward this requirement. Students must also attend the SDS Ph.D. seminar during their first year of residence in the program.

Pre-Candidacy Research Papers

During their first two years of study, students are required to write summer papers on an original research topic that interests them. The papers will normally be completed during the summer of their first and second years of the program. Each paper needs to be approved by a three-person committee. The second paper needs to be successfully defended to a quorum of faculty (a quorum consists of more non-committee members than committee members in attendance). The papers must have co-chairs from the Tepper School and SDS (tenure-track or research-track).

Qualifying Exams

On the SDS side, students must pass the SDS Judgment and Choice qualifiers. They are expected to do so at the end of their first summer, but they will have the option to retake a failed exam by the end of January in their second year. This would replace the Advanced Economic Analysis exam normally required of Tepper School students.

On the Tepper School side, students will be required to pass the Microeconomics and Macroeconomics Qualifiers. They are also expected to pass the Tepper School qualifying exam in econometrics, or they may take the Heinz quantitative requirements course sequence and take a qualifying examination based on that course sequence. Tepper School qualifying exams are given in the second full week of January and should be taken no later than the student’s second year of study.

All qualifying exam procedures are subject to administrative adjustment according to standard University and College procedures.

TA Requirements

TA requirements depend on which program a student is admitted to. Students admitted (and funded) through SDS must TA a semester-length course for SDS in each semester they are enrolled. Students admitted and funded through the Tepper School must complete 14 units of TAing/Teaching for the Tepper School prior to graduation. TAing is permitted only with special approval prior to the 4th semester. Students admitted through the Tepper School must also teach one Tepper School course, typically during their 4th summer. The course counts for 4 units towards the aforementioned Tepper TAing/Teaching requirement.


Students must successfully propose their dissertation by the end of the 7th semester. The proposal must meet the applicable rules of the admitting unit (Tepper or SDS). The dissertation committee must have co-chairs from the Tepper School and SDS (tenure-track or research-track). With approval of the student’s dissertation co-chairs, a student may petition the chair of the Ph.D. committee at the Tepper School and/or the Graduate Education Committee at SDS for a one-semester extension to this deadline. Students must defend their dissertation by the end of the 7th year.

Review of Students

Every spring semester, both SDS and the Tepper School will separately evaluate the students to determine their standing. Each unit can separately decide to keep or dismiss a student. Both the Tepper School and SDS must approve to retain a student to remain in the joint program. One department may decide to dismiss a student from the joint program. In this case, the other unit can agree to retain the student but the student will no longer be in the joint program. Both units may wish to dismiss the student, and in this case the student will be dismissed from CMU.