Applied Economics and Policy, Ph.D.

Program Overview

Our innovative and STEM-designated Ph.D. in Applied Economics and Policy is designed to equip students with the essential skills and knowledge needed to tackle complex economic questions and contribute to informed policy decisions.

Committed to helping talented students achieve their full potential, the Department of Economics at Rensselaer offers a welcoming and supporting environment for students to study and work that is supported by an exceptional library and computational facilities on campus, as well as a diverse student body.

Located within driving distance to the major metropolitan areas of New York City and Boston, doctoral students have many professional networking opportunities available during their studies and after graduation.

The program is structured to foster mentorship and our faculty and advising staff work closely with students to enhance their educational experience.

Program Highlights

During the first year of our STEM-designated Applied Economics and Policy Ph.D. program, students receive rigorous training in three core areas: microeconomic theory, econometrics and data analytics, and economics of innovation and technological change. Key components of this core training include:

Applied Microeconomics: Our program stands out by placing a deliberate emphasis on applied microeconomics. This focus enables us to delve deeply into critical economic and policy issues, offering fresh insights that are often overlooked.

Econometrics and Data Analytics: Our program equips students with advanced econometrics and quantitative methods to establish causal relationships, make forecasts, work effectively with large and unstructured datasets, and align with the demands of modern economics and policy analysis. 

Innovation and Technological Change: We prioritize the study of innovation and technological change, recognizing their pivotal role in driving economic growth, evolution of industries, and market dynamics. Students explore the intricacies of innovation, patenting, intellectual property rights, and the role of economic policy.

During the second year of our program, we offer specialized training in selected areas of economics that align with the distinctive strengths of Rensselaer and the Department of Economics. These fields are health economics, behavioral and experimental economics, and energy and environmental economics. 


Our STEM-designated program allows international students additional time to gain work experience beyond their initial practical training period after graduation.


The Ph.D. in Applied Economics and Policy requires 72 credits. Students must complete course requirements in eight three-credit core courses, plus two two-course field sequences (four field courses total) in economics. 

Core Courses

The core courses required, and the semesters in which core and field courses are usually taken, are listed below. Students are required to pass qualifying examinations. The three qualifying exams focus on microeconomics, econometrics, and economics of innovation. These examinations are taken after completion of the first year of coursework, during the summer, and may be attempted one additional time if an examination is failed on the initial attempt. 

First Year Fall

  • Microeconomics I (3 credits) 
  • Econometrics I (3 credits) 
  • Economics of Innovation I (3 credits)

First Year Spring

  • Microeconomics II (3 credits) 
  • Econometrics II (3 credits) 
  • Economics of Innovation II (3 credits)

Second Year Fall

  • Economic Data Analytics and Modeling I (3 credits) 
  • Field Course A I (3 credits) 
  • Field Course B I (3 credits)

Second Year Spring

  • Economic Data Analytics and Modeling II (3 credits) 
  • Field Course A II (3 credits) 
  • Field Course B II (3 credits)

Second-Year Field Courses

A main component of the second year of graduate study is field coursework. Three field sequences are currently offered in this Ph.D. program:

  • Behavioral and Experimental Economics I & II (3 credits each) 
  • Health Economics and Policy I & II (3 credits each) 
  • Energy and Environmental Economics I & II (3 credits each) 

Typically, each field offers one course in the fall and another in the spring, and students in the field must take both courses. In the event circumstances prevent a particular course from being offered in a given semester, the graduate program director will work with the student to arrange an appropriate alternative or find an appropriate substitute course to fulfill the program requirements. 

Students are expected to begin their research during their second year while taking field courses and to defend the resulting second-year research paper during the fall semester of their third year. This paper is expected to be a part of each student’s dissertation.

Third Year and Beyond

Students are expected to form their dissertation committee and are expected to complete and successfully defend a second-year research paper by the fall semester of their third year. They are also expected to pass the Ph.D. candidacy examination with a written dissertation proposal and oral defense, present two additional research papers by the fourth year, complete an approved doctoral dissertation, and pass a doctoral defense. 

Financial Aid

We have a limited number of teaching assistantship (TA) positions available for Ph.D. students on a competitive basis. Ph.D. applications submitted before the deadline will be considered for these TA positions. We welcome government-funded students as well as students who may be self-funded. If you have funding secured, please indicate this in your personal statement.  

Graduate Student Handbook

Click here for the Economics Graduate Program Handbook.

Application Process

The Ph.D. program offers admission for the fall term only. Your application and supplemental materials must be received by the Institute’s deadline. This includes the application (see below), all transcripts, test scores (TOEFL, IELTS), and all three letters of recommendation. Unofficial documents and self-reported scores are acceptable at the application stage. Admitted students will be asked to submit official documents later.

All applicants must submit the following materials:

(1)  Two Letters of Recommendation. Ideally, letter writers should attest to your capacities to flourish in a Ph.D. program in economics and to your capacity to do independent research. 

(2)  Statement of Research Interests. The research statement should explain your research background, interests, and goals. 

(3)  Personal Statement. The personal statement should explain why you want to pursue a Ph.D. in economics and why you are applying to our program. In addition, it should include your strengths and skills, and how our program aligns with your career goals. 

(4)  Curriculum Vitae.

(5)  Transcript(s) for each bachelor’s, master’s, professional, or doctoral degree earned or in progress.

(6)  Institute Level English Proficiency requirement (e.g., TOEFL).

(7)  GRE (Quantitative minimum: 159; Verbal minimum: 150; Analytical Writing minimum: 3).

Optional, but recommended:

(8)  A third letter of recommendation is strongly encouraged. 

(9)  Research Paper Sample(s) (up to 2) if any.

For more information regarding the application process and to submit an application, please visit the Office of Graduate Admission website.

Most questions can be answered by carefully reading this page and/or by visiting the Office of Graduate Admissions website. For additional questions:

  • For questions related to the application process and/or application documents, please email
  • For all other questions, please email Professor Billur Aksoy, graduate program director, at

Application FAQs

Do I need to have a bachelor’s degree in economics to apply to the program?

You do not need to have a bachelor’s degree in economics to apply to the program. However, students should have completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree, have good knowledge of economics, and have strong technical skills. Competence with multivariate calculus and matrix algebra is essential, and adequate background in probability, statistics, or econometrics is expected.

Do you have a master’s program? Can I apply to the Ph.D. and master’s programs on the same application?

Unfortunately, you cannot apply to both programs on the same application. However, if you would like to be also considered for the master’s program, you could indicate this on your personal statement. This will not impact the admissions committee’s decision regarding your Ph.D. application. If the admissions committee decides to decline your application for the Ph.D. program, they could then consider your application for the master’s program. If this happens, our department will get in touch with you with further instructions.

What happens if my letters of recommendation arrive after the deadline?

All items for your application must be received by the deadline, including all letters of recommendation. If you have an extenuating situation, please contact Professor Billur Aksoy, graduate program director, at

Do I need to send a transcript from every school attended? Should I submit a transcript if I'm enrolled for the current semester term?

The admissions committee will review uploaded transcripts for each bachelor’s, master’s, professional, or doctoral degree earned or in progress. If you are currently enrolled, you can submit the fall term transcript without your current semester grade(s). If a transcript is requested, you will be contacted personally by email by the department. Please do not send updated transcripts with fall term grades without our specific request. 

I have other questions. Who do I contact? 

First, please check the Office of Graduate Admissions website. Most of the time, students find answers on this website. If you still have questions after checking the Graduate Admissions website, feel free to contact Professor Billur Aksoy, graduate program director, at



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