The Economics Department offers an interdisciplinary Ph.D. degree in ecological economics that allows for individual research specialization and independent study in an atmosphere of close contact between faculty and students based on research participation.
The program combines traditional training in advanced economics, expected of Ph.D.s in economics, with the broader interdisciplinary perspective on economic, social, and environmental systems provided by ecological economics. Ecological economics is the transdisciplinary field that integrates diverse perspectives on human resource use, development, and the environment. In addition to traditional economic policy concerns regarding efficiency and equity, ecological economics focuses on sustainability. Research interests include: analyzing scenarios for a sustainable economy; behavioral economics; corporate social responsibility; economic development and environment quality; global climate change; household consumption; life-cycle analysis; lifestyle change; measuring well-being and happiness; production theory; technological change, innovation, and technology transfer. The department has a strong empirical focus using techniques including econometrics, input-output analysis, time series analysis, and cost-benefit analysis.
The Ph.D. in economics requires at least 90 credits beyond the baccalaureate degree and 60 credits beyond an M.A. or M.S. in economics or a related field. For the post-Masters Ph.D., a minimum of 30 credits of course work or 10 three-credit courses must be taken. However, students can choose to take more courses and may be required to do so if their background so indicates. At least two-thirds of the total credit hours, excluding thesis, must be at the 6000 level, with the further limitation that no more than 21 credit hours of 4000 level courses are to be allowed. For example, if a student is taking 30 credits of course work in a post masters Ph.D., a maximum of 10 credits at the 4000 level is allowed. A maximum of 15 credits can be taken at institutions other than Rensselaer.
Students must complete a core course sequence in economic theory and quantitative methods and ecological economics. Students can receive waivers if they have previously completed a course with a substantially similar content and at a similarly advanced level.
The core economic theory and quantitative methods courses are: ECON 6550 Advanced Microeconomic Analysis, ECON 6590 Advanced Macroeconomic Analysis, and ECON 6570 Econometrics. The course ECON 6120 Advanced Quantitative Methods is recommended preparation for ECON 6570 and ECON 6210 Advanced Cost Benefit Analysis is recommended preparation for the comprehensive examination in microeconomics.
The ecological economics sequence requires students to take two of the following three courses: ECON 6230 Environmental Economics, ECON 6250 Ecological Economics, and ECON 6240 Natural Resource Economics.
To complete their coursework, students may choose other advanced courses offered by the economics department, other Rensselaer departments, and cross-registered colleges that are relevant to students’ interests.
Students are strongly encouraged to attend seminars conducted regularly in the economics department as well as in other Rensselaer departments.
An initial adviser will be assigned to each student. Immediately upon entering the economics Ph.D. program, students should draft a study plan. These plans must be kept current, as they will likely undergo periodic changes. The program director or co-director must approve the Plan of Study. The Plan of Study also indicates the student’s curriculum adviser and expected date of graduation.
Economics Ph.D. students must also pass written comprehensive exams that cover theory and application in the three required core fields of microeconomics, macroeconomics, and quantitative methods. The exams are commonly scheduled in late May with other dates scheduled as appropriate and necessary.
Upon successfully completing the qualifying exams, students organize a dissertation committee, which must be submitted to the graduate school for final approval. The committee must have at least four full-time tenure track Rensselaer faculty as members. At least one member of the committee must be from outside the economics department. If the committee has four members, then at least one member must be a member of another Department at Rensselaer. If the committee has five members, then one member of the committee can be from outside Rensselaer.
Students will prepare a dissertation proposal in consultation with their adviser that covers the theoretical and applied literature in the chosen field of study for the dissertation and outlines the planned dissertation research. The candidacy exam consists of an open presentation of the proposal. This constitutes an additional oral field exam in a chosen area of specialization. This exam is scheduled in consultation with the thesis adviser after all course work is completed and after the candidate has passed all required comprehensive exams. After passing the candidacy exam, a Ph.D. student is considered a candidate with only the dissertation and dissertation defense remaining to complete the requirements of the Ph.D. program.