Applied Economics

Wharton’s highly selective PhD program in Applied Economics offers students many resources not available at other institutions, such as 1:1 faculty to student ratio, five years of funding, and minimal teaching requirements.


Combining the faculties of the departments of Real Estate and Business Economics & Public Policy, Wharton’s Applied Economics program leverages the breadth and depth of its faculty to prepare students for careers doing frontier theoretical and empirical research. Students can focus on a variety of research areas, including Behavioral Economics, Development and International Economics, Energy and Environmental Economics, Health Economics, Industrial Organization and Regulation, Labor Economics, Law and Economics, Market Design, Public Economics, Risk and Insurance, Urban Economics and Real Estate. You can find the list of Applied Economics Faculty here.  Students may also develop an inter-disciplinary focus by taking courses and working with faculty in some of the other departments at Wharton such as Finance, Health Care Management, Management, and Marketing.

For more information on courses, please visit the University Graduate Catalog.

Sample Schedule

The course of study for the Ph.D. in Applied Economics requires the completion of 15 graduate course units. The common core consists of 3 theory courses and 3 statistics/econometrics courses. Students are also expected to master two field areas by passing two courses in each (total of 4 courses units). The remaining course units necessary to achieve 15 are split between the mandatory graduate student research seminars and other electives.

Year 1
  • Math Camp
  • Core Courses
  • General Examinations
  • Summer Research
During the year, students work full-time on courses to prepare them for research. In the summer, they work with faculty on developing original research.
Year 2
  • Field Courses
  • Student Research Seminar
  • Candidacy Paper
  • Summer Research
Students work on field courses in two specialty areas that they select. They also begin working on original research, culminating in the Candidacy Paper, due at the end of the academic year.
Year 3
  • Student Research Seminar
  • Admission to Candidacy
  • Summer Research
Students complete coursework and begin full-time work on the dissertation. A typical dissertation consists of three related original research papers.
Year 4
  • Continued Research
  • Dissertation Proposal Defense
Students continue work toward their dissertation, culminating with the Proposal Defense. They also choose which of the papers in their dissertation will serve as their Job Market Paper – the paper they will present at interviews for academic positions.
Year 5
  • Academic Job Market
  • Final Dissertation Defense
Students will spend a good portion of the year polishing their Job Market Paper and interviewing for academic positions. By the end of the year, they must formally defend their dissertation.



Students will apply for admission to the Wharton Program in Applied Economics, and may, if they wish, indicate a preferred field of study in their application. All else equal, the admissions committee may consider field choice in determining admission. Fellowship support will be in accordance with usual Wharton and University guidelines.


Students will be required to master core materials in economic theory covering the topics of household decision-making, production theory, theory of markets and market failure, game theory, decision-making under uncertainty, and resource allocation in dynamic economies. The following courses will satisfy the three-course economic theory requirement:

Microeconomic Theory I: ECON 7010
Microeconomic Theory II: ECON 7110
Macroeconomic Theory: ECON 7200 or 7210 or FNCE 9240

Students will be required to master core materials in applied econometrics covering the topics of statistical inference, linear regression analysis, panel regression analysis, and estimation of models using discrete dependent variables. The following courses will satisfy the three-course econometric/statistics requirement:

Econometrics: ECON 7300, FNCE 9260, ECON 8310 or ECON 7310, BEPP 9110 and BEPP 9310


In addition to the core theory and econometrics materials, students will be required to master two applied fields by passing two courses in each field. Students will be free to offer their own field as a substitute with approval of the graduate group chair and (when relevant) an appropriate advisor from another Wharton graduate group.

Development Economics
BEPP 9410: Development Economics
• Industrial Economics and Business Regulation:
BEPP 9870: Industrial Organization and Competition Policy
HCMG 9020: Special Topics of Health Services Research: Industrial Organization of Health Care
ECON 8450: Empirical Methods in Industrial Organization
• Market Design
BEPP 9710: Market Design
• Public Economics and Political Economy:
BEPP 9330: Public Economics: Social Insurance & Government Expenditures
HCMG 9030: Public Policy
ECON 8410: Public Economics I
ECON 8411: Public Economics II
• Urban Economics and Real Estate:
REAL 9450: Urban and Real Estate Economics
REAL 9460: Advanced Topics in Urban Economics
REAL 9470: Advanced Real Estate and Urban Economics
• Behavioral Economics:
BEPP 9040: Experimental Economics: Methods and Applications
OIDD 9000: Foundation of Decision Processes
OIDD 9040: Experimental Economics

In addition, all students must take elective courses to achieve the necessary 15 Course Credits to be eligible for Dissertation Status.

During the second and third year of the program students will be required to attend and actively participate in the graduate student research seminar. Students will also be responsible for presenting a paper of original research to the seminar before entering dissertation status. All students will also be required to attend the faculty Applied Economics Workshop during the 2nd and 3rd years.


BEPP 9000: Research Seminar
BEPP 9620: Applied Economics Seminar

Program Template for Years 1-2

(Unless noted otherwise, all courses give 1 full credit)

Year 1

Year 2
Fall Spring Fall


Micro Theory I Macro Theory Field Course/Elective


Field Course/Elective
Micro Theory II Econometrics II


Field Course/Elective Field Course/Elective
Econometrics I Econometrics III


Field Course Field Course
Field Course Graduate Student Research Seminar (0.5 CU) Graduate Student Research Seminar (0.5 CU)
AEW Seminar

(0.5 CU)

AEW Seminar

(0.5 CU)

3 CU’s 4 CU’s 4 CU’s 4 CU’s


At the end of first year (usually in last week of May or first week of June), students are expected to take and pass the qualifying exam for Microeconomic Theory and the qualifying exam for Econometrics. These exams are written and graded by the Wharton Applied Economics PhD Committee. If a student fails in one qualifying exam, another opportunity to take that exam will be given at the end of the second year.

Students can also request a waiver for one or both exams if they perform well in the courses associated with each exam. A satisfactory performance for Microeconomic Theory, for example, corresponds to having at least a B- or better in each micro course, and an average of B or better.


Students are required to select or are assigned two faculty advisors in the beginning of the second year in the program. Because the student will not have had all of the major field courses at that time, it is possible that a student will later decide to change advisors; such an eventuality will be considered a normal outcome. In addition, since students will not have had all of the major field course work by June of their first year, they should “read ahead” in their chosen fields to begin identifying a research topic for the Second Year Paper. Students are expected to initiate meetings with faculty members to discuss possible research topics, and these meetings should begin as early as possible after the student enters the program and are part of the process of getting to know the faculty and learning about the field.


The Program in Applied Economics provides students with several opportunities to conduct research. All students are required to write a candidacy paper in their second year to be submitted in the summer of the second year in the program. This paper should demonstrate the student’s ability to conduct PhD quality research. This is often used as the Master’s Thesis submission- and, as the title implies, it is one of the requirements for admission to Doctoral candidacy.

The deadline for submission of the Candidacy Paper is strictly enforced, and failure to complete and submit the paper by the deadline (July 15 of the end of the student’s second year in the program) is grounds for dismissal from the program. The paper must be submitted to the faculty members who are the student’s principal advisors for the project, as well as to the Doctoral Coordinator. A copy of the candidacy paper, together with letters from two faculty members noting approval of it, must be in each student’s file in the Program office prior to the start of the student’s fifth term (typically the start of the third year). Failure to fulfill this requirement may result in the student being dropped from the program.

The main objective of the candidacy paper is to demonstrate the student’s ability to do original research. Often the Candidacy Paper is submitted for publication, and it can also serve as the foundation for PhD research, possibly as a dissertation essay. The Candidacy Paper must be solely authored by the student, not co-authored with the faculty advisor.

Milestones on the road to the candidacy paper are as follows:

September of 2nd year in the program
Fall semester, 2nd year
Spring semester, 2nd year
Faculty advisors selected
Candidacy Paper proposal
Work on Candidacy paper
Submit final version of Candidacy Paper

Before admission to candidacy, the student is required to:

  • Complete all required coursework, including all core courses, with at least a B + or
    better in each course and with an average GPA of B+ or better. (For some courses, a passing grade on a qualifying exam can substitute for a grade below B.)
  • Pass both qualifying exams or request exam waivers.
  • Submit a satisfactory candidacy paper

The best ways to find a dissertation topic is to talk to the program faculty and read the literature. Discussions with faculty can range from “cold calls,” where the student asks the faculty member for topic suggestions, to more proactive visits where the student discusses potential topic ideas that have come up in course work or research seminars. Students should also take a close look at recent dissertations written by students in their major field as well as dissertations written by students from other Wharton departments.

There are two primary models for the organization of dissertations. The “single study” traditional dissertation, and the essay approach. In the latter approach, two or three essays are generally found acceptable by the student’s dissertation committee, depending on length and quality. Dissertation essays are more prevalent for a number of reasons, including most importantly, (a) the Candidacy Paper may be permitted to constitute a substantial part of one essay, (b) an essay can be used as an interview paper (see discussion below), and (c) if properly structured, an essay can often be converted into a paper to be submitted to a journal. Whether two or three essays are appropriate depends on the length and complexity of the research undertaken and is determined by the student’s dissertation committee.

Dissertation essays may be co-authored, although the extent to which this is appropriate will depend on each student’s topic, doctoral committee, and faculty advisor. A circumstance where a co -authored essay might be appropriate could arise from a joint research project with a faculty member. However, the student’s dissertation must include at least one essay that is solely authored by the student. The dissertation process must begin with the selection of a principal advisor or co-advisors. Each student is responsible for this selection, and then the student works with the advisor(s) to select the dissertation topic and begin exploratory research. The student and advisor then work together to select committee members. Committee members can be approached to join the committee by either the student or the principal advisor(s). The student should work with the advisor(s) to arrange a mutually agreeable procedure. The student should review the Wharton Doctoral Programs Policies and Procedures, to be sure that the committee structure satisfies the overall requirements of the Wharton Doctoral Program.

Important: the PhD Dissertation proposal must be defended before the end of the fourth year in the program. Failure to defend can result in dismissal from the program.

The ultimate objective of the Wharton Doctoral Program is to prepare our students for a teaching and research career, ideally at a college or university. Because the placement process for academic jobs is lengthy, students should become familiar with it well in advance of the “job market year.” The program provides full support for students going on the job market, and a series of meetings and timelines are provided to the students during the fourth and fifth years in the program.

The program will be administered by the graduate group in Applied Economics. Primary appointments in the Departments of Business Economics and Public Policy and Real Estate will be automatic members of the graduate group and comprise the initial membership of the graduate group. The graduate group can extend membership to other Wharton and University faculty as they consider appropriate. The graduate group will decide on its preferred administrative structure. Currently, the chairs of the departments of Real Estate and Business Economics and Public Policy are responsible for jointly appointing a PhD Coordinator that will serve a two-year term, with the option to renew it for another two years. The PhD Coordinator is also the representative for the group to the Doctoral Executive Committee.

Students are expected to spend full-time on their coursework and research during the first two years of the program. In subsequent years, students are expected to work with faculty, preferably as research assistants or co-authors, thereby gaining the experience required to be successful researchers. Students are also required to TA a core course (any alternatives will need to be approved by the PhD Coordinator) each in their 3rd year and 4th year of the program as a funding requirement. Other activities that further the student’s research careers are encouraged, subject to the approval of the doctoral coordinator (this includes teaching assistant positions). Failure to communicate with the doctoral coordinator about a research assistant or teaching job may result in cancellation of your scholarship.


Get the Details.

Visit the Applied Economics site for details on program requirements and courses. Read faculty and student research and bios to see what you can do with an Applied Economics PhD.


Eduardo Azevedo
Applied Economics Doctoral Coordinator
Prof. Eduardo Azevedo
Professor of Business Economics
and Public Policy
John M. Bendheim Professor
Thomas L. Bendheim Professor
Phone: (215) 573-9984

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PhD Students