Program of Study

Research is the emphasis of the finance PhD program. To facilitate significant research findings, the required curriculum includes coursework, seminars and supervised and independent research.

Students take finance courses in asset pricing and portfolio theory, corporate finance and empirical methods. The finance courses expose students to the basic tools of finance research as well the latest developments in finance research.

Quality research in finance requires a firm grasp of economics, statistics and mathematics. Microeconomics, macroeconomics and econometrics at the PhD level are required to be taken in the first year. Required coursework includes further advanced courses in economics, such as macroeconomics, industrial organization and information economics, depending on the student's specific interests. Students also take advanced courses in mathematics, probability theory and statistics, tailored to their background and research objectives. Students typically take courses offered through the economics department and the mathematics department at Northwestern University.

Formal coursework is only part of the student's education. Department seminars and research bag lunches, in which faculty members and outside speakers present and discuss their current research, provide students with opportunities to learn about the most current and controversial areas of finance. In addition, students present their current research during a PhD student seminar.

Independent Study

Second- and third-year students with superior academic records who wish to study some aspect of finance in greater depth than is offered in regular courses may register for independent study with a particular instructor. Independent study often leads to more precise formulation of dissertation topics.


To demonstrate knowledge of the required PhD courses, students must pass two preliminary examinations. The first one, at the end of the first year, focuses on microeconomics, macroeconomics or econometrics. The second one, in the spring of the second year, focuses on the content of the finance PhD courses.

A research paper is also required and must be completed during the spring quarter of the second year. Students typically take the oral qualifying exam sometime in their fourth year, at which time a formal dissertation proposal is presented. Students must be prepared to discuss the intended dissertation topic, its significance in the development of new theory and the research methodology that will be employed.


The most important requirement of the PhD program is a dissertation demonstrating original and significant research. A dissertation topic should be selected in the third year, in collaboration with the student's adviser or advisers. In addition to taking the oral qualifying exam, the student will present his or her preliminary results at a department seminar during the third year. The dissertation and final examination on the dissertation complete the degree requirements.

The Graduate School

The Graduate School at Northwestern University provides a array of services for graduate student. Several important links are provided here.