A joint degree offered by HBS and the Department of Economics in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the PhD in Business Economics combines economic analysis with the practical aspects of business. This degree is primarily intended to prepare students for careers in research and teaching in business administration and related fields of economics. Possible fields of specialization include corporate finance, organizations and markets, international business, business strategy and industrial organization, corporate governance, and business and government.

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Curriculum & Coursework

Students in Business Economics take courses in microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, probability and statistics, econometrics, business history, two MBA elective curriculum courses, and other doctoral level courses. 


Students are required to complete a teaching assignment for one full academic term.

Field Exam

The Field Exam is a written examination jointly administered through the Economics department at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) in conjunction with the Business Economics program. The purpose is to test an area or areas of study in business economics and related fields in economics. It is administered at the end of the second year, before the close of the spring term.

After passing the Field Exam, students are expected to enroll in a working seminar or participate in an informal lunchtime seminar group.

Dissertation Proposal & Committee Report

Within one year of completing their field exams, students are required to present their research ideas to a committee comprising at least two faculty members, including representatives from both HBS and the Economics Department. Prior to the presentation, students must send the committee a preliminary research plan of at most five pages.  The committee will provide feedback and decide whether the student is making satisfactory progress toward the degree. Students will receive coordinated advice from faculty regarding the students’ progress and be given detailed recommendations for future research plans, particularly with respect to possible job market paper and dissertation plans.  If all faculty committee members are present for a student’s seminar presentation (e.g., the PhD Finance Lunch), this could fulfill the presentation portion of the requirement, so long as the student schedules a meeting with all faculty committee members in attendance for coordinated feedback after the presentation.

Research & Dissertation

The dissertation should demonstrate the candidate's ability to perform original research that develops in a scholarly way a significant contribution to the knowledge and understanding in the chosen special field. The original work will include the presentation, analysis, and evaluation of unique data yielding significant, relevant, and independent research conclusions.

Some detailed questions recently explored: theoretical and empirical finance, with emphasis on the role of market structure in price formation; the relationship between organizational form and corporate investment decisions; and the impact of financial flows - ranging from international aid to private bank credit - on the lives of the poor.

See Program Requirements for detailed curriculum information.