The doctoral program in finance in the Pamplin College of Business is a research-oriented program. The program is designed to prepare students for successful academic careers in research and teaching. Our graduates have been placed in tenure-track positions at well-known universities (see list of graduates here).

The strength of our doctoral program is derived from high quality researchers on our faculty.  The Finance faculty at Virginia Tech have published extensively in the top journals in finance and economics (Journal of Finance, Journal of Financial Economics, Review of Financial Studies, Journal of Business, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, American Economic Review, and Journal of Political Economy).  These faculty experts conduct one-on-one mentoring and work closely with students on research projects and publications. 

In a recent ranking conducted by UT Dallas, the Finance Department at Virginia Tech was ranked in the top 100 among universities in the US, based on research publications for the 2012-2016 period. The Department has a long-term commitment to research excellence among its faculty and doctoral students.

Ph.D. Program Committee:

Dr. John Easterwood, Director of Ph.D. Program
Dr. Greg Kadlec
Dr. Brad Paye
Dr. Jin Xu
Dr. Pengfei Ye

The admission decision for the Ph.D. program is a rigorous process in which candidates are evaluated on the basis of previous academic work, scores on admissions tests, letters of reference, statement of purpose and other factors. Applicants are encouraged to visit the department and meet with the faculty.

Application for admission to the doctoral program in finance may be made for the upcoming fall semester. All application materials should be received by the Graduate School by January 15. The program committee will begin reviewing files after that date and admission decisions are usually made by mid-March. 

Application Materials:

·       GMAT/GRE and GPA requirements

·       TOEFL requirement

·       Recommendation Letters 

·       Statement of Purpose


GMAT/GRE and GPA requirements: The Department ordinarily requires that the candidate take the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), but if a candidate has not taken the GMAT but has taken the GRE, the Department will accept the GRE. Since most of our applicants and current students have taken the GMAT, students who have not taken either test are highly encouraged to take the GMAT as it is easier for us to compare students, and this is likely to improve the applicant's chance of admission.

Students recently admitted to the program have an average GMAT over 700 and a masters grade point average of typically greater than 3.5. The average age is 27.

The committee places a heavy emphasis on the applicant's training in quantitative methods needed for graduate level economics and quantitative courses in the first year. Students currently in the program scored an average of the 94th percentile on the quantitative portion of the GMAT or GRE.

TOEFL requirement: We take in students from all over the world and have a diverse program representation. Students whose native language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). A minimum score of 100 for the iBT version of TOEFL is required. This requirement, however, is a necessary but not sufficient condition for meeting the expectations of the faculty with respect to a candidate's command of written and spoken English. Non-native English speaking applicants can expect to have at least a telephone interview. A degree from an English-language university is considered an acceptable substitute for TOEFL but does not assure that language will not be a factor in an admission decision.

All scores (GMAT/GRE, TOEFL) must be sent directly by the examination service to Virginia Tech. Unless specifically requested, copies of scores are not accepted. (Institutional code for reporting of scores is: 5859).

Recommendation Letters: We highly recommend letters from individuals who have a strong tracking record of publication.

Statement of Purpose: A good indicator to succeed in research is self-motivation and interest.  Thus, you should provide a clean and compelling purpose of pursuing a PhD degree.  Clarifying your research areas and specific research questions that you are interested may facilitate our decision making on the admission.


Application information and links:

The PhD in Finance is designed to teach students to conduct research in financial economics.  The focus is on producing research that will be published in the top academic journals in finance.  The structure of the program includes course work in finance, supporting course work in economics and on research methods, and research projects that hopefully will lead to publication.  The focal points in the evaluation of students will include coursework, the second year paper described below, and the dissertation. 

·        Coursework in Finance

·        Supporting coursework in economics and research methods

·        Research Projects 


Typical Course Schedule


First Year



ECON 5005 (Prices and Markets I) ECON 5006 (Prices and Markets II)
ECON 5124
(Mathematical Economics)
ECON 5126
(Empirical Economics II)
ECON 5125
(Empirical Economics I)
FIN 6116/6126 (Corporate/Investments)
FIN 6115/6125 (Corporate/Investments) FIN 7994
(Research and Dissertation)


Second Year



ECON 5945
(Econometrics Theory and Practice)
ECON 6024 (Adv. Econometrics)
FIN 6115/6125 (Corporate/Investments) FIN 6116/6126 (Corporate/Investments)
Elective Elective
FIN 7994
(Research and Dissertation)
FIN 7994
(Research and Dissertation)


Coursework in finance:  Students will take at least 4 seminars in finance (2 in corporate finance and 2 in investments).  The 2 pairs of seminars will be offered in alternate academic years.  Each course will consist of a mix of professor led classes and student presentations of published research papers.  Each course will include a paper prepared by the student and a final exam.  Papers may include proposals and literature reviews as well as complete papers.  The format of the final exam may either be in-class or out-of-class. 

Supporting course work in economics and research methods:  The Pamplin College will typically offer 2 or 3 research methods courses aimed at preparing students to read and conduct research in finance and financial accounting.  Finance PhD students will take these courses during their first 2 years in the program.   Additionally, finance PhD students will take 2 semesters of microeconomics and a mathematical economics course.  Students will take several other courses that may come in economics, agricultural economics, statistics, math, or other departments.  The student will choose the specific courses in consultation with the PhD director.

Research projects: Students will write first and second year papers as part of their academic preparation.  The first year paper includes the student identifying a research question, developing a plan for a project, collecting data or constructing a sample, devising tests, and presenting preliminary results.  The first year project emphasizes learning how to conduct research and is secondarily focused on output.  The second year project has more emphasis on output.  The student is expected to produce a quality draft of their project for the second year paper.  Successful completion and presentation of the second year paper are key events in a student’s program (along with the dissertation proposal).   The first year paper will be presented on September 15th of the student’s third semester (fall of the second year), and the second year paper will be presented about September 15th of the fifth semester (fall of the third year).  The exact date of paper presentations can be adjusted for calendar considerations. The above discussion describes empirical research projects because that is the norm for VT students.  A theoretical project is also possible.  Both first and second year papers will have a faculty advisor(s) chosen by the student in consultation with the PhD director.  All aspects of the papers are the responsibility of the student. 


Time line for first year paper:

·       May 31st – pick topic and submit proposal to PhD director.

·       September 8th – submit draft of paper to PhD director for distribution to faculty.

·       September 15th – present paper to faculty.

Time line for second year paper:

·       May 31st – submit draft for PhD committee review.  Expect to receive a brief written response indicating issues or problems to be addressed. This draft will be included in the committee’s review.

·       September 8th – submit draft to PhD director for distribution to faculty.

·       September 15th – present paper to faculty. Students should be prepared to explain all aspects of their projects and its relation to existing work and knowledge in the field. 


Evaluation of Students Progress

Students are evaluated in three ways during the first 2 and a half years.  First, the PhD director reviews their performance each semester.  This review emphasizes the course performance but also includes feedback on their performance as a graduate assistant.  Second, the PhD committee for the department will review each student’s performance in June of the first year after 2 semesters of coursework and again after 4 semesters of coursework. Included in the review are grades in all courses, exams from finance PhD seminars, papers written for finance courses, and first and second year papers as they are available.  Finally, the PhD committee will evaluate the student’s performance on the first and second year papers including both the paper drafts and the presentations.  Occasionally, a student may be encouraged to leave as part of each phase of evaluation.  If a student were asked to leave after the June reviews after the first and second year, the student and department head would be notified by July 1st.  If a student were asked to leave after the first or second year paper submission and presentation, the student and department head would be notified by October 1st.  Evaluation of the student’s potential to complete a PhD will be critical in the committee’s review of the second year paper and presentation. 

Evaluation of the student after the presentation and submission of the second year paper will consist of an annual review by the PhD director and completion of the dissertation.  The dissertation will be evaluated through a proposal defense and a final defense.  The proposal defense gives students a chance to discuss their research work and results while the particular research projects are still evolving.  Typically, proposal defenses occur when the dissertation is about 50% completed.  The final defense occurs when dissertation research is completed.  Decisions regarding the acceptability of dissertation research are made by the student’s dissertation committee. 


Link to Ph.D. Graduates


Current Ph.D. Students:


Shahram Amini

Shahram's areas of research include i) product market structure and managerial incentives, ii) corporate actions and subsequent market reaction, iii) IPO markets, and iv) market efficiency. Shahram received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering before earning a Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Tech. He is currently working towards his second Ph.D. in finance.

Shahram has taught several courses including Investments, Financial Concepts & Skills, and International Finance for which he has received the Meir I. Schneller Teaching Excellence Award from the Finance Department, and Pamplin Teaching Excellence Award from the College of Business for his teaching services. In his free time, Shahram enjoys playing sports, outdoor activities, traveling, and cooking.

Mengyan Chi

Mengyang received a bachelor’s degree in physics and a masters’ degree in finance from Peking University. Her current research includes topics on corporate finance and investment q-theory.

Amin Hosseinian

Amin earned a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s of Business Administration with a Finance concentration from the Sharif University of Technology. Amin has experience developing trading algorithms and designing high frequency trading packages while working on the Tehran Stock Exchange. He joined Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business in 2017 to pursue a Ph.D. in Finance. His research interests include market microstructure aspects of investments, including high frequency trading and informational content of market prices. He is currently serving as TA for the undergraduate finance classes, “Fixed Income Securities” and “Banking System”.

Fan Li  

Fan is currently a Ph.D. student in finance at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University . Before joining the program at Virginia Tech, he earned a master’s degree in Quant Finance from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with distinction in Troy, NY.  He studied mathematics at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China and earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics and applied mathematics. 

Hongyan Li

Hongyan holds a Bachelors degree in finance from Nankai University and a Masters degree in international finance from Fudan University in China. She pursued her study in US and received an MBA degree, concentration in finance, from University of Pittsburgh. Before joining Virginia Tech, she has worked as an instructor at Northern Michigan University and received high teaching evaluations. She also participated in the CFA track and passed all the exams. At her spare time, Hongyan enjoys traveling, reading and biking.Yao Li

Yao Li

Yao  received her B.S. in Economics from Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing, China and M.S. in Finance from University of Maryland, College Park. 

Xiaolei (Rock) Shi

Xiaolei (Rock)  received a bachelor degree in electrical engineering and two master degrees in business administration and mathematics of finance before joining the Ph.D. program at Virginia Tech.  After graduating from college, he started up his own business which ran for two years. Also, Rock used to work at the department of Global Trade Service in one of the top 5 banks in the world for five years.  He usually spends his free time in playing basketball, traveling, and diving. 

Yutong Xie

Yutong’s research interest includes payout policy, capital structure, corporate innovation, and general topics in corporate finance.  Yutong has taught several courses including Introduction to Finance (FIN 3104), Investment (FIN 3144), and Corporate Finance (FIN 3154). 

Ruiyao Zhu

Ruiyao Zhu’s research interests include executive compensation and corporate governance. Ruiyao is the 1st year Ph.D. student. Her research interests include executive compensation and corporate governance. She received her bachelor's degree in Finance, Accounting, and Management from Purdue University and her master in Finance degree from Syracuse University. 

The Ph.D. program offers the following financial support:

·       Waiver of 100 percent tuition.  Fees are not waived.

·       Annual stipends starting at $30,000 including summer support subject to eligibility.

·       Health insurance plans

An integral part of the Ph.D. program and indeed the ultimate objective of obtaining a Ph.D. is to find a tenure-track position at an academic institution. Fortunately for students in finance, the job search process is well organized.

The process is centered around two organizations, the Financial Management Association, or FMA, and the American Finance Association, or AFA. In the late summer, the FMA publishes two books, one containing advertisements of position openings and another containing resumés of available candidates. The student's dissertation chairperson and possibly other faculty members may write letters to faculty at other schools to advertise the candidate. Schools then contact candidates they are interested in and schedule interviews that take place at either the FMA convention which occurs in October, or the AFA convention which occurs in January. After these interviews, if a school is interested in pursuing a candidate, it invites the candidate for an on-campus interview, which usually occurs in February and March. The interview normally consists of meetings with faculty members and the student's seminar, which is an approximately one and a half hour presentation of his or her dissertation research.

Students should be aware that the most critical factors in obtaining a job offer are the likelihood of a completed dissertation before the student begins the job, the prospects for publication of high quality articles out of the dissertation as well as the potential for effective classroom teaching.