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The Ph.D. 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 coursework 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. 

Typical Course Schedule


First Year



ECON 5005 (Prices and Markets I) ECON 5006 (Prices and Markets II)
ECON 5124
(Mathematical Economics)
MKTG 6244 (Advanced Quantitative Research)
FIN 6104 (Financial Research Methods) FIN 6116/6126 (Corporate/Investments)
FIN 6115/6125 (Corporate/Investments) FIN 7994
(Research and Dissertation)
FIN 6004 (Doctoral Development)  


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)
FIN 6004 (Doctoral Development)  


Students must submit a Plan of Study to the Graduate School by the end of their third semester with the assistance of the program's Graduate Coordinator. A Plan of Study identifies all coursework which will be attempted to complete the Finance Ph.D. program. A student's Dissertation Committee Members must also be identified on the Plan of Study (to include no less than four members, with one Chair), as well as information about completion of other graduation requirements, such as the university's ethics requirement.

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. Students will take Doctoral Development coursework yearly in the fall, throughout matriculation.

Supporting coursework 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 Ph.D. students will take these courses during their first 2 years in the program.  Additionally, finance Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. director. All aspects of the papers are the responsibility of the student. 

Time line for first year paper

  • May 31st – pick a topic and submit a proposal to the Ph.D. director.
  • September 8th – submit a draft of the paper to the Ph.D. director for distribution to faculty.
  • September 15th – present paper to faculty.

Time line for second year paper

  • May 31st – submit a draft for Ph.D. 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 a draft to the Ph.D. director for distribution to faculty. Schedule Preliminary Exam in ESS.
  • September 15th – present paper to faculty. Students should be prepared to explain all aspects of their projects and their 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 Ph.D. director reviews their performance each semester. This review emphasizes the course performance but also includes feedback on their performance as graduate assistants. Second, the Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. seminars, papers written for finance courses, and first and second year papers as they are available. Finally, the Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. 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.