Finance PhD Curriculum

 

The Finance Department at the Eller College of Management comprises world-class researchers, scholars and teachers in all areas of finance.

The doctoral program in finance prepares its graduates primarily for careers as university professors, with research agendas in corporate finance, financial institutions and market microstructure and the pricing of financial securities. The faculty members, with degrees from internationally recognized universities, conduct research in these areas.

First Year

The following is an outline of the coursework students can expect to complete during the first year of the Finance PhD program. The coursework is subject to change due to the availability of classes.

Three weeks prior to the first semester of study (generally starting the last late July), entering Finance PhD students will be required to take Economics 519, Math for Economists, a boot camp designed to help prepare students for the mathematical rigors of the program. This course will continue through the fall semester.

Prior to the start of the Math for Economists course, generally in mid-July, students will also be required to complete two SAS workshops hosted by the Accounting and Finance Departments and designed to demonstrate the use of SAS in financial research. 

The First Year focus is on developing a foundation in economics and on acquiring the necessary skills to be a first-rate scholar in finance.

Courses students take in the first semester include:

  • Economics 501A, Microeconomic Theory I. A PhD level microeconomics course focusing on individual and firm-level optimization.
  • Economics 501B, Microeconomic Theory II. An economics course focusing on general equilibrium and competitive analysis as well as market failure. These subjects are becoming increasingly important in the study of finance.
  • Economics 519, Mathematical Economics. Introduction to the theory and methods of mathematical economics and its applications. Designed primarily for entering graduate students majoring in economics.
  • Economics 520, Theory of Quantitative Methods in Economics. A statistics course designed to prepare students to study econometrics.

To do well in Economics 501A, 519 and 520, students should be very comfortable with calculus and the principles of optimization, as well as know some linear algebra and analysis. Students with below this level of mathematics background are strongly encouraged to plan to attend courses at The University of Arizona in the summer prior to their enrollment to cover the necessary mathematics topics.

Courses the second semester will include:

  • Finance 601, Financial Decision Making. Theoretical and applied financial economics relating to uncertainty in markets, information and choice.
  • Finance 695A, Investments. The exchange of scholarly information and/or secondary research, usually in a small group setting. Instruction often includes lectures by several different persons. Research projects may or may not be required of course registrants.
  • Economics 522A, Econometrics I. The first course in the econometrics sequence studying the theory of econometric estimation of single and simultaneous equation models. 
  • Optional elective: Accounting 682, Advanced Financial Accounting. This course surveys the literature in financial accounting research and requires students to conduct their own archival data analysis. 

    Other classes might include:

  • Finance 542, Fixed Income. To introduce students to fixed income portfolio management. The course objective is to provide students with a set of tools to analyze fixed income markets.
  • Math 522, Advanced Applied Analysis. Review of multivariable calculus, series solutions of differential equations, Laplace transforms, Fourier series, introduction to partial differential equations.
  • Accounting 696A, Taxation. The development and exchange of scholarly information related to accounting theory, usually in a small group setting.
  • Accounting 696D, Accounting Theory. The development and exchange of scholarly information related to accounting theory, usually in a small group setting.
  • Available Economics, Finance or Accounting seminars (695, 696 and 697 courses).

Each student is required to meet the requirements of a minor in Economics, which includes the required first year coursework in economics as listed above (ECON501A, ECON501B, ECON520, ECON522A) and passing the first year written qualifying examination administered by the Economics Department faculty in May/June following the first year of study.

The Qualifying Examination is taken by PhD students at the end of the first year in the program, typically in early June. It is a written examination in either theory or quantitative methods and is based on the material taught in the Economics courses taken during the first year of the program. The theory examination covers the material in the microeconomic core courses (ECON 501A and 501B). The quantitative examination covers the material in the statistics and econometrics courses (ECON 520 and 522A). Copies of the questions on earlier preliminary exams can be obtained from the Economics Department Graduate Coordinator.

The goal of the exam is to ensure that students have developed an appreciation for how all of the material fits together in a broader framework of economic reasoning. In addition, the exam will help students solidify their knowledge about the core of economics. The qualifying examination is a requirement for continuation in the program.

If the student does not pass the exam at the end of the first year of the program, the department may elect to dismiss the student from the PhD program, withdraw financial assistance awarded in prior semesters or allow the student to retake the exam in August (around the start of Fall semester of the second year of study, per the Economics Department schedule) at which time the first year qualifying examination must be completed with a passing grade.

In the student’s first year, the Faculty PhD Advisor serves as student's advisor. By the summer after their first year, the student will arrange for another faculty member to serve as “major professor” and provide advice and guidance on the second year paper. The Faculty PhD Advisor and major professor are jointly responsible for approving the student’s Plan of Study (to be submitted to the Graduate College no later than the third semester). Eventually, the student will arrange for a tenure-track faculty member to serve as dissertation supervisor. The student and dissertation supervisor work together to form a dissertation or examining committee, which provides timely input to the student and ultimately is responsible for approving the dissertation. The dissertation committee should be formed no later than the end of the third year.


Second Year

The following is an outline of the coursework students can expect to complete during the second year of the Finance PhD program. The coursework is subject to change due to the availability of classes.

During the second year of the program, courses tend to be more specialized and are designed to introduce students to a number of different areas in which they potentially could do research. In the second year, courses could include:

  • Economics 522B, Econometrics II. The second course in the econometrics sequence studying the theory of econometric estimation of single and simultaneous equation models.
  • Economics 597C, Teaching Methods in Economics (required). The purpose of this workshop is to familiarize graduate students with the key skills and understandings that are important in being an effective teacher.

  • Finance 602, Dynamic Assets Pricing.  Financial models and empirical tests: asset pricing models, financial behavior; corporate financial decisions.
  • Finance 620A, Finance Markets and Corporate Finance. Financial models and empirical tests: asset pricing models, financial behavior; corporate financial decisions.

Other courses could include:

  • Economics 549/AREC 549, Applied Econometric Analysis. A course designed to provide students with hands on experience in econometric modeling (using SAS).
  • Economics 696A, Experimental Economics. The development and exchange of scholarly information, usually in a small group setting.
  • Economics 696E, Econometric Modeling I. The development and exchange of scholarly information, usually in a small group setting.
  • Economics 696F, Econometric Modeling II. The development and exchange of scholarly information, usually in a small group setting.
  • Economics 696I, Labor Economics II. The development and exchange of scholarly information, usually in a small group setting.
  • Economics 696P, Industrial Organization and Regulation I. The development and exchange of scholarly information, usually in a small group setting.
  • Economics 696Q, Industrial Organization and Regulation II. The development and exchange of scholarly information, usually in a small group setting.
  • Economics 696W, Environmental and Energy Economics-Empirical. The development and exchange of scholarly information, usually in a small group setting.
  • Economics 697B, Applied Economic Analysis. The practical application of theoretical learning within a group setting and involving an exchange of ideas and practical methods, skills and principles.
  • Math 522, Advanced Applied Analysis. Review of multivariable calculus, series solutions of differential equations, Laplace transforms, Fourier series, introduction to partial differential equations. 
  • Available Economics, Finance or Accounting seminars (695, 696 and 697 courses).
  • Available 500-level Mathematics courses.

In addition to completing their coursework and qualifying examinations, all students must submit a second-year paper in order to continue in the program. This second year paper could be an extension of a paper discussed in FIN 601, FIN 695A or ACCT 682, a seminar paper presented during the first year, or a faculty member’s current research. The topic must be approved by the PhD Faculty Advisor and the student’s “major professor” by the end of the summer after the first year. Approval will require that the student submit a literature review and hypotheses, and that these be deemed acceptable.

The preliminary second year paper must be presented to the faculty in February of the second year. Satisfactory progress on the second year paper is required in order for a student to take their written comprehensive exam. The completed paper must be presented to the faculty in the summer following their second year.

Additional summer funding may be available to PhD students and, if available, will be awarded on a competitive basis. This may take the form of summer teaching opportunities, guidance of MSF projects or competitive research grants.

"In conjunction with his/her major professor or advisor, each student is responsible for developing a Plan of Study during their first year in residence, to be filed with the Graduate College no later than the student's third semester in residence.

"The Plan of Study identifies (1) courses the student intends to transfer from other institutions; (2) courses already completed at The University of Arizona which the student intends to apply toward the graduate degree; and (3) additional course work to be completed in order to fulfill degree requirements. The Plan of Study must have the approval of the student's major professor and department head (or Director of Graduate Studies) before it is submitted to the Graduate College."

(For more information, review the UA Graduate College catalog.

To access the Doctoral Plan of Study form, log in to UAccessStudent with a student UA Net ID and click on "GradPath." Note that dissertation hours are not included on the form as coursework. 

In the beginning of the summer following the second year (usually in early June, shortly after classes end), students will take the comprehensive written examination covering the entire field of finance. Students are expected to be able to answer questions from all areas of finance, although the emphasis will be on topics discussed in the finance courses the students have taken during the first two years of the program and department seminars the students have attended during the same time. 

Students who do not pass the comprehensive examination may, at the discretion of the faculty, be given a second chance to pass the exam prior to the start of the following fall semester, be awarded an MS degree if they have satisfied the Master's requirements and/or be dismissed from the PhD program.

The Graduate Council and the Faculty Senate require that students must complete their degree within five years of passing the Comprehensive Examination. Should a student not finish within that time period, he or she may be allowed to re-take the Comprehensive Examination with permission of the program. 

Students in the doctoral program will not be awarded a master's degree in finance for coursework completed toward the PhD program requirements. However, if a student does not pass the finance comprehensive written examination after the second year of study, the Finance Department Head and/or PhD Faculty Advisor may elect to offer an alternative course of action and plan of study for the student to complete and earn an MSF degree.


Third and Fourth Years

The following is an outline of the requirements students can expect to complete during the third and fourth years of the Finance PhD program.

During the third and fourth years of the PhD program, students will complete the required coursework for the degree, including 18 units of dissertation as required by The UA Graduate College. The PhD in Management with a major in Finance will require not less than 66 total credit hours, including at least 36 hours in the major, 12 hours in the minor and 18 hours of dissertation credit.

No later than the September following the third year, students are required to successfully complete the dissertation proposal and comprehensive oral examination on related topics.

The typical dissertation proposal and oral exam starts with extensive questioning on the student's dissertation proposal and related research and then expands over time into the fundamentals of finance and economics that the student must know to complete their research and also to be considered a good finance researcher. In addition, the comprehensive oral examination will test a student's ability to understand at a deeper level the state of the knowledge on a particular topic and his/her ability to formulate and defend a research proposal on this topic. 

Under the supervision of one or more Finance faculty members (dissertation chair(s)), students are expected to prepare and submit a research proposal at least one month prior to the date of the dissertation proposal for review by the Finance faculty members.

After consulting with the PhD Faculty Advisor and the dissertation chair(s), the student chooses a dissertation committee. The dissertation committee typically consists of three members of the Finance faculty and one member from the department of the student's minor field. The examining committee members are appointed by the Dean of the Graduate College upon the recommendation of the heads of the academic departments involved. 

The dissertation research proposal should demonstrate an understanding of the literature in an area of the student's choosing and should contain a research strategy that has the potential to advance knowledge in the area. This document should contain:

  • An introduction, overview and outline of the entire dissertation;
  • A relatively polished chapter with results; and,
  • A second chapter in-process and demonstrating that the student is relatively far along in the research.

Once the student and dissertation committee members have agreed on a date and time for the dissertation proposal presentation and oral comprehensive examination, the "Comprehensive Examination Committee Appointment" form must be completed in UAccessStudent, GradApp.  Following the committee form, the "Application for Oral Comprehensive Examination for Doctoral Candidate" must also be completed and routed for approval.

The oral examination typically starts with a 10 to 15 minute presentation and overview of the dissertation proposal that briefly touches on all aspects of the thesis, including overheads for key tables as appropriate. The focus during the examination will be on the student answering the committee's questions, first concentrating on the student's dissertation proposal and the financial and economic issues related to the proposal.

Students will also be asked about the value of such a strategy, as well as its feasibility and limitations. The questioning will expand to address the fundamental knowledge that the student must have mastered to complete their research in the field and the general knowledge that professional researchers in finance should know. This is the occasion when faculty committee members have both the opportunity and obligation to require the student to display a broad knowledge of the chosen field of study and sufficient depth of understanding in areas of specialization. The examining committee must attest that the student has demonstrated the professional level of knowledge expected of a junior academic colleague.

At least three members of the faculty dissertation committee must be in attendance for the entire exam, which should be at least one hour in length, but not exceed three hours. Students should expect the typical length to be roughly an hour and a half to two hours.

If a student fails the oral exam on the first try, a reexamination may be given in certain circumstances. However, any reexamination must be recommended by the examining committee, endorsed by the major department, and approved by the Graduate College. Four months must elapse between the first and second attempt. The Graduate College allows no more than one retake of the oral exam.

Additionally, if the student does not pass the comprehensive oral examination by the start of the fourth year of the program, the department may elect to dismiss the student from the Ph.D. program, withdraw financial assistance awarded in prior semesters and/or set a date (before the end of the Fall semester of the fourth year of study) by which time the comprehensive oral examination must be completed with a passing grade.

If a student does not take the comprehensive oral examination before the Fall semester of the fourth year, the Department may elect to dismiss the student from the PhD program, withdraw financial assistance awarded in prior semesters and/or set a date (before the end of the Fall semester of the fourth year of study) by which time the comprehensive oral examination must be completed and passed.

Satisfaction of the course requirements and passing all examinations advances the student to the candidacy for the PhD degree.

"When the student has an approved doctoral Plan of Study on file, has satisfied all course work, language and residence requirements and passed the written and oral portions of the Comprehensive Examination, he or she will be Advanced to Candidacy.

The PhD degree is awarded upon satisfactory completion of the dissertation. An acceptable dissertation is one that the faculty judges to make sufficient contribution to financial knowledge that, with minor revisions, will be publishable in a top academic journal. 

A Final Oral Defense examination of the dissertation (dissertation of defense) in both the major and minor subjects is scheduled upon completion. Faculty committee members will require the student to display a broad knowledge of the chosen field of study and sufficient depth of understanding in areas of specialization. The examining committee must attest that the student has demonstrated the professional level of knowledge expected of a junior academic colleague.

To notify the Graduate College of your scheduled final oral defense examination, complete the "Announcement of Final Oral Examination" form in UAccessStudent, GradPath. The form will be routed for approval through both the Finance and minor departments.

"The exact time and place of this examination must be scheduled with the Graduate Degree Certification Office at least three weeks in advance and announced publicly in Lo Que Pasa at least one week in advance. The dissertation director presides over the examination. The examination is closed to the public, except for an initial seminar portion during which the student presents the dissertation and entertains questions."

(For more information, read the UA Graduate College catalog.)

The dissertation director presides over the examination. The initial seminar portion during which the student presents the dissertation and entertains questions is open to the public.  The committee's deliberation is closed to the public.

There is no minimum time limit for the Final Oral Examination, but the entire proceedings may not exceed three hours. Members of the committee must be present for the entire examination. More instructions and links to forms are available on the Graduate College website

A Ph.D. dissertation represents the student, the department, and The University of Arizona in the international scholarly community. This work is important and worthy of professional presentation. Therefore, The UA Graduate College publishes a manual detailing the required dissertation format to ensure it meets these high standards. Please refer to this manual for specifications on the type, title page, table of contents, references and more. A few sample pages (including doctoral approval page and title page) are also available on the UA Graduate College website.

At your final dissertation defense, provide an Approval Page Form to the dissertation committee members to sign. This will be inserted as the second page of your submitted dissertation. Also, please ensure that a Change of Grade form is available to provide to your major advisor. The Change of Grade form indicating your grade (Superior/Pass/Fail) for the dissertation as determined by your committee must be submitted to the Graduate College immediately upon completion of your final defense.

When you have reached this point, the degree requirements have been completed and hearty congratulations are given and well deserved.