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Columbia Economics FAQs:


FAQs for incoming PhD students

1. Who should I contact if I have questions about the department?

The PhD Program Manager, Amy Devine (aed2152@columbia.edu) is the first point of contact for questions about the department.

2. How should incoming first-year students prepare for the start of the PhD program?

The Economics Department strongly recommends that all incoming PhD students attend Math Camp. It begins on August 8 and ends on August 29. We do not need you to do any particular preparation in the earlier part of the summer. You are all well qualified for the program.

3. Is Math Camp required?

No, Math Camp is not required but it is strongly recommended.

4. What software resources are available to Economics PhD students?

PhD students have access to licenses including Mathematica, Matlab, ArcGIS, Stata and a high-performance computing account with various other software.

5. Where do first-year students study?

First-year PhD students generally do not have individual work space in the department. They instead study in the Columbia Libraries, especially the Watson Business and Economics Library, and can also reserve departmental rooms for group study when available.

6. Is there an Economics Department PhD student club? How do new students join?

Yes, the Association for Graduate Economics Students (AGES) hosts regular events and workshops. All incoming PhD students are automatically enrolled as members.

7. Who advises first-year PhD students about academic-related questions?

The Director of Graduate Studies serves as the first-year academic adviser. The current DGS is Prof. Navin Kartik.

8. Who advises first-year PhD students if they have questions about student life?

For questions about student life, first-year students can contact AGES (ages.econ@gmail.com), Amy Devine (aed2152@columbia.edu) or The Graduate School Office of Student Affairs (gsas-studentaffairs@columbia.edu).

9. Can students pass out of the Math Methods (GR6410) course?

Yes, students may pass out of the Math Methods course if they successfully complete the corresponding exam and receive DGS approval.

10. Does the department require first-year PhD students to take Certifying exams?

First-year PhD students may have to take end-of-year certifying examinations in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics. These examinations are taken in the summer after the first year. They are graded pass or fail. If students receive a grade of B+ or better in both of the one-semester courses that make up the first-year sequence in microeconomics, macroeconomics, or econometrics, they are exempted from the requirement to take the certification exam in that field.

11. Does the department require second-year PhD students to take Field Exams?

In addition to courses, second-year students may have to pass a field exam in each field they have selected. (Each student must select two fields). Field exams are given in the summer after the second year. If students receive a grade of B+ or better in all of the courses taken to satisfy the requirements of a second-year field, they are exempted from the requirement to take the field exam in that field.

12. Are PhD students required to work as Teaching Fellows?

Yes, as part of their pedagogical training, all PhD students must work as Teaching Fellows for at least 2 semesters in order to obtain their degree. As part of the Columbia multi-year funding package, students generally work in years 2-4 as Teaching Fellows or Research Fellows unless they obtain funding from an external source.

13. What type of research opportunities are available to PhD students?

Research opportunities are available in the Economics Department, in the greater Columbia community and outside the University. Students begin research as early as in the summer after their first year. The Program for Economic Research (PER) supports many PhD student research initiatives. For more information, see link here.  Depending on their areas of interest, PhD students collaborate with Economics faculty and/or faculty in other schools such as the Business School, School of International and Public Affairs and Mailman School of Public Health, among others. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences supports student research as well. For more information, see link.

14. Does the department offer funding for conference travel?

The department allocates specific funding for conference travel in PhD students’ 4th and 5th years. In addition, students may submit funding requests to PER at any time. Funding for conference travel at any time is also available from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and frequently from individual faculty mentors or research groups/initiatives in the department. For more information, see link.

15. Does the department offer funding for data purchase?

Yes, PER supports data purchase requests. Awards are made on a case-by-case basis.

16. Does the department offer opportunities for PhD students to present their research?

PhD students have several venues to present research both in and out of the department. Starting in their second year, students present in at least one colloquium during the year. For more information about colloquia, please see the event schedule here. Starting in their third year, students present research in a colloquium once per semester. Additionally, students present research in workshops, lunches and breakfast meetings. Outside the department, students present their research in a variety of venues including the Business School, The Institute for Social and Economic Research Policy, and conferences around the world.

17. Can students take courses for credit in other departments such as Columbia Business School?

Yes, in lieu of one of the fields designated by the department, students may petition the DGS to take an individually-designed field. An individually-designed field consists of 3 courses, not all of which need to be offered by the Department. For more information, please see link here.

18. What is the Business Economics (BusEc) track?

For more information about the BusEc track, please see link here.

19. Can students take courses for credit at other universities such as Princeton and NYU?

Yes, as part of the Inter-College Doctoral Consortium (IUDC), Columbia PhD students can enroll in courses at participating universities. For more information, see link here.

20. How long does it typically take a PhD student to complete the program?

In recent years, most of our PhD students have completed the program in 6 years.

21. Once they graduate, where do Columbia PhD students get jobs?

For recent placement information, please see link. 

FAQs about Columbia University

22. Who should I contact if I have general questions about Columbia?

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has a comprehensive website that offers detailed information about graduate life. For more information, see link here. If you are unable to find the information you need, please contact Amy Devine.

23. Where can I find information about course offerings at Columbia?

Course information is listed on the Directory of Classes.

24. Where can I find information about the academic calendar?

The Office of the University Registrar maintains the academic calendar. For more information, see link here.

25. How can I find out about events happening on campus?

The Economics Department maintains an electronic announcement page and posts updates on the Economics PhD bulletin board in the International Affairs Building. PER distributes updates regarding speaker events, lectures and workshops. Campus-wide events for the graduate community are listed here.

26. How can I find out more information about what is covered by Columbia’s health benefits for PhD students?

For detailed information about health benefits, please consult Columbia Health’s webpage here.

27. What does a sample apartment look like?

See examples of accommodations here on Columbia Residential’s website.

28. How do I find out more about the on-campus housing registration procedure?

See detailed information about the application process here.

29. Is there a guarantee that on-campus housing will be available until I complete my PhD degree?

For students in good academic standing who make adequate progress toward their degree, guaranteed on-campus housing is available for 5 years with a possible 2-year extension. For more information, see here.

30. Are on-campus housing units furnished?

Yes, for more information about accommodations reserved for PhD students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences program, please see link. (Select the school specific tab and choose Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.)

31. Does Columbia assist students who would prefer to rent off-campus apartments?

Yes, please contact Columbia’s Off-Campus Housing Assistance Office.

32. What are the fitness options?

Graduate students can work out at Dodge Fitness Center. They are not required to pay a membership fee.

33. Do I have to pay for the gym membership?

No, PhD students in Economics do not pay the Dodge Fitness membership fee during the semester. However, individual and group classes are fee-based activities.

FAQs about Morningside Heights and New York City

34. What sort of safety measures are in place to protect the Columbia community?

New York has a lower-than-average crime rate and ranks among the safest large cities in the country. For more information, see link here. Within New York City, Morningside Heights is consistently named one of the safest precincts. Furthermore, the Department of Public Safety ensures the security of Columbia’s campus and its students.

35. How can I find out about events happening in the community?

For upcoming events, students should consult the Arts Initiative link.

36. Are there student discounts available for arts and entertainment in New York?

Yes, the Arts Initiative webpage has numerous listings for free and discounted performances. For more information, see link.

37. How do people get around the city?

Public transportation options include the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) subway and bus system. Citibikes are available throughout the city. Many opt to walk to nearby destinations.

38. Are there discounted transportation options?

There are no discounts for the MTA bus or subway with the exception for those with qualifying disabilities. For more information, see link.

1022 International Affairs Building (IAB)
Mail Code 3308  
420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
Ph: (212) 854-3680
Fax: (212) 854-0749
Business Hours:
Mon–Fri, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

1022 International Affairs Building (IAB)

Mail Code 3308

420 West 118th Street

New York, NY 10027

Ph: (212) 854-3680
Fax: (212) 854-0749
Business Hours:
Mon–Fri, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
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