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Distinguish yourself as a leading finance scholar.

Our Ph.D. in Finance program educates and empowers students as they develop into leading industry scholars. We deliver a comprehensive curriculum paired with a hands-on research approach that involves doctoral students in research projects with faculty members early in their degree program.

Finance Doctoral Student Handbook

Curriculum Overview

The research interests of the department cover all of the major areas of finance, including corporate finance, behavioral finance, international finance, financial intermediation, financial markets, portfolio theory, empirical investments and theoretical asset pricing.

All students who enter the Ph.D. in Finance program choose a program of study in consultation with the department’s doctoral program director. A typical student’s program covers a broad range of topics, including microeconomics, econometrics, corporate finance and investments (outlined below).

Semester 1 (Fall)

  • Economics 812A: Microeconomics I
  • Economics 820A: Econometrics IA
  • Finance 891: Topics in Finance

Semester 2 (Spring)

  • Economics 812B: Microeconomics II
  • Economics 820B: Econometrics IB
  • Finance 982: Finance Theory

First Summer Research

  • Research-related activity under supervision of faculty.

Semester 3 (Fall)

  • Finance 981: Corporate Finance Theory
  • Economics 821A: Cross Section Econometrics I
  • Free Elective

Semester 4 (Spring)

  • Finance 982: Investment Theory
  • Finance 983: Financial Econometrics
  • Economics 821B: Cross Section Econometrics III

Second Summer

Comprehensive exams are taken during late spring. After passing this exam, the student can begin working on the doctoral dissertation under the supervision of an individual faculty member.

Years 3 and 4 (and 5, if necessary)

Student conducts individual research, culminating in a doctoral dissertation. The dissertation proposal and defense are oral presentations made before the student’s dissertation committee.

Students are admitted to the finance doctoral program only for the fall semester and on a full-time basis. Find out more about admission criteria and the application process.

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Faculty-student collaboration is a significant part of the Broad experience. Finance doctoral students have the opportunity to work with some of the top researchers across multiple disciplines. Find out more about the research opportunities for finance doctoral students at MSU.

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The finance faculty at Michigan State University are outstanding in their field and have diverse research interests. Meet our faculty currently working with Ph.D. students in the finance doctoral program.

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See a roster of current doctoral students in the program as well as a listing of our graduates’ placements at research institutions across the globe over the last decade.

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Tuition and Financial Aid

All admitted students (domestic and international) are eligible for a graduate assistantship. In the past all admitted students have been guaranteed four years of financial support, including a tuition credit and a monthly stipend. Students typically find that the stipend is sufficient to cover their living expenses. Eligible students may receive a fifth year of support, if required.

At the present time, all finance doctoral students receive financial support from the department, the college, and/or various external organizations. Our goal is to provide every student admitted to the program with a graduate assistantship. The assistantship is usually at a half-time level, requiring the student to work as a teaching and/or research assistant for twenty hours a week. Renewal of financial assistance is contingent on satisfactory progress in the program and on funding availability.

Assistantships include a nine-credit-hour tuition waiver for each of the fall and spring semesters, a four-credit-hour tuition waiver for the summer session, a waiver for the out-of-state portion of tuition for non-Michigan residents and health insurance. The waiver does not include registration fees or other fees. The typical assistantship currently pays approximately $25,000 for duties assigned during the academic year.

Depending on funding and our teaching needs, we are typically able to offer most Ph.D. in Finance students an additional $5,000 assistantship over the summer for teaching. To be eligible for a teaching assignment, all international students must pass an oral English test (the SPEAK test) administered by Michigan State.

Since all admitted students typically receive funding, international students do not need to include the “Affidavit of Support” form with their application. Further details on the terms of assistantships will be provided to all students who are offered admission.

Contact Information

  • Department of Finance
  • Eppley Center
  • 667 N Shaw Ln Rm 315
  • East Lansing, MI 48824
  • Phone: (517) 353-1745
Front entrance of the Minskoff Pavilion at dusk

Frequently Asked Questions

Program Overview

  • What are you looking for in a student?

    We are looking for students who have strong analytical minds, yet who are also creative thinkers. We find that some of these students have come from traditional business programs, but many others come from more quantitative fields, including engineering, economics, math, statistics and the natural sciences. Students with business education backgrounds should make sure that they have the quantitative skills to survive in a Ph.D. finance program. Students with more quantitative backgrounds should make sure that they are familiar with MBA-level finance and are committed to using their quantitative skills to tackle finance research questions.

  • Can I study part time?

    No. The finance program is an extremely intense program requiring a large time investment. Most of our students find that they study at least twice as many hours a week as they did during their undergraduate or master’s studies.

  • What types of students are in the Ph.D. in Finance program?

    Historically, more than half of our students are international, drawn primarily from Europe and Asia. Many of our international students have a prior degree from a U.S. school. Most, but not all, of our recent students have a master’s degree. Our students’ prior degrees are quite diverse and include engineering, economics, math, statistics and finance.

  • What types of jobs do your graduates receive?

    We train students for research and teaching careers. Most graduates have secured positions at U.S. or international universities. A small number of students have chosen to pursue careers in consulting or industry. See the Students and Placements page for more information.


  • If I have a degree from a U.S. university, am I required to take the TOEFL test?

    No. A degree from a U.S. school will exempt you from the TOEFL requirement.

  • What GMAT score is required for admission?

    We have no set cutoff for GMAT scores. However, we do look at these scores very closely. The average score of our most recent group of admitted students was 713. Unless a student has a very strong prior academic record, admission with a score below 650 is very unlikely.

  • What if I have taken the GRE instead of the GMAT?

    We prefer the GMAT, but we are willing to accept a GRE score instead of the GMAT. We look at all scores on the GRE test, with an emphasis on the quantitative section. Our typical admitted student will have GRE scores in the 95th percentile or above. Unless a student has a very strong prior academic record, admission with an overall score below the 90th percentile is highly unlikely.

  • Is work experience necessary for admission?

    Absolutely not. A few students have practical work experience in the financial sector. This experience often helps them in identifying research projects and/or data sets. However, many students have no past job experience. Finance research is highly theoretical and statistical and requires a very different skill set than what is typically needed in the business world.

  • How many students apply to the program? How many are admitted?

    We typically receive 100–200 applications in any given year. We generally admit four to six students for study in a given fall semester. Competition for spots in the program is intense.

Financial Aid

  • Who is eligible for financial aid?

    All admitted students (domestic and international) are eligible for a graduate assistantship. In the past, all admitted students have been guaranteed four years of financial support, including a tuition credit, health insurance coverage, and a monthly stipend. Students typically find that the stipend is sufficient to cover their living expenses. In most cases, students can receive a fifth year of support, if required.