Finance Requirements

I. Preparation

The study of financial economics requires a grasp of several types of basic mathematics. Students must enter with or very quickly acquire knowledge of the concepts and techniques of:

Topic Courses
  • MATH 19, 20, 21: Calculus 
Linear Algebra
  • MATH 51: Linear Algebra, Multivariable Calculus, and Modern Applications
  • MATH 113: Linear Algebra and Matrix Theory
  • STATS 200: Introduction to Statistical Inference
  • STATS 116: Theory of Probability

It is strongly advised that students without a strong and recent background in calculus, linear algebra, or statistics come to Stanford in June to take courses to strengthen any weak areas.

Computer programming skills are necessary in coursework (as early as the first quarter of the first year) and in research. If students do not have adequate computer programming skills, they may wish to take a computer programming course before they arrive at Stanford, or take an appropriate Stanford computer science course while here.

II. Course Requirements

All required courses must be taken for a grade (not pass/fail or credit/no credit). Exceptions are made if the required course is offered pass/fail or credit/no credit only. Each course must be passed with a grade of P or B- or better. Substitutions of required courses require approval from the faculty liaison. Waiving a course requirement based on similar doctoral level course completed elsewhere requires the approval of the course instructor, faculty liaison, and the PhD Program Office.

Topic Courses
(3 courses)
  • MGTECON 600 Microeconomic Analysis I
  • MGTECON 601 Microeconomic Analysis II
  • ECON 210 Macroeconomics I
Statistical Methods
(3 courses)
  • MGTECON 603 Econometric Methods I
  • MGTECON 604 Econometric Methods II
  • MGTECON 605 Econometric Methods III
Finance Base Requirements
(5 courses)
  • FIN 620 Financial Markets I
  • FIN 624 Corporate Finance Theory
  • FIN 625 Empirical Asset Pricing
  • FIN 630 Empirical Corporate Finance
  • FIN 637 Macroeconomics and Financial Markets
Finance Specialization Requirements (2 Courses)

Students specialize in one of two tracks in finance research.

Capital Markets Track

  • FIN 622 Dynamic Asset Pricing Theory
  • FIN 632 International Finance and Macroeconomics

Corporate/Household/Banking Track

  • FIN 626 Advanced Corporate Finance
  • FIN 633 Advanced Empirical Corporate, Banking and Household Finance 
General Field Methods
(4 courses)

Students choose a minimum of two 2-course sequences from the alternative fields listed below. Courses may not be used to fulfill two general fields. In many cases, students interested in the field will want to take more than two of the suggested course in the field. 

Capital Markets*

  • FIN 622 Dynamic Asset Pricing Theory
  • FIN 632 International Finance and Macroeconomics

*Students may select course sequence if not taken to fulfill the Finance Specialization requirement. 


  • FIN 626 Advanced Corporate Finance
  • FIN 633 Advanced Empirical Corporate, Banking and Household Finance

*Students may select course sequence if not taken to fulfill the Finance Specialization requirement.

Economic Theory

  • ECON 282 Contracts, Information, and Incentives
  • ECON 286 Game Theory and Economic Applications
  • ECON 289 Advanced Topics in Game Theory and Information Economics
  • ECON 290 Multiperson Decision Theory
  • MGTECON 602 Auctions, Bargaining, and Pricing
  • MGTECON 608 Multiperson Decision Theory
  • MGTECON 626 Continuous-time Methods in Economics and Finance

Financial Market Design

  • ECON 257 Industrial Organization I
  • ECON 258 Industrial Organization IIA
  • ECON 282 Contracts, Information, and Incentives
  • ECON 283 Theory and Practice of Auction Market Design
  • MGTECON 602 Auctions, Bargaining, and Pricing


  • ACCT 610  Seminar in Empirical Accounting Research
  • ACCT 611  Disclosure and Financial Markets
  • ACCT 612  Financial Reporting Seminar
  • ACCT 617  Applications of Contract Theory in Accounting Research

Advanced Macroeconomics

  • ECON 233 Advanced Macroeconomics I
  • ECON 234 Advanced Macroeconomics II
  • ECON 237 Heterogeneity in Macroeconomics
  • ECON 266 International Trade I

Industrial Organization

  • ECON 257  Industrial Organization 1
  • ECON 258  Industrial Organization II A
  • ECON 260  Industrial Organization III

Advanced Econometrics

  • ECON 273  Advanced Econometrics I
  • ECON 274  Advanced Econometrics II
  • ECON 275  Economics-Based Econometrics

III. Practicum

Students are required to sign up for either a research or teaching practicum each quarter of enrollment. Below is a description of the practicum requirements for Finance students.

During the student’s first year, the student will be assigned each quarter to work with a different faculty member. This assignment will involve mentoring and advising from the faculty member and RA work from the student. The purpose of new assignments each quarter is to give the student exposure to a number of different faculty members.

In subsequent years, the practicum will take the form of a research or teaching mentorship, where the student is expected to provide research or teaching support under the guidance and advice of a faculty member. Faculty assignments here will be made through informal discussions between faculty and students, and may be quarterly, or for the entire year.

For students of all years, one requirement to satisfy the practicum is that students regularly attend the Finance seminar. The only exception to this will be if there is a direct and unavoidable conflict between the seminar and necessary coursework.

IV. Summer Research Papers

All students in all years are expected to complete a research paper over the summer, and present this paper in the Fall quarter. A draft of this research paper should be submitted by the end of September to the field liaison. Students can continue to work on and improve their paper up to their presentation.

For students completing their first year, the summer paper should demonstrate the mastery of a specific area in the literature together with the early development of a research idea in this area. The student will be expected to present this paper to a gathering of three Finance faculty members of the student’s choosing in October.

In all years after the first year, the summer research paper should be a well-developed research paper. (Well-developed does not mean completed – research is always presented as work in progress. Rather, it means that the work shows enough progress and development to merit a seminar presentation.) Students will then present their papers to the overall Finance faculty and PhD student body in scheduled talks over the Fall quarter. Student presentations will typically be 45 minutes, save for job market paper presentations, which will be a full hour and a half.

A passing grade on the paper at the end of the second year is one requirement for admission to candidacy. More generally, these presentations throughout all years will be a primary manner that faculty who are not advising the student become familiar with the student’s work, and will play a crucial role in the assessment of the student’s academic progress.

V. Field Exam

Students take the field exam in the summer after the first year. Material from the field exam will be based on required first year coursework. This includes required finance courses, as well as the required microeconomic and econometric classes. The primary purpose of the exam is to ascertain that students have learned the introductory material that is a necessary foundation for understanding and undertaking research in the field. Additionally, studying for the field exam will give students the opportunity to review and synthesize material across all their different first year courses. Students may be asked to leave the program if they fail the field exam, or may be allowed to retake the exam at the Faculty’s discretion. Students who fail the field exam two times will be required to leave the program.

VI. Teaching Requirement

One quarter of course assistantship or teaching practicum. This requirement must be completed prior to graduation.

VII. Finance Oral Exam

The finance oral exam takes place at the end of the spring quarter of the second year, in early June.

At the beginning of the spring quarter of the second year, the student meets with the liaison to determine three finance faculty members who will administer the exam. The student then meets with the selected faculty examiners to discuss a set of topics that will be covered in the finance oral exam. These topics will generally be chosen from coverage in the Finance PhD classes. An important component of the exam involves the student identifying a particular research area to discuss at the exam. The student will be expected to discuss major results in the literature related to this area and to identify important unresolved questions that need to be addressed. In addition the student will be expected to discuss how one or more of these questions might be addressed either theoretically or empirically. This discussion can be viewed as a preliminary step towards identifying the research project of the second year paper. The results from the finance oral exam plus the result from the second-year summer research paper (presented in the fall of 3rd year) and overall performance in the program are weighed in the decision to admit to candidacy.

VIII. Candidacy

Admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree is a judgment by the faculty of the student’s potential to successfully complete the requirements of the degree program. Students are required to advance to candidacy by September 1 before the start of their fourth year in the program.

IX. University Oral Exam

The university oral examination is a defense of the dissertation work in progress. The student orally presents and defends the thesis work in progress at a stage when it is one-half to two-thirds complete. The oral examination committee tests the student on the theory and methodology underlying the research, the areas of application and portions of the major field to which the research is relevant, and the significance of the dissertation research. Students are required to successfully complete the oral exams by September 1 before the start of their fifth year in the program.

X. Doctoral Dissertation

The doctoral dissertation is expected to be an original contribution to scholarship or scientific knowledge, to exemplify the highest standards of the discipline, and to be of lasting value to the intellectual community. The Finance faculty defer to the student’s Dissertation Reading Committee to provide general guidelines (e.g., number of chapters, length of dissertation) on the dissertation.

Typical Timeline

Year Three

Year Four