Madeline Harrington Applied Economics Doctoral Degree Southern Auburn University, Alabama, Grad Student AERS

Ph.D. in
Applied Economics


As of June 2023, Applied Economics Ph.D. now has a STEM CIP code (45.0603 replaces 45.0602).

Building better businesses

The doctoral program in applied economics focuses on the applications of economic theory and econometrics to resolve problems concerning agricultural endeavors.

The Ph.D. graduate degree program includes faculty from the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology as well as the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts’ Department of Economics

Our doctoral program prepares students for leadership careers in government, private industry and education. The program also offers a minor in statistics

Areas of Specialization

  • Applied Market Analysis
  • Applied Production Economics
  • International Economics
  • Natural Resource & Environmental Economics
  • Statistics Minor

Doctoral PROGRam

The information below is a brief description of the Doctoral program in Applied Economics (Agriculture) offered by our department.


The Ph.D. in applied economics leaves graduates well-versed in subjects including applied production economics, demand analysis, international economics, resource and environmental economics, to name a few

There is an oral exam in the field of specialization and proposed dissertation topic plus final oral dissertation defense.


Requirements for a Ph.D. include a minimum of 60 semester hours of graduate credit beyond the baccalaureate. In the first year, students take two semesters of microeconomics and econometrics, one semester of macroeconomics, mathematical economics, and research methods, and a special topics course on writing for scholarly journals that serves as the basis for the Ph.D. research paper that is due at the beginning of the second year of coursework.  

In the second year, students take two semesters of advanced micro-econometrics along with other core courses and complete their Ph.D. research paper. Upon completion of the paper, the student schedules an oral preliminary examination, which lays the groundwork for the dissertation.  

The third year is devoted to completing required core courses and the dissertation. The dissertation typically consists of the Ph.D. research paper and two essays. The dissertation is defended at the final oral examination, which constitutes the final requirement for the Ph.D. 


Ph.D. Research Paper

The writing of a publishable paper is required during the first two years of the Ph.D. program. The paper must be sole-authored and worthy of submission to an economics or related journal with a Google Scholar h-index of 25 or above.

Journals meeting this standard can be found on the bibliometric search engine “Harzing’s Publish or Perish” available as a free download on Harzing’s website. Students are encouraged to begin developing research ideas immediately upon entering the graduate program. Initial ideas for the paper (consisting of a concise research question, a sketch of a framework for investigation, and verification of available data) must be submitted to the Paper Committee by January 15 of the first year as part of the Research Paper course (described later).

Based on the paper idea and student nominations, the Paper Committee assigns a Paper Advisor to each student. Thereafter, students report to and interact frequently with their Paper Advisor. Students are also encouraged to seek advice or reactions to drafts from faculty throughout the development of their paper, just as a faculty member might seek advice from a colleague. However, the paper must be solely the student’s work, which excludes work done jointly with faculty here or elsewhere (such as a professor in prior undergraduate/graduate work). Plagiarism standards of the journals apply, and violations could result in expulsion from the university (see Student Academic Honesty Code and discussion below).

The student’s progress is evaluated by the Paper Committee together with the Paper Advisor. To assist the student in meeting the paper requirement, the Paper Committee will teach a 3-hour course on the basics of writing for journals. In this course, which is offered Spring Semester, students make an oral presentation on the development of their paper ideas and submit a formal Paper Prospectus on or about April 30 (end of Spring semester). Attendance is required.

The student’s paper must be submitted to the Paper Committee by September 30 following the first year of coursework.

After soliciting a thorough review of the paper by the Paper Advisor and two independent reviewers selected from the faculty, the Paper Committee classifies the paper into one of three categories:

  • (i) the paper meets the standard as is,
  • (ii) the paper could meet the standard with minor revision, or
  • (iii) the paper needs substantial work.

Students with papers in the first category are finished with the paper requirement. Students with papers in the second and third categories are given careful advice on how to bring their papers up to journal quality and continue to work with their Paper Advisors (which subsequently include the independent faculty reviewers).

The revised paper must be submitted by January 15 of the second year, when a similar evaluation process occurs. If the revised paper fails to meet the standard, a second revision will be due on April 30.

If the paper at that point does not meet the standard, or could not do so with straightforward revisions, the student will not be allowed to continue in the Ph.D. program. These students have the option of changing to a terminal MS program or leaving the Ph.D. program. The chair of the Paper Committee conveys the committee’s final evaluation of each student in writing to the Graduate Program Officer, who, in turn, provides written notification of the final decision to the student and the Department Chair.

Read the complete AERS PhD Research Paper Requirements (PDF)

3 Tips to Produce a Successful Paper

  1. Select a topic that contributes to the AERS Department’s research program. Most faculty have research projects funded by the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, or outside contracts and grants. Familiarize yourself with these research projects, with the aim of developing a researchable idea that contributes to the research objectives. This will align your interest with faculty expertise, and thus result in higher quality feedback as the writing process unfolds.
  2. Do a thorough review of the literature with the aim of identifying gaps, problems, or puzzles that your work could address. Focus on work published in the better journals, i.e., those with a GS h-index higher than 25. Avoid unpublished work, and work published in “popular” outlets, i.e., those intended for a non-scientific audience. And be sure that the review is up to date, i.e., includes the most recent work on the topic. A good place to find relevant articles is EconLit, the electronic data base maintained by the American Economics Association. Harzing’s Publish or Perish is also a good source, as it allows you to re-arrange articles on any given topic by date of publication, journal, and citation rate.
  3. Assemble a data base early in the research process, ideally by the end of the first semester of classes. This will give you an opportunity to explore alternative hypotheses, apply econometric techniques learned in class, and develop a realistic understanding of what can be accomplished given data limitations and time constraints.

Writing Help

Poorly written papers are apt to be rejected by faculty reviewers. With this in mind, international students whose first language is not English in particular are strongly encouraged to take advantage of writing help offered by the university.

Two places where help can be found are the International Student/Scholar English Center (ISEC) and the Miller Writing Center located in RBD Library. ISEC offers free tutoring services as well as specialized courses (INTL 1800 and INTL 1830) designed to improve proficiency in oral and written English. The Miller Writing Center has a program called “WriteFest” that is designed specifically to support graduate student writing.

Students (domestic and international) who turn in poorly written papers and who have not taken advantage of these services are apt not to get much sympathy in the appeals process. So it is smart to work these services/programs into your schedule early in your Ph.D. studies, preferably in the first year.

Graduate Degree Documents

For more information in detail please reference these graudate degree documents regarding our Ph.D. in Applied Economics.


Applied Economics Ph.D. Program Description (PDF)


AERS PhD Research Paper Requirement (PDF)


AERS Graduate Handbook (PDF)

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