The Ph.D. program in finance prepares individuals for careers in research and teaching at the university level. It is a highly quantitative program and provides a strong foundation in financial and economic theory as well as mathematical statistical techniques. Through a program of elective courses and dissertation research, students specialize in particular areas of finance.  A second degree option is a Joint Ph.D. Business (Finance) and Economics degree.

Finance Degree Background

Successful candidates usually have completed and performed well in basic undergraduate microeconomics, macroeconomics, corporate finance, accounting, and investments. In addition, they will have taken three semesters of calculus, two semesters of mathematical statistics, one semester of real analysis, and one semester of linear algebra. We admit students from a wide variety of backgrounds, and we do not require that a candidate have majored in business or economics. However, the candidate must have taken sufficient preliminary coursework prior to entering.

Required Courses


  • FIN 920 Theory of Finance
  • FIN 970 Seminar–Investments
  • FIN 971 Seminar–Corporate Finance
  • FIN 972 Topics Seminar–Finance Ph.D.


  • ECON 709 Economic Statistics and Econometrics I
  • ECON 710 Economic Statistics and Econometrics II


  • ECON 711 Economic Theory-Microeconomics Sequence I
  • ECON 713 Economic Theory-Microeconomics Sequence I
  • ECON 712 Economic Theory-Macroeconomics Sequence I or ECON 714 Economic Theory-Macroeconomics Sequence II


  • MATH 521 Real Analysis (the requirement may be waived if an equivalent has been completed prior to admission)

Additional Courses

In addition to the required courses, students must take three advanced courses that form a coherent package and enhance the student's research skills. The courses must be approved by the Ph.D. committee chair. Students often choose elective courses offered by the mathematics, statistics, or economics departments. Suggested electives include:

  • MATH 635 Introduction to Brownian Motion and Stochastic Calculus
  • ECON 715 Econometric Methods I
  • ECON 718 Time Series Analysis
  • ECON 719 Economic Statistics and Econometrics III
  • ECON 761 Industrial Organization Theory
  • GBUS 806 Panel Data Analysis

However, it may also be appropriate to choose courses in computer science, law, psychology, accounting, or other areas taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. MATH 521 may count for this requirement if not taken before admission. In every semester of the program after the first year, students must enroll in FIN 973 (Seminar–Workshop in Finance). Admitted students who have not taken basic undergraduate microeconomics, macroeconomics, corporate finance, accounting, and investments must either take these courses early in their program or, in the case of finance classes, be a teaching assistant for them.

Finance Workshop and Brownbag Seminar

Students are required to attend the weekly finance workshop and are strongly encouraged to attend the weekly brownbag seminar. Within two semesters after passing the Ph.D. preliminary examination, Ph.D. students are required to make a presentation in either the workshop or the brownbag seminar of either a thesis proposal or a literature survey. In addition, students are required to give a workshop presentation of their dissertation research. Normally this presentation occurs shortly before students begin their job search.

Summer Paper

During the first summer, the students are required to complete a literature review paper on a topic approved by the Ph.D. committee or by the student’s advisor.

During the second summer, students are required to complete a research paper that should be on a finance topic and contain elements of original research that extend the existing literature. The topic may be either theoretical or empirical and should be chosen in consultation with one or more of the finance faculty, who may also provide guidance during the paper’s development. The written paper should be submitted no later than the first day of the fall semester. The student will make an oral presentation of the paper to the Finance faculty early during that fall semester. In order to successfully complete this requirement, it is important for the students to choose a topic and begin data gathering and other preliminary work in the spring semester.

Minor Requirement

The course work in economics specified under core courses is sufficient to satisfy the requirements for an external minor.

Examinations and Grades

Finance Preliminary Exam

This examination is comprehensive in nature and includes material from the required courses and significant research articles in the finance literature. Students who have previously taken the appropriate finance required courses (described above) should be ready for the preliminary examination after four semesters in the program. The exam is scheduled at the discretion of the Finance faculty, but typically it is given during June of each year. Based on the performance on this examination and the quality of the summer paper, the Ph.D. committee makes a recommendation to the full Finance faculty to approve the student’s passage to dissertator status. Students who fail this exam on the first try are allowed to re-take the exam only once during the subsequent January.

Oral Exam

This examination is a defense of the dissertation. It is conducted by the dissertation committee in a public forum open to other faculty and Ph.D. students. The dissertation committee consists of the principal advisor, two reading members, and two non-reading members. One of the members must be from outside the Wisconsin School of Business.

GPA Requirements and Financial Support


In addition to any GPA requirements imposed by the Graduate School, finance Ph.D. students must achieve and maintain a 3.5 GPA in their course work.

Loss of Financial Support

Students with less than a 3.33 GPA in a set of six first-year courses specified by the Ph.D. director will no longer receive financial support from the Finance Department.

Extenuating Circumstances for Continuing Financial Support

In situations where there are significant extenuating circumstances, the Ph.D. committee can recommend the financial support be continued for a student with a GPA below 3.33 in the relevant set of six courses. The nature of the extenuating circumstances and rationale for continuing financial support should be documented with copies provided to the Wisconsin School of Business Ph.D. coordinator.