The program offers a thorough grounding in the basic tools of economics, statistics, and mathematics through a series of introductory courses followed by a series of well-defined seminars that cover the major areas of financial economics.

In addition to gaining basic analytical tools, candidates learn to develop economic intuition into financial problems and acquire the necessary mind-set to teach and conduct independent research as a university professor.

The curriculum consists of four components: required courses, an independent research paper, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation.

Course requirements

Students complete a program of study that leads to competency in three areas: quantitative methods, economics, and finance. The requirements of the program of study are typically satisfied by completing 18 courses in the first two and a half years of the program. Required courses include seven courses in quantitative methods and economics, six in finance, and several electives. In some cases coursework prior to entering the Program may be substituted for required courses.

Research paper

Students are expected to engage in research early in the program. All students work at least part-time as research assistants during the first two years of the program. By the end of their second year, students are required to submit a research paper as part of the FIN 9025 Research Colloquium. A more detailed description of the research paper and the standards and criteria used to evaluate it is available from (and maintained and updated by) the PhD Committee.

Comprehensive examination

Satisfactory performance on a written comprehensive examination marks the student's transition from coursework to full-time thesis research. The examination is intended to allow the student to demonstrate substantial knowledge of finance, economics and quantitative methods.

The candidate will have completed most course work, including all finance coursework, and submitted a satisfactory research paper prior to taking the comprehensive examination.


The doctoral dissertation is expected to be a substantial, significant and original contribution to knowledge. It is prepared under the guidance of a thesis committee of three or more faculty members (including one from outside the Finance department) selected by the candidate in consultation with his or her thesis advisor. Early in the process, the candidate submits a thesis proposal. The proposal is presented in a seminar to which the finance faculty and doctoral students are invited. The purpose of the presentation is to give the student an opportunity to hear the suggestions and comments of members of the UC finance community while the research plan is still fluid.

A thesis-defense seminar, open to the entire University of Cincinnati academic community, is held when the research is completed.

Required coursework

The finance PhD program requires the following coursework:

Introductory courses

  • Introduction to Research and Teaching: taken the first semester in the program
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Business Core: if you do not have an MBA degree, you are required to become familiar with the basic body of knowledge (e.g, marketing, management, and accounting). Many of these courses can be waived if you have an MS degree.

Economic and Quantitative Methods (five courses)

  • Principles of Probability
  • Statistical Inference
  • Econometrics I and II
  • Microeconomic Theory

Typical electives (five courses):

  • Options and Futures
  • Math for Economists
  • Financial Engineering
  • Forecasting/Time Series Analysis
  • Introduction to Cognitive Psychology
  • Theory of Incentives
  • SAS Programming
  • Data Mining
  • Linear Models
  • Financial Mathematics I and II
  • Applied Probability and Stochastic Processes
  • Applied Economic Forecasting

Finance seminars (six courses):

The department offers the following seminars. The final seminar, FIN 9025 Research Colloquium: Special Topics in Finance does not meet as a regular course. It is the course credit associated with the second-year paper.

FIN 9011: Foundations of Finance

This course will introduce students to decision making under uncertainty (including consumer and producer theory, industrial organization, and welfare economics). Models with symmetric information (including static and dynamic portfolio and consumption choice problems) and asymmetric information (including models of moral hazard and adverse selection) will be covered.

FIN 9012: Corporate Finance Theory

This course covers the theory of financial decision making in a variety of corporate forms (including public, private, start-up/entrepreneurial firms and financial intermediaries). This course will consider the theoretical foundations of the following topics: capital structure and payout policy, security issuance, governance (including mergers and acquisitions and performance incentives), and the existence of financial intermediaries. The course will also introduce the student to the tools of game theory (Nash equilibrium and refinements, screening/signaling models, etc.) used in theoretical corporate finance research.

FIN 9013: Empirical Studies in Corporate Finance

This course covers 1) the empirical methodologies used in testing and investigating corporate finance topics and 2) empirical examinations of important corporate finance issues. Representative topics covered include Empirical Methods/Techniques (event studies, long-term performance measurement); Mergers and Acquisitions (general issues, merger waves, proxy fights and takeovers); and, Performance Incentives and Organizational Form (boards of directors, compensation and insider holdings, institutional investors, blockholders, and corporate governance).

FIN 9014: Asset Pricing Theory

This course covers the theory of how financial assets are priced (including equities, debt, and derivatives). Representative topics covered include the Efficient Markets Hypothesis, CAPM and APT, Intertemporal CAPM, Consumption CAPM, Derivatives Markets, and the Black-Scholes-Merton model.

FIN 9015: Empirical Studies in Asset Pricing and Investments

This course introduces students to current empirical asset pricing research. Representative topics covered include Time-Series Stock Return Predictability, Cross-Sectional Stock Return Predictability, the Dynamics of Stock Market Volatility, and the Stock Market Risk/Return Relationship over Time. Each topic will be addressed in three respects: 1) commonly used empirical methodologies; 2) main empirical findings; and, 3) the relation between empirical research and theory. The course will provide an overview of the tension between empirical findings and economic theories and discuss recent theoretical developments that provide a better explanation of data.

FIN 9020: Advanced Topics in Finance

This course will cover a series of selected research topics that are not currently addressed within the department's other semester-length courses. As a result, this seminar may be structured as a series of mini-courses, each covering a few sessions, taught by multiple instructors. Representative topics that may be covered include Behavioral Finance, Real Estate, Financial Institutions, Experimental Economics, and Market Microstructure.

FIN 9025: Research Colloquium: Current Topics in Finance

It is anticipated that most students will take this course during their second year in the program. In this colloquium the student will develop an independent, original research idea under the supervision of one or more faculty mentors. During the course the student will carry out all the theoretical analysis and empirical tests required to convert their research question into an original paper. The colloquium will culminate with the circulation of the finished research paper and a professional presentation of the research to the entire faculty.