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Structure of the PhD in Finance

First part: PhD Courses and First-year Research Paper

The PhD Program in Finance at HEC Montréal begins with a curriculum of 10 PhD courses taught in part by Professors at HEC Montréal and in part by Faculty of affiliated universities (McGill University, Concordia University, and UQAM). This full-time course-work provides PhD students with a broad and comprehensive education covering the conceptual tools of theoretical and empirical finance and exposes them to the latest research. There are examinations following each core course. Professors can decide to attribute the final grade for his/her course based on exams, on project assessments, as well as on class participation.

At the end of the first year and during their second year, students write a first-year paper, which should be the first draft of a research paper. It should contain original theoretical and/or empirical work developed by a student under (minimal) guidance by a Faculty member of HEC Montréal. At the start of the second year, students have to first defend a proposition of their project, which includes the motivation, a literature review, a discussion of the data, and preliminary results. The first-year paper has to be finalized and defended during the second year. Students’ admission to the second part of the PhD Program (dissertation writing) is determined on the basis of the grades obtained during the first two years as well as the successful completion of the first-year paper, whose evaluation includes the writing version and a presentation in front of the local Faculty.

Second part: PhD Dissertation

Upon admission to the second part of the program, each PhD student selects a thesis topic and chooses their thesis supervisor(s). PhD students can typically work as a research or teaching assistant for the Faculty. A finance dissertation is an original contribution to knowledge in their field of study and typically consists of three research papers that should be of publishable quality in a major finance journal. All PhD students are required to attend the regular seminars in finance, the internal brown bag seminars, and the annual HEC-McGill Doctoral Workshop. Based on merit and satisfactory results, students have the possibility to spend one or two terms in a top U.S. business school as a visiting student during the third or fourth year. It is expected that PhD students go to the academic job market in their fourth or fifth year. Finally, the completion of the PhD Program in Finance requires two additional successful examinations: a thesis proposition at the third or fourth year and a final defense of the PhD dissertation. The normal completion of the Program is four to five years.


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