Masters of Science in Applied Economics

The M.S. offers both thesis and non-thesis options.

Applying economic tools to addressing societal problems.

Typical Specialty Areas:

Students take courses in microeconomics, math programming, econometrics, research methodology, along with courses in the above specialty areas.  For their theses, students in the past have done research in a variety of areas such as identifying crops in Honduras with the largest economic benefit for women, factors affecting the effectiveness of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education program in Virginia, health benefits of nutrient fortification of Cassava in Nigeria, the effect of tree cover in neighborhoods on property values, profitability of local niche marketing strategies such as the local foods movement, the benefits of food traceability technologies for agribusiness, and the profitability of agri-tourism, among others.

Field Areas in the Ph.D. Degree

The Ph.D. program requires the student choose two fields in completing their degree. Each field requires two field courses.

Ph.D. Field Areas

Applying econometric tools to quantify and address societal problems.

This field focuses on applying advanced econometric tools to address a broad range of economic problems. The field has a strong focus on computational methods and programming.  Students will become proficient in a variety of statistical software packages, such as R, Matlab, and STATA, and learn to build their own "custom-tailored" algorithms to solve applied econometric problems.  Students can take courses in both advanced econometric theory and applied methods. The latter include nonlinear optimization, panel data econometrics, time series analysis, and Bayesian econometrics. Additional elective courses, such as time series analysis, nonparametric methods, and spatial statistics are available through the Statistics department. The analytical skills acquired through the applied econometrics field combine well with any of the other field areas offered in the department.  For this reason, Ph.D. students often choose Applied Econometrics as one of their main fields.

Faculty Contacts
George Davis Bradford Mills
Klaus Moeltner Wen You

Evaluation of the economic impact of environmental and resource problems and policies.

This field focuses on the economic implications of environmental and natural resource issues and policies.  Students who choose environmental and resource economics as one if their Ph.D. fields will take two field courses:  “Environmental Economic Theory and Policy Analysis” and “Dynamic Optimization and Natural Resource Economics”. The first course develops the theoretical foundation for environmental and natural resource policy designs and covers externalities, public goods, property rights, and the design of optimal environmental and natural resource policies. Research projects by recent Ph.D. students include the following:  public preferences for forest protection from invasive infection as an ecological indicator of climate change, robust nonparametric and Bayesian econometric approaches for combining secondary data to inform environmental policy, optimal design of residential outdoor watering policies, demand for natural gas as a transportation fuel, and cost effective strategies to control nonpoint source pollution.

Faculty Contacts
Darrell Bosch Kevin J. Boyle Michael Ellerbrock
Klaus Moeltner James Pease Kurt Stephenson
Daniel Taylor    

Factors and policies affecting economic prospects, poverty, and inequality in developing countries. International trade negotiations, trade agreements, disputes, and barriers to trade.

This field focuses on the economics of development and international trade. Students who complete a field in international development and trade will take at least two field courses:  “Topics in Applied Development Economics” and “International Trade and Finance”. These courses cover topics such as economic theories of development; methods for measuring poverty and inequality; evaluation of public policies for poverty reduction and economic growth; interactions between environment, health, and development; methods for measuring technical change; political economy of trade; imperfect competition and intra-industry trade; and monetary aspects of international trade. Students have conducted research in areas such as the impact on food security in Ethiopia of improved maize varieties, asset indexes and measurements of poverty in Zimbabwe, returns to agricultural research, non-tariff measures and their impact on international trade flows, causes and consequences of the proliferation of free trade agreements, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its role in the multilateral trading system, the scale and duration of international agricultural product trade, and U.S.-China international trade.

Faculty Contacts
Jeffrey Alwang Richard Crowder Jason Grant
Catherine Larochelle Mary Marchant Bradford Mills
George Norton Everett Peterson Daniel Taylor

The economics of food, nutrition, and health choices with implications for policy design and effectiveness

This field focuses on the economics of food, nutrition, and health choices with implications for policy design and effectiveness.  Students who do a field in food and health economics will take two field courses:  “Food and Health Microeconomics” and “Food and Health Macroeconomics”.  These courses cover topics such as basic nutrition, unitary and collective household production models of food choices and health, nutrition and food production from the supply side, principal-agent theory, and cost and benefit measurement in health economics.  Students in the past have done research in a variety of areas such as the academic performance of malnourished or overweight children, estimating the average cost effectiveness of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education program, designing better incentive compatible weight loss programs, determining the impact of Food Stamp Participation on child and household food security, estimating the elasticity of substitution between time and goods in food production at home, and maternal choices to provide safe drinking water.

Faculty Contacts
Jeffrey Alwang Kevin J. Boyle George Davis
Achla Marathe Bradford Mills Wen You

Factors and policies affecting economic prospects, poverty, and inequality in rural areas and across regions.

This field focuses on the economics of rural and regional development with implications for welfare and policy. Students who choose a field in rural and regional development will take at least two field courses:  “Rural Development” and “Regional and Urban Economics”.  These courses cover topics such as theory and methods related to economic development of rural America; the role of agriculture in regional development; federal, state, and local governments in the development process; quantitative methods for regional development and impact analysis; spatial considerations in regional development; and housing transportation and labor markets. Students have conducted research in areas such as the relationship between energy and food insecurity in rural America, the evaluation of the welfare impacts of food stamps on rural households, targeting social assistance program strategies, and the local and regional economic impact of rural interventions and programs.

Faculty Contacts
Jeffrey Alwang Catherine Larochelle Bradford Mills
George Norton James Pease Everett Peterson
Daniel Taylor    


Darrell Bosch
Graduate Program Director
308 Hutcheson Hall
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Normand Adams 
Graduate Program Coordinator
309-B Hutcheson Hall
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Phone: 540-231-0913
Fax: 540-231-7417