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Areas of Study

M.S. Field Areas

Students take courses in microeconomics, math programming, econometrics, research methodology, along with courses in the specialty areas listed below.

Students interested in the economics of water resources, natrual resource valuation, forestry, and other factors in natural resource economics can pursue projects with the following faculty members: Darrell BoschKevin BoyleKlaus MoeltnerKurt Stephenson, and Wei Zhang.

AAEC's food and health economics program is diverse, covering issues from nutrition, to time allocation, SNAP program evaluation, and vaccine distribution. Previous student theses have looked at determining factors that impact the effectiveness of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education program in Virginia, and relative deprivation in China. Students interested in the economics of food and health may pursue projects with the following faculty members: John BovayKevin BoyleGeorge Davis, and Susan Chen.

Master's students in this specialization have worked on projects to discover profitability of local niche marketing strategies such as the local foods movement, evaluate benefits of food traceability technologies for agribusiness, and analyzed the profitability of agri-tourism, among other things. The following faculty members work in this area: Julien CadotTravis Mountain, and Ford Ramsey.

From commodity market analysis to risk management and policy, students looking to grow in this specialty may pursue projects within AAEC's agribusiness, risk management, and policy cluster. Master’s students in this specialization have examined topics related to commodity ETF tracking performance, futures-based forecasts of US crop prices, organic price premiums and risk in US feed grains markets, VA grain and feeder cattle basis analysis and forecasting. Faculty contacts: John BovayMatt HoltOlga Isengildina MassaMary MarchantFord Ramsey, and Shamar Stewart


Students in AAEC's international trade and development track investigate global issues of poverty, development, or trade through focused research on a number of projects throughout the world. Previous theses have focused on integrated pest management research, identifying crops with the largest economic benefit in Honduras, and much more. Faculty contacts include: Jeffrey Alwang, Charlotte EmlingerJason Grant, Anubhab GuptaChanita HolmesCatherine LarochelleMary MarchantBradford Mills, and Shamar Stewart.

AAEC's rural and regional development track allows students to investigate projects in appalachia to remote regions of Southeast Asia looking at poverty and development issues. Faculty contacts include: Jeffrey AlwangCatherine LarochelleBradford Mills, and Travis Mountain.

Combined program: 5-year B.S./M.S. for Virginia Tech students

AAEC offers a 5-year B.S./M.S. program for outstanding undergraduates. Students who wish to pursue this opportunity must achieve at least a 3.5 GPA in their undergraduate coursework and apply to graduate school by March of their junior year. 

Ph.D. Field Areas

The Ph.D. program requires that students choose two fields in completing their degree. Each field requires two field courses. Field specializations listed below.

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
Klaus Moeltner George Davis Bradford Mills
Ford Ramsey Shamar Stewart Chi Ta

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 of 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:  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
Elinor Benami  Darrell Bosch Kevin J. Boyle
Michael Ellerbrock Klaus Moeltner Kurt Stephenson

Chi Ta

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

Charlotte Emlinger

Jason Grant

Anubhap Gupta

Chanita Holmes

Catherine Larochelle

Mary Marchant

Bradford Mills

Shamar Stewart

Chi Ta

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 select food and health economics as their research focus 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 John Bovay Kevin J. Boyle
George Davis Bradford Mills Susan Chen

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 Anubhab Gupta Catherine Larochelle
Bradford Mills    

Combined program:

Academic Employment Track with Future Professoriate Graduate Certificate

AAEC partners with the Virginia Tech Graduate School to offer an academic employment track that prepares Ph.D. students for future roles in academia. 

Interdisciplinary Degree in Remote Sensing

AAEC Ph.D. students can combine their program with the Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program in Remote Sensing by taking additional courses related to Remote Sensing and participating in a weekly seminar. Students who complete the requirements receive a certificate in Remote Sensing in addition to their Ph.D.

Ph.D. with Data Analytics and Applied Statistics M.S.

Ph.D. students in AAEC have the option to also earn an M.S. degree in Data Analytics and Applied Statistics from the Virginia Tech Department of Statistics.