PhD in Mathematical Finance

The PhD in Mathematical Finance is for students seeking careers in research and academia. Doctoral candidates will have a strong affinity for quantitative reasoning and the ability to connect advanced mathematical theories with real-world phenomena. They will have an interest in the creation of complex models and financial instruments as well as a passion for in-depth analysis.

Learning Outcomes

The PhD curriculum has the following learning goals. Students will:

  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge of literature, theory, and methods in their field.
  • Be prepared to teach at the undergraduate, master’s, and/or doctoral level in a business school or mathematics department.
  • Produce original research of quality appropriate for publication in scholarly journals.


After matriculation into the PhD program, a candidate for the degree must register for and satisfactorily complete a minimum of 16 graduate-level courses at Boston University. More courses may be needed, depending on departmental requirements.

PhD in Mathematical Finance Curriculum

The curriculum for the PhD in Mathematical Finance is tailored to each incoming student, based on their academic background. Students will begin the program with a full course load to build a solid foundation in not only math and finance but also the interplay between them in the financial world. As technology plays an increasingly larger role in financial models, computer programming is also a part of the core coursework.

Once a foundation has been established, students work toward a dissertation. Working closely with a faculty advisor in a mutual area of interest, students will embark on in-depth research. It is also expected that doctoral students will perform teaching assistant duties, which may include lectures to master’s-level classes.

Course Requirements

The minimum course requirement is 16 courses (between 48 and 64 units, depending on whether the courses are 3 or 4 units each). Students’ course choices must be approved by the Mathematical Finance Director prior to registration each term. The following is a typical program of courses.

Year 1

  • CAS EC 701 Microeconomic Theory
  • CAS MA 711 Real Analysis
  • CAS MA 779 Probability Theory I
  • QST FE 918 Doctoral Seminar in Finance
  • CAS EC 703 Advanced Microeconomic Theory
  • CAS MA 776 Partial Differential Equations
  • CAS MA 781 Probability Theory 2
  • QST FE 920 Advanced Capital Market Theory

Year 2

  • CAS EC 702 Macroeconomic Theory
  • CAS MA 783 Advanced Stochastic Processes
  • QST MF 850 Advanced Computational Methods
  • QST MF 922 Advanced Mathematical Finance
  • CAS EC 704 Advanced Microeconomic Theory
  • CAS MA 751 Statistical Machine Learning
  • QST MF 810 FinTech Programming
  • QST MF 921 Topics in Dynamic Asset Pricing

Additional Requirements

Qualifying Examination

Students must appear for a qualifying examination after completion of all coursework to demonstrate that they have:

  • acquired advanced knowledge of literature and theory in their area of specialization;
  • acquired advanced knowledge of research techniques; and
  • developed adequate ability to craft a research proposal.

Guidelines for the examination are available from the departments. Students who do not pass either the written and/or oral comprehensive examination upon first try will be given a second opportunity to pass the exam. Should the student fail a second time, the student’s case will be reviewed by the Mathematical Finance Program Development Committee (MF PDC), which will determine if the student will be withdrawn from the PhD program. In addition, the PhD fellowship (if applicable) of any student who does not pass either the written and/or oral comprehensive examination after two attempts will be suspended the term after the exam was attempted.


Following successful completion of the qualifying examination, the student will develop a research proposal for the dissertation. The final phase of the doctoral program is the completion of an approved dissertation. The dissertation must be based on an original investigation that makes a substantive contribution to knowledge and demonstrates capacity for independent, scholarly research.

Doctoral candidates must register as continuing students for DS 999 Dissertation, a 2-unit course, for each subsequent regular term until all requirements for the degree have been completed. PhD students graduating in September are required to register for Dissertation in Summer Session II preceding graduation.

Academic Standards

Time Limit for Degree Completion

After matriculation into the PhD program, a candidate for the degree must meet certain milestones within specified time periods (as noted in the table below) and complete all degree requirements within six years of the date of first registration. Those who fail to meet the milestones within the specified time, or who do not complete all requirements within six years, will be reviewed by the PhD PDC and may be dismissed from the program. A Leave of Absence does not extend the six-year time limit for degree completion.

Milestone Maximum Time Period
Complete all required courses (no Incompletes) End of fall of 3rd year
Successfully complete comprehensive examination End of 3rd year
Have a dissertation committee with at least three members, a committee chair, and a dissertation topic End of fall of 4th year
Have a defended dissertation proposal End of 4th year
Complete dissertation End of 6th year

Performance Review

The Mathematical Finance Program Development Committee will review the progress of each doctoral candidate. Students must maintain a 3.30 cumulative grade point average in all courses to remain in good academic standing. Students who are not in good academic standing will be allowed one term to correct their status. Prior to the start of the term, the student must submit a letter to the Faculty Director (who will forward it to the PDC) explaining why the student has fallen short of the CGPA requirement and how the student plans to correct the situation. Failure to increase the CGPA to acceptable levels may result in probation or withdrawal from the program, at the discretion of the PhD Program Development Committee (PDC).

Graduation Application

Students must submit a graduation application at least five months before the date they expect to complete degree requirements. It is the student’s responsibility to initiate the process for graduation. The application is available online and should be submitted through the Specialty Master’s & PhD Center website for graduation in January, May, or August.

If graduation must be postponed beyond the term for which the application is submitted, students should contact the Specialty Master’s & PhD Center to defer the date. If students wish to postpone their graduation date past the six-year time limit for completion, they must formally petition the PhD Program Development Committee (PDC) for an extension. The petition, which must include the reason(s) for the extension as well as a detailed timetable for completion, is subject to departmental and PDC approval.

PhD degree requirements are complete only when copies of the dissertation have been certified as meeting the standards of Questrom School of Business and have been accepted by Mugar Memorial Library.