PhD in Economics


A student writing on a notebook


Producing about 10 graduates each year, the PhD in Economics program is a close community of scholars from around the world. Coursework ranges from microeconomics, macroeconomics and econometrics to the economics of industry and labor.

PhD students engage in research with faculty as research assistants and publish their own work in respected journals including Economics Letters, Journal of Macroeconomics and European Economic Review

The PhD in Economics is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security STEM-designated degree program.



"I greatly benefitted from the doctoral program at GW, both as an economist and as a researcher. The program played an instrumental role in advancing my understanding of economic theory and empirical methodologies, cultivating my research interests and honing my ability to apply these skills in real-world settings. I now work as a development economist at a multilateral organization, where I conduct research on topics like inequality, unemployment, property rights and social protection and contribute to evidence-based policy making."

Abhilasha Sahay

PhD '20

Program Timeline

The program is divided into two stages:

  • Pre-candidacy stage: The student completes coursework and general examinations in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory as well as a research paper proposal. 
  • Candidacy stage: The student participates in a dissertation seminar, completes the written dissertation and conducts an oral defense.

The PhD program is offered primarily on a full-time basis, and students are expected to complete the degree in five to six years. Occasionally, the department will admit highly qualified part-time doctoral students.


Degree Along the Way Options

Students in the PhD program can earn either an Master of Science (MS) in Economics or a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Economics degree while pursuing the PhD degree. 

Students in good standing may apply for the MS once they have completed the 30 required credits: ECON 8301, 8305 and 8375; two courses chosen from 8302, 8306 and 8376; and five 8000-level economics courses. 

Students may apply for the MPhil degree after they have successfully defended a dissertation proposal. The MPhil student then moves on to the candidacy stage.


Course Requirements 

The following requirements must be fulfilled:

The general requirements stated under Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate Programs.

The requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Program.

Pre-candidacy requirements

Pre-candidacy requirements include satisfactory completion of 48 credits, including 18 credits in required courses and 30 credits in elective courses. Students must also earn a grade of "pass" or "pass with distinction" on each part of the general examination, as outlined below.

Core theory and econometrics
ECON 8301Microeconomic Theory I
ECON 8302Microeconomic Theory II
ECON 8305Macroeconomic Theory I
ECON 8306Macroeconomic Theory II
ECON 8375Econometrics I
ECON 8376Econometrics II
Research Development Course
ECON 8397Paper Proposal Seminar
Students must complete 30 credits in 8000-level or approved 6000-level courses. Research credits such as those taken in ECON 8997, ECON 8998 or ECON 8999 do not count as elective credits in pre-candidacy, nor does ECON 8397. In cases where knowledge outside the discipline of economics or outside Department of Economics course offerings is critical to the student's research field, students may take up to 6 credits in pre-candidacy coursework outside the department, with departmental approval. In exceptional circumstances, a student may take 9 such credits, with departmental approval.
Additional requirements
Students must achieve an average grade of at least 3.0 in the required microeconomic theory and macroeconomic theory courses (ECON 8301, ECON 8302, ECON 8305, and ECON 8306), and earn a grade of “pass” or “pass with distinction” on the research paper proposal.

General Examination

The General Examination consists of two preliminary examinations—one in microeconomic theory and one in macroeconomic theory—and a research paper proposal. To pass the general examination, students must earn a grade of "pass" or “pass with distinction” in the preliminary examinations, and earn a grade of “pass” or “pass with distinction” on the research paper proposal.

Students who earn a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the microeconomic theory course sequence (ECON 8301 and ECON 8302) are considered to have earned a grade of "pass" on the preliminary examination in microeconomic theory; students who earn a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the macroeconomic theory course sequence (ECON 8305 & 8306) are considered to have earned a grade of "pass" on the preliminary examination in macroeconomic theory. Other students must sit the preliminary examinations at the end of the first year.

Students who do not earn a grade of "pass" or "pass with distinction" on both preliminary examinations may, with departmental approval, retake one or both exams before the start of the following semester. Both preliminary examinations must be passed by the second attempt.

Students are also required to earn a grade of "pass" or "pass with distinction" on the research paper proposal, which constitutes the second half of the general examination. Students must submit the research paper proposal by the end of their third year in the program. (Part-time students may submit the research paper proposal in the fourth or fifth year of the program, subject to departmental approval.) Students who do not pass the research paper proposal by the end of the third year must pass it by the end of the following semester.

Post-candidacy requirements

Post-candidacy requirements include successful completion of 24 credits at the 8000 level, the formulation of a dissertation proposal, a formal presentation of the proposal by the student to a potential dissertation committee for approval, and completion of a dissertation that demonstrates the candidate's ability to do original research as determined by the dissertation committee.

The 24 credits must include a minimum of 6 credits in ECON 8999.

Once a student successfully completes 24 credits, they must register for 1 credit in CCAS 0940 each subsequent fall and spring semester until they have successfully defended their dissertation to the dissertation oral examination committee, thereby completing the degree program.

Students may apply for the master of philosophy (MPhil) degree after successfully defending a dissertation proposal.

Time limits

The pre-candidacy stage must be concluded within three years of matriculation in the program; part-time students may conclude the pre-candidacy stage within five years of matriculation, subject to departmental approval. Upon successful completion of pre-candidacy, students are considered for admission to candidacy, i.e., the dissertation stage. The dissertation stage must be completed within five years of entry into candidacy, or within eight years of matriculation in the program, whichever is sooner*.