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.

View detailed year-by-year timeline of program rules and requirements.


Degree Along the Way Options

Students in the PhD program can earn either a 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 entered Candidacy.

Degree Along the Way Application


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 courses
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 (does not count toward the 48 credits of required and elective courses necessary for the degree)
Students must complete 30 credits in 8000-level or approved 6000-level courses. At least 21 of these credits should be 8000-level ECON courses. Research credits such as those taken in ECON 8998 or ECON 8999 do not count as elective credits in pre-candidacy, nor does ECON 8397. ECON 8997 does count toward the 30 elective credits but not toward the 21 required 8000-level ECON elective credits.
In cases where knowledge outside the discipline of economics or outside Department of Economics (ECON) 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.
Program option selection and curriculum requirements
By the end of August in the second year, students should indicate whether they are selecting the microeconomics option or the macroeconomics option. Subsequently, students must complete at least 12 elective credits in the following courses, corresponding to their chosen option
Macroeconomics courses
ECON 8307Macroeconomic Theory III
ECON 8323Monetary Theory and Policy I
ECON 8324Monetary Theory and Policy II
ECON 8337Environmental Economics
ECON 8377Econometrics III
ECON 8378Economic Forecasting
ECON 8379Laboratory in Applied Econometrics
ECON 8381International Trade Theory
ECON 8382International Finance and Open-Economy Macroeconomics
ECON 8383International Financial Markets
ECON 8395Advanced Special Topics
Microeconomics courses
ECON 8303Microeconomic Theory III
ECON 8337Environmental Economics
ECON 8341Labor Economics I
ECON 8342Labor Economics II
ECON 8345Industrial Organization I
ECON 8346Industrial Organization II
ECON 8351Development Economics I
ECON 8352Development Economics II
ECON 8357Regional Economics
ECON 8358Urban Economics
ECON 8363Public Finance I
ECON 8364Public Finance II
ECON 8377Econometrics III
ECON 8379Laboratory in Applied Econometrics
ECON 8381International Trade Theory
ECON 8383International Financial Markets
ECON 8395Advanced Special Topics

General Examination

The general examination has three parts: two preliminary examinations taken in the first year—one in microeconomic theory and one in macroeconomic theory—and a research paper due in the sixth semester. To pass the general examination, students must earn a grade of Pass or Pass with Distinction on both preliminary examinations and on the research paper.

Students who earn a GPA of 3.0 or above 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 above in the macroeconomic theory course sequence (ECON 8305 and ECON 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 examinations 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, which constitutes the second half of the general examination. Students must submit the research paper and deliver a presentation of the content to at least two faculty members for evaluation by the end of their sixth semester in the program. (Part-time students may submit the research paper later, subject to departmental approval.) Students who do not pass the research paper by the end of the sixth semester will receive an academic warning and 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 prospective dissertation committee for approval (where approval of the proposal formalizes the creation of the dissertation committee), and completion of a dissertation that demonstrates the candidate's ability to do original research as determined by the dissertation committee.

Students should successfully defend the dissertation proposal by the end of the eighth semester in the program. Students who do not successfully defend the dissertation proposal by the deadline will receive an academic warning and must successfully defend the proposal by the end of the following semester. Part-time students may defend later, subject to departmental approval.

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

Once a student successfully completes the 72 credits required for the program, they must register for 1 credit in CCAS 0940 Continuing Research - Doctoral 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 six semesters of matriculation in the program; part-time students may conclude the pre-candidacy stage within ten semesters 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 comes first.