PhD Requirements

The program is divided into two stages: a Pre-Candidacy (or Unit I) stage, followed by a Candidacy (or Unit II) stage with 72 credit hours total in coursework. 

Completing the Pre-Candidacy (Unit I) stage requires:

  • completing core coursework in microeconomic theory (three courses), macroeconomic theory (three courses), and econometrics (two courses);
  • taking 24 additional credit hours of coursework (8 three-credit courses); and
  • passing the General Examination, described further below.

The Pre-Candidacy stage must be completed within five years after entry into the program.

In the Candidacy (Unit II) stage, the student must:

  • take 24 hours of additional graduate course work, of which at least 12 hours must be dissertation research (Econ 8999), and 3 hours must be the dissertation proposal seminar (Econ 8397);
  • prepare a dissertation proposal;
  • present the proposal to a potential dissertation committee for their approval;
  • write a dissertation that demonstrates the candidate's ability to do original research, as determined by the student’s dissertation committee; and
  • participate in a successful oral defense of the dissertation.

Students must have an accepted dissertation proposal no more than two years after entering Unit II. The dissertation must be completed within five years after entering Unit II. In all cases, students are expected to complete the doctorate within eight years after admission to the PhD program.

More information about each of the two stages, and about the General Examination, is provided below.

Upon request, students admitted to the second stage will be recommended by the Department of Economics for the Master of Philosophy degree.  Moreover, students in the PhD program can earn a Master of Science degree in economics while pursuing the PhD degree by satisfying the MS degree requirements.


Pre-Candidacy (Unit I) Stage

Students must meet the general requirements specified by the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. For Pre-Candidacy, the requirements include Econ 8301, 8302, 8303, 8305, 8306, 8307, 8375, and 8376, plus 24 additional credit hours of approved graduate course work, and passing the General Examination, consisting of preliminary examinations in microeconomic theory and macroeconomic theory and two field examinations selected by the student and approved by the doctoral program committee.

Field examinations are given in the following fields: econometrics, economic development, environmental and natural resource economics, industrial organization, international economics, international finance, labor economics, monetary theory and policy, and regional and urban economics.

A two-week long, intensive Math Camp is held in mid-August, before the start of the fall semester, for incoming PhD and MS students. Attendance at the Math Camp is not mandatory but is strongly recommended.  A mandatory final exam is given at the end of the Camp. Performance on this exam contributes toward course grades in Econ 8301 and Econ 8305.


General Examination

The General Examination consists of two preliminary examinations, one in microeconomic theory and one in macroeconomic theory, and two field examinations. The requirements for the microeconomic and macroeconomic preliminary examinations must be met before any field examinations may be taken. To pass the General Examination, students must earn a grade of "pass" or “pass with distinction” in the preliminary examination in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory and earn a grade of “pass” or “pass with distinction” in two field examinations.

Two of the examinations, either preliminary or field, may be taken a second time with the approval of the Department. Students are allowed a maximum of two failures in total across all exams taken and can retake an exam in the same preliminary or field subject only once. Field exams may be taken in no more than three fields.

Students are required to take the microeconomic and macroeconomic preliminary examinations in May of their first year in the PhD program. The exams may be retaken at the start of the following semester, with the approval of the Department, and both must be passed by the second attempt.


Candidacy (Unit II) Stage

The requirements include formulation of a dissertation proposal, a formal presentation of the proposal by the student to a potential dissertation committee for their approval, completion of a dissertation that demonstrates the candidate's ability to do original research as determined by the student’s dissertation committee, and 24 hours of additional graduate course work, of which at least 12 hours must be dissertation research (Econ 8999).

Students, including those who have an accepted dissertation proposal, must enroll in a dissertation proposal seminar (Econ 8397) in the first semester in which it is offered after promotion to Candidacy. Satisfactory performance in the seminar will be equivalent to 3 credit hours of Candidacy course work.

In cases where knowledge outside the discipline of economics is critical to the student's research field, up to 6 credit hours in Candidacy may consist of required courses outside the Economics Department, with the approval of the Candidacy advisor.

Once students have reached their 24 credit maximum, they must register each subsequent fall and spring semester for 1 credit of Continuing Research until completion of their degree program with the successful defense of the dissertation to the Dissertation Oral Examination Committee. The accepted dissertation is submitted electronically, with a processing fee paid directly to Proquest/UMI.

Further information on proposal and dissertation defenses can be found on the PhD Dissertation Guidelines page.