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, macroeconomic theory, and econometrics (two courses each);
  • taking 30 additional credit hours of coursework (8 three-credit courses); and
  • passing the General Examination and the Paper Proposal Requirement, described further below.

The Pre-Candidacy stage must be completed within three years after entry into the program. Part time students may take up to 5 years, subject to Department approval.


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

  • take 24 hours of additional graduate course work, of which at least 6 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 in good standing with the college: thirty hours of coursework including Econ 8301, 8305, 8375, and two courses chosen from 8302, 8306, and 8376; and five 8000-level economics courses.

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 83018302830583068375, and 8376, plus 30 additional credit hours of approved graduate course work, and passing the General Examination, consisting of preliminary examinations in microeconomic theory and macroeconomic theory.


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.


Students must also present a Research Paper Proposal by the end of the 3rd year. If a student’s paper proposal is not satisfactory, or is not delivered on time, the student will be placed on Probation for the following semester and will lose any funding from the Department or the University.

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 in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory and earn a grade of “pass” or “pass with distinction” on the research paper proposal.

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 departmental approval. Both exams 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.

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.