Economics, Ph.D.

For information regarding deadlines and requirements for admission, please see the Guide to Graduate Admissions.

Admission to the Ph.D. program requires a completed master’s degree in economics with two courses in microeconomic theory, two courses in econometrics, one course in macroeconomics, and demonstrated skills in applied research methods. Students who enter the program with a master’s degree in economics may be required to take additional courses (up to a program total of 60 credit hours) if their prior degree does not fully cover these course requirements.

Students interested in earning a Ph.D. in economics who do not have a master’s degree in economics or who have a master’s degree in economics that deviates significantly from these course requirements should apply to the M.A. in Applied Economics Doctoral Track (a combined M.A./Ph.D. program in economics).

Degree Program Requirements

Required: 45-57 credit hours

Advanced Theory Courses (12 credits)
ECO 741Advanced Mathematical Economics3
ECO 742Advanced Microeconomic Theory3
ECO 745Advanced Econometric Theory3
ECO 746Advanced Econometric Theory II3
Core Knowledge Courses (0-12 credits)
May be required if equivalent courses have not been completed: *0-12
Data Methods in Economics
Microeconomics II
Econometric Theory
Empirical Field Courses (9 credits)
Select at least three courses (9 credits) from the following: **9
Introduction to Cost Effectiveness
Applied Policy Methods
Public Policies Toward Innovation
Labor Economics
Public Economics
Empirical Health Economics
Topics in Economics
Independent Field Course
Supervised Independent Field Research (12 credits)
ECO 797Seminar in Empirical Economics6
ECO 798Seminar in Economic Research6
Dissertation Research (12 credits)
ECO 799Dissertation12
Total Credit Hours45-57

As indicated by the student's master's transcript.


Which may be repeated for credit.

Required Milestones*

  • Residency (Immersion) – Doctoral students are expected to satisfy a residence requirement, which provides them the opportunity for an extended period of intensive study and intellectual and professional development among a community of scholars. The basic requirement is two consecutive semesters (minimum of 6 hours per semester) of graduate coursework (excluding independent study and dissertation hours) on the Greensboro campus after admission to a doctoral program. University requirements aside, a critical aspect of the graduate experience is participation in events beyond the coursework requirements. Graduate students are expected to attend professional conferences, seminars, lectures, and Brown Bags, and participate in professional development activities sponsored by the Department, the Bryan School, or the Graduate School.  Economics graduate students are highly encouraged to present and/or publish their research.
  • Qualifying Exams – In addition to the course requirements, doctoral students must pass two Ph.D. qualifying examinations. These examinations take place typically after the first year of doctoral studies following the completion of the advanced theory coursework and will focus on a student’s comprehensive knowledge in the areas of economic theory and econometrics, respectively. Students are required to pass both examinations in order to retain placement in the doctoral program. Students who do not pass either or both examination(s) may retake the failed examination(s) one time.
  • Advisory/Dissertation Committee – Students must form an Advisory/Dissertation Committee before the end of their first year. The committee (minimum of three members) must be formalized with the Graduate School. The Committee Chair will serve as your primary advisor and mentor throughout your dissertation.
  • Research Competency – Work on the dissertation proposal takes place in supervised research seminars under the guidance and supervision of the student’s Advisory/Dissertation Committee: ECO 797 Seminar in Empirical Economics and ECO 798 Seminar in Economic Research. The preliminary written and oral examination takes place after submission of the dissertation proposal and is expected to occur by the end of the semester in which the student completes the ECO 798 requirement.
  • Plan of Study – The Graduate School requires you to file a plan of study outlining all the courses you will take or have taken to meet the requirements of your graduate degree. Graduate students are expected to file a preliminary plan of study with The Graduate School no later than the semester in which they complete 18 hours of graduate study. This preliminary plan is completed by the student in consultation with the Director of Graduate Study and must be approved by the student’s dissertation committee chair and members.
  • Written Dissertation Proposal & Written Part of the Comprehensive Examination – The student will prepare a written Dissertation Proposal and submit that written proposal to their dissertation committee.  Following that submission, the written part of the Comprehensive Examination is scheduled and prepared by the dissertation advisor with the assistance of the dissertation committee. Questions may cover any aspect of the coursework taken by the student during the period of this graduate study or any subject logically related and basic to an understanding of the subject matter of the major area of study. Any transferred coursework is subject to examination at the time of the preliminary examination.   

  • Oral Part of the Comprehensive Examination & Oral Presentation of the Dissertation Proposal – The oral part of the Comprehensive Examination should be scheduled within one month following the written part of the Comprehensive Examination, and the entire dissertation committee must participate.   The oral part of the comprehensive Examination will consist of an oral presentation of the dissertation proposal and a discussion in which the student responds to questions posed by the dissertation committee and which occurs after the oral presentation of the dissertation proposal.  The content of these questions is at the discretion of the dissertation committee.
  • Assessment – After the oral part of the Comprehensive Examination has concluded, the dissertation committee meets privately to evaluate the dissertation proposal, the written part of the Comprehensive Examination, and the oral part of the Comprehensive Examination.  The committee then decides whether the student has passed without conditions, passed conditionally, or failed the preliminary examination. The student is then informed of the result.
  • Admission to Candidacy – A minimum of 12 credits will be devoted to research that culminates in the preparation of the required doctoral dissertation. 

Before registering for dissertation credit (ECO 799 Dissertation), Ph.D. students should be admitted to candidacy by The Graduate School. To make formal application for admission to candidacy, the student must have completed all major required courses, have passed their qualifying examinations, have submitted a dissertation proposal that has been approved by their advisory/dissertation committee, and have passed both the written and oral parts of their Comprehensive Examination.

After being admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree, the candidate must prepare and present a dissertation that reflects an independent investigation of an economic topic that is acceptable in form and content to the students Advisory/Dissertation Committee and The Graduate School.

  • Dissertation Defense – Doctoral candidates will successfully pass an oral examination of their independent dissertation study to members of their doctoral committee. In accordance with Graduate School policy.  The defense must be formally scheduled with the Graduate School at least two weeks in advance.  The defense is open to all members of the University community who may wish to attend, as required by state laws on public meetings. However, the deliberations of the Dissertation Committee are private. 
  • Filing the Final Approved Dissertation – The Graduate School requires Electronic Thesis/Dissertation submission. The dissertation must be filed in compliance with Graduate School policies and guidelines for acceptable formatting and deadlines. The Graduate School dissertation templates should be used to mitigate errors or delays.   
  • Job Market Paper – Along with the process of preparing and defending a dissertation, graduating Ph.D. students are expected as an integral part of the dissertation process to prepare a  job market paper in preparation for job interviews .  held at the ASSA Annual Meeting in early January. Doctoral students planning to participate in the market are expected to have a completed market-ready paper and presentation prepared no later than September of the preceding year.​​


General information about milestones for doctoral programs is available in Section III of the Graduate Policies page in the University Catalog. For information about how milestones are accomplished for a specific program, please refer to the doctoral program's handbook.