Requirements for the PhD. in Economics
 Graduate Program Department of Economics ◊ University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

The Graduate School requirements for a Ph.D. can be found in the Graduate School Handbook, the Graduate School Policies and Procedures, and the Graduate School Record.  You need to be familiar with these requirements.  As a graduate student at the University, you should also be aware of the the general University Campus Policies, the University policies for  research, and the Graduate School policies on Academic Integrity and Ethics.

The specific requirements for a Ph.D. in Economics are listed below.



 Course Requirements

A doctoral candidate must complete 15 Ph.D. level courses plus two semesters of the doctoral dissertation course Econ. 994. At least 12 of the 15 courses must be from the Economics Department unless the major field specifically requires additional courses from other units or you have permission from the faculty in your field. All courses must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Courses in the Fundamentals of Economics. The following seven courses or equivalents approved by the DGS and relevant faculty are required:

  •   Economics 710 and 711: Graduate Microeconomics
  •   Economics 720 and 721: Graduate Macroeconomics
  •   Economics 770 and one additional econometrics course
  •   Economics 700: Quantitative Methods.
  • Courses in the Major and Minor Fields:

         Each student selects a major and a minor field from among the following:

  •   Econometrics
  •   Financial Econometrics (major field only)
  •   Health Economics
  •   International Trade and Development
  •   Labor Economics
  •   Microeconomic Theory/Industrial Organization
  •   Macroeconomics/International Finance
  • At least three courses in the major field and two in the minor field are required. One of the courses in the major field is usually a seminar course. The faculty in each field determine the courses required for the major and minor. Majors in Econometrics are required to take graduate courses in Statistics; majors in Financial Econometrics are required to take graduate courses in Finance and Statistics. Specific course requirements for each field and typical course schedules may also be of interest.

    Courses in Supporting Fields:. The remaining courses are supporting courses chosen by the student in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and other faculty. The supporting courses may be within the major or minor field or in areas that complement the major and minor fields.

    Foreign Languages-Research Skill: Additionally, a student must demonstrate competence in one foreign language or fulfill a research skill requirement. Courses satisfying the research skills requirement are usually in econometrics, mathematics, or statistics.  Since most economics students complete at least four courses in econometrics or statistics, the research skill requirement is satisfied as part of the usual academic program.

     Doctoral Examinations and Dissertation Requirements

    Students must pass qualifying examinations in macroeconomics, microeconomics, and the major field. The faculty in each field determine whether the major field qualifier is a four-hour written examination or a paper. The qualifiers are given in August and January of each academic year; major field papers are due during the week of written examinations. The examinations are also given in early January. The three-hour macroeconomics and microeconomics qualifying examinations are first taken in August shortly before the beginning of the second year.  The field qualifiers are first taken in August shortly before the beginning of the third year. Students have two chances to pass each of the qualifiers. Students may petition the Departmental Appeals Committee for permission to take the macroeconomics or microeconomics qualifying examination for a third time.  Appeals to take more than one examination for the third time are highly unusual and are very seldom approved.  In order to satisfy the Graduate School requirement for the doctoral written examination, students must pass the macroeconomics, microeconomics, and field qualifiers.

    A Ph.D. student who has completed the first year and has not yet passed both the macroeconomics and microeconomics qualifying examinations must take any of the examinations not yet passed each time offered. Thus, a student who fails the macroeconomics and/or microeconomics qualifying examination(s) given immediately before the fall semester of the second year has a second try at the examination(s) in January of the second year. A Ph.D. student who has completed the second year and has not yet passed the field qualifier must take the field examination or submit a paper each time the field qualifiers are scheduled. A student who does not take an examination or submit a paper when required receives an automatic fail. As the discipline of economics advances, the core macroeconomics and microeconomics courses and the expectations for the macroeconomics and microeconomics qualifiers are revised.  Students who take the qualifiers after the second year (e.g., shortly before the beginning of the third year) are responsible for such new material and will take the same examination as other students sitting for the qualifiers at that time.  Please note that requirements for financial aid are stricter than the requirements for remaining in the PhD program.

    The Graduate School Handbook describes the requirements for the doctoral oral examination, doctoral dissertation, and final oral defense of the dissertation. The doctoral oral examination, which is also referred to as the preliminary oral examination, consists primarily of an evaluation of the thesis prospectus. Students work closely with their theses advisors and the other members of their theses committees in developing their dissertation prospecti, in preparing for the doctoral oral examination, and in completing the dissertations.  Consult the Graduate School Guide to Theses and Dissertations for style requirements.

    Students who fail the major field examination/paper, the doctoral oral examination, or the final oral defense for a second time become ineligible for further graduate work. Students may not continue in the program or take an examination for the third time without the approval of the Administrative Board of the Graduate School.

    The Graduate School provides (1) instructions for filing for graduation and (2) the deadlines by which you must file for graduation and submit the electronic version of your dissertation at:  The Assistant to the Director of Graduate Studies often reminds students of the dates, but keep in mind that you are responsible for filing in a timely fashion. Although there is no penalty for filing but failing to complete the requirements, there is some cost to the University in that they print some of diplomas in advance based on the filings.  Note that Ph.D. students generally pass the doctoral written and oral examinations prior to the semester in which they defend the dissertation (final oral examination), and thus deadlines for the Ph.D. examinations are usually not an issue.

    The instructions for the formatting of your dissertation and for submitting your dissertation electronically to the Graduate School are available at:

    Please keep in mind that the first paragraph of the Graduate School Handbook and many other Graduate School documents includes the sentence "It is the student's responsibility to be aware of, and comply with, rules, regulations, policies, procedures, and deadlines."  We try to remind students of all deadlines and requirements, but we also expect students to be familiar with the rules.  

    Graduate Program Home Page Last edited 6/12/2012