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The Requirements for the Ph.D. degree in Economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, effective for the entering class of 2020, consist of successfully completing:

  1. Course Requirements
  2. Doctoral Written Examination
  3. Doctoral Dissertation

This document describes each of these requirements in detail.

1. Course Requirements

A doctoral candidate must complete 15 Ph.D.-level courses, at least two (2) semesters of the “Dissertation Workshop” related to their Field, at least one (1) semester of the “Dissertation Completion Seminar”. The two (2) semesters of the “Dissertation Workshop” count as one of the 15 Ph.D.-level courses to be completed.[1] At least 12 of the 15 courses must be from the Economics Department unless the student’s field of specialization specifically requires additional courses from other units or the student has permission from the faculty in the field. All field courses must be approved both by faculty of the relevant field and the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). By graduate school rules, a student becomes academically ineligible to continue in the program if a student receives a grade of F, F*, XF, or nine or more hours of L in the above-mentioned courses. Academically ineligible means that the student is out of the Ph.D. program. “Out of the Ph.D. program” is the wording we will use to denote this state in the rest of the document.[2]

1.1 Courses in the Fundamentals of Economics

The courses that provide the fundamentals of economics are:

  • ECON 700 and 701: Quantitative Methods
  • ECON 710 and 711: Graduate Microeconomics
  • ECON 720 and 721: Graduate Macroeconomics
  • ECON 770 and 771: Graduate Econometrics

ECON 700 is a daily math camp offered in the first three weeks of August, and counts as a standard core course (3 credit hours). Based on performance in ECON 700, a fall semester course, ECON 701, may be required or optional. ECON 701 does NOT count toward the 12 required Economics courses (out of the 15 required courses).

1.2 Courses in the Fields of Specialization

Each student selects a field of specialization.

At least three (3) courses in the field of specialization are required. Current examples of field of specialization courses are available on the webpage Field Specialization Requirements. Notice that these are only examples and new fields of specialization can be created by students under the supervision of a faculty member. The new field of specialization and the related three courses should be approved by the DGS. Examples of fields of specialization are:

  • Econometrics
  • Financial Econometrics
  • Health Economics
  • Industrial Organization
  • International/Macroeconomics
  • Labor Economics
  • Microeconomic Theory

1.3 Courses in Supporting Fields

Supporting courses are chosen by the student in consultation with the DGS and other faculty. The supporting courses may be within the specialized field or in other areas.

1.4 Additional Course Requirements

Students are required to take at least two (2) semesters of the “Dissertation Workshop” related to their Field. Dissertation Workshops are typically taken starting in the third year of the Ph.D. program. In addition, students on the job market are required to take at least one (1) semester of the “Dissertation Completion Seminar”. The Seminar is taken in fall of the final graduation year, typically the fifth or sixth year of the Ph.D. program.

1.5 How to satisfy the 15-course requirement

In general, courses offered in the Ph.D. program in the department or approved by the DGS and taken in other departments or schools count toward satisfying the 15-course requirement. But there are the following exceptions:

  • ECON 701 does NOT count;
  • The “Dissertation Workshop” (ECON 920, 970, 985, 990) counts only ONCE even if you enroll for multiple semesters. Specifically, two (2) semesters of the “Dissertation Workshop” count as one of the 15 Ph.D.-level courses to be completed;
  • The “Seminar in Teaching Methods” (ECON 805 and 806) does NOT count;
  • The newly introduced workshop “Dissertation Completion Seminar” does NOT count.

2. Doctoral Written Examination

 Students must pass written qualifying examinations in econometrics, macroeconomics, and microeconomics. Students must also pass the field paper requirement. Passing the qualifying examinations and the field paper satisfies the Graduate School requirement for the doctoral written examination.

2.1 Qualifying Examination requirement

All students who have successfully completed the seven (7) courses in the Fundamentals of Economics described in Section 1.1 are required to take qualifying examinations in econometrics, macroeconomics, and microeconomics. These examinations are administered around the first week of June, are three hours each and are meant to test if the core knowledge necessary to successfully proceed in the program has been acquired by the student. Exact dates will be communicated in advance by the DGS. The qualifying examinations requirement is satisfied by accomplishing the following:

  • Out of the three (3) possible grades {P, L, F} (where P>L>F), obtain at least two (2) P and one (1) L over the three exams.

The exams are prepared and graded by a qualifying examinations committee nominated by the Chair and chaired by the DGS. The grades for all three exams are communicated jointly at the end of the grading process. If a student does not satisfy the criteria on the first attempt, another attempt is offered around the end of August. Exact dates will be communicated in advance by the DGS. On the second attempt, the student is required to retake the exams graded with an F and may decide to retake the exams graded with an L. For example, if a student accomplishes {P, L, F} on the first attempt, he has to retake the F and may decide to retake the L or not. As another example, if a student accomplishes {P, L, L} on the first attempt, she has to retake at least one of the two L’s but she is free to decide which one. She may also decide to retake both to diversify risk. Notice that only the most recent grade counts toward satisfying the requirement. For example, if a student receives an L in the macroeconomics qualifying exam in the first attempt and then receives an F in the retake, the current valid grade in the macroeconomics qualifying exam is an F.

If a student does not satisfy the criteria on the second attempt, a third attempt is offered the following year at the same time and with the same exams administered to the new first-year Ph.D. students. The same criteria described for the second attempt apply to the third attempt. If a student does not satisfy the criteria by the third attempt, no additional chance to pass the requirement is offered and the student is out of the Ph.D. program.[3]

2.2. Field Paper requirement

The field paper requirement is satisfied by accomplishing the following steps:

  1. Identify a possible advisor for the field paper. The deadline to identify a possible advisor is June 1 of the summer between the second and third year of the Ph.D. program.
  2. Complete a first draft of the paper. The first draft of the paper is not a complete paper but a draft that states clearly motivation, objective and methodology. It also needs to demonstrate the student’s understanding of the relevant tools and literature in the field. The deadline to complete the first draft is the first week of classes of the third year Fall semester. During preparation of the draft, the student is expected to be in regular contact with the advisor and the advisor is expected to be responsive to the student.
  3. Complete the final draft of the paper. The final draft of the paper is a self-contained draft that accomplishes a specific objective and implements a specific methodology. It does not need to be polished at the level of a paper ready for publication but it should constitute a substantial building block for a research paper and/or a dissertation chapter. The deadline to complete the final draft is the last day of examination week of the third year Fall semester. During preparation of the draft, the student is expected to be in regular contact with the advisor and the advisor is expected to be responsive to the student.

The Field Paper committee is composed of the advisor chosen in step 1 plus two (2) additional faculty members. The advisor will also be the faculty of reference to enroll in ECON 994 ‘Doctoral Research and Dissertation’, which is required for all Ph.D. students after two years in the program. The field paper committee decides if the field paper requirements are satisfied. If the field paper committee decides that the final draft of the paper is not satisfactory, the student fails the requirement and has the possibility to resubmit a final draft. The deadline for resubmission is the last day of examination week of the third year Spring semester. If the resubmission is not approved by the committee, the student is officially out of the Ph.D. program. The Field Paper committee decisions are shared with the DGS and the student in a timely manner.

3. Doctoral Dissertation

The Doctoral Dissertation requirement is satisfied by accomplishing the following steps:

  1. The doctoral oral examination, or preliminary oral examination, consists of an evaluation of the thesis prospectus. The thesis prospectus is discussed in front of the Dissertation committee. The deadline to complete, discuss and obtain approval of the prospectus is the last day of the fourth year Spring semester. Students are strongly encouraged to complete this requirement earlier in the Spring semester, in particular if they are interested in applying for a university fellowship. If students do not complete this step by the deadline, the final graduation date is automatically delayed since the prospectus must be approved at least one year before graduation.
  2. The doctoral dissertation. Students work closely with members of the Dissertation committee in developing their dissertation. Consult the Graduate School Guide to Theses and Dissertationsfor additional information and style requirements. Doctoral dissertations are usually completed at the end of the fifth or sixth year in the program. Overall, a student has eight (8) calendar years from the date of first registration in the doctoral program to complete the doctoral degree.[4]
  3. The final oral examination, or final oral defense of the dissertation, consists of a discussion of the final dissertation in front of the Dissertation committee. The deadline for the defense with respect to graduation dates is provided by the graduate school here. At the same webpage, the Graduate School also provides additional instructions for filing for graduation.

The Dissertation committee is composed by five (5) faculty members. One of the five members is the advisor. Occasionally two faculty members may act as co-advisors. One of the five faculty members may be a scholar from outside the department or the university. If students do not pass step 1 or step 3, they have the possibility of one (1) retake at a time jointly agreed upon with the dissertation committee. If the retake is also not approved by the committee, the student is officially out of the Ph.D. program.

4. Additional Remarks

The requirements described in this document are consistent with the Graduate School requirements for a Ph.D. that can be found in the Graduate School Handbook and the Graduate Catalog. We invite students to be familiar with these requirements. In addition, students should also be aware of the general University Campus Policies, the University Policies for Research, and the Graduate School Policies on Academic Integrity and Ethics.

The expression “out of the Ph.D.” program used in the text refers to a student who cannot continue in the Ph.D. program. However, these students can appeal to be reinstated in the graduate program in order to obtain a Master’s degree. Requirements to obtain a Master’s degree are here.

 

[1] Additional enrollments in the workshop are expected throughout the time that a student is writing the dissertation.

[2] When special circumstances warrant, a student made academically ineligible under the conditions stated above may be reinstated in The Graduate School upon petition initiated through the student’s academic program. In our program, this typically means that the student can be reinstated in order to complete a terminal Master degree.

[3] A student out of the PhD program can petition to be reinstated in order to obtain a Master’s of Science in Economics. Please see here for requirements about the Master’s program.

[4] Under extenuating circumstances, a student in good academic standing may be warranted a one-year extension of the degree time limit. Please see the specific Graduate School policy available here for additional details.