Requirements for the PhD. in Economics
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 Catalog. 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.
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 student’s field of specialization 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, and all field courses must be approved both by faculty of the relevant field and 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.
Economics 700 is taken as a daily camp roughly in the first three weeks of August, and counts as a standard core course (3 credit hours). In addition, most students take ECON 701 (Analytical Methods for Mathematical Economics). Students receive credit for ECON 701, but the course does not count toward the 12 courses that must be from the Economics Department (out of the 15 total required courses).
Courses in the Fields of Specialization: Each student selects a field of specialization from among the following:
- Financial Econometrics
- Health Economics
- Industrial Organization
- Labor Economics
- Microeconomic Theory
At least three courses in the field of specialization are required. The faculty in each field determine the required courses: they are available on the webpage Field Specialization Requirements.
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 specialized field or in areas that complement the specialized field.
Doctoral Examinations and Dissertation Requirements
In order to receive a Ph.D., students must pass written qualifying examinations in econometrics, macroeconomics, and microeconomics and must satisfy a field of specialization requirement, which may be a paper or a written examination. Passing the qualifying examinations and the field paper (or examination) satisfies the Graduate School requirement for the doctoral written examination. The fall and spring semester examinations last three hours and are given shortly before the beginning of each semester, and the fall and spring semester field papers are due shortly before or early in the semester. The Director of Graduate Studies is responsible for administering the examinations, collecting copies of the field papers, and setting both the examination dates and the field paper due dates.
PhD. students who have completed the first year of the graduate program are required to take the qualifying examinations given shortly after the spring semester of the first year, in May. A student who achieves sufficiently strong grades in both courses of one area may skip that area’s exam. As an example, a student earning high or nearly high grades in fall and spring microeconomics is allowed to skip the microeconomics exam and take only the macroeconomics and econometrics exams. A student can skip only one exam. Exams are graded as high pass (H), pass (P), low pass (L) and fail. A student taking three exams needs to earn P or H on each of two exams and at least L on the third. A student taking only two exams needs to earn P or H on both. In these cases a student has successfully satisfied (or passed) the department’s examination requirement. Otherwise, a student has a second try at the failed examination(s) the next time offered. Students who have not passed one or two examinations after two sittings may petition an Appeals Committee appointed by the department chair for a third attempt at the failed examination(s). If the request is granted, the Appeals Committee also decides when the student is required to retake the examination(s).
The faculty in each field determine whether the field of specialization requirement is a paper or a four-hour written examination. In recent years, all fields have required a field paper. The field paper is due within the first few weeks of the fall semester of the student’s third year. If a student fails the field paper requirement, they may resubmit a new paper within the first few weeks of the spring semester of the student’s third year.
A student who does not take an examination or submit a paper when required receives an automatic fail unless an Appeals Committee appointed by the department chair approves the student’s request for an excused absence. If an excused absence is granted, the Committee also decides when the student is required to take the examination or submit the field paper. With an excused absence, the missed examination or paper does not count as one of the student’s attempts. The Appeals Committee will consider such requests only with very well-documented evidence of serious health, personal or family problems.
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 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: http://gradschool.unc.edu/student/graddeadlines.html. 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: http://gradschool.unc.edu/etdguide/.
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.