Following is a brief summary of the degree requirements and milestones toward the PhD in economics. For complete information, please see the Department of Economics Handbook and our chart summarizing the milestones and the timing for completing them.

Credit Requirement

The minimum requirement for the PhD is 72 credits in academic courses. 

  • 45 credits must be earned in graded economics course work, with a minimum acceptable grade of B-.
  • The remaining 27 credits may be earned from non-graded courses, independent study, dissertation research, and/or transfer credits.

Credit/Course Distribution Requirement

Credits should be distributed as follows:

  • Year One: 8 required courses, 24 total credits, 21 graded credits
  • Year Two: 6 graded field courses and two graded seminars, 1 credit in Econ 2740, Teaching Economics
  • Years Three through Five: 1 seminar each semester and any remaining required field courses in Years Three through Five

Minimum GPA

To be certified for the PhD, all students must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 in all 2000- and 3000-level economics coursework and in all courses qualifying for graduation.



  1. The PhD Preliminary Examination, offered in June and August of the first year, consists of a four-hour exam in microeconomic theory and a second four-hour exam in macroeconomic theory. Students must pass both examinations to satisfy the preliminary exam requirement, which is the first milestone toward the PhD.
  2. The PhD Comprehensive Examination consists of a solo research paper demonstrating the student’s ability to initiate original research in economics. This milestone begins in the spring term of the student’s 2nd year in the program with the submission of a two-page research proposal, and ends with delivery of a completed paper to the faculty supervisors at the end of fall term of the 3rd year. 
  3. The Dissertation Overview is the preliminary step to completing and defending a doctoral dissertation. The overview consists of both a written statement and an oral presentation of the student’s proposed research to the major advisor and a tentative doctoral committee. Once the committee approves the proposed research, the student is admitted to candidacy for the PhD.
  4. The Dissertation Defense is an oral presentation and examination conducted by the student’s doctoral committee and chaired by the student’s advisor. The student must pass the oral defense, and the written dissertation must be approved before the PhD can be awarded. 
  5. Graduation. Once all degree requirements have been met, the student has passed the oral defense of the dissertation, and the written dissertation has been approved, the student may apply to graduate. Upon submission of all required administrative documents, the student is certified for graduation. Degrees are awarded three times each year, at the end of the fall, spring, and summer terms.

Note that students must be registered in any term in which they expect to complete a milestone.