Requirements for the Ph.D.

Ph.D. students must complete at least 72 semester hours of graduate course work, satisfy certain course requirements ("Core Courses"), pass examinations on the "Core" subjects, satisfy requirements in two chosen Fields of specialization, complete a dissertation proposal, and write and defend a dissertation. The Department of Economics' requirements for the Ph.D. are described in detail below. Besides the requirements described here the student must satisfy the general requirements of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Required Courses

Successful completion of 72 semester hours of course work at the graduate level.  At least 24 hours must be graded course work, and no more than 48 of the 72 can be comprised of Non-topical Research. Upon approval of the Department's Director of Graduate Studies (hereafter DGS), as many as six semester hours may be taken outside the Department of Economics in related fields, if they contribute appropriately to his or her program.

Core Courses — Every prospective candidate must successfully complete the following Core courses:
            (Click here to see the typical, semester-by-semester Ph.D. schedule)

  • Economics 7010: Microeconomic Theory I (4 credits)
  • Economics 7030: Microeconomic Theory II (4 credits)
  • Economics 7020: Macroeconomics Theory I (4 credits)
  • Economics 7040: Macroeconomics Theory II (4 credits)
  • Economics 7710: Econometrics I (4 credits)
  • Economics 7720: Econometrics II (4 credits)
  • Economics 8010: Microeconomic Theory III (4 credits)
  • Plus, either
    • Economics 8710: Cross Section Econometrics (3 credits), or
    • Economics 8720: Time Series Econometrics (3 credits)

Mathematics — Before the second year of graduate study, competence in mathematics must be demonstrated by successfully completing Economics 5090 or a course deemed equivalent by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Other Required Courses — The prospective candidate must successfully complete:

  • Economics 8991: Research Methods in Economics

Workshops — Third-year students shall attend for one year a non-credit workshop or seminar course from a list compiled by the Director of Graduate Studies. Each student must register their choice with the DGS by the first day of classes of the 3rd year. Failure to do so will be considered not making satisfactory progress towards the Ph.D. degree.

Electives — Additional courses which are not needed to meet any of the requirements described above may be taken as electives to attain the required total for graduation.

Transfer of Credit — The DGS may designate any course requirement as having been met by satisfactory performance in equivalent graduate courses taken at other universities. However, this is a rare occurrence.

Unsatisfactory Progress— Students may not be allowed to continue in the program if they are not making satisfactory progress toward the degree. As defined by the Graduate School (see the Graduate Record, Grades), receipt of a grade below B-, a yearly grade average less than 3.0, or failure to pass preliminary exams on schedule will be considered unsatisfactory progress.

Maximum Period of Study — All work must be completed within seven years from the first day of study in the degree program. Exceptions can be granted only by the Graduate Committee of the Graduate School upon petition by the student. The petition should be accompanied by details of both progress to date, and a written timeline for final steps. The DGS normally will support a student's petition only if progress is being made (as judged by his or her  dissertation committee) toward completion of the dissertation. If the student has been inactive or making little progress after seven years, he or she will be required to repeat the Core examinations before continuing.

Core Examinations

Each prospective candidate must successfully complete comprehensive requirements consisting of a three-part examination on the Core and a Second Year Summer Paper.

Each core exam will be graded separately.

Examinations (and each Core part) will be graded on a scale of Excellent (E), Good (G), Satisfactory (S), and Fail. A grade of Fail on the Core exam will be further judged as a Master's Pass (MP, sufficient for receiving the master's degree) grade or as Unsatisfactory (U). All comprehensive requirements must be completed before the beginning of the student's eighth semester in the graduate program. Otherwise, the student will not be permitted to advance to candidacy.

The Core examinations will be taken at the end of the first year (in June). A grade of MP or better on all three parts of the Core examinations and thirty hours of graduate course work (with no course grade below B-) will entitle the student to receive an M.A. degree.

If a Ph.D. student passes part of the three-part examination with a grade of S- or better, the passed part does not need to be re-taken. If a student fails (U or MP) any part of the three-part examination, the failed part or parts must be taken again in late August. Only one re-examination on the Core is allowed. Notification of intent to sit for the Core examinations must be filed with the DGS by August 1 (for the August exam) or April 1 (for the June exam). Students who do not pass all three parts of the Core exam after two attempts must leave the program.

Fields of Concentration

In addition to a summer field paper, the student must earn grades of B- or better in each of two Fields of concentration. Two courses will be required for each Field, except as otherwise designated. The Fields of concentration are listed below; see Graduate Course Offerings for course descriptions. Ordinarily, the starred (*) courses are those required for a Field. Unmarked courses may be useful adjuncts to Field preparation. However, because a few of these courses are taught infrequently, the Department sometimes permits students to satisfy a Field requirement by offering reading courses. Consult the DGS for details.

Industrial Organization

  • Economics 8170: Industrial Organization I*
  • Economics 8180: Industrial Organization II*

International Economics

  • Economics 8210: International Trade Theory*
  • Economics 8220: International Finance*

Macro Economics

  • Economics 8350: Macroeconomic Theory*
  • Economics 8360: Empirical Macroeconomics*
  • Economics 8720: Time Series Econometrics
    (While not a Field course, Time Series Econometrics is a prerequisite for anyone taking this Field.)

Public Economics

  • Economics 8310: Public Economics I*
  • Economics 8320: Public Economics II*


  • Economics 8710: Cross Section Econometrics*
  • Economics 8720: Time Series Econometrics*
    (For other relevant courses in the Mathematics Department; consult appropriate faculty members.)

Economic Development

  • Economics 8510: Topics in Growth Theory*
  • Economics 8190: Economic Development of Underdeveloped Areas* (Cross-listed with Economics 8160)
    (Anyone taking this Field is advised to take Economics 8210 (International Trade Theory).

Labor Economics

  • Economics 8150: Economics of the Labor Markets*
  • Economics 8160: Seminar in Labor Economics and Development*
  • Economics 8710: Cross Section Analysis
    (While not a Field course itself, Cross Section Analysis is a prerequisite for anyone pursuing this Field.)

Second-Year Summer Paper

Upon completing the core and field courses, the Ph.D. candidate embarks on original research in the Summer between the second and the third year, culminating in a Second-Year Summer Paper.

The student will select two readers who consent to formally assess the summer paper on the proposed topic. If the student wants to write in the field defined by the two second year field courses, then the two readers will normally be the instructors of the two field classes.

The paper must be submitted by the first day of classes of the Fall semester of the student's third year, unless the Director of Graduate Students allows for an extension of the deadline. If the student does not submit the paper in a timely manner, then the student must leave the program.

The two readers will provide feedback along five dimensions: i) whether the topic of the paper is ambitious; ii) whether the question is clear; iii) whether the methodology to address the question is appropriate; iv) whether the quality of the analysis is high; v) whether the topic is of general interest. The overall paper is graded on a scale of Excellent (E), Good (G), Satisfactory (S), and Fail (U). If the student receives a U, then the student must leave the program. If a student receives an S- on the paper, the two readers may allow a revised version of the paper to be submitted. The student must then submit a revised paper by the first day of classes of the Spring semester of the student’s third year. If the revision does not earn a grade of S or better, the student must leave the program.

Dissertation Proposal

During the Fall semester of the candidate’s Third Year, the candidate should begin searching for a dissertation topic as well as two appropriate advisors. During this semester, the candidate may register for ECON 9998 with the Director of Graduate Studies.

At the beginning of the Spring semester of the candidate’s third year, the candidate must have two members of the Department's faculty who have consented to serve as his/her advisors. From this point forward, students must register each semester for 12 credits in ECON 9998 and ECON 9999. The role of the advisors at this early stage is to assist the candidate in finding a feasible research topic and to provide initial direction of his or her efforts. The candidate may change advisors should changes in the student's interests or other circumstances make this desirable.

Defining the Proposal and the Proposal Defense

Before the end of the third year, the student is expected to complete and defend a dissertation proposal.  The dissertation proposal should set out the major questions to be explored and describe the methods and the data (if any) to be employed. The statement should be specific enough and detailed enough that the faculty can predict with reasonable assurance whether the work is a contribution to knowledge and can be successfully completed. Students should refer to the specific guidelines for the proposal available in Collab.

Before scheduling a proposal defense a candidate must obtain the signatures of two tenured or tenured-track members of the Department of Economics at the University of Virginia. At that time, a third tenured or tenured-track member of the Department of Economics at the University of Virginia will be appointed by the DGS. The three readers will serve as the candidate's provisional committee.

The candidate must submit an 8-15 page statement of the proposed research to the DGS two weeks before the scheduled proposal defense for distribution to the faculty.  The statement must have been approved by the candidate's provisional committee.

The proposal defense is expected to occur by the end of the Spring semester of the candidate’s third year. Whenever possible, dissertation proposal defenses will be scheduled during the “Graduate Days,” which will be during the last full week of classes or the first week of the exam period of the Spring semester.  To facilitate scheduling no regular research seminars will be held during this week.  Proposal defenses will be scheduled for one hour, consisting of about 20 minutes of student presentation and 25 minutes of Q&A, followed by discussion limited to faculty.   Students can schedule their proposal defense earlier, preferably on Fridays at noon. If scheduled on different days than the “Graduate Days,” proposal presentations must be conducted only during the periods in which classes are in session.

Following the proposal presentation, the provisional committee will discuss the research proposal with faculty in attendance. The provisional committee will then decide whether or not to approve the proposal.

When the proposal is approved, the DGS will formally appoint a supervisor and a second reader. Later those two will co-opt a third reader to complete the dissertation committee. This third reader might be different from the one who served on the candidate’s provisional committee. (If circumstances dictate, and with approval of the DGS, a person not a member of the Department's faculty may be selected as second or third reader.)

Any student who fails to present a dissertation proposal by the end of the Spring semester of the candidate’s third year and who is not granted an extension (see below) must leave the program. 


A student can make a written request for a one semester extension of the deadline to the advisors and the DGS in cases of exceptional circumstances or when the advisors and the DGS agree that an added semester would appreciably improve the development of the research idea. The request must be submitted by April 15 of the Spring semester of the candidate’s third year. If the advisors and the DGS approve the extension, then the student must defend the proposal by November 1 of the candidate’s fourth year.

Resubmissions and Revisions

If a candidate proposes by the end of the Spring semester of the candidate’s third year, and the proposal is not approved by the provisional committee, the provisional committee will decide whether revisions are required or a new proposal and associated proposal defense is required.  If revisions are required, then the student must submit a revised version of the proposal by the following July 1. The provisional committee must decide whether to approve the proposal by August 1. If the provisional committee does not approve the revision, the student must leave the program.  If a new proposal and associated defense are required, the student must defend the new proposal by November 1 of the candidate’s 4th year, following the general guidelines for proposal submission.  The student can change the provisional committee and field of research for his/her second presentation in the Fall semester.

If the student requested an extension of the deadline to the provisional committee, and the extension was approved by the DGS, and the student presented the proposal by November 1 of the candidate’s fourth year, and the proposal is not approved by the provisional committee, the provisional committee may allow a revised version of the paper to be submitted. The student must then submit a revised proposal by the following December 1. The provisional committee must decide whether to approve the proposal by December 15. If the provisional committee does not approve the revision, the student must leave the program.

No student will be permitted to continue in the program whose dissertation proposal is not approved by December 15 of the candidate’s fourth year.

The final form of the dissertation should follow an accepted style. (See, e.g., Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, fourth ed., 1973.) Physical requirements, such as weight of paper, are specified by the Graduate School, along with such matters as the size of margins. 

Dissertation Defense

After the dissertation is tentatively approved by the supervisor and the second and third readers, the candidate will appear before the faculty for a final oral examination (also called "the dissertation defense"). The examining committee is normally chaired by the dissertation supervisor and consists of at least three faculty members and one non-departmental member as a representative of the Graduate School. Other faculty members in the Department are also invited to attend. This examination will be held between September 1 and June 1; exceptions to this time table are rare and only granted in a case of extreme hardship.

Two copies of the dissertation must be in final form and available for inspection by the faculty advisors. This needs to be done at least one week before the final oral examination. The candidate must also present a separate copy to the third reader if his or her approval has not yet been obtained. Upon being satisfied by the performance in the final oral examination, the supervisor and the second and third readers will certify their approval of the dissertation on its title page. Approval by the committee is not to be considered final until after the oral examination. The chairman of the examination, normally the dissertation supervisor, will prepare formal minutes of the examination in at least two copies, one for the Dean of the Graduate School (on an official form) and the other for the Chairman of the Department (in memo form) to be incorporated in the Departmental minute book. The minutes are to contain a list of the faculty present, the overall grade on the oral examination, and the grade given on the dissertation by the committee.

Degrees are awarded by the University in May, August and December. Students must be registered in the session immediately preceding the awarding of the degree (Spring semester for a May degree, Summer session for an August degree, Fall semester for a December degree). If the candidate is no longer in residence at the University, registration must be arranged through a "non-resident/continuous enrollment" status; see instructions and form here.

A degree application must be filed online in the Student Information System (SIS) early in the session in which the degree is to be awarded:

  • by January 31 for a May degree
  • by June 30 for an August degree
  • by September 30 for a December degree

The dissertation is due in final form at the Graduate School Office by May 1 for a May degree (August 1 for an August degree, December 1 for a December degree). The Final Examination Form should also be submitted by these dates; it is signed by all dissertation readers immediately following the dissertation defense, signifying the student has satisfied this milestone. The student must pass the oral examination/defense before the approved dissertation can be presented to the Graduate School, and the dissertation should be available to the readers at least two weeks before the oral examination. Hence, the dissertation must be submitted to the dissertation committee by April 15 for a May degree (November 15 for a December degree, and July 15 for an August degree). All dates in this paragraph may vary slightly from year to year; consult the DGS and the Graduate School calendar.

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