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.

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.


Required Courses

Successful completion of 72 semester hours of course work at the graduate level.  At least 58 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:          

  • Economics 5090: Mathematical Economics (3 credits)
  • ​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)

Other Required Courses

  • Economics 8710: Cross Section Econometrics (3 credits) or Economics 8720: Time Series Econometrics (3 credits)
  • Economics 8991: Research Methods in Economics
  • Workshops — Third-year students shall register for one workshop or seminar course per semester
  • 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.


Core Examinations

Students must successfully complete 3 core exams--in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics--the summer following their first year classes to continue in the program.

Students earning grades of A or A+ in all classes in a subject are exempt from that subject's care examination. The classes for microeconomics are Econ 7010, 7030 and 8010; for macroeconomics, Econ 7020, 7040; and for econometrics, they are Econ 7710 and 7720. The exemption is limited to 1 core examination per student. Students who qualify for exemption in multiple subjects have the choice of which exemption to apply.

Exams are graded on a scale of Excellent (E), Good (G), Satisfactory (S), and Fail. A grade of Fail on a core exam will be further judged as a Master's Pass (MP, sufficient for receiving the master's degree) grade or as Unsatisfactory (U). A grade of MP or better on all three core exams and thirty hours of graduate course work (with no course grade below B-) entitles the student to receive an M.A. degree.

If a student passes a core exam with a grade of S- or better, they do not need to retake that exam. If a student receives a failing grade (U or MP) on any core exam, they must retake it during a second round of exams later in the summer. Students who do not pass all three core exams after two attempts must leave the program at the end of year one. Also, students failing all three core exams in the first round who are on (i) academic probation or (ii) receive one or more unsatisfactory grades must leave the program without a re-examination.

Notification of intent to sit for the core examinations must be filed with the DGS by April 1 (for the first round of exams) or July 1 (for the retake exams). 


Under extenuating circumstances, a student can make a written request for exceptions to these rules. Exceptions need to be approved by the Graduate Program Committee and the DGS.


Fields of Concentration

Each student must complete two fields of concentration by earning grades of B- or better in the required classes for those fields. The fields of concentration that are offered are listed below. At least two courses are required for each field. The same course cannot be counted by a student toward more than one field of concentration. The starred (*) courses satisfy the requirements for the field. Other courses are recommended to strengthen the candidate’s field preparation.

Students who have a compelling reason to customize their field choices outside of the options listed below should discuss it with the DGS. The department sometimes permits a students to satisfy a field requirement by offering reading courses or allowing students to take a class outside the department. Consult the DGS for details.


  • Economics 8710: Cross Section Econometrics*
  • Economics 8720: Time Series Econometrics*
  • Economics 8730: Econometric Methods for Data-Rich Environments

Economic Development

  • Economics 8190: Economic Development of Underdeveloped Areas*
  • Economics 8510: Topics in Growth Theory* 

International Economics

  • Economics 8210: International Trade Theory*
  • Economics 8230: Advanced Topics in International Trade*

International Finance

  • Economics 8220: International Finance* 
  • One of the following courses: 8350: Advanced Macroeconomic Theory; 8360: Empirical Macroeconomics: 8210: International Trade Theory; or 8230: Advanced Topics in International Trade

Industrial Organization

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

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.)


  • 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 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 candidate will select two readers who consent to formally assess the summer paper on the proposed topic. If the candidate 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 candidate’s third year, unless the Director of Graduate Students allows for an extension of the deadline. If the candidate does not submit the paper in a timely manner, then the candidate must leave the program.

The two readers will assess papers 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 readers will provide appropriate feedback to the candidates.

The overall paper is graded on a scale of Excellent (E), Good (G), Satisfactory (S), and Fail (U). If the candidate receives a U, then the he or she will be dismissed from the program. If a grade of S- is earned on the paper, the two readers may allow a revised version of the paper to be submitted. The candidate must then submit a revised paper by the first day of classes of the spring semester of the student’s third year. Not earning a grade of S or better will lead to the dismissal of the candidate.


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 help the candidate in finding a feasible research topic and to provide initial direction for his or her efforts. The candidate may change advisors should changes be in the candidate’s interests or other circumstances make this necessary.

Defining the Proposal and the Proposal Defense

Before the end of the third year, the candidate 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 who will be the main advisors of the candidate. The student should also indicate a third advisor, who should be a tenured or tenure track faculty member at the University (but not necessarily in the Economics Department). The DGS will appoint a third advisor if the student is unable to find one. The three readers will serve as the candidate's provisional committee. 

The candidate must submit a proposal limited to 15 double-spaced pages to the DGS two weeks before the scheduled proposal defense.  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 “Economic Research Colloquium,” 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, 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 warrant, a faculty member from outside the Department of Economics may be selected as second or third advisor, subject to approval by the DGS.)

Any candidate who fails to present a dissertation proposal by the end of the spring semester of their 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 candidate’s third year. If the advisors and the DGS approve the extension, then the candidate 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 candidate must defend the new proposal by November 1 of the candidate’s 4th year, following the general guidelines for proposal submission.  The candidate can change the provisional committee and field of research for his/her second presentation in the fall semester.

If the candidate requested an extension of the deadline to the provisional committee, and the extension was approved by the DGS, and the candidate presents 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 proposal to be submitted. The candidate 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 candidate must leave the program.

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

Advancing to Candidacy

At the successful defense of the dissertation proposal, the candidate will have met all the requirements of the program except the submission of the dissertation and will advance to candidacy. At this point, the candidate will be an All But Dissertation Student (ABD). 


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 committee 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 extenuating circumstances.

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 "Degree Conferral in Absentia" status; find instructions and the link to the requisite form here.

Students must apply for their degrees online in the Student Information System (SIS) early in the term in which the degree is to be awarded:

by January 31 for a May/Spring degree

by June 30 for an August/Summer degree

by September 30 for a December/Fall degree

The Final Examination Form (signed by all dissertation readers immediately following the dissertation defense, which confirms that the student has satisfied this milestone) submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator and the dissertation in its final form (submitted to the Graduate School Office) are all due:

before April 30 for a May degree

before July 31 for an August degree by

before November 30 for a December degree.

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.


The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only.  The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at either or