The Economics Department offers a Ph.D. in Economics for individuals who want to continue their studies in applied economics beyond the master’s level and to conduct research on policy-oriented issues under the guidance of faculty with national reputations in health, labor, public economics, and environmental studies. It is an innovative program that provides students with a mastery of advanced empirical and analytical methods so they can conduct high-quality research and contribute to the knowledge base in business, government, non-profit, and research settings. The Department conducts nationally-recognized research that supports its academic programs, promotes economic understanding, and fosters economic development in the Triad and the state.
Classes at the doctoral level are small, and students benefit from direct and frequent interactions with faculty. Students begin working in applied research early in their programs and are encouraged to work with faculty to identify policy problems they want to investigate through the dissertation. Our Ph.D. students frequently work with faculty on grant-funded research and co-author papers for presentation at regional and national professional meetings.
In order to be admitted to the Ph.D. program in economics, you must have earned an MA in economics comparable to the MA in Applied Economics offered at UNCG. In order for an MA degree to be considered comparable to the UNCG MA, your graduate coursework should include the following:
- Two graduate-level courses in microeconomics
- Two graduate-level courses in econometrics
- One graduate-level course in macroeconomics
The admission decision is based on an evaluation of four main criteria:
- GRE scores (quantitative score should fall above the 70th percentile)
- Three letters of recommendation
- Superior performance in graduate economics courses
- The personal statement of goals.
Your application should include a 1-2 page statement outlining how your academic background has prepared you to pursue graduate work in economics and how receiving a doctoral degree in applied economics will help you achieve your career goals.
If you are lacking some of the required coursework, you may take MA courses during the first year of doctoral study to supplement your previous work.
Ph.D. Degree Requirements
The Ph.D. in Economics requires 60 semester hours of coursework including dissertation research. Up to 18 hours of the 60 hours may be accepted from the MA in Applied Economics at UNCG or a comparable master's degree in economics program.
Students generally take 6-9 semester hours each semester. During your first fall semester, you will begin taking the Ph.D. core courses that will provide you with advanced training in microeconomic theory and econometrics. During the spring semester, you will take research tools courses and might also begin taking field courses in labor economics, public economics, health economics, environmental economics or economics of innovation and technology.
Qualifying exams covering economic theory and econometrics are administered in January after completion of the first year of coursework. You must pass each exam with a grade of B- or better. If you do not pass an exam, you may re-take that exam one time.
During this year, you will begin taking field coursework. At this point in the program, you can begin to branch out into fields of specialization in applied economics. You may, after consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies, choose to pursue special interests by taking coursework outside the Department of Economics in other graduate departments including Business Administration, Educational Research Methodology, Health, Political Science, or Information Systems. You also have the option of taking field courses through the economics departments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or Duke University under the North Carolina interinstitutional registration program.
During the second year of doctoral work, you should identify a member of the graduate faculty to serve as the chair of your dissertation committee. In consultation with your committee chair, you will also select the faculty members to serve on your dissertation committee.
During your third year of doctoral study, while you may continue to take field courses relevant to your areas of interest, your primary focus will be on identifying the field of research and topic or topics you would like to address in your dissertation. Your coursework will include surveys of literature in your chosen field. You may also begin to identify and collect data for one or more empirical research projects.
Preliminary Comprehensive Exams
After you have completed your field courses, your dissertation adviser, in consultation with your committee, will administer written and oral examinations covering your fields of study. Upon successful completion of those exams and approval of your dissertation topic, you will be admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree.
Fourth and Subsequent Years
Once you have been admitted to candidacy, you will register for dissertation credit and prepare and present a dissertation that reflects an independent investigation of an economic topic approved by your dissertation committee.
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