Courses and Requirements

Departmental Program Requirements

The Ph.D. Program in Economics usually takes five to six years to complete. The program focuses on students beginning active research early in their career.

All courses used to satisfy requirements of the Ph.D. program are taken for a letter grade. A grade point average of 3.0 (letter grade B) is required to receive an M.A. or Ph.D. degree.


First Year Requirements

Ph.D. students must complete the Macroeconomics, Microeconomics and Econometrics core courses with a grade of B or better in each course. Students must receive a Ph.D. pass on the preliminary examinations at the end of the first year in Macroeconomics, Microeconomics and Econometrics. Grading categories for the preliminary examinations are "Fail", "M.A. Pass", "Ph.D. Pass" and "Ph.D. Pass with Distinction." To proceed in the Ph.D. program, students must receive a Ph.D. Pass or better on all three preliminary exams.

Students have two opportunities to pass each examination, the first in June, after completion of the Spring quarter, and the second in August, before the start of Fall quarter. Students must pass all three preliminary exams in order to proceed to the 2nd year of the Ph.D. program.

Students who receive an M.A. pass (or higher) on the preliminary examinations (and who satisfy the above grade requirements) are eligible to receive the M.A. degree in Economics.

Students who receive only an M.A. pass on any of the preliminary examinations (and who satisfy the above grade requirements) are eligible to receive the M.A. degree in Economics, but are not eligible to continue in the Ph.D. program.

Fall Quarter

  • Economics 204A: "Macroeconomic Theory"
  • Economics 210A: "Theory of Consumption and Production"
  • Economics 241A: "Econometrics"

Winter Quarter

  • Economics 204B: "Macroeconomic Theory"
  • Economics 210B: "Introduction to Game Theory"
  • Economics 241B: "Econometrics"

Spring Quarter

  • Economics 204C: "Macroeconomic Theory"
  • Economics 210C: "Markets and Incentives"
  • Economics 241C: "Econometrics"

In addition, all new first year Ph.D. students are required to must enroll in Economics 297: "Seminar on the Teaching of Economics."

Complete course descriptions can be found online at the UCSB General Catalog.


Second Year Requirements and Fields

In the second year, students complete a specified number of core courses from two fields, as well as a number of electives. Students are required to complete two fields. Course offerings will vary from year-to-year, and in some cases completing a field may require continuing coursework into the third year.

The fields offered are; Econometrics, Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, Experimental and Behavioral Economics, Labor Economics, Macroeconomic Theory and Policy, Microeconomic Theory, and Public Economics.

Requirements for each field are divided into “core” and “elective” requirements. The initial arrangement of fields appears in the next section. The overall requirements are:

  1. Students are required to complete a minimum of 28-units of advanced coursework, exclusive of units in the new seminars.
  2. Students are required to fulfill the course requirements for at least two fields.
  3. Fields with elective options require 16 units with a minimum of 8 units from the base list, and fields with no elective options require 12 units from the base list.
  4. Units may be used to fulfill the requirements of more than one field, so long as there is a minimum of 28 unique units taken. (No double counting).

A printable table for each fields “core” course and “elective” course requirement is found here.

Complete course descriptions and prerequisites can be found online at the UCSB Online General Catalog.

A complete list of Economics graduate field courses can be downloaded by clicking this link.


Second Year Research Paper Requirement

To provide a more consistent and guided structure during the second year, doctoral students will be required to accomplish the following.

1. Produce a formal written proposal for a second year paper. This proposal must clearly articulate a research question of interest and the methodological approach. Where data or other resources are required to execute the proposal, how these are to be obtained must be clearly spelled out. Written proposals must receive a passing grade (B or above) no later than the last day of classes in the spring quarter of the second year. The grade will be assigned by the faculty advisor(s) for the student’s Working Group. If a student’s proposal fails to meet the standards for a passing grade, the student will be placed in academic warning. Students under academic warning have until the end of the spring quarter of their second year to resubmit their written proposal. Failure to receive a passing grade in the resubmission of the proposal will trigger academic probation. To lift academic probation, students must fulfill the second year paper proposal requirement.

2. Submit the final version of their second year paper no later than by the end of fall quarter of the third year. All second year research papers will be independently graded by a faculty advisor for the student’s Working Group and an anonymous reviewer from the Economics department. The anonymous reviewer will be assigned by the Director of the Graduate Program. Students must earn a passing grade on their paper (B or above). Students who do not earn a passing grade will be placed on academic warning.

3. Students on academic warning will receive detailed written comments from the evaluators of their paper. Students have until the two weeks before the end of winter quarter to implement the revisions suggested by the reviewers in order to earn a passing grade. The revised paper will be reviewed by the original faculty members. The revised paper must receive a passing grade for the student to complete this requirement. Failure to receive a passing grade in the resubmission of the second year paper will trigger academic probation. To lift academic probation, students must fulfil the second year paper requirement.


Faculty Lead Working Groups

Beginning in the second years and continuing each quarter until graduation, students will be required to enroll in a faculty lead Research Working Group (Econ 290 series) beginning in the fall quarter of their second year and will remain in a Working Group through the completion of the PhD. Working Groups will typically be led by two or more faculty.

Credits for Working Group participation will not count towards meeting the requirements for either field courses nor for the minimum required elective units.

Research Working Groups offered during the 2019-2020 academic year are: Macroeconomics, Experimental/Behavioral Theory, Environmental Economics, Applied Econometrics, Applied I (Labor and Health), and Applied II (Public and Labor).


Fourth Year Requirements, Advancement to Candidacy, and Dissertation Defense Requirements

Students are required to advance to candidacy (all field courses and field electives must be first completed) by the end of the Fall quarter. To advance, students select a dissertation committee and discuss a research proposal.

To Advance to Candidacy, students must demonstrate that they have identified a novel and feasible research question that has the potential to be shaped into a dissertation thesis. The judgment (and willingness to serve as advisor) is at the dissertation chair’s discretion, and different faculty members have different ways of assessing readiness. Methods of determining readiness may also differ between different types of research.

No later than the end of the Fall quarter of the fourth year, students will be required to:

  • Form a dissertation committee.
  • Submit an official dissertation proposal. The proposal is expected to include a completed draft of a research paper.
  • Defend their proposal in their assigned research seminar, with their dissertation committee present.
    • Meeting must be open to all faculty members and graduate students.
    • At least two faculty who are not members of the dissertation committee must be present at the defense. When necessary, because of overlap between the dissertation committee and the faculty leading a seminar, the graduate office will arrange for additional faculty to be present. Participation of the two additional faculty members is intended to enhance transparency and uniformity of standards across fields.
    • The paper must be available at least one week before the defense and must be provided at that time to the department Graduate office to be publicly posted.
    • Following the presentation the dissertation committee will either recommend advancing to candidacy or require a further defense at a future date.

Dissertation Defense
Each student will give a public defense of their dissertation and answer such questions as attending faculty may have. Following the presentation, the dissertation committee will either recommend awarding the degree, require minor revisions not requiring a further defense, or require further work and another defense.

  • The dissertation must be available at least one week before the defense and must be provided at that time to the department Graduate office to be publicly posted.
  • Two faculty members from outside the dissertation committee and outside the student’s research seminar (picked at random) will attend the defense and advise the dissertation committee on the suitability of granting the PhD. Participation of the two additional faculty members is intended to enhance transparency and uniformity of standards across fields.
  • The dissertation committee, if unanimously agreed, may under special circumstances waive the requirements for a public defense and the participation of outside faculty members.
  • Students are required to pass the fourth year review by the end of Spring quarter of the fourth year. To pass the fourth year review, students receive their supervisor’s endorsement to post their second research paper (4th year paper) and they receive the endorsement of their committee that they are ready to enter the job market in the fall of their fifth year.

Public defense of the completed dissertation is required.


Fifth Year, Job Market, and Graduation

Students work toward the completion and submission of their dissertation. Students enter the job market and graduate by the end of the Spring quarter.

The department provides approved job market candidates and Economics Ph.D. alumni with an in-house job market letter of recommendation service.

Degree Progress Check Sheets

Graduate students in the Department of Economics Ph.D. program can use the below printable check sheets, to track their progress in the program and/or connected emphasis. Questions about meeting program requirements and progress towards being awarded the doctoral degree can be addressed to the departmental graduate advisor.

Doctor of Philosophy - Economics (Requirements - PDF)
Master of Arts - Economics (Requirements - PDF) (Based on successful completion of first year Ph.D. program requirements)
Demography Emphasis (Requirements - PDF)
Economics and Environmental Science (EES) Emphasis (Requirements - PDF)