Current Students

Current students can find up-to-date information on all academic aspects of the PhD Program in the Economics Graduate Program Handbook.  You must sign in with your UCSB NetID to view the handbook.

This page contains some high-level information about the structure of the program, as well as useful links for current students. 

Program Timeline

Completing the PhD program will take on average five to six years, although some students will be able to complete the program in less time.

The PhD program consists of three major stages:

1. Core Courses and Preliminary Examinations (Year 1)

Students must complete the following core courses in Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Econometrics in their first three quarters. Each core course is required to be passed with a grade of B or better.

Required Core Courses

Fall Quarter

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

Winter Quarter

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

Spring Quarter

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

In addition, all first-year PhD students are required to enroll in ECON 297: "Seminar on the Teaching of Economics."

Course descriptions can be viewed on the Economics Course Catalog.

Preliminary Examinations

At the end of the first academic year, students will take preliminary examinations in the areas of Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Econometrics. Students have two opportunities to pass each examination: the first in June/July, after the completion of the Spring Quarter, and the second in August, before the start of Fall Quarter. Students must receive a PhD Pass or a PhD Pass with Distinction on all three exams to proceed to the second year of the program.

Preliminary Exam Grading:

  • PhD Pass with Distinction
  • PhD Pass
  • MA Pass
  • Fail

Students who receive only an MA Pass on any of the preliminary examinations and satisfy the core course grade requirements are eligible to receive the MA degree in Economics, but are not eligible to proceed in the PhD Program.

Most students pass the preliminary exams and proceed into the PhD. The Department only admits students who it expects will pass.

"Grading Out" of a Preliminary Exam

First year students are entitled to “grade out” of at most one preliminary exam. To be entitled to grade out of the preliminary exam for one of the core areas (Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Econometrics) the following conditions must ALL be satisfied:

  • One of the three 1st year class grades in this area must be an A or better.
  • Two of the three 1st year class grades in this area must be A- or better.
  • All three 1st year class grades in this area must be B+ or better.

If a student satisfies these requirements for more than one area, he or she may decide which exam to drop.  Students who grade out of an exam still require a PhD pass or better on both remaining exams to qualify for the second year of the program.

A student who grades out of an exam, but fails to obtain a PhD pass on any exam they attempt may make one additional attempt on that exam in August, as detailed above. However, the student must retake the exam they failed on the first attempt, they cannot switch to another subject area they may have qualified to test out of.

A student who grades out of one exam, obtains an MA pass or better on the two preliminary exams they take, and meets all class grade requirements of the MA degree, qualifies for the MA degree.


2. Field Specialization (Year 2)

Students will take field specialization courses, studying two chosen fields from the following list:

  • Econometrics
  • Environmental and Natural Resources
  • Experimental and Behavioral Economics
  • Labor Economics
  • Macroeconomic Theory and Policy
  • Microeconomic Theory
  • Public Economics

Course offerings will vary from year-to-year, and in some cases, completing a field may require continuing field specialization into the third year. A full document detailing the unit requirements is available on the sidebar.

Econ 290 Faculty-Led Research Seminar

Beginning in the Fall Quarter of their second year and continuing each quarter until graduation, students will be required to enroll in a faculty-led Research Seminar, which is listed as the ECON 290 series. Seminars will typically be led by one or two faculty members. Course credit will be given for participating in this seminar, but it will not count towards meeting the unit requirements for a student’s specialization or for their elective requirements.

Research Paper

To provide a more consistent and guided structure during the second year, doctoral students will also be required to produce a formal research paper. Students will produce a formal written proposal for a paper, which will be approved by the faculty advisor of the student’s Working Group.

More information on the requirements for the research paper can be found in the Graduate Program Handbook.

Information on Choosing an Emphasis

Students in the Economics PhD program may also choose to add an interdisciplinary graduate emphasis. Students can apply to:

The Demography Emphasis, which offers interdisciplinary courses between Anthropology, Economics, Geography, Sociology, and Global Studies

The Economic and Environmental Science Emphasis (EES), which is in conjunction with the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management

The Climate Sciences and Climate Change Emphasis, which offers interdisciplinary courses between Geography, the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, Earth Science, Economics, and Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Science (IGPMS)

Entrance to each emphasis depends on the completion of required courses and projects, for which more information is available in the sidebar.


3. Advancement to Candidacy and Completion of Dissertation (Years 3-6)

Requirements to Advance to Candidacy

Once all field courses, field electives, and research paper requirements have been completed, students are required to advance to candidacy. To advance, students form a dissertation committee, and will present a dissertation proposal to the committee in their Econ 290 research seminar group.

All students are required to advance to candidacy by the end of the Fall Quarter of their fourth year.

Guidelines for the dissertation can be downloaded here.

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 PhD alumni with an in-house job market letter of recommendation service.

Graduate Student Funding Requests

Requirements for All Proposals

The Department accepts funding proposals for research, data purchase, experiments, and travel for PhD students. All Economics PhD students in residence at UCSB, in good academic standing, and who are meeting time to degree requirements are eligible to apply. Proposals will be evaluated by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Students who are submitting a funding request are required to conform to the submission deadlines listed on the Funding Request Form

Please note that due to requirements for funding and paperwork processing, it may take some time for funds to be available to students. Students may need to pay for expenses out of pocket before they receive approval or funding from the Department, or if funding is denied.

Students applying for funding for an experiment are required to get the written approval of a faculty member who runs the experimental Econ 290 research seminar, current Prof. Ryan Oprea or Prof. Erik Eyster, as well as a written letter of recommendation for their dissertation advisor.

Please contact the Staff Graduate Advisor, Mark Patterson, with any questions.

Requirements for Travel Proposals

When submitting a funding request for travel expenses, please refer to the Policy on Departmental Support for Graduate Student Travel. Students who submit a funding proposal are by default acknowledging and agreeing to the terms and conditions of the travel policy.

Itemised receipts are mandatory for all travel reimbursements. Stipends will not be given for travel, but students will be reimbursed up to the amount allowed by the travel policy. This amount must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.


Journal Submission Fees

The Department accepts funding proposals for journal submission fees. All Economics PhD students who are in residence at UCSB, in good academic standing, and are meeting time to degree requirements are eligible to apply. Proposals will be evaluated by the Director of Graduate Studies. 


  1. The subsidy has to be approved before submission.
  2. The journal has to be an Economics journal (broadly defined).
  3. A letter of support from the student's committee chair is required.
  4. The paper cannot be coauthored with a faculty member, here or elsewhere.
  5. Submission fees must be reasonable (No page charges or other costs).
  6. Cost must be $100-$200 per submission, and there can be no more than two submission fee payments per paper.


  1. Fill out the online Graduate Student Funding Requests form.
  2. Email a copy of the paper and the funding proposal to
  3. The student's Dissertation Chair or Main Advisor must email a note or letter of approval before the funding request will be reviewed.
  4. The journal submission will be reviewed and preapproved (internally) before the student submits it.
  5. If the request is approved, the student will submit their work and the submission fee will be paid by the department, during a scheduled meeting with the departmental Staff Graduate Advisor. Students should not pay the submission fee out of pocket.

PhD Program Recruitment

For students who have been accepted into the PhD Program, please find more information on our recruitment page

 Incoming Students

Learn about the resources the graduate program has to offer and how to prepare for your time at UCSB!

 Coursework and Requirements

 Requirements for Choosing an Emphasis

 Graduate Student Funding Requests