Doctor of Philosophy in the Field of Economics

Economics looks at choices under scarcity and how these choices affect production, market prices, national output, unemployment, inflation, economic growth and the use and distribution of resources within and across nations. GW’s graduate economics program involves topics ranging from microeconomics, macroeconomics and econometrics to subject areas chosen from labor economics, international economics, and the economics of industry. It is part of the social and behavioral sciences program in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

The PhD program is divided into two units. The first unit includes completing examinations in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory and two field examinations selected by the student and approved by the doctoral program committee.The second unit includes participation in a dissertation seminar, completion of the written dissertation, and an oral defense. The program is offered primarily on a full-time basis and students are expected to complete their degrees in five to six years. Occasionally, the program admits highly qualified part-time students.

This is a STEM-designated degree program.

The following requirements must be fulfilled:

The general requirements stated under Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate Programs.

The requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Program.

Pre-candidacy requirements

Pre-candidacy requirements include satisfactory completion of 48 credits, including 18 credits in required courses and 30 credits in elective courses, and achievement of a passing grade in the general examination.

Core theory and econometrics
ECON 8301Microeconomic Theory I
ECON 8302Microeconomic Theory II
ECON 8305Macroeconomic Theory I
ECON 8306Macroeconomic Theory II
ECON 8375Econometrics I
ECON 8376Econometrics II
Research Development Course
ECON 8397Paper Proposal Seminar
30 credits in 8000-level (or approved 6000-level) courses.
Additional requirements
Students must achieve a passing grade in the general examination and on the research paper proposal.

General examination

The General Examination consists of two preliminary examinations, one in microeconomic theory and one in macroeconomic theory, and a research paper proposal. To pass the general examination, students must earn a grade of "pass" or “pass with distinction” in the preliminary examinations in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory and earn a grade of “pass” or “pass with distinction” on the research paper proposal.

Students are required to take the microeconomic and macroeconomic preliminary examinations in May of their first year in the PhD program. The exams may be retaken at the start of the following semester, with departmental approval. Both exams must be passed by the second attempt.


Students must complete 30 credits in 8000-level or approved 6000-level courses. Research credits such as those taken in ECON 8998 or ECON 8999 do not count as elective credits in pre-candidacy, nor does ECON 8397.

In cases where knowledge outside the discipline of economics or outside Department of Economics course offerings is critical to the student's research field, students may take up to 6 credits in pre-candidacy coursework outside the department, with departmental approval. In exceptional circumstances, a student may take 9 such credits, with departmental approval.

Research paper proposal

Students must submit the research paper proposal by the end of their third year in the program. Part-time students may submit the research paper proposal in the fourth or fifth year of the program, subject to departmental approval.

Post-candidacy requirements

Post-candidacy requirements include successful completion of 24 credits at the 8000 level, the formulation of a dissertation proposal, a formal presentation of the proposal by the student to a potential dissertation committee for approval, and completion of a dissertation that demonstrates the candidate's ability to do original research as determined by the dissertation committee.

The 24 credits must include a minimum of 6 credits in ECON 8999.

Once a student successfully completes 24 credits, they must register for 1 credit in CCAS 0940 each subsequent fall and spring semester until they have successfully defended their dissertation to the dissertation oral examination committee, thereby completing the degree program.

Students may apply for the master of philosophy (MPhil) degree after successfully defending a dissertation proposal.

Time limits

The pre-candidacy stage must be concluded within three years of matriculation in the program; part-time students may conclude the pre-candidacy stage within five years of matriculation, subject to departmental approval. Upon successful completion of pre-candidacy, students are considered for admission to candidacy, i.e., the dissertation stage. The dissertation stage must be completed within five years of entry into candidacy, or within eight years of matriculation in the program, whichever is sooner*.

Admission deadlines: Fall – Ph.D.: January 15
Standardized test scores: GRE general test (institutional code 5246)
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the academic International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the PTE Academic is required of all applicants except those who hold a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a college or university in the United States or from an institution located in a country in which English is the official language, provided English was the language of instruction.
Minimum scores for the program are:
- Academic IELTS: an overall band score of 6.0 with no individual score below 5.0; or
- TOEFL: 550 on paper-based or 80 on Internet-based; or
- PTE Academic: 53
Recommendations required: Ph.D. - Three (3) recommendations
Prior academic records: Transcripts are required from all colleges and universities attended, whether or not credit was earned, the program was completed, or the credit appears as transfer credit on another transcript. Unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities attended must be uploaded to your online application. Official transcripts are required only of applicants who are offered admission.
If transcripts are in a language other than English, English language translations must be provided. The English translation alone should be uploaded into your application.
Statement of purpose: In an essay of 250 – 500 words, state your purpose in undertaking graduate study in your chosen field. Include your academic objectives, research interests, and career plans. Also discuss your related qualifications, including collegiate, professional, and community activities, and any other substantial accomplishments not already mentioned on the application. If you are applying for an assistantship or fellowship, you should also describe any teaching experience you have had.
International applicants only: Please follow this link - - to review the International Applicant Information carefully for details on required documents, earlier deadlines for applicants requiring an I-20 or DS-2019 from GW.

For more information on the admission process, please visit the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Frequently Asked Questions page.

Supporting documents not submitted online should be mailed to:
Columbian College of Arts and Sciences – Graduate Admissions Office
The George Washington University
801 22nd Street NW, Phillips Hall 215
Washington DC 20052

Contact for questions: ~ 202-994-6210 (phone) ~ 202-994-6213 (fax)
8:30 am – 5:30 pm, Monday through Friday