A research policy MA to PhD

Our MA/PhD program focuses on producing top quality, policy-oriented researchers through rigorous training in advanced empirical and analytical analysis needed to perform and interpret cutting-edge economic analyses in a wide range of policy-oriented areas including education, environmental, health, labor, public economics, and technology and innovation.

Your first year of this innovative program focuses on foundational courses that count toward the MA in Economics degree. In your second year, you then take the core PhD theory and econometric courses while completing the requirements for the MA. Together, these first two years lay the foundation for the theoretical, quantitative, and statistical analysis skills needed to succeed in the program.

With the third year, you begin to pivot toward conducting your research. Your focus on using the skills developed in the first two years to explore areas of interest and on broadening your policy-focused toolbox. The fourth year is then spent determining your specific dissertation topic and doing foundation work on that topic. Finally, the fifth year is spent completing the dissertation. The MA/PhD program consists of 75 semester hours of course and dissertation work.

Tuition & Cost Admission Requirements

Part-time curriculum

Students interested in pursuing the MA/PhD in Economics program part-time should talk with the Director of Graduate Studies before beginning courses to develop an individual part-time plan of study that fits with the students ability to pursue the PhD program and meets university and program requirements.

Full-time curriculum

Students generally take nine hours of coursework each semester in their first three years and six hours of coursework each semester in their last two years.

First Year

Your first year is spent taking foundation courses that count toward the MA in Economics.  The fall semester begins that process with ECO 619 (an August  “math boot camp” course that provides an intensive two-week review of the mathematical techniques needed for the first year of graduate coursework in economic theory and econometrics) along with foundation courses in theory, econometrics, and data methods:

ECO-619:  Mathematical Economics
ECO-641: Microeconomics I
ECO-643: Econometric Methods
ECO-725: Data Methods in Economics

Following that fall semester, you will take two MA comprehensive exams in early January that cover material from the fall semester. You must pass each exam with a grade of B- or better to meet this graduation requirement. You have two chances to pass each exam.

The spring of the first year is then spent taking a second course in microeconomic theory, a course in econometric theory, and a course in the fundamentals of policy analysis:

ECO-642:  Microeconomics II
ECO-644: Econometric Theory
ECO-731: Applied Policy Methods

Second Year

During your second fall semester, you typically will take three PhD core courses that will provide you with advanced training in microeconomics theory and econometrics:

ECO-741:  Advanced Mathematical Economics
ECO-742:  Advanced Microeconomic Theory
ECO-745:  Advanced Econometric Theory

Then in January of your second year, you will sit for two PhD comprehensive examinations, one in economic theory and one in econometrics. These examinations evaluate the state of your knowledge and skills in higher level economic theory and econometrics and are based both on courses from the previous semester as well as on the master of economics courses you took the previous year. If you do not pass one or both of these examinations, you will have one more opportunity to retake those examination(s) in May.

In the spring of your second year, you will typically will take three courses that broaden your economic theory and econometric theory skills and begin taking field courses to broaden your understanding and begin exploring fields for possible dissertation topics:

ECO-646:  Macroeconomics
ECO-73X:  Field Course
ECO-746:  Advanced Econometric Theory II

Finally, by the end of your second year you will need to identify a member of the faculty to serve as the chair of your dissertation committee and work with your committee chair to select additional faculty members to serve on your dissertation committee and to write out a plan for your remaining course work.

Third Year

Your third year is spent finishing up developing foundational skills and taking additional field courses. This is the time when you can begin branching out into fields of specialization in applied economics. The specific field courses that you take should be chosen in consultation with your dissertation committee. In that regard, it is possible to pursue special interests by taking coursework outside the Department of Economics in other graduate departments (for example, Business Administration, Educational Research Methodology, Health, Political Science, or Information Systems) or at other universities such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or Duke University.  If you and your committee decide that courses outside the Department of Economics would be useful to your studies, you should talk to the Department’s Director of Graduate Studies as soon as possible.

  • Third-Year Fall Semester
    • ECO 721:  Empirical Microeconomics
    • ECO 72X:  Field Course
  • Third-Year Spring Semester
    • ECO 73X:  Field Course
    • ECO 73X:  Field Course

It is important to note that depending on the availability of courses and the particular needs of the student, there is some flexibility in when courses are completed.  Thus, for example, it may be that an additional field course is taken in the spring of the second year and one of the courses listed for that semester is moved to the spring of the second year.

Fourth Year

Your fourth year’s focus will be spent identifying what you would like to research for your dissertation and constructing a theoretical and empirical foundation to conduct that research.  Your dissertation topic should be one that calls for a thorough investigation of a basic and significant empirical policy problem or question in economics.

To begin that process, you will begin in the fall semester by taking ECO 797:  Seminar in Empirical Economics (6 semester hours) where you will formulate the research question that will be the subject of your dissertation and begin the process of identifying, collecting, and assembling the data required to address your research question. In the spring semester you will take ECO 798:  Seminar in Economic Research (6 semester hours) where you will complete an extensive review of the literature relevant to your dissertation topic and begin developing the formal theoretical and empirical structures needed to conduct your dissertation work.

The end of the fourth year then ends with you formally proposing your dissertation topic and explaining how research on that topic will be conducted. As part of this proposal process, your dissertation adviser in consultation with your dissertation committee will administer a set of written and oral examinations known as the “Doctoral Preliminary Examinations”. The purpose of these examinations is to assure that you have the skills and knowledge in your field(s) of study needed to complete your proposed dissertation. Upon successful completion of those examinations and approval of your dissertation topic, you will be admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree.

Fifth Year

Once you have been admitted to candidacy, you can conduct your dissertation research.  The course associated with this work is ECO 799:  Dissertation. PhD students must complete 12 semester hours of ECO 799, and typically that is done by taking 6 semester hours in the fall and 6 semester hours in the spring. Upon satisfactory completion of your dissertation research,  you will prepare and give an oral presentation that summarizes your work. Known as the “Final Oral Examination”, this oral presentation occurs at a meeting that is open to the public.