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Social Sciences Research Building, Rooms 157–170

All courses, faculty listings, and curricular and degree requirements described herein are subject to change or deletion without notice.

The Graduate Program

The department offers a PhD degree in economics, designed to provide a rigorous, analytically oriented training in microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, and advanced specialties. Since the program is structured as a doctoral program, only students who intend to pursue a doctorate should apply.

The main economics PhD requirements are that a student pass qualifying exams in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics, complete select courses of specialization, and prepare an acceptable dissertation.

Details of the PhD program are available on the internet at the department website at Residence and other campuswide regulations are described in the graduate studies section of this catalog.

PhD Graduate Admissions in Economics

Information about applying to the graduate program in economics can be found on the department’s website at, and also at the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs website at Should you have additional questions not covered by the information or resources listed here, please email us at

Applications are only accepted for fall quarter.

The doctoral program starts in the fall quarter, and application submissions open in September of the prior year.

Basic Requirements

Admissions Tests

GRE General Test is required.

English Proficiency Exams
(international applicants only)

A test of English language proficiency is required for international applicants whose native language is not English and who have not studied full time for one uninterrupted academic year at a university-level institution in which English is the language of instruction and in a country where English is a dominant language.

The following test(s) are accepted by this department:

  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), with minimum internet-based test score of 85
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System), with minimum score of band 7.0
  • PTE (Pearson Test of English), with overall minimum academic score of 65

Letters of Recommendation

Minimum of three recommendations required.

Statement of Purpose

Statement of Purpose required, 2,500 word limit.


Including your resume as part of your application is optional but recommended.

Writing Sample

Required; writing sample should be an original piece of research.

Financial Support

Financial support is determined by the admissions committee for the first year. In subsequent years, all graduate students receive funding contingent on normal progress in the program. The typical package includes a teaching assistantship, fee remission, and tuition scholarship (for nonresidents).

Typical Program

A math review course (ECON 205) is offered prior to fall quarter. This is an intensive review of analysis, single and multi-variable calculus, and optimization, and is designed to prepare entering students for their first year of study. Entering students with confidence in their mathematical skills are not required to take the course. However, all students are required to pass the final exam in the class.

Throughout the duration of the program each student is required to maintain full-time enrollment status, at least twelve units, to be eligible for any form of financial support. Excellent supplements to the schedule of core and elective courses to ensure full-time enrollment status are ECON 291, ECON 297, ECON 299, and ECON 500A-B-C.

All core and elective courses taken to fulfill program requirements must be taken for a letter grade (unless otherwise specified below). Economics course titles and descriptions are online.

Typical Progression

First Year: Core Courses

Fall Quarter

  • ECON 200A: Microeconomics
  • ECON 210A: Macroeconomics
  • ECON 220A: Introductory Econometrics
  • ECON 280: Computing

Winter Quarter

  • ECON 200B: Microeconomics
  • ECON 210B: Macroeconomics
  • ECON 220B: Introductory Econometrics

Spring Quarter

  • ECON 200C: Microeconomics
  • ECON 210C: Macroeconomics
  • ECON 220C: Introductory Econometrics


Second Year: Core Courses and Electives

Fall Quarter

  • ECON 220D: Econometrics course
  • Elective courses

Winter Quarter

  • ECON 220E: Econometrics course
  • Elective courses

Spring Quarter

  • ECON 220F: Econometrics course
  • Elective courses


Third Year

Fall Quarter

  • ECON 285: Pre-Candidacy Presentation*
  • ECON 296: Original Research Paper****
  • Elective courses

Winter Quarter

  • Complete electives
  • Optional—ECON 291: Advanced Field Advising and/or ECON 297: Independent Study**

Spring Quarter

  • ECON 285: Pre-Candidacy Presentation*
  • ECON 296: Original Research Paper****
  • ECON 286: Graduate Research Presentation Workshop***


Field/Elective Requirements

General requirements for all PhD students:

  • Completion of seven elective courses.
  • All seven courses must be taken for a letter grade (A, B, C, etc.).
  • Cumulative GPA of 3.5 or better must be earned in these seven courses.
  • Students must elect two fields of economics for advanced study.
  • Each field requires completion of two to three graduate courses.
  • One elective counts toward one field requirement; duplicate credit is not granted.
  • Students are to complete all seven of these courses by the end of their third year.
  • Students should strive to complete their field requirements in their second year.

Students may enroll in independent study or relevant courses from other departments. However, in general, these courses cannot be counted among the seven electives.

Qualifying Examinations

Written qualifying exams in each of the three core fields (microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics) are required and are offered each year at the end of spring quarter and again at the end of summer session. Each exam is administered and graded separately. To continue in the doctoral program, all three exams must be passed by the end of spring quarter of the student’s second year in the program. No exceptions will be made to this policy.

In preparation for the qualifying exams, the department expects a student to be competent relative to existing knowledge on the subject. The specific guide to subject matter needed for competence in a field is the body of topics covered in the first-year courses in that field. More information on qualifying exams can be found on the department’s website at

Advancement to Candidacy (CPHIL Degree)

To attain candidacy, the student must complete an oral examination covering the topic of the proposed thesis before the members of their doctoral committee. The prerequisites for applying for the candidacy exam are

  • Pass the qualifying examinations (microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics)
  • Complete a computation course (ECON 280)
  • Complete advanced econometrics courses (ECON 220D–F)
  • Complete an empirical project (as part of ECON 220F)
  • Complete the elective requirements
  • Complete a third-year original paper and presentation (ECON 285/296)
  • Complete the graduate research presentation workshop (ECON 286)

It is expected that students will advance to candidacy before the start of the fourth year.

Papers should be submitted to the committee for review at least four weeks before the CPHIL examination date. Students must notify the department graduate coordinator of their doctoral committee members at least one month before the CPHIL date.


By the end of the second year, a student has passed the qualifying examinations, has selected a dissertation topic, and conducts background study on the topic. The normal mechanisms for topic development are

  • Elective courses
  • Participation in workshops and colloquia
  • Consultation with the dissertation committee

After completing a dissertation acceptable to the committee, a student will present a final oral examination on the dissertation. The presentation is open to the public; family, friends, and classmates may be invited to attend.

Master of Arts in Economics

The Department of Economics does not offer a master’s program. Students in the doctoral program may apply for the MA upon completion of the degree requirements below, usually following the first year of study in the doctoral program.

History of the Degree

The MA degree meets the needs of three types of students:

  • Students who, though capable of satisfactory academic performance, decide not to continue their studies toward the PhD.
  • Students advised by the department not to continue in the doctoral program but who have mastered certain basic segments.
  • Students who will continue in the program but need an MA degree for summer or part-time jobs.

The MA is not a degree that students in the doctoral program routinely obtain in the course of their doctoral work; it is strictly incidental to the program. The university will not award an MA in economics if one has been awarded by another department or institution in similar fields.


To qualify for the master’s degree, a student must have been admitted to the doctoral program. The requirements for the degree are

  1. Complete, with at least a B average, thirty-six units in upper-division undergraduate or doctoral level economics courses, of which at least twenty-four units must come from the core first-year doctoral sequence (ECON 200, 210, 220).
  2. Complete one of the following:
    1. Receive at least a master’s pass in two core doctoral qualifying exams.
    2. Receive at least a master’s pass in one of the core doctoral qualifying exams, and a B+ average in the first-year courses in a second core field.
    3. Receive at least a master’s pass or receive a B+ average in one core field and write an independent paper approved by three economics faculty members (one outside faculty member allowed) as a master’s thesis.

A minimum of one quarter must elapse between application for candidacy for the MA degree and the filing of the final report for the award of the degree. Forms turned in by the end of the second week of the quarter may be conferred at the end of that quarter.

Department FAQs:

Departmental PhD Time Limit Policies

Students must be advanced to candidacy by the end of five years. Total university support cannot exceed six years. Total registered time at UC San Diego cannot exceed seven years. Students will not be permitted to continue beyond their precandidacy and total registered time limits. Students will not be permitted to receive UC San Diego administered financial support beyond their support limit.

PhD in Economics with a Specialization in Interdisciplinary Environmental Research

A graduate specialization in Interdisciplinary Environmental Research (PIER) is available for select doctoral students in economics. PIER students seek solutions to today’s environmental challenges.

The PhD specialization is designed to allow students to obtain standard training in their chosen field and an opportunity to interact with peers in different disciplines throughout the duration of their doctoral projects. Such communication across disciplines is key to fostering a capacity for interdisciplinary “language” skills and conceptual flexibility.

Specialization Requirements

  • Complete all course work, dissertation, and other requirements of the economics PhD.
  • Sixteen-unit interdisciplinary boot camp (summer SIO 295S–295LS).
  • Eight units from a secondary field (outside the home department).
  • Six units (three quarters) Interdisciplinary Environmental Research Forum (SIO 296).
  • At least one chapter of the dissertation will be broadly related to environmental research and will be interdisciplinary in nature.

Application Requirements

We advise students to begin PIER in their third year upon completion of core economics course requirements. The following items should be combined into a single PDF document and submitted to

  • Student’s CV.
  • Half-page abstract of proposed thesis work.
  • Up to one-page statement of student’s interest in interdisciplinary environmental research including career goals.
  • Nomination letter from adviser acknowledging student’s academic ability and interdisciplinary environmental interest. The letter must include a commitment for summer stipend support.

Admission to the Specialization

Students are admitted into the economics doctoral program. Admission to PIER is a competitive process with 6–8 students granted admission each year from across ten participating UC San Diego departments. Selected applicants will have the opportunity to enroll in the specialization.

PIER Fellowships

When funding is available, all applicants will be considered for one year of PIER Fellowship support.

Specialization in Computational Social Science

Computational Social Science (CSS) integrates large-scale data analysis with formal, causal models from social science domains, to not only improve predictions, but also guide extrapolation and intervention beyond existing data. Students pursuing the specialization will find a clear path to accessing training in computational social science, a formal mechanism for recognizing their efforts, and access to a broad network of relevant scholars.


The graduate specialization in computational social science is only available to students currently enrolled in a PhD program at UC San Diego in the following School of Social Sciences departments: anthropology, communication, cognitive science, economics, education studies, ethnic studies, linguistics, political science, psychology, and sociology. Doctoral students in these departments may apply for the specialization through the CSS administration, housed in the Department of Psychology, with the endorsement of the student’s primary research adviser and department chair. Students are eligible to join the CSS specialization at any time pre-candidacy; post-candidacy requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and may require additional justification relating to time to degree.


In addition to the PhD requirements of their home department, admitted students are required to complete the following requirements:

  • Three quarters of CSS 209. Computational Social Science Research Seminar.
  • Three courses from a list of electives, at least one of which must not count toward the home department PhD requirements, with at least one of these electives drawn from the subset of “advanced data” courses.
  • Appointment to the dissertation committee of at least one CSS affiliated faculty member not affiliated with the student’s home department.
  • Satisfactory completion of a dissertation including a technical and/or computational social science component.