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As with our masters programs, the PhD program in economics is offered jointly by the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and the Department of Economics in the Poole College of Management (PCOM).

Faculty from both departments collaborate to offer a quantitatively rigorous program that prepares graduates for work in academia, research, government, and in private industry as consultants and analysts.

The PhD in economics requires students to complete 36 hours of coursework and 36 hours of dissertation research. Students entering with a master’s degree in economics may apply 18 hours toward the dissertation research credit hours requirement, but they still need to complete the 36 hours of coursework.

Students should expect to take five years to complete the PhD, two years of course work and three years of dissertation research.

STEM Designation

All of our programs (Master of Economics, Master of Science in Economics, and PhD in Economics) are classified as STEM (CIP Code 45.0603: Econometrics and Quantitative Economics), and international students in these programs can apply for a 24-month STEM extension of F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT).


Admission to the PhD program is based on the student’s undergraduate and previous graduate record, three letters of recommendation, personal statement, and GRE scores. The GRE subject test in economics is not required. Students who are admitted must have an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better.

An undergraduate degree in economics is not required. However, applicants are required to have completed formal coursework in intermediate microeconomics and intermediate macroeconomics; self-study and personal inquiry into the discipline will not substitute for formal coursework. Additionally, students applying to the PhD program must have completed at minimum: three semesters of calculus, linear algebra and one 300-level course in statistics. A good text that reviews the quantitative techniques with which doctoral students should be familiar is Mathematics for Economists by Carl P. Simon (author) and Lawrence E. Blume.

Students are admitted to the PhD program in fall only.


Core Curriculum

The core curriculum includes two courses in microeconomic theory, two courses in macroeconomic theory and two courses in econometrics.

  • ECG 701 Microeconomics I
  • ECG 702 Microeconomics II
  • ECG 704 Macroeconomics I
  • ECG 705 Macroeconomics II
  • ECG 751 Econometric Methods
  • ECG 752 Time Series Econometrics or ECG 753 Microeconometrics

Field Courses

Students are required to take six doctoral level field courses, four of which should comprise two 2-course sequences. Fields currently offered at NC State include: agricultural economics, development and labor economics, econometrics, environmental and resource economics, international economics, and microeconomic theory/industrial organization.

Through a cooperative agreement between NC State, Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill, students may also take economics field courses at these universities if equivalent courses are not available at NC State. With prior approval from their dissertation advisor(s), students may design an alternative two-course field sequence from the offerings at NC State combined with Ph.D.-level field courses in economics offered at Duke or UNC-Chapel Hill.

Written Comprehensive Examinations

In the summer following completion of the core courses in economic theory (701, 702, 704, 705), students are required to take two four-hour written comprehensive examinations; one in microeconomic theory and one in macroeconomic theory.

Students must complete the written preliminary examinations at the first offering following completion of their micro theory and macro theory core sequences. Both exams must be taken at the same offering.

If a student fails one or both exams, the necessary exams may be retaken at the second offering. If a student fails one or both exams a second time, the student’s doctoral program is terminated. There are no field exams.

Dissertation Proposal Defense (Preliminary Oral Exam)

Students are required to complete an oral presentation of a dissertation proposal. The oral exam is conducted by the student’s advisory committee and a representative from the Graduate School. A PhD student is admitted to candidacy upon passing the preliminary oral examination. Students receiving departmental funding should be aware that financial assistance may be discontinued if the examination is delayed.

Final Oral Examination

The final oral examination is a defense of the complete written dissertation. The final oral exam is conducted by the student’s advisory committee and a representative of the Graduate School.