College of Humanities and Social Sciences


Mason's nationally ranked graduate programs in economics are noted for their emphasis on comparative institutional analysis and their concentration on the relationships among economic, political, and legal institutions. This distinction is illuminated by the fields of study associated with the department: experimental economics, Austrian economics, public choice, constitutional political economy, law and economics, and new institutional economics. Research in the Economics Department covers a broad spectrum, from problems of current interest to fundamental questions of economic and social organization.

The core courses of the program train students in modern theory and quantitative techniques. The field courses stress the application of theory to relevant economic problems. Dissertation work requires students to master and apply their skills to original research. The department emphasizes publishing, and many graduate students have articles accepted for publication in professional journals.

The program prepares students for careers in academia, business, and government.

Reduction of Credit

Students who enter with a master’s degree in economics may have their credit requirement reduced by up to 30 credits, depending on the department's judgment about the degree of closeness of that work to work that would have been taken at George Mason University. Reduction also requires approval of the dean. Requests for reduction of credit are reviewed only after acceptance to the doctoral program.

Program of Study

A typical first-year program of study for a full-time doctoral student includes ECON 811, 830, and 715 in the fall; ECON 637, 812, and 816 in the spring; and micro and macro comprehensive exams in August. A typical second-year program includes Field 1 and Field 2 in the fall; Field 1 (continued) and Field 2 (continued) in the spring; and field exams in August. If possible, part-time students should arrange their work schedules to take two courses per semester in the first year. Doctoral students must enroll at the Fairfax Campus for their required theory and mathematics courses.

Degree Requirements (Catalog Year 2014-2015)

In addition to meeting the following requirements for this degree, students must meet the university requirements for all doctoral degrees.

The program requires 72 credits of coursework and dissertation. Students must earn a minimum GPA of 3.00 in coursework applied to the degree. No more than two courses with a grade of 2.00 may be applied toward the degree.

Doctoral Course Work (48-60 credits)

Six core courses (18 credits)

ECON 637 - Econometrics I - Credits: 3
ECON 715 - Macroeconomic Theory I - Credits: 3
ECON 811 - Microeconomic Theory I - Credits: 3
ECON 812 - Microeconomic Theory II - Credits: 3
ECON 816 - Macroeconomic Theory II - Credits: 3
ECON 830 - Mathematical Economics I Credits: 3

Elective courses (30-42 credits)

Students choose their electives from economics courses in any of the fields offered by the department. Students may substitute up to 6 credits of courses outside economics in closely related fields with prior written approval of the director of the graduate program. ECON 695 Special Topics cannot be applied toward PhD requirements.

Qualifying exams

Students must successfully pass comprehensive exams in microeconomics and macroeconomics.

Field exams

Students must successfully pass field exams in two knowledge areas (see below).  Subject to course availability, the department offers courses in the following fields of study on which the knowledge area field exams will be based. Because the specific courses offered each year vary, students should consult the department for the courses that can be used for each field.

Austrian economics
Constitutional political economy
Economic history
Experimental economics
Industrial organization
Individualized field exam
Institutions and development
Law and economics
Monetary theory
Public choice
Smithian political economy

Advancement to Candidacy

To advance to candidacy, students must complete all course work required on their approved program of study and all exams. In addition, students must have a dissertation committee appointed by the dean as well as an approved proposal. Evidence of the approved proposal must be on file in the Dean’s Office before a student can advance to candidacy.

Dissertation Research (12 to 24 credits)

Once enrolled in 998, students in the economics doctoral program must maintain continuous registration in 998 or 999 each semester (excluding summers) until the dissertation is submitted to and accepted by the University Libraries. Once enrolled in 999, students must follow the university’s continuous registration policy as specified in the Academic Policies chapter of the University Catalog. Students who defend in the summer must be registered for at least 1 credit of 999. Students complete a minimum of 3 credits of 999. They may apply a mimimum of 12 and a maximum of 24 dissertation credits (998 and 999 combined) to the degree.

ECON 998 - Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Research - Credits: 1-9
ECON 999 - Doctoral Dissertation Research - Credits: 1-15 (minimum of 3 credits)

Total: 72 credits

Requirements may be different for earlier catalog years. See the University Catalog archives.

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