UC Santa Barbara Economics

Ph.D. Program


Admissions decisions are made by the departmental Graduate Admissions Committee, which is chaired by the Director of Graduate Studies. Admission to the program is based on intellectual potential and scholarly promise, academic achievement, and programmatic fit. A bachelor's degree is required, though not necessarily with a major in economics. The department does require that specific courses, particularly economic theory (Microeconomics, Macroeconomics and Econometrics), be passed with distinction.

Prospective students are advised to take as much statistics and mathematics courses as possible.  We expect most students will have taken advanced courses in calculus, mathematical statistics, matrix and linear algebra, and real analysis.

The minimum undergraduate GPA requirement for admission is 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Meeting the minimum requirement does not guarantee admission; the actual standard for admission is set by the current pool of applicants, and is generally much higher. The average undergraduate GPA for all applicants who were admitted for Fall 2015 was 3.88 on a 4.0 scale.

All applicants are required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Average GRE scores for students admitted to the Ph.D. program in Fall 2015 were:

GRE Verbal  160 / 84%
GRE Quantitative  167 / 94%
GRE Analytical Writing  4.0 / 56%

Foreign Student Applicants

Applicants whose native language is not English are required to take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. Requests for exceptions to this requirement will be considered for those students who have completed an undergraduate or graduate education at an institution whose primary language of instruction is English. However, the department highly recommends the submission of a TOEFL score for all international students who wish to be considered for financial assistance. The minimum acceptable TOEFL score is 600 (paper-based test) or 100 (internet-based test), but successful applicants typically score above 620 (paper-based test) or 105 (internet-based test). For those applicants choosing to take the IELTS, the minimum acceptable Overall Band score is 7 or higher. Foreign students should take the TOEFL/IELTS and the Graduate Record Examination as early as possible to facilitate a timely admission decision. TOEFL and IELTS scores must be no more than two years old at the time of application.

All incoming international graduate students and permanent residents whose first language is not English are required to take the English Language Placement Examination (ELPE) at the beginning of their first quarter of enrollment here at UC Santa Barbara.  For graduate students, the ELPE includes both a written and an oral examination. After the writing exam, students make individual appointments through the English for Multilingual Students (EMS) program to take the oral exam on a different day.

*It is important to note that International students whose first language is not English but were exempt from the TOEFL or IELTS requirement must still take the English Language Placement Exam (ELPE), if admitted and decide to attend UCSB.

How To Apply

Applicants must apply for admission to our graduate programs electronically (online) at the UCSB Graduate Division website.

In order to complete the online application process, applicants must submit the following materials directly into (upload into) the UCSB Online Graduate Application:

1) Statement of Purpose Essay

2) Personal Achievements/Contributions Essay

3) Resume or CV

For more information on the three above listed documents that you are required to submit, please visit the Graduate Division Statements and Supplemental Documents website.

Please note that the above three documents must be (are required) to be submitted online. Applicants should also take the time to clearly and carefully label each document with the proper title. In general, each of the two essays should be no more than two pages long.

4) Letters of Recommendation
Three letters of recommendation are required as part of your application. Four is the maximum allowed. Letters of recommendation are submitted online via the online Graduate Application. You will be asked to supply the name, email address, and current institution of each recommender. Once that information is supplied, the online application will provide recommendation submission instructions to any of your recommenders via email. Recommenders may upload letters in PDF file format only. Letters of recommendation are most effective when they come from economics faculty.

5) Official Transcripts from all post-secondary educational institutions attended, including community colleges, summer sessions, and extension programs, must be carefully and neatly scanned and uploaded into the online application.

* Please see this document for more important information about transcripts.

* International applicants should additionally note that all uploaded official academic transcripts must include both the version in the native language along with authorized, complete, and exact, literal English translations by the school or an official agency. Unofficial copies made by the applicant or UC faculty and staff are unacceptable.

6) Non-refundable application fee of $90.00 for domestic applicants and $110.00 for international applicants (if not paid online with a credit card) by check, money order, bank draft, or international money order payable through a U.S. bank and made payable to "UC Regents".

* No application will be processed or released to the academic department until the application fee has been received.

Lastly, please have the following sent directly to the UCSB Graduate Division:

1) Official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores forwarded directly from the testing institution. The ETS institution code for UCSB is 4835, and the Economics department code is 1801. GRE scores can be no more than five (5) years old at the time of application.

2) Official Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam scores (international students only) forwarded directly from the testing institution. The ETS institution code for TOEFL scores for UCSB is 4835, and the Economics department code is 84. TOEFL or IELTS scores can be no more than two (2) years old at the time of application.

The deadline for the receipt of all supporting application materials for admission with financial support consideration is Tuesday, December 1, 2015. The final deadline for applications (without financial support consideration) to the Fall 2016 quarter is Tuesday, February 2, 2016.

All application documents must be received/uploaded by the deadline, postmarks and or late uploads are not accepted. First-year Ph.D. courses are sequential; students must begin the program in the fall quarter.

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Requirements and Course Description

The Ph.D. Program in Economics

The Ph.D. program usually requires five years to complete. The program focuses on students beginning active research early in their career.

Course Requirements

The program stresses a strong foundation in theory and econometrics. There are nine core courses in the Ph.D. curriculum, focused on three major areas: Macroeconomic Theory (Economics 204A-B-C), Microeconomic Theory (Economics 210A-B-C), and Econometrics (Economics 241A-B-C). The core courses are completed during the first year of the program as follows:

Fall Quarter Economics 204A: "Macroeconomic Theory"
Economics 210A: "Theory of Consumption and Production"
Economics 241A: "Econometrics"
Winter Quarter Economics 204B: "Macroeconomic Theory"
Economics 210B: "Introduction to Game Theory"
Economics 241B: "Econometrics"
Spring Quarter Economics 204C: "Macroeconomic Theory"
Economics 210C: "Markets and Incentives"
Economics 241C: "Econometrics"

In addition, all new first year Ph.D. students are required to must enroll in Economics 297: "Seminar on the Teaching of Economics."

Field Requirements

In the second year, students complete eight elective courses. Two separate fields in their entirety (each field consists of two or three courses.) Other field courses to complete the total of 8 elective courses Elective field courses include the following:

Econometrics (All three required to complete field)
Economics 245A: "Econometric Theory"
Economics 245B: "Econometric Theory"
Economics 245C: "Econometric Theory"
Environmental and Natural Resources (Two required courses plus one more)
Economics 260A: "Natural Resources"
Economics 260B: "Environmental Economics"
Economics 260C: "Collective Action and Open Access "
Economics 230B: "Public Finance" (alternate if one of previous 3 is not offered)
Experimental and Behavioral Economics (Two main courses plus one "additional" course required)
Economics 276: "Experimental Economics"
Economics 277A: "Behavioral Theory"
Additional course is to be selected from any of the following field sequences: Econometrics, Environmental and Natural Resources, Labor Economics, Public Finance or the Advanced Game Theory course (Econ 242).
Labor Economics (All three required to complete field)
Economics 250A: "Labor Economics"
Economics 250B: "Wage Structure"
Economics 250C: "Current Research Topics in Labor Economics"
Macroeconomic Theory and Policy (Three courses required to complete field)
Economics 225: "Heterogeneous Agent Macroeconomics"
Economics 229: "Macroeconomics Theory and Policy"
Economics 245B: "Econometric Theory"
Economics 253A: "Job Search Theory" (can also be used to complete the Labor field)
Economics 594QA: "Quantitative and Aggregate Economics"
Mathematical Economics (All three required to complete field)
Economics 242: "Advanced Game Theory"
Economics 244: "Mathematical Economics"
Economics 249: "Dynamic Optimization"
Public Finance (Both courses required)
Economics 230A: "Public Finance"
Economics 230B: "Public Finance"
Additional Elective Field Courses
Economics 214A: "Development"
Economics 214B: "Development"
Economics 594MC: "Special Topics in Economics – Macroeconomics" with Dr. Finn Kydland

Normal Academic Progress

Graduate Division Requirements

All courses used to satisfy requirements of the Ph.D. program are taken for a letter grade. A grade point average of 3.0 (letter grade B) is required to receive an M.A. or Ph.D. degree.

Departmental Requirements:

First Year

Ph.D. students must complete the Macroeconomics, Microeconomics and Econometrics core courses with a grade of B or better in each course. Students must receive a Ph.D. pass on the preliminary examinations at the end of the first year in Macroeconomics, Microeconomics and Econometrics. Grading categories for the preliminary examinations are "Fail", "M.A. Pass", "Ph.D. Pass" and "Ph.D. Pass with Distinction." To proceed in the Ph.D. program, students must receive a Ph.D. Pass or better on all three preliminary exams.

Students have two opportunities to pass each examination, the first in June, after completion of the Spring quarter, and the second in August, before the start of Fall quarter. Students must pass all three preliminary exams in order to proceed to the 2nd year of the Ph.D. program.

Students who receive an M.A. pass (or higher) on the preliminary examinations (and who satisfy the above grade requirements) are eligible to receive the M.A. degree in Economics.

Students who receive only an M.A. pass on any of the preliminary examinations (and who satisfy the above grade requirements) are eligible to receive the M.A. degree in Economics, but are not eligible to continue in the Ph.D. program.

Second Year

Ph.D. students start to take eight elective courses. The courses that satisfy the two field requirement must be completed with an average grade of at least an A- (3.70). The electives must include specializations in two fields. The fields are: Economics, Environmental Economics and Natural Resources, Experimental and Behavioral Economics, Labor Economics, Macroeconomic Theory and Policy, Mathematical Economics, and Public Finance.

In the second year, students begin a research project to launch their dissertation research. When they complete the project and defend proposals for the rest of their dissertation in an oral qualifying examination administered by their doctoral committee, they advance to candidacy. The goal is to reach this important milestone by the end of the Fall quarter of the third year.

Third Year

Students are recommended to advance to candidacy (all field courses and field electives must be first completed) by the end of the Fall quarter. To advance, students select a dissertation committee and discuss a research proposal. Students must enroll in the graduate research seminar during their third year. Students are required to pass the third year review by the end of Spring quarter. To pass the third year review, the thesis supervisor endorses the student’s first research paper (3rd Year paper), which is then posted on the graduate research website. The graduate research website contains all graduate student research papers and is online for public viewing.

Fourth Year

Students are required to pass the fourth year review by the end of Spring quarter of the fourth year. To pass the fourth year review, students receive their supervisor’s endorsement to post their second research paper (4th year paper) and they receive the endorsement of their committee that they are ready to enter the job market in the fall of their fifth year.

Public defense of the completed thesis is often waived but may be required by the thesis committee.

Fifth Year

Students work toward the completion and submission of their dissertation. Students enter the job market and graduate by the end of the Spring quarter.

Course Descriptions

Economics 204A-B-C: "Macroeconomic Theory"
Prerequisites: Economics 210A and Economics 210
A. Introduction to modern macroeconomics. Study of economic growth and dynamic optimization. Representative agent, overlapping generations and monetary models.
B. Introduction to dynamic programming. Arrow-Debreu Equilibria, Sequences of Market Equilibria, Recursive Competitive Equilibria. First and second welfare theorems. Real Business Cycles.
C. Focus on frictional economics. Topics to include: economies with incomplete markets, private information, search and matching.

Economics 210A: "Theory of Consumption and Production"
Prerequisites: Math 3A-B-C; & Economics 104A-B, or Economics 205A-B, 1st year Ph.D. standing
Constrained optimization; consumer theory and theory of the firm; uncertainty, risk and expected utility.

Economics 210B: "Introduction to Game Theory"
Prerequisites: Math 3A-B-C; & Economics 104A-B, or Economics 205A-B, 1st year Ph.D. standing
Non-cooperative and cooperative game theory; bargaining and auctions; topics in asymmetric information including adverse selection, signaling and screening.

Economics 210C: "Markets and Incentives"
Prerequisites: Economics 210A and Economics 210B, 1st year Ph.D. standing
Partial and general equilibrium of competitive and non-competitive markets. Topics to include uncertainty; welfare theorems for competitive markets; imperfect competition; externalities and public goods.

Economics 211A: "The Economic Foundations of Human Behavior"
Prerequisites: 2nd year Economics Ph.D. standing
Explores ways to formally model the findings of psychological, experimental-economic, and other research demonstrating departures from perfect rationality, self interest, outcome-based preferences and other classical assumptions of economics.

Economics 214A-B: "Economic Development"
Prerequisites: 2nd year Economics Ph.D. standing
A study of problems faced by the less developed countries. Elements of new growth theory. Endogenous growth and learning by doing. Topics considered include population growth, labor supply, capital accumulation, openness in trade, and technological change.

Economics 225: "Heterogeneous Agent Macroeconomics"
Prerequisites: 2nd year Economics Ph.D. standing
Study dynamic general equilibrium models with heterogeneous agents. Cover economies where aggregation is possible, economies with exogenously incomplete markets and economies where the market incompleteness is endogenous due to limited commitment or private information.

Economics 229: "Macroeconomic Theory and Policy"
Prerequisites: 2nd year Economics Ph.D. standing, and Economics 204A and Economics 204B
The course covers dynamic fiscal policy, including optimal taxation and government debt management, time consistency problems of fiscal and monetary policy, government budget deficits and their effects on the economy, and other advanced topics in macroeconomics.

Economics 230A-B: "Public Finance"
Prerequisites: 2nd year Economics Ph.D. standing
A. Public goods, taxation and expenditure theory.
B. Topics vary: public debt management and fiscal policy, advanced topics in public expenditure and taxation theory; analysis of collective choice, political processes, and group decision making.

Economics 241A-B-C: "Econometrics"
Prerequisites: Mathematics 3A-B-C or equivalent, 1st year Ph.D. standing, must be taken in order starting with 241A
A. Elements of probability and statistics for econometrics.
B. The intuition and theory underpinning estimation of single and multiple equation regression models. Conducting original empirical research.
C. Extension of the general linear model, dynamic model structure and limited dependent variable estimation.

Economics 242: "Advanced Game Theory"
Prerequisites: Economics 210B-C, or Mathematics 118, 2nd year Economics Ph.D. standing
Cournot-Nash equilibrium, bargaining theory, value and equilibrium and evolutionary stable strategy. Non-equilibrium solution concepts (dominance and rationalizability). Applications to oligopoly, signaling, principal-agent problem, and organization of firms.

Economics 244: "Mathematical Economics"
Prerequisites: Economics 210A-B-C-D, Economics 249, and Mathematics 118A-B-C, 2nd year Economics Ph.D. standing
Topics include bargaining, search, matching, mechanism design, voting, auctions, adaptive control, learning dynamics, and recent developments in game theory and mathematical economics.

Economics 245A: "Econometric Theory"
Prerequisites: Economics 241C and Second year and above Ph.D. Graduate standing
The logic and structure of empirical work. In order: How to quantify theory; sources of data; methods of estimation; informative reporting of results. 

Economics 245B: “Econometric Theory”
Prerequisites: Economics 245A and Second year Ph.D. graduate student standing. 
Specification and estimation of time series models. Topics include ARMA models, trending variables (with attention paid to unit root models), and extension to multivariate (VAR and Related) models.  

Economics 245C: “Econometric Theory”
Prerequisites: : Economics 245A, Economics 245B, and Second year Ph.D. graduate student standing.
Specification and estimation of models for cross-section data. Topics include models of individual choice (with attention paid to nonparametric estimators) and models for panel data.

Economics 245D: “Workshop in Econometrics”
Prerequisites: Economics 245A, Economics 245B, consent of instructor, and Second year Ph.D. graduate student standing. 
Reading and discussion of selected topics and recent literature in econometrics. Emphasis on the development of dissertation research topics. Student presentations required. Course outline and readings will vary.

Economics 245E: “Introduction to Bayesian Econometrics”
Prerequisites: Economics 245A, Economics 245B, and Second year Ph.D. graduate student standing. 
Provides a graduate level introduction to Bayesian Econometrics. We begin with a basic introduction to the Bayesian approach, and then examine how familiar estimation problems can be recast in a Bayesian light. Emphasis is practical technique, rather than philosophical questions.

Economics 249: "Dynamic Optimization"
Prerequisites: Economics 210B or Mathematics 118, 2nd year Economics Ph.D. standing
An introduction to the dynamic optimization techniques of the calculus of variations and optimal control theory. Focus on continuous time planning problems in a deterministic setting. Applications include natural resource extraction, energy production, human capital accumulation, and insurance.

Economics 250A: "Labor Economics"
Prerequisites: 2nd year Economics Ph.D. standing
Theory and application of labor supply and demand models. applications include work incentives of social programs, employment effects of minimum wages, and effects of immigration.

Economics 250B: "Wage Structure"
Prerequisites: 2nd year Economics Ph.D. standing
Analysis of wage differentials by education, experience, union status, working conditions and other factors.

Economics 250C: "Current Research Topics in Labor Economics"
Prerequisites: Economics 250A and 250B. Second year Ph.D. graduate student standing. 
Areas covered vary from year to year.

Economics 253A: "Job Search Theory"
Prerequisites: 2nd year Economics Ph.D. standing
Theoretical and quantitative aspects of search theory as it applies to labor markets. Includes topics such as bargaining and models of wage determination, vacancies and unemployment.

Economic 260A: "Natural Resources"
Prerequisites: 2nd year Economics Ph.D. standing
Capital theory and welfare economics applied to the primarily dynamic questions concerning the use of nonrenewable resources such as minerals, the use of renewable resources such as fisheries and forests, and the preservation of species and natural environments.

Economics 260B: "Environmental Economics"
Prerequisites: Economics 210A and Economics 210B 2nd year Economics Ph.D. standing
The primarily static theory of externalities and their correction. Covers basic theory of public bads and externalities, regulation theory related to environmental problems and applications, the valuation of environmental goods, transboundary pollution, and international trade and the environment.

Economics 260C: "Collective Action and Open Access"
Prerequisites: 2nd year Economics Ph.D. standing
Collective action problems addressing open access losses, including uncertainty, heterogeneous parties and information costs. Covers timing and nature of regulation and the assignment of property rights. Empirical topics include; water, air pollution, oil and gas extraction, and climate change.

Economics 276: "Experimental Economics"
Prerequisites: 2nd year Economics Ph.D. standing
Research in experimental economics. Exposure to basic material with further study in individual areas of interest. Professor to meet individually to discuss designing experiments that address the key questions, with student designing final experiment.

Economics 277A: "Behavioral Theory"
Prerequisites: 2nd year Economics Ph.D. standing
Course explores ways to formally model the findings of psychological, experimental-economic, and other research demonstrating departures from perfect rationality, self-interest, and other classical assumptions of economics.

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Financial Aid

A brief summary of the types of financial support available to economics doctoral students follows.

Merit-Based Financial Support

Merit-based support is awarded on the basis of academic performance. Students who do not receive merit-based financial assistance during their first year are eligible for this type of aid in subsequent years if they do well in their courses and make good progress toward the degree.

Most merit-based financial assistance is in the form of teaching assistantships, which recently have been sufficient to support approximately forty-five students. A somewhat greater number receive at least partial support. Teaching assistantships in the Department of Economics are awarded at various fractions of time. The maximum award, fifty percent, entails teaching two discussion sections per quarter. Teaching assistantships for continuing students are dependent upon satisfactory performance as a student and as a teacher.

Students with multi-year offers of teaching assistantship retain their offer if they make normal progress (as outlined above) and perform well as teachers. Students without multi-year offers may receive annual offers. First priority for these annual offers is for students on the job market in their fifth year. Priority is next given to remaining students making normal progress, in declining order of seniority (second year students have highest priority, fourth year students have lowest priority).

Students whose native language is not English and who are awarded teaching assistantships must demonstrate proficiency in English. A committee including representatives from the Graduate Division and the English as a Second Language program evaluates the potential teaching assistant based upon a five to seven minute presentation on an undergraduate topic assigned in advance by the department. The evaluators assess the student's ability to explain academic concepts and respond to questions. Prospective teaching assistants who do not pass the evaluation for spoken English are required to enroll in an appropriate course and they are re-evaluated every quarter until they meet proficiency requirements.

Some research assistantships are available from individual faculty members, depending on research funding. Arrangements to work as a research assistant are made directly with individual faculty members.


Merit-based fellowships are awarded to incoming and continuing Ph.D. students. Most fellowships are awarded for periods of several years and are intended to support the student until completion of the degree.

The Chancellor's and Regents Special Fellowships, which are awarded by the university in competition across departments, supply good support for four to six years and relieve the student of teaching duties during at least two years. Within the department, the most generous and prestigious awards for entering students are the Andron Fellowships.

Top students can hold a Chancellor's or Regents Special Fellowship in addition to an Andron Fellowship. Regents Fellowships are also awarded by the department.

The numbers of fellowships in each category varies from year to year for numerous reasons. In addition, the department awards the Raymond K. Myerson Family Trust Graduate Fellowship each spring to an incoming or continuing student with an outstanding academic record.

The application deadline for merit-based financial support is November 30th. It is advisable for applicants to submit all application materials prior to the December deadline.

Need-Based Financial Support *

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required of all U.S. citizens and permanent residents. General information about need-based aid follows. Application forms and more detailed information regarding need-based financial support may be obtained from the following aid providers:

UCSB Financial Aid Office Mailing Address:

Financial Aid Office
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-3180

or contact them via phone at: (805) 893-2432
UCSB Financial Aid Office
Federal Student Aid FAFSA

United States citizens and eligible non-citizens may apply for need-based financial aid in the form of loans and work-study awards through the UCSB Financial Aid Office. Eligible non-citizens are those who are: (1) a U.S. Permanent Resident with an Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-551); (2) a conditional permanent resident (I-551C); or (3) an other eligible non-citizen with an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service showing one of the following designations: "Refugee", "Asylum Granted," "Indefinite Parole," "Humanitarian Parole," or "Cuban-Haitian Entrant". University of California financial aid programs are based entirely on demonstrated financial need and require a separate application called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The annual priority filing date is March 2 prior to the academic year for which you are applying, and the FAFSA should be postmarked no later than that date. The Graduate and Professional School Financial Aid Service Application (GAPSFAS) is not accepted at UCSB.

Students' eligibility for aid is determined by comparing the "Estimated Student Budget" with the individual student's actual resources. The Financial Aid Office has calculated specific estimated student budgets for both single and married students, residents and nonresidents. Assistance from the Financial Aid Office is usually offered as a combination package of the following types of aid:

Work-Study: Student salaries are paid partly by the federal government and partly by the hiring department. Any on-campus employer or eligible nonprofit off-campus employer may employ students with Work-Study funding. Graduate students may apply their Work-Study allocation to their TAship, if applicable.

Direct Loans: A maximum of $8,500 per year in subsidized Direct Loans is available for eligible Graduate students. Students who do not demonstrate need qualify for the unsubsidized Direct Loan. The maximum amount that graduate students can borrow through both the subsidized and unsubsidized programs is $20,500. The actual amount they can borrow will be determined by their financial need, based on their need-analysis.

* Subject to change without notice.