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Rules and Regulations

Please read thoroughly the WVU Graduate Catalog before reading the details below.

Master of Arts Program

See the WVU Graduate Catalog for a detailed description of the Master of Arts (M.A.) in Economics Program. The Department does not accept outside applications to the M.A. program; instead, the opportunity to earn an M.A. degree is limited to students enrolled in the Ph.D. program. Typically, these students desire an M.A. as a “milepost” along the way to their Ph.D., or they have for some reason decided not to complete the Ph.D. degree after two years in the Ph.D. program.

To qualify for the M.A. degree in Economics, graduate students must successfully complete a set of courses enumerated in the Graduate Catalog, earn a cumulative minimum grade point average of 3.0, and complete a research paper that demonstrates a substantial ability to perform academic research in economics.

Also, section I below, which describes academic and performance standards for continuation in the Economics Ph.D. program with financial support, apply to graduate studies in the Masters program as well.

Ph.D. Program

I. Academic and Performance Standards

Regulations imposed by the University on all graduate degrees may be found here in the Graduate Catalog. What follows are academic regulations specific to graduate degrees in economics and performance standards required of graduate assistantships in economics.

A graduate student in economics whose cumulative grade-point average for all courses taken as a graduate student falls below 3.0 will be placed on probation at the close of the semester in which the GPA fell below 3.0. A student on probation who fails to raise his/her cumulative GPA to 3.0 or better by the completion of the next nine semester hours (or semester, if more than nine hours are taken in a single semester) will be suspended from the graduate program.

To qualify for the M.A. or Ph.D. degree, graduate students must possess a cumulative minimum grade-point average of at least 3.0 in all WVU courses completed as a graduate student at WVU.

A student who has not been properly admitted or who has been suspended from a program may not further enroll. If registration for course work is attempted, the University can cancel the enrollment.

Other academic reasons for suspension from the Program include:

  • A failing grade on more than 50% of the course work taken in any semester.
  • A third failure on any one comprehensive economic theory examination taken in the Ph.D. curriculum.
  • Failure to complete all degree requirements within the specified time limits.

A student admitted on a provisional basis to the graduate program in economics who fails to meet the conditions for removal of the provisional status during the first semester in residence will be placed on probation for the next enrollment period. A student admitted on a provisional basis who fails to meet the conditions for removal of the provisional status by the end of his or her second semester in residence will be suspended at the end of that second semester. In order to remain in the program, such a student must have attained a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 by the end of the probationary semester on all work completed at WVU. If a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 is not attained by the end of the probationary semester the student shall be suspended from the graduate program in economics.

A student with a deficient undergraduate GPA or deficient GRE score may be admitted on a departmentally probationary status for his or her first semester. As with any other student on probation, such a student will be suspended at the end of that semester if he or she does not achieve a cumulative WVU GPA of at least 3.0 by the close of the probationary semester.

A student who is notified of termination from the graduate programs in Economics will have the opportunity to address an appeal for reconsideration to a review committee of the faculty, the committee to be appointed by the Department Chairperson. All appeal procedures shall be in accordance with the Graduate Catalog.

The Department of Economics has a limited number of graduate assistantships  and fellowships available, as described in the Department’s Financial Aid webpage. Graduate Assistantships are employment contracts requiring 20 hours per week of work performed by the student under the supervision of a faculty member. Each semester the Graduate Coordinator assigns faculty supervisors to graduate assistants (and to fellowship recipients, as appropriate), and evaluates each student’s performance of their duties. Renewal of graduate assistantships is contingent upon students’ maintenance of good academic standing, satisfactory progress toward the degree, and satisfactory performance of duties assigned by their supervisors.

II. Core Courses and Areas of Emphasis (Fields)

There are eight core courses in the Ph.D. program. Econ 701, 702, 721, and 726 are typically offered in the Fall Semester and Econ 711, 712, 725, and 727 are typically offered during the Spring Semester. See the WVU Graduate Catalog for course descriptions, and Section VI below for more details.

All students take the core curriculum and at least two courses in each of two Areas of Emphasis (also called “fields”). The fields offered by our Ph.D. program are currently international economics, monetary economics, public economics, regional and urban economics, health economics, and resource economics. Not all fields will be offered every year, as a minimum number of students must be registered for a field course in order for it to be offered. That minimum number is determined by the Economics Department Chair, in consultation with the Dean.

In addition to core and field courses, all students must pass at least two additional 700-level economics courses (“electives”) with grades of B- or better. Courses in disciplines outside of economics may qualify as electives, if they are i) doctoral-level courses, and ii) explicitly approved by the Graduate Coordinator, on the basis that they iii) are likely to help improve the quality of the student’s dissertation research and speed its completion. (For example, doctoral-level courses in Finance, Resource Economics, Mathematics, and Statistics have often been approved as electives in the past.) A minimum of 44 hours of graduate work in economics at the 700 level is required, counting approved electives, but not counting credits received for Econ 709, 795, or 797. Each student must also take Econ 709 at least once, and every semester in residence, beginning in Fall semester of third year.

The following Ph.D. program course sequence has been adopted by the faculty in Economics. Economics 701 and 711 carry four credit hours; Economics 709 carries one credit hour; all other listed courses carry three credit hours.

Fall semester of first academic year:

  • Economics 701 - Advanced Microeconomic Theory 1
  • Economics 702 - Advanced Macroeconomic Theory 1
  • Economics 721 - Mathematical Economics

Spring semester of first academic year:

  • Economics 711 - Advanced Microeconomic Theory 2
  • Economics 712 - Advanced Macroeconomic Theory 2
  • Economics 725 - Econometrics 1

Fall semester of second academic year:

  • Economics 726 - Econometrics 2
  • Field I Course
  • Field II Course

Spring semester of second academic year:

  • Economics 727 - Econometrics 3
  • Field I Course
  • Field II Course

Third academic year:

  • Field and elective courses
  • Economics 709 - Workshop in Research Design & Methodology
  • Other courses, with explicit approval by the Graduate Coordinator
  • Econ 795, if needed to provide sufficient hours for full-time status.

Students receive course advising from the Economics Graduate Coordinator, and advising on research from a faculty research mentor.

Any deviation from course or program requirements (e.g., approval of transfer credit, waiving a course, substitution of a course for a required course, or enrollment in any course that is not a 700-level course in economics) must be approved by the Graduate Coordinator, with a statement explaining the agreed-upon deviation placed in the student's file.

III. Comprehensive Examinations

The Ph.D. degree is a competency based degree and is not earned for mere accumulation of credit hours. The student is required to show competence in microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, and two fields of specialization. Competency in Microeconomic and Macroeconomic theory is demonstrated by passing both Economic Theory comprehensive examinations, and competency in fields is demonstrated by earning a grade of B- or better in the student’s four field courses.

Comprehensive examinations are normally given during the first week of June. They are written examinations subject to a four hour time limitation. The microeconomic theory and macroeconomic theory examinations are separated by at least one day. Each graduate student in the Ph.D. program must take the comprehensive examination in microeconomics in June following the semester in which the student initially enrolled in Econ 711, and must take the macroeconomics comprehensive examination in June following the semester in which the student initially enrolled in Econ 712.

Committees composed of members of the Graduate Faculty are selected by the Graduate Coordinator prepare and evaluate the examinations. Each committee is composed of three faculty members chosen for knowledge of the specific subject matter to be covered by the examination. One member of the three-member group chairs the committee and is charged with the responsibility of preparing the examination agreed upon by the members. Grading is on a pass-fail basis. The student's grade on each examination is determined by a simple majority vote of the three-member committee.

Students who fail the exam have a right to discuss the reasons for failure with the Chair of the relevant committee, but exams remain in the possession of the committee Chair and will not be returned to students. Students who do not pass a comprehensive Economic Theory examination on the first try will have a second opportunity in August immediately following the first attempt, typically during the week before classes begin. A failure to sit for a comprehensive theory examination any time it is offered after the student completes Economics 711 or 712 is considered to be a failure of that examination.

A student who fails either of the comprehensive Economic Theory examinations twice and wishes to try a third time may petition an ad hoc Appeal Committee, consisting of the Graduate Coordinator and two other Economics faculty members appointed by the Coordinator. The student must present the Appeal Committee with a compelling explanation as to why a different result should be expected on the third attempt. If the Appeal Committee agrees by majority vote, the student may take the exam for the third time. This third and final try may occur no later than January following the first attempt at that exam.

A student who fails a particular Comprehensive Exam and is determined ineligible under these Rules and Regulations for an additional attempt is terminated from the Ph.D. Program subject to the process required in the West Virginia University Graduate Catalog. Before such termination may occur a Review Committee shall be formed to review the status of the student and decide if the student should be terminated from the program or, if not, to set conditions under which the student may be permitted to continue in the Ph.D. program in economics. The Review Committee may not simply determine that the student will be allowed a third attempt at a failed comprehensive exam unless it finds that the ad-hoc Appeal Committee erred in denying an additional attempt.The Review Committee shall be appointed by the Department Chairperson,and the student will be permitted to address the Review Committee. The Review Committee shall report its determination to the Department Chairperson.

IV. Dissertation Initial Progress Report and  Candidacy

In their second year of study, students normally complete their field courses and two econometrics courses, and by the beginning of their third year each student chooses an advisor and begins work on their dissertation. By the end of the first semester of their third year in the Program each student must file a completed Dissertation Initial Progress Report, signed by the student’s faculty dissertation advisor and the Economics Graduate Coordinator.

The Dissertation Initial Progress Report must contain evidence that the student has performed substantial initial work on his or her dissertation research. Such evidence should include a title, an outline of the proposed dissertation, a review of relevant literature, a description of the sources, availability, and characteristics of any data the student plans to analyze in the dissertation, and a discussion of empirical and analytical methods the student plans to employ. It should also include drafts of completed chapters, if any, and any other materials deemed relevant by the student’s faculty advisor. The faculty advisor’s signature will signifiy that the advisor has reviewed the material and consulted with the student, and believes the student’s dissertation research project is sufficiently detailed, concrete, and significant as to show promise of ultimate success. The Graduate Coordinator’s signature will attest that the Dissertation Initial Progress Report is complete and satisfactory.

If a student has not filed a satisfactory Dissertation Initial Progress Report and obtained the required signatures before the end of the first semester of the student’s third year in the Ph.D. program, the Graduate Coordinator will presume that the student is not making satisfactory progress toward completion of the degree and will recommend termination of the student’s eligibility for Fourth-Year financial support. Under extraordinary circumstances (such as a serious illness) that severely and unavoidably, but temporarily, disrupt the student’s ability to progress toward a degree, the Graduate Coordinator may grant an extension of the deadline for filing the Dissertation Initial Progress Report.

Students who have passed their written comprehensive examinations, successfully completed all required courses, and filed a properly approved Dissertation Initial Progress Report, will be formally promoted to Candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.

V. Dissertation Advisor and Committee

The candidate must submit a dissertation prepared under the supervision of an advisor or dissertation committee chair, who must be a member of the Graduate Faculty in Economics. The dissertation must present the results of the candidate's individual investigation and must embody a definitive contribution to knowledge. It must be approved by a committee of the Graduate Faculty in Economics, which is formally created at the time of the student’s proposal defense seminar. University guidelines for the composition of dissertation committees may be found in the Graduate Catalog at this link. The Department provides a Guide for students at dissertation stage at this link.

The composition of doctoral dissertation committees shall meet the following requirements:

  • The committee shall consist of at least four faculty members (University rule).
  • A majority of the committee members must be regular members of the WVU Graduate Faculty (University rule).
  • The chairperson of the committee must be a regular member of the WVU Graduate Faculty (University rule), and a member of the faculty of the Department of Economics.
  • No more than one committee member may be a non-member of the WVU Graduate Faculty (University rule).
  • A majority of committee members must be faculty members in the WVU Department of Economics.
  • At least one member of the committee must be from a department other than the Economics Department at WVU (University rule).
  • Adjunct faculty of the Economics Department may count either as members of the Economics Department or as faculty from outside the department.

Exceptions to the above, subject to University regulations, may be granted with the approval of the Economics Graduate Coordinator.

The above requirements pertain to the status of a faculty member at the time when he or she joins the dissertation committee. Subsequent changes in the status of individual committee members will not necessitate a change in the committee membership. If a committee member leaves the committee, a new member must be appointed, subject to the requirements listed above.

VI. Proposal and Proposal Defense

Each Ph.D. candidate is required to present a dissertation proposal to the Graduate Coordinator, following its approval by the student’s advisor. This proposal will include a statement of the problem (topic summary), a preliminary survey of the literature, a description of the research methodology, and other pertinent material as deemed appropriate by the student’s advisor and the Graduate Coordinator.

After the approval of the proposal, the Ph.D. candidate is required to present the proposal at an open “proposal defense” seminar of faculty and graduate students. The dissertation advisor (who is the committee chair) chooses the appropriate time for such a seminar. Following the seminar, members who are willing to serve on the student’s committee sign a document to that effect. The document is provided for download at the Department’s Dissertation Guidelines webpage, and the student is required to bring a copy to the proposal defense. 

Credit for dissertation research is available under Econ 797. Normally, registration for one semester is permitted if the student has a dissertation chairperson. Registration for subsequent semesters is permitted if the student has a full dissertation committee. Students who are writing a dissertation in residence are required to enroll in Econ 709 (Workshop in Research Design and Methodology) each semester.

VII. Dissertation Defense

After approval of the candidate's dissertation and satisfactory completion of other graduate requirements, a final oral examination or defense of the dissertation is required. University regulations for the dissertation defense may be found in the Graduate Catalog at this link.

The dissertation defense is subject to certain time constraints, which cannot be waived:

  • At least three months must pass between the proposal defense seminar and the final defense of the dissertation (Department Rule).
  • The student must provide a draft copy of the completed dissertation to the committee at least five weeks before the date of the final defense (Department Rule).
  • The student must also inform the Department of the date, time, and location of the defense at least three weeks ahead of the event (University Rule), so that it may be publicized to the University community.

At the final defense, the student will make a brief public presentation of the dissertation research. Members of the committee will take this opportunity to examine the student on any points that they deem relevant. Afterward, the committee will meet in private to evaluate whether or not the student successfully passed the defense; by University rules no more than one negative vote is allowed. If the student passes the defense, committee members will offer suggestions to improve the work, and may require certain changes to be made prior to submission of the dissertation to the Library. Committee members, while voting to pass the student on the defense, may choose to withhold their signatures from the required forms until these required changes are made.

The student must bring to the defense a copy of the Departmental Shuttle Sheet (downloaded from the Department’s Dissertation Guidelines webpage) and the University’s Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Signature Form (downloaded from the Library’s ETD website.

Following the successful defense, the student will make all required changes, format the dissertation according to the ETD guidelines, and submit it to the Library. If the student has applied for graduation, submitted the dissertation prior to the ETD deadline, and fulfilled all other degree requirements, the Department expects that the student will be awarded the Ph.D. degree.

VIII. Degree Time Limits:

Failure to meet the the following time limits will generally result in termination from the Ph.D. program.

  • Students must be promoted to candidacy within three years of passing their written comprehensive theory examinations. [Department Rule]
  • Doctoral candidates are allowed no more than 5 years in which to complete the remaining degree requirements after admission to Ph.D. degree candidacy. [University Rule].
  • All courses that are used in fulfillment of the requirements for a Master’s Degree must have been be completed within eight years prior to conferral of the Degree. [University rule].

More details on time limits, requirements, and appeal procedures may be found in the relevant portion of the Graduate Catalog.