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The complete guide to getting into an economics PhD program

The math is easier than you might think.

Back in May, Noah wrote about the amazingly good deal that is the PhD in economics. Why? Because:

  • You get a job.
  • You get autonomy.
  • You get intellectual fulfillment.
  • The risk is low.
  • Unlike an MBA, law, or medical degree, you don’t have to worry about paying the sticker price for an econ PhD:  After the first year, most schools will give you teaching assistant positions that will pay for the next several years of graduate study, and some schools will take care of your tuition and expenses even in the first year. (See Miles’s companion post  for more about costs of graduate study and how econ PhD’s future earnings makes it worthwhile, even if you can’t get a full ride.)

Of course, such a good deal won’t last long now that the story is out, so you need to act fast! Since he wrote his post , Noah has received a large number of emails asking the obvious follow-up question: “How do I get into an econ PhD program?” And Miles has been asked the same thing many times by undergraduates and other students at the University of Michigan. So here, we present together our guide for how to break into the academic Elysium called Econ PhD Land:

(Note: This guide is mainly directed toward native English speakers, or those from countries whose graduate students are typically fluent in English, such as India and most European countries. Almost all highly-ranked graduate programs teach economics in English, and we find that students learn the subtle non-mathematical skills in economics better if English is second nature. If your nationality will make admissions committees wonder about your English skills, you can either get your bachelor’s degree at a—possibly foreign—college or university where almost all classes are taught in English, or you will have to compensate by being better on other dimensions. On the bright side, if you are a native English speaker, or from a country whose graduate students are typically fluent in English, you are already ahead in your quest to get into an economics PhD.)

Here is the not-very-surprising list of things that will help you get into a good econ PhD program:

  • good grades, especially in whatever math and economics classes you take,
  • a good score on the math GRE,
  • some math classes and a statistics class on your transcript,
  • research experience, and definitely at least one letter of recommendation from a researcher,
  • a demonstrable interest in the field of economics.

Chances are, if you’re asking for advice, you probably feel unprepared in one of two ways. Either you don’t have a sterling math background, or you have quantitative skills but are new to the field of econ. Fortunately, we have advice for both types of applicant.

If you’re weak in math…

Fortunately, if you’re weak in math, we have good news:  Math is something you can learn . That may sound like a crazy claim to most Americans, who are raised to believe that math ability is in the genes. It may even sound like arrogance coming from two people who have never had to struggle with math. But we’ve both taught people math for many years, and we really believe that it’s true. Genes help a bit, but math is like a foreign language or a sport: effort will result in skill.

Here are the math classes you absolutely should take to get into a good econ program:

  • Linear algebra
  • Multivariable calculus

Here are the classes you should take, but can probably get away with studying on your own:

  • Ordinary differential equations
  • Real analysis

Linear algebra (matrices, vectors, and all that) is something that you’ll use all the time in econ, especially when doing work on a computer. Multivariable calculus also will be used a lot. And stats of course is absolutely key to almost everything economists do. Differential equations are something you will use once in a while. And real analysis—by far the hardest subject of the five—is something that you will probably never use in real econ research, but which the economics field has decided to use as a sort of general intelligence signaling device.

If you took some math classes but didn’t do very well, don’t worry.  Retake the classes . If you are worried about how that will look on your transcript, take the class the first time “off the books” at a different college (many community colleges have calculus classes) or online. Or if you have already gotten a bad grade, take it a second time off the books and then a third time for your transcript. If you work hard, every time you take the class you’ll do better. You will learn the math and be able to prove it by the grade you get. Not only will this help you get into an econ PhD program, once you get in, you’ll breeze through parts of grad school that would otherwise be agony.

Here’s another useful tip:  Get a book and study math on your own before taking the corresponding class for a grade. Reading math on your own is something you’re going to have to get used to doing in grad school anyway (especially during your dissertation!), so it’s good to get used to it now. Beyond course-related books, you can either pick up a subject-specific book (Miles learned much of his math from studying books in the Schaum’s outline series ), or get a “math for economists” book; regarding the latter, Miles recommends Mathematics for Economists  by Simon and Blume, while Noah swears by Mathematical Methods and Models for Economists  by de la Fuente. When you study on your own, the most important thing is to  work through a bunch of problems . That will give you practice for test-taking, and will be more interesting than just reading through derivations.

This will take some time, of course. That’s OK. That’s what summer is for (right?). If you’re late in your college career, you can always take a fifth year, do a gap year, etc.

When you get to grad school, you will have to take an intensive math course called “math camp” that will take up a good part of your summer. For how to get through math camp itself, see this guide by Jérémie Cohen-Setton .

One more piece of advice for the math-challenged:  Be a research assistant on something non-mathy . There are lots of economists doing relatively simple empirical work that requires only some basic statistics knowledge and the ability to use software like Stata. There are more and more experimental economists around, who are always looking for research assistants. Go find a prof and get involved! (If you are still in high school or otherwise haven’t yet chosen a college, you might want to choose one where some of the professors do experiments and so need research assistants—something that is easy to figure out by studying professors’ websites carefully, or by asking about it when you visit the college.)

If you’re new to econ…

If you’re a disillusioned physicist, a bored biostatistician, or a neuroscientist looking to escape that evil  Principal Investigator, don’t worry:  An econ background is not necessary . A lot of the best economists started out in other fields, while a lot of undergrad econ majors are headed for MBAs or jobs in banks. Econ PhD programs know this. They will probably not mind if you have never taken an econ class.

That said, you may still want to  take an econ class , just to verify that you actually like the subject, to start thinking about econ, and to prepare yourself for the concepts you’ll encounter. If you feel like doing this, you can probably skip Econ 101 and 102, and head straight for an Intermediate Micro or Intermediate Macro class.

Another good thing is to  read through an econ textbook . Although economics at the PhD level is mostly about the math and statistics and computer modeling (hopefully getting back to the real world somewhere along the way when you do your own research), you may also want to get the flavor of the less mathy parts of economics from one of the well-written lower-level textbooks (either one by Paul Krugman and Robin Wells , Greg Mankiw , or Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok ) and maybe one at a bit higher level as well, such as David Weil’s excellent book on economic growth ) or Varian’s Intermediate Microeconomics .

Remember to take a statistics class , if you haven’t already. Some technical fields don’t require statistics, so you may have missed this one. But to econ PhD programs, this will be a gaping hole in your resume. Go take stats!

One more thing you can do is research with an economist . Fortunately, economists are generally extremely welcoming to undergrad RAs from outside econ, who often bring extra skills. You’ll get great experience working with data if you don’t have it already. It’ll help you come up with some research ideas to put in your application essays. And of course you’ll get another all-important letter of recommendation.

And now for…

General tips for everyone

Here is the most important tip for everyone:  Don’t just apply to “top” schools . For some degrees—an MBA for example—people question whether it’s worthwhile to go to a non-top school. But for econ departments, there’s no question. Both Miles and Noah have marveled at the number of smart people working at non-top schools. That includes some well-known bloggers, by the way—Tyler Cowen teaches at George Mason University (ranked 64th ), Mark Thoma teaches at the University of Oregon (ranked 56th ), and Scott Sumner teaches at Bentley, for example. Additionally, a flood of new international students is expanding the supply of quality students. That means that the number of high-quality schools is increasing; tomorrow’s top 20 will be like today’s top 10, and tomorrow’s top 100 will be like today’s top 50.

Apply to schools outside of the top 20—any school in the top 100 is worth considering, especially if it is strong in areas you are interested in. If your classmates aren’t as elite as you would like, that just means that you will get more attention from the professors, who almost all came out of top programs themselves. When Noah said in his earlier post that econ PhD students are virtually guaranteed to get jobs in an econ-related field, that applied to schools far down in the ranking. Everyone participates in the legendary centrally managed econ job market . Very few people ever fall through the cracks.

Next—and this should go without saying— don’t be afraid to retake the GRE . If you want to get into a top 10 school, you probably need a perfect or near-perfect score on the math portion of the GRE. For schools lower down the rankings, a good GRE math score is still important. Fortunately, the GRE math section is relatively simple to study for—there are only a finite number of topics covered, and with a little work you can “overlearn” all of them, so you can do them even under time pressure and when you are nervous. In any case, you can keep retaking the test until you get a good score (especially if the early tries are practice tests from the GRE prep books and prep software), and then you’re OK!

Here’s one thing that may surprise you: Getting an econ master’s degree alone won’t help . Although master’s degrees in economics are common among international students who apply to econ PhD programs, American applicants do just fine without a master’s degree on their record. If you want that extra diploma, realize that once you are in a PhD program, you will get a master’s degree automatically after two years. And if you end up dropping out of the PhD program, that master’s degree will be worth more than a stand-alone master’s would. The one reason to get a master’s degree is if it can help you remedy a big deficiency in your record, say not having taken enough math or stats classes, not having taken any econ classes, or not having been able to get anyone whose name admissions committees would recognize to write you a letter of recommendation.

For getting into grad school, much more valuable than a master’s is a stint as a research assistant in the Federal Reserve System or at a think tank —though these days, such positions can often be as hard to get into as a PhD program!

Finally—and if you’re reading this, chances are you’re already doing this— read some econ blogs . (See Miles’s speculations about the future of the econ blogosphere here .) Econ blogs are no substitute for econ classes, but they’re a great complement. Blogs are good for picking up the lingo of academic economists, and learning to think like an economist. Don’t be afraid to  write  a blog either, even if no one ever reads it (you don’t have to be writing at the same level as Evan Soltas or Yichuan Wang );  you can still put it on your CV, or just practice writing down your thoughts. And when you write your dissertation, and do research later on in your career, you are going to have to think for yourself outside the context of a class . One way to practice thinking critically is by critiquing others’ blog posts, at least in your head.

Anyway, if you want to have intellectual stimulation and good work-life balance, and a near-guarantee of a well-paying job in your field of interest, an econ PhD could be just the thing for you. Don’t be scared of the math and the jargon. We’d love to have you.

Update:  Miles’s colleague Jeff Smith at the University of Michigan amplifies many of the things we say on his blog.  For a  complete  guide, be sure to see what Jeff has to say, too.

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Best Doctorates in Economics: Top PhD Programs, Career Paths, and Salaries

If you’re a graduate student and interested in pursuing an advanced study in the field of economics, you should start researching the best PhDs in Economics. By enrolling in an economics PhD program, you’ll be getting an in-depth education on past and current economic trends.

In this article, we’ll try to help you choose the right PhD in Economics by going over some of the best programs in the United States. We’ll also cover some of the highest-paying economics jobs on the market and provide an overview of the PhD in economics salary possibilities.

Find your bootcamp match

What is a phd in economics.

A PhD in Economics degree is an advanced doctoral degree program that studies the distribution and consumption of goods and services. Economics classes teach students to analyze small-scale and global-scale economic factors to make predictions for future markets.

The main goal of economics departments in PhD programs is to teach students how to help different institutions improve and optimize their economic actions. Through a mix of teaching, research, and a heavy course load, economics grad students will perfect their quantitative skills and learn to make decisions that increase the profitability of the organizations they work for.

How to Get Into an Economics PhD Program: Admission Requirements

The admission requirements to get into an economics PhD program include a bachelor’s degree in a related field and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Other admission requirements can include GRE exam scores, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a resume. Admissions counselors will look at a student’s comprehensive experience before grad school.

Different schools have other specific admission requirements for their economics PhD programs, but all international and English as a second language-speaking (ESL) students will have to submit proof of English proficiency in the form of Test of English as a Second Language (TOEFL) exam scores.

PhD in Economics Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree in a related field
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA
  • GRE test scores (optional for most schools)
  • Two to three letters of recommendation
  • Proof of English proficiency (for ESL and international students)
  • Statement of purpose
  • Previous knowledge in math-intensive subjects, such as economic theory, statistics, mathematics, differential and integral calculus, and linear algebra

Economics PhD Acceptance Rates: How Hard Is It to Get Into a PhD Program in Economics?

It can be very hard to get into economics PhD programs. Economics PhD acceptance rates vary between 2.4 and 7.4 percent. At Johns Hopkins University, for example, only 12 students are selected to enroll in the Economics PhD program out of more than 500 applications.

How to Get Into the Best Universities

[query_class_embed] how-to-get-into-*school

Best PhDs in Economics: In Brief

Best universities for economics phds: where to get a phd in economics.

The best universities for PhD economics programs include Arizona State University, John Hopkins University, Syracuse University, and Drexel University. These schools will adequately equip you with the economic knowledge and skills needed to ensure you are ready for a well-paying job in the economics career path of your dreams. Continue reading for all you need to know to prepare for grad school at one of the top Phd in Economics degree programs.

Arizona State University is a public research university founded in 1886. It is considered one of the best institutions for superior education. ASU offers more than 400 graduate degree programs led by experts and has been ranked as the nation’s most innovative university by US News & World Report . 

PhD in Economics

This economics PhD program provides training in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory, applied economics, and econometrics. Classrooms are relatively small, with about 45 graduate students, to facilitate mentoring and provide greater faculty attention within the department of economics. The program prepares students for teaching and research positions in the field of economics. 

PhD in Economics Overview

  • Program Length: 5 years
  • Acceptance Rate: Not stated
  • Tuition: $ 858/credit (in state); $1,361/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, graduate teaching assistantships
  • Bachelor's or master's degree from a regionally accredited institution
  • Minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0
  • Graduate admission application and application fee
  • Official transcripts
  • Three letters of recommendation

Colorado State University was founded in 1870. It is a public land-grant research university and is considered the flagship university of the Colorado State University System. It offers several programs and certificates across many fields and has over 7,000 enrolled graduate students.

This economics doctoral program offers meticulous training and teaches research methods in the many different areas of economics. These math intensive classes include microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, and econometrics. This econ program requires a minimum of 72 credits and allows students to focus on different areas like environmental, international, political, Keynesian, feminist, or regional economics.

  • Tuition: $601.90/credit (in state); $1,475.80/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Graduate assistantships, scholarships, fellowships, internships, grants
  • Online application and application fee
  • Official transcripts of all collegiate work completed post-high school
  • Letters of recommendation

Drexel University was founded in 1891. It is a private research university with over 8,900 enrolled graduate students. Their co-op education program sets this university apart from others, offering students the opportunity to get paid and gain real-world experience prior to graduating.

This PhD in Economics teaches a set of core courses including microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics. Students are then required to specialize and demonstrate math skills in industrial organization, international economics, or macroeconomics. This PhD is an official STEM Designated Degree Program. Each class is composed of three to six doctoral students to optimize and facilitate interactions between students and faculty. 

  • Tuition: $1,342/credit
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Graduate assistantships
  • GRE scores from the past five years
  • Personal statement
  • Two letters of recommendation

Johns Hopkins University is a world-renowned private research university. It was founded in 1876 and is now organized into 10 campuses in Maryland and Washington, with international divisions in Italy and China. The university has over 22,000 graduate students enrolled across its social sciences, engineering, arts, and business schools.

This economics program is led by expert faculty and trains students in applied microeconomics and macroeconomics, economic theory, and econometrics. Students will receive one-on-one attention from faculty, allowing them to conduct better research and strengthen the complex analysis and quantitative skills necessary in the field of econ. 

  • Program Length: 5-6 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 2.4%
  • Tuition: $58,720/year 
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Departmental fellowship (1st year), teaching or research assistantships (2nd to 5th years), Carl Christ Fellowship, Kelly Miller Fellowship, tuition fees funded by the department for enrolled students
  • Unofficial transcripts from all previous colleges and universities
  • GRE scores (quantitative scores of 160 or above)
  • Minimum of two letters of recommendation

Kansas State University was founded in 1863 as the first public institution of higher education in Kansas. KSU is a public land-grant research university and has over 4,500 enrolled graduate students across 73 master's and 43 doctoral degree programs.

This PhD Economics program teaches students about the latest advances in econometrics, economic theory, and computation. The program requires the completion of a minimum of 90 credits, of which 30 are designated to researching and writing a high-quality dissertation.

  • Tuition and Fees: $6,282/year (in state); $12,746/year (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Teaching assistantships, the Wayne Nafziger Graduate Scholarship, the Lloyd and Sally Thomas Graduate Scholarship, and Edward Bagley Graduate Scholarship; tuition fees funded by the department for enrolled students
  • Academic transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate coursework from each institution attended
  • Short statement of objectives for graduate study
  • GRE scores from the past five years (optional but encouraged)

Oregon State University ’s roots can be traced back to 1856 as a public land-grant research university that was founded as a primary and preparatory community school. Today, the university is the largest in Oregon. Oregon State is particularly renowned for its programs in earth, marine, and biological sciences and has over 5,668 enrolled graduate students.

PhD in Applied Economics

The 108-credit Applied Economics PhD degree program teaches students about economic theory, econometrics, development economics, and other quantitative methods. Grad school students of this program will gain the intellectual autonomy needed to examine real-world problems and apply relevant solutions regarding policy, education, trade, and the environment. 

PhD in Applied Economics Overview

  • Program Length: 4-5 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 6.7%
  • Tuition: $498/credit (in state); $1,011/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Graduate assistantship

PhD in Applied Economics Admission Requirements

  • Academic records from each institution attended
  • Letters of reference
  • Statement of objectives

Syracuse University is a private research university founded in 1831 with over 6,800 enrolled graduate students. Syracuse is ranked 59th on US News & World Report’s list of best national universities and features famous alum President Joe Biden. 

The PhD in Economics program at Syracuse University is a research-oriented degree that requires the completion of 72 credits. The program teaches students about mathematical economics, microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, and econometrics. Students will specialize in a primary field in labor, international, public, urban economics, or econometrics. 

  • Acceptance Rate: N/A
  • Tuition: $32,436/year
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: University Fellowships, graduate assistantships, Melvin Eggers Graduate Economics Scholarship for Doctoral Students, David Greytak Fellowship Fund
  • Transcripts from all collegiate and post-collegiate work
  • Three letters of recommendation 

University of Maryland (UMD) at College Park was founded in 1856 and is the flagship campus of the University System of Maryland. UMD is a public, land-grant research university with 10,500 enrolled graduate students in over 230 graduate degree programs.  

PhD in Economics (ECON)

This econ PhD program offers a wide range of specializations to students, including advanced macroeconomics or microeconomics, behavioral and experimental economics, econometrics, economic history, international trade, and public economics. Students who enroll directly after they finish their bachelor’s degree are also able to obtain a Master of Arts degree simultaneously. 

PhD in Economics (ECON) Overview

  • Acceptance Rate: 4.1%
  • Tuition: $1,269/semester (in state); $2,496/semester (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Graduate assistantships, Fellowship in Support of Diversity and Inclusion

PhD in Economics (ECON) Admission Requirements

  • Transcripts from all institutions attended after high school
  • Description of research and work experience
  • GRE exam scores (optional)

University of Utah was established in 1850 as a public research university and is now considered the flagship institution of the Utah System of Higher Education. It currently has over 8,400 enrolled graduate students and offers several programs with financial assistance, academic opportunities, and postdoctoral fellows.

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This economics PhD program allows students to explore many topics, including economic theory, post-Keynesian macroeconomics, Marxian economics, the economics of gender, labor market institutions, and intensive math classes. The program focuses particularly on themes of inequality, globalization, and sustainability. 

  • Acceptance Rate: 7.4%
  • Tuition and Fees: $1,271.79/credit (in state); $4,517.11/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Graduate assistantships (research and teaching), fellowships, scholarships
  • Completion of intermediate microeconomic and macroeconomic theory prerequisite courses 
  • Three academic reference letters
  • Brief statement of personal academic goals

West Virginia University was founded in 1867 as a public land-grant research university. Today, the university enrolls over 5,700 graduate students in more than 350 programs throughout 14 colleges and high-quality schools.

This 45-credit PhD program trains students to conduct original research, produce publishable articles, analyze real-world problems from economists and policymakers, and effectively communicate their results. Doctorate students must choose a specialization in health, international, monetary, public, regional, or urban economics. Classes in economics have a small number of students to facilitate and encourage interaction between students and faculty.

  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Tuition and Fees: $899/credit (in state); $2,053/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Graduate assistantships, Arlen G. and Louise Stone Swiger Doctoral Fellowship, W.E.B. Du Bois Fellowship, Provost Graduate Fellowship
  • Minimum GRE score of, 300
  • Completion of statistics, intermediate micro and macro theory, and calculus prerequisite courses

Can You Get a PhD in Economics Online?

Yes, you can get a PhD in economics online. Liberty University currently offers an online PhD in Public Policy with a concentration in Economic Policy. This program focuses on teaching students how to shape economic policy across legislation, communications, politics, education, and international relations. Grad school students can complete this online program in three years.

Best Online PhD Programs in Economics

How long does it take to get a phd in economics.

It takes five years on average to get a PhD in Economics. The first two years are usually spent completing core classes in economics, and by the third year, students prepare for exams in their specialization field of choice. The final two years are for research and writing a dissertation.

Some students are able to complete their PhD program in less time. Others take up to seven years to finish their degrees, especially if they don’t already have a master’s degree in the field, or are taking courses part-time.

Is a PhD in Economics Hard?

Yes, a PhD in Economics is a hard degree to obtain. However, at this level of education, regardless of the area of study you choose, all programs are hard to complete. Doctoral programs are intended for students who wish to become true experts in their field of choice.

Economics PhD programs are hard because extensive research and practical capabilities are required of candidates. Through a heavy course load, econ grad students are expected to work hard to develop their skills to the maximum and create publishable, high-quality work.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a PhD in Economics?

It costs an average of $19,314 per year to get a PhD in Economics , according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This value is an average of the graduate tuition required in all public and private institutions between 2018 and 2019. Tuition rates will vary by school, and private universities are often more expensive than public institutions.

How to Pay for a PhD in Economics: PhD Funding Options

PhD funding options that students can use to pay for a PhD in Economics include research and teaching assistantships, and many different fellowships and scholarships. These can either be provided directly by the university or by independent institutions and organizations.

Some of these include the Provost Graduate Fellowship, the Melvin Eggers Graduate Economics Scholarship for Doctoral Students, and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

Best Online Master’s Degrees

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What Is the Difference Between an Economics Master’s Degree and PhD?

The main difference between an economics master’s degree and a PhD is that master’s degrees are more career-oriented, while PhDs are focused on research. Since many doctorate students wish to pursue academic careers and teach in high-quality schools, they opt for a PhD program that allows them to acquire expert-level knowledge through research and assistant teaching.

Other differences between these two programs include funding options for payment, as master’s degrees don’t have as many funding options as PhD programs do, as well as the time of completion and the difference in salary between economics master’s and PhD graduates.

Master’s vs PhD in Economics Job Outlook

Employment for both economics master’s and PhD graduates is expected to grow in the next 10 years. However, the growth percentage is much higher for certain economics jobs for those with a doctoral degree. For example, employment for budget analysts, a position that requires only a Master’s Degree in Economics, is projected to grow five percent from 2020 to 2030, which is slower than the average growth for all occupations.

On the other hand, employment for postsecondary teachers, who typically need to have a PhD in Economics, is expected to grow 12 percent in the next 10 years .

Difference in Salary for Economics Master’s vs PhD

Considering the differences mentioned above, there’s a significant difference in average salaries for economics master’s and PhD graduates. While a budget analyst makes around $84,240 on average per year, a postsecondary teacher makes $124,090 on average per year.

According to PayScale, the average salary of someone with a Master’s Degree in Economics is $82,000 per year , whereas the average salary of someone with a PhD in Economics is $110,000 per year .

Related Economics Degrees

[query_class_embed] https://careerkarma.com/blog/best-associate-degrees-in-economics/ https://careerkarma.com/blog/economics-bachelors-degrees/ https://careerkarma.com/blog/economics-masters-degrees/

Why You Should Get a PhD in Economics

You should get a PhD in Economics because it will allow you to learn many valuable quantitative and analytical skills in the field, improve how you communicate with peers and non-experts alike, learn from a wide variety of specializations, and put you on track for a career in research and academics.

Reasons for Getting a PhD in Economics

  • Wide range of specializations. A PhD in Economics allows you to specialize in an area that interests you most, such as financial, labor, international, political, business, feminist, Keynesian, environmental, or development economics.
  • Improve communication skills. Throughout your economics PhD program, you’ll be required to publish high-quality articles for peer review. This means that you’ll also be expected to learn how to communicate your findings to the common layman.
  • Learn many relevant skills. Econ students learn skills that will allow them to work for several institutions. They’re able to evaluate and calculate risk, make predictions, develop and use mathematical models, and deeply understand market dynamics.
  • Work in academia. Most PhD graduates desire to become professors themselves. A PhD in Economics allows students to work for all kinds of superior institutions and have a fulfilling career in research and academia.

Getting a PhD in Economics: Economics PhD Coursework

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Getting a PhD in Economics begins with core economics PhD coursework. For most programs, these courses include micro and macroeconomics, econometrics, mathematics for economists, and research design and methodology.

Microeconomics

A microeconomics course teaches decision-making when it comes to allocating resources of production, exchange, and consumption. Students learn about consumer and producer theory, general equilibrium theory, game theory, and other key applied microeconomic topics.

Macroeconomics

Macroeconomics is the area of economics that studies the economy as a whole. It accounts for the total goods and services provided, economic growth, and total income and consumption. In this course, students learn about the different macroeconomic models and current trends in macroeconomic thought.

Econometrics

In an econometrics course, students learn about probability and statistics, random variables, and hypothesis-testing procedures. Students will also be able to apply mathematical formulations to create complex economic models.

Mathematics for Economists

This core course is important to review the mathematical techniques required in economics. Students consolidate their knowledge in calculus, matrixes, algebra, differential equations, and set theory.

Research Design and Methodology

This introductory course is fundamental to guide students through conducting relevant research in economics literature for their dissertation, article publications, seminars, and any other papers they’ll need to prepare.

Best Master’s Degrees

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How to Get a PhD in Economics: Doctoral Program Requirements

If you’re wondering how to get a PhD in Economics, the answer is pretty straightforward. To successfully complete an economics PhD program, students will have to complete all of the doctoral program requirements. These include successfully concluding core economics classes, establishing a program of study, passing the qualifying exam and candidacy examination, and defending a final dissertation.

Every PhD student will have to take a common set of core courses during their first year. These courses in micro and macroeconomics, econometrics, and mathematics provide students with basic training for conducting research in their field at advanced levels.

At the end of the first year, students will take their first-year exam to prove their competence in the core course and readiness to continue with the program. Passing these exams will allow students to choose their specialization courses for the second year.

Just before the beginning of the second year, students will work with an advisor to help them figure out the specialization courses best for them. They will also facilitate the process of finding a permanent advisor and creating a program of study for the rest of the degree program.

Candidacy examinations, or field course exams, are tests that prove a student’s knowledge in the specialized fields in which they wish to pursue their dissertation research. Upon passing these examinations, students are then recognized as PhD candidates.

By the end of the fifth year, most students have already completed their research and are ready to present and defend their theses. Students defend their dissertation in a final oral examination. Upon passing the defense, students must submit a final copy of their dissertation.

Potential Careers With an Economics Degree

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PhD in Economics Salary and Job Outlook

Getting a PhD in Economics will grant you career stability and financial security. Career prospects in the economics field are great, as employment in these jobs is projected to grow faster than average. Continue reading for a list of some of the best PhD in Economics jobs available to graduates and an overview of their annual salaries.

What Can You Do With a PhD in Economics?

With a PhD in Economics, you can apply to many high-paying jobs in the field. These jobs can include financial manager, postsecondary economics teacher, economist, personal financial advisor, or even urban and regional planner roles.

Best Jobs with a PhD in Economics

  • Financial Manager
  • Postsecondary Economics Teacher
  • Personal Financial Advisor
  • Urban and Regional Planner

What Is the Average Salary for a PhD in Economics?

The average salary for someone with a PhD in Economics is $110,000 per year , according to PayScale. This value varies depending on the career path you choose, the company you work for, or even the industry you base your work in.

Highest-Paying Economics Jobs for PhD Grads

Best economics jobs with a doctorate.

In this section, we’ll cover the best economics jobs you can get with a doctoral degree. They include financial managers, postsecondary teachers, and economists. Other high-paying jobs include personal financial advisors and urban and regional planners.

Financial managers are responsible for the financial standing of a company or organization. They coordinate accounting and investing, create financial reports, and develop long-term financial goals for their company. They must have knowledge of the tax laws and regulations specific to their industry.

  • Salary with an Economics PhD: $153,460
  • Job Outlook: 17% job growth from 2020 to 2030
  • Number of Jobs: 681,700
  • Highest-Paying States: New York, Delaware, and New Jersey

Many economics PhD students are interested in teaching in postsecondary academic institutions. After being hired, these professors are placed in the school’s department of economics where they can conduct research and teach one or more courses in the field.

  • Salary with an Economics PhD: $124,090
  • Job Outlook: 12% job growth from 2020 to 2030
  • Number of Jobs: 1,276,900
  • Highest-Paying States: New Hampshire, Montana, and California

Economists apply their knowledge and skills in economic analysis within a great variety of fields. They study the cost of products, examine employment, taxes, and inflation levels, and analyze economic history trends to make predictions for the future.

  • Salary with an Economics PhD: $120,830
  • Job Outlook: 13% job growth from 2020 to 2030
  • Number of Jobs: 18,600
  • Highest-Paying States: New York, Washington DC, and California

Personal financial advisors advise clients on investments, insurance, mortgages, taxes, and other areas related to financial investment and management. They work to assess a client’s needs and help them make the best financial decisions for their future.

  • Salary with an Economics PhD: $119,960
  • Job Outlook: 5% job growth from 2020 to 2030
  • Number of Jobs: 275,200
  • Highest-Paying States: New York, Washington DC, and Washington

Urban and regional planners gather and analyze information regarding economic, population, and environmental factors to advise developers on their plans to use land. Using their analytical and data skills, they eventually have the final say on whether a land project is feasible.

  • Salary with an Economics PhD: $81,310
  • Job Outlook: 7% job growth from 2020 to 2030
  • Number of Jobs: 39,100
  • Highest-Paying States: Washington DC, California, and New York

Is a PhD in Economics Worth It?

Yes, a PhD in Economics is worth it. Getting an economics PhD is a great way to gain valuable skills for the econ job market, work on your overall communication, and guarantee financial security and stability over the course of your career.

Economics PhD graduates can choose between conducting research and teaching in superior institutions, prestigious government positions, and continuous work at some of the highest-paying private institutions.

Additional Reading About Economics

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PhD in Economics FAQ

Some of the top companies that are hiring economists in 2022 include RAND, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the World Bank. Fannie Mae, the IMF, and Amazon are also top companies looking for economists.

Yes, you are expected to teach or somehow be involved in classroom experiences during your PhD program. Most students receive financial funding through teaching assistantships. These are viewed as an important component of the PhD college career.

You’ll need to have some kind of mathematics background to be admitted to an economics PhD program. All candidates must have taken intensive math classes and need proven math ability in calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations.

No, you don’t need an econ master’s degree to enroll in an economics PhD. However, only a small number of applicants are accepted into these programs and a master’s degree could be considered a competitive edge.

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Doctoral Program

The Ph.D. program is a full time program leading to a Doctoral Degree in Economics.  Students specialize in various fields within Economics by enrolling in field courses and attending field specific lunches and seminars.  Students gain economic breadth by taking additional distribution courses outside of their selected fields of interest.

General requirements

Students  are required to complete 1 quarter of teaching experience. Teaching experience includes teaching assistantships within the Economics department or another department .

University's residency requirement

135 units of full-tuition residency are required for PhD students. After that, a student should have completed all course work and must request Terminal Graduate Registration (TGR) status.

Department degree requirements and student checklist

1. core course requirement.

Required: Core Microeconomics (202-203-204) Core Macroeconomics (210-211-212) Econometrics (270-271-272).  The Business School graduate microeconomics class series may be substituted for the Econ Micro Core.  Students wishing to waive out of any of the first year core, based on previous coverage of at least 90% of the material,  must submit a waiver request to the DGS at least two weeks prior to the start of the quarter.  A separate waiver request must be submitted for each course you are requesting to waive.  The waiver request must include a transcript and a syllabus from the prior course(s) taken.  

2.  Field Requirements

Required:  Two of the Following Fields Chosen as Major Fields (click on link for specific field requirements).  Field sequences must be passed with an overall grade average of B or better.  Individual courses require a letter grade of B- or better to pass unless otherwise noted.

Research fields and field requirements :

  • Behavioral & Experimental
  • Development Economics
  • Econometric Methods with Causal Inference
  • Econometrics
  • Economic History
  • Environmental, Resource and Energy Economics
  • Industrial Organization
  • International Trade & Finance
  • Labor Economics
  • Market Design
  • Microeconomic Theory
  • Macroeconomics
  • Political Economy
  • Public Economics

3.  Distribution

Required:  Four other graduate-level courses must be completed. One of these must be from the area of economic history (unless that field has already been selected above). These courses must be distributed in such a way that at least two fields not selected above are represented.  Distribution courses must be passed with a grade of B or better.

4.  Field Seminars/Workshops

Required:  Three quarters of two different field seminars or six quarters of the same field seminar from the list below.   

Ph.D. Program

Make an impact: The intellectual rigor from researchers associated with Yale Economics drives innovations in domestic and international policy.

Graduate school requirements

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Yale's Department of Economics offers a challenging and rigorous academic program, a distinguished and accessible faculty, and a friendly, supportive environment for study.

Our core teaching faculty of 66 is supported by a diverse group of visiting professors and graduate student teaching assistants, making it one of the largest economics departments in the United States with one of the highest teacher/student ratios for the 130 Ph.D. students in residence.

The Department of Economics also has close ties with professional schools in related fields, such as the Yale School of Management, the Yale School of the Environment, and the Yale School of Public Health, where many of its secondary faculty members teach. It also works with affiliated centers, including the Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, the Economic Growth Center, and the newly created Tobin Center for Economic Policy . 

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Our Program

Yale's economics faculty embraces a broad range of research and teaching interests. Courses and seminars span a wide spectrum of economics, from dynamic structural models to field experiments. Our students apply econometric and data analytic methods to a variety of subjects in macroeconomics, labor economics and finance. Our courses examine critical economic policy issues, including antitrust and environmental regulation. Our focus is global, spanning the United States and developed economies to the developing nations of Latin America, Asia and Africa. Whatever your interest, our faculty is ready to guide you through a wide offering of more than a hundred regular courses, seminars or workshops, combined with individually tailored reading and research courses to best prepare you for your Ph.D. research and dissertation.

Our faculty is eclectic in methodologies and views of economics. There is no Yale dogma or school. You will acquire a critical perspective on the full range of approaches to macroeconomics. You will be well trained in neoclassical theory and in the theory of public choice, externalities and market failures. You will master the skills of sophisticated modern econometrics and understand pitfalls in its applications. You will gain respect for the power of contemporary mathematical models and also for history and for the insights of the great economists of the past.  

Yale Economics graduate program

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Dec. 22 Thurs. Date of December degree award

Jan. 12, Thurs. Add/drop period opens, 8:30 am

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The department of Economics at Harvard University is committed to seeking out and mentoring scholars who wish to pursue a rigorous and rewarding career in economic research. Our graduates are trailblazers in their fields and contribute to a diverse alumni community in both the academic and non-academic sectors. We invite you to learn more about the PhD program in Economics . Have questions about applying? Please thoroughly check the GSAS admission website before emailing us at: [email protected]

Harvard does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, national origin, political beliefs, veteran status, or disability unrelated to job or course of study requirements, and we actively  seek applicants  from historically underrepresented communities. We hope you’ll consider applying. Immigration status does not factor into decisions about admissions and financial aid. For more information, see  Undocumented at Harvard . 

Apply to Economics @Harvard

Application Requirements

  • Completed online application form (Must be completed by December 1st)
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Transcripts for all college/university degrees and courses Self-reported transcripts are accepted for both all programs at the application stage. Applicants must upload copies of his/her transcripts to the online application system. Hard copy transcripts will only be required if admitted to a program, prior to enrollment.
  • Current GRE scores
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores (non-native English speakers see details below)
  • Three letters of recommendation (at least one from an academic source). Recommendation letters must be submitted online through the online application system. 
  • Application fee 
  • Writing sample (at least 15 pages in length)

All applicants are required to take the  General Test of the Graduate Record Examination  (GRE). Test scores are valid for five years (scores must be from no earlier than January 5, 2019 for Fall 2024 admission). Applicants are, however, advised to take the exam no later than mid-November. There is no minimum test score requirement. A department code is not required for score submission. Institution Codes for PhD Programs GRE: 3451

Financial Aid

All admitted students are awarded a financial package which includes tuition, single-person health insurance, living stipend for the first two years, teaching and research assistant stipends and a completion fellowship in the final year of the program.

International Applications

Adequate command of spoken and written English is required for admission. Applicants whose native language is other than English and who do not hold a Bachelor's degree or its equivalent from an institution at which English is the language of instruction must submit  TOEFL  or IELTS scores.

TOEFL/IELTS scores are valid for two years. (scores must be from no earlier than January 5, 2022 for Fall 2024 admission). The committee prefers scores of at least 100 on the internet-based test.  Institution Codes for Toefl score reports PhD programs: 3451

Reapplicants

Applicants who applied last year are considered reapplicants. Those reapplying must submit a completely new application. The new application must include all required documents to be provided by the applicant - we will not re-use material previously submitted. These materials include an updated statement of purpose, transcripts, test score reports, updated letters of recommendation, the application fee, and any other supporting materials

Please note, Harvard University will accept no more than three applications from any one individual over the course of his/her lifetime.

Applying to more than one Program

Harvard has several PhD programs that may also be of interest to students considering applying to the PhD program in economics. These include Business Economics, Political Economy and Government, Public Policy, and Health Policy.  Many students in these programs have considerable overlap in their coursework with courses offered to PhD students in economics.   Many also have dissertation committees that include faculty members of the economics department. Please refer to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for applicable program deadlines.  (Deadlines have already passed for some programs this year but not for others.) We encourage those with interest in any of those programs to also apply to those programs. The economics department will make admissions decisions independently, so application to or admission to other programs will not adversely affect admissions decisions within the Economics department. If you opt to apply, please note, the Graduate School will not accept more than three applications from any individual during the course of his or her academic career. 

Application Assistance and Mentoring Program

Many students interested in an economics PhD experience disparate degrees of support in the application process. The Application Assistance and Mentoring Program (AAMP) aims to mitigate these gaps by helping students from underrepresented groups connect with a graduate student mentor in MIT or Harvard’s PhD economics programs. These mentors can provide:

• Advice on graduate school and fellowship applications, including questions about the application process and feedback on application materials.

• Information about economics research, life as a PhD student or in an academic career, for students who are deciding whether a PhD in economics is the right choice for them.

The AAMP aims to increase the pipeline of diverse talent in economics PhD programs and welcomes participation from all groups underrepresented in economics, including but not limited to: Black, Hispanic-Latinx, Native American, low-income, and LGBTQ+ students, women, students with disabilities, and students who are the first in their families to go to college. The AAMP welcomes participation among students at various stages of their economics studies, including undergraduates and college graduates. The AAMP is open to students who are curious about the academic economics experience and interested in figuring out if it’s right for them. 

Interested participants should fill out the application linked below. We will accept applications until July 17th, 2023. Mentorship will begin over the summer and continue through Fall 2023. Mentees who prefer to meet for a single “coffee chat” may indicate their preference on the form. We will do our best to match all interested applicants with a mentor; however, demand may exceed the availability of mentors.

Please note that the MIT / Harvard Economics AAMP is a volunteer-based, student-run program. This program is not considered part of the admissions process for the Economics PhD at MIT or Harvard, nor will any student's participation in the AAMP be considered by the Graduate Admissions Committee at either school.

Please direct any questions to [email protected] . To join the program, please click the link below to fill out the form.

Application Assistance and Mentoring Program Form

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UCLA Economics

About the Ph.D. Program

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The Ph.D. Program in Economics at UCLA prepares students for careers as economists in academia, business and government. The program combines rigorous work in economic theory and careful study of real-world problems and institutions. Graduates from this program work at major universities around the world, national and international government agencies, banks, research centers and in private businesses. Some of our graduates have achieved great prominence, such as William Sharpe , who earned both his B.A. and Ph.D. degrees at UCLA, and was co-recipient of the 1990 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on the capital asset pricing model.

The department includes internationally recognized scholars in economic theory, econometrics, and all the major applied fields. These outstanding scholars form one of the foremost departments of economics in the world.

The Economics Department is situated within one of the world’s most youthful and vibrant universities. Founded in 1919, UCLA first developed into a major university in the 1950’s. After so short a history, the university was ranked second in the United States among public research universities by the Conference Board of Associated Research Councils in 1982. Thirty-one of its Ph.D. programs are currently ranked in the top 20 in their field–third best in the nation.

The Ph.D. is the degree objective of the graduate program. This degree is awarded to students who demonstrate professional competence by passing written qualifying exams and by completing a major piece of individual research (the Ph.D. dissertation).

Preparation for the qualifying exams through coursework and independent study occupies most student time for the first two years. Thereafter the focus shifts to independent research and finally to the writing of a Ph.D. dissertation. Research in progress by our graduate students as well as our faculty is presented at workshops that meet weekly throughout the academic year. Currently, the Dept. has workshops in Theory and Mathematical Economics, International and Development Economics, Labor and Population Economics, Business Organization and Regulation Economics, Economic History, Econometrics, and Monetary Theory. In addition, many graduate students work as research or teaching assistants for faculty members. The normal time to degree is six years.

This degree program classifies as STEM (CIP Code 45.0603: Econometrics and Quantitative Economics).

UCLA Economics

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Columbia | Economics

Ph.D. in Economics

The Ph.D. program in the Department of Economics at Columbia University trains students to do cutting edge research in economics.  Students in our program do research in all major areas of economics including microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, international economics, labor economics, public finance, industrial organization, development economics, and urban economics.  Our department provides strong training both in theoretical economics and in applied and empirical economics.  The Ph.D. program is primarily designed for students that are interested in pursuing a career in teaching and research within academia but is also useful for student interested in certain positions within governments, research organizations, or private businesses.

The first two years of our Ph.D. program is largely devoted to rigorous coursework. After the second year, however, students devote most of their time to their own research under the supervision of faculty advisors. Students in our program generally complete their Ph.D. in 5 or 6 years.

Admission to the Ph.D. program is highly selective.  We receive approximately 1,000 applications each year for an incoming class of roughly 25 students.  We place a high value on attracting the very best minds, and recruiting members of groups who will both enhance the diversity of research in the field and contribute to the diversity of the university’s academic and professional community.

The Ph.D. program has a long and illustrious history.  Alumni of the program include some of the most distinguished economists of the last century – including Nobel Prize winners Kenneth J. Arrow, Milton Friedman, Simon Smith Kuznets, and William S. Vickrey.

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Why Earn a PhD in Economics?

A PhD prepares you to do independent research at the frontier of Economics

How to Prepare for a PhD in Economics

Important points when preparing for Graduate school in Economics

Writing Personal Statements

Research Experience

Learn how research is a component of preparing for Graduate school

Getting Useful Letters of Recommendation

PhD Student Funding

In this section, we are going to focus on being a competitive applicant for top Economics PhD programs.  We want our very best undergraduates to have a chance to get into these highly competitive programs right after completing an undergraduate degree.  Preparing for graduate school in Economics can often be a confusing process for students.  The goal of this webpage is to illuminate this process and clarify what is required to be a competitive applicant.  While we emphasize the importance of taking difficult mathematics courses, in general, as you choose less selective Economics PhD programs, you can take fewer upper division mathematics classes and still be a competitive applicant. 

Of course, a PhD in Economics is not for everyone and we want you to pursue a career path that is right for YOU.  For great resources about careers, please see UCSD Career Services Center .

There are also many PhD and MA programs outside of economics (in finance, business, public policy, data analytics, business analytics, data science, etc.) that you may be more interested in and be well qualified for.  Please speak with our Vice Chair for Undergraduate Education and other economics faculty about any higher education program you are interested in and get their advice about what it will take for you to be to be a competitive applicant.

First Steps

how to get a phd in economics

A key requirement for earning a PhD is that your dissertation provides new knowledge that moves out the frontier of the profession

Why earn a PhD in Economics?

how to get a phd in economics

The key thing you need to know is that PhD programs in economics are highly mathematical

how to get a phd in economics

It is a great idea to talk to someone who was just in your shoes not too long ago!

Talking to a UCSD grad

Preparing your application.

how to get a phd in economics

Conducting Research with a professor or graduate student will help prepare you for graduate school and can help you gain useful letters of recommendation

how to get a phd in economics

Letters from faculty members who know you well are the most useful letters for gaining admission to top 30 PhD and MA programs

how to get a phd in economics

While the prompts vary across schools, generally a personal statement will ask you to describe your research interests, qualifications, and career goals.

More Resources

how to get a phd in economics

Even though most graduate programs come with funding, it is potentially a good idea to apply for outside funding as well

FAQs

Read the common questions about Economics Phd programs

how to get a phd in economics

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The graduate economics program at Penn is a Ph.D. program administered by the Graduate Group in Economics, which consists of the  faculty  of the Department of Economics, and some of its secondary appointments in the  Wharton School  and the  School of Arts and Sciences . A master's program in Economics is  not  offered at the University of Pennsylvania.

The program trains students to conduct outstanding research in economics. All major areas of economics are covered, with particular strengths in theoretical and empirical microeconomics and in modern macroeconomics. Graduates of the program obtain positions at leading universities, research institutions, and government agencies around the world.

Students in this program acquire a thorough knowledge of economic theory and econometric methods before they begin their own research. They meet a series of  requirements  during their first years in the program, and thereafter devote most of their time to the writing of a  dissertation . The median length of time required for completion is 5.5 years. Almost all students are supported by combinations of fellowships, research assistantships, and teaching assistantships during at least their first five years of study.

We look forward to receiving your applications to our program this fall. Applicants are accepted only for full-time work towards the Ph.D. degree. Part-time  admissions and terminal Master's applications are not considered. The application system for Fall 2024 is expected to open on October 1, 2023.

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2023-24 Job Market Candidates

Penn Ph.D. students seeking jobs during the 2023-24 academic year.

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Graduate Program Information

Prospective students can learn about the graduate program here.

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Graduate Requirements

Necessary requirements forms for all Department of Economics Graduate Ph.D. students.

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Admissions FAQ

Please review these commonly asked questions carefully before reaching out to the department. Still can’t find the information you need? Send us an email at [email protected] .

I applied last year; how can I reapply?

You should complete a new online application and check the relevant box indicating that you previously applied. In order for your materials to be re-reviewed, you must provide at least one new recommendation letter as well as the standard application form, transcripts, and all required materials. The application fee is NOT waived for applicants who are re-applying.

May I include supplemental materials with my application?

Yes. The online application allows applicants to provide URLs for web-based supplemental documents such as a CV or resume, or full text or abstracts of a paper or publication. This link can be to a personal web page or a file-sharing account (e.g., Dropbox). Applicants should be judicious in their choice of supplemental documents. Committee members are most likely to review a CV and/or published papers. The supplemental materials section includes a larger field where you can enter more than one URL with comments or labels (the URLs will not be live links) and a smaller box that allows one URL without explanatory text that will appear as a live link when reviewed. You can use either or both boxes.  Do not mail or email supplemental materials to the department office.

What degree do I need to apply?

A bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) is required. It is not essential that the bachelor’s degree be in economics, but some preparation in undergraduate economics, especially in economic theory, is a necessity, as is a working knowledge of calculus.

Can I apply if I already have another PhD or doctoral degree?

Yes. You will still need to provide all the  required materials .

Is it required or recommended that I complete any specific undergraduate coursework?

No. Some students come to us after finishing master’s degrees in economics, some come from undergraduate economics programs, and some have degrees in another field. What we look for depends on the student’s background. Successful candidates whose prior background is primarily in economics have typically excelled in advanced undergraduate or graduate courses and taken math through at least linear algebra. Many have taken real analysis or some other advanced proof-oriented course, but it is not required. For candidates whose previous studies have not focused on economics, we look for evidence of exceptional performance in their prior field of study, strong technical skills, and some economics background. It would be unusual for us to accept a student who has not taken intermediate microeconomics.

May I apply to other MIT programs or departments while applying to MIT Economics?

Yes, but you are required to complete separate applications for each program. We do not share supporting materials, and a separate fee is required for each application.

Can I visit your department or contact faculty before being admitted?

No. Official department visits, including faculty meetings, are arranged  after  students have been admitted. However, you are more than welcome to arrange a tour of the MIT campus through the  MIT Information Center .

Can you give me an idea of my chances for admission, based on test scores or class rank, for example?

No. We cannot make preliminary evaluations based on one or two qualifications. Our admissions committee carefully reviews entire applications (recommendations, essay, grades, test scores, previous experience, etc.) when making its decisions. The department looks for academic and research potential, focusing primarily on coursework, grades and letters of recommendation.

Will the department keep me informed of my application status?

We do not routinely acknowledge receipt of applications or supporting documents. Once you have submitted an online application you may go back in and check the status of your application and recommendations. Decisions will be communicated via email and letter. Information about decisions will not be given over the phone.

When can I expect to be notified about an admission decision?

Most notices of acceptance are sent out by mid-February, though some may be sent as late as mid-March. Candidates have until April 15 to notify the Department of their decision to accept or reject their offer of admission.

Can I request information about why I was not accepted to the program?

No. Due to the large volume of qualified applicants to the program and the small number of students accepted, we are unable to provide specifics about why an application was denied.

How many applications does the department receive each year, and how many are admitted?

The department receives approximately 800 applications each year. Of those, about 40 students are admitted and 20-24 enroll.

What portion of graduate students are international? Are there any special considerations or requirements for international applications?

A significant portion, usually about half, of admitted students are international. No, there are no special considerations or requirements for those applications.

How long does it take to complete the PhD program?

It varies from person to person, but for most, the program is completed in five or six years, with the first two years spent on required coursework and the latter three or four devoted to field research and dissertation writing.

Can I transfer credits from another master’s or PhD program I have attended?

No, we do not accept transfer credits. However, we do offer the option of waiver exams for micro theory, macro theory, and statistics.

Can I defer if I am admitted to the program?

Deferrals are handled on an individual basis. The maximum deferral granted is two years. Funding offers cannot be deferred.

Do you offer a distance learning degree, a part-time degree, or part-time non-degree study?

We do not offer a distance learning degree or a part-time degree program. Part-time non-degree study is considered “special student status” at MIT and is overseen by the Graduate Admissions Office. Please see the  Graduate Admissions Office  website for more information.

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how to get a phd in economics

Preparing for a PhD in Economics

The minimum requirements of the Economics undergraduate major are not designed to be training for doctoral economics programs. Students who plan to continue their education should take more quantitative courses than the minimum required for the major. Preparation should start early in your undergraduate education. In addition to the information below, we recommend visiting the Career Center and the Career Library for additional graduate school planning resources.

Students who plan on going on to graduate school should participate in research as an undergraduate, and plan on writing an honors thesis during their senior year. NOTE: For students who completed P/NP courses in 2020-2021, we recommend reviewing this statement from the Council of Deans which reaffirms UC Berkeley's Graduate Division committment to a holistic review.

Course recommendations

  • Math 53 and Math 54 (multivariable calculus and linear algebra)
  • Economics 101A-B, the quantitative theory sequence
  • Economics 141, the more quantitative econometrics course
  • Additional math and statistics courses (linear algebra, real analysis, probability, etc.)
  • Additional economics courses that emphasize theory and quantitative methods, such as Economics 103, 104, and 142.

Upper-division math and statistics courses for those who are adequately prepared (in order of importance)

  • Math 110, Linear Algebra
  • Math 104, Introduction to Analysis
  • Stat 134, Concepts of Probability
  • Stat 150, Stochastic Processes
  • Math 105, Second Course of Analysis
  • Math 170, Mathematical Methods of Optimization
  • Stat 102/Stat 135, Linear modeling Theory and Applications
  • Stat 151A, Statistical Inference
  • Math 185, Introduction to Complex Analysis

Graduate math and statistics courses for those who are adequately prepared (in order of importance)

  • Math 202A/202B, Introduction to Topology
  • Stat 200A/200B,Introduciton to Probability and Statistics at an Advanced Level; graduate version of 101/102 sequence, not much more difficult, but harder than 134/135
  • Stat 205A/205B,Probability Theory; graduate probability, much higher level than 200A/200B

Please note: This is just a recommendation; not all courses are required. Admissions requirements vary by university and by program. Students interested in pursuing graduate school should begin gathering information from prospective programs as early as possible.

Post-Baccalaureate Research Opportunities

Pursuing research after completing an undegraduate degree is a great option for students who would like to gain more experience prior to graduate school. Post-baccalaureate research opportunities can be found through the  National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)  and PREDOC: Pathways to Research and Doctoral Careers . For research opportunities outside of the NBER,  click here  and  follow @econ_ra  on Twitter.

Graduate School Preparation Additional Resources

http://www.aeaweb.org/resources/students/grad-prep/considerations/  (Considerations for prospective graduate students in Economics)

https://www.aeaweb.org/resources/students/schools/  (Alphabetical list of U.S Graduate Programs in Economics)

https://www.aeaweb.org/about-aea/committees/cswep/programs/resources/events2  (Conferences, events and fellowships through the American Economic Association)

https://www.aeaweb.org/about-aea/committees/aeasp (American Economic Association Summer Training Program, AEASP)

how to get a phd in economics

Advice for First-Year Ph.D. Students in Economics at Cornell

First of all: welcome to Cornell and congratulations on your acceptance into the Ph.D. program in Economics! You must wonder about what the program and life at Cornell will be like, both academically and socially. The main focus of this document is to provide some information, grad student to grad student, about the academic aspects of the Ph.D. program in Economics at Cornell, though we will also get into some other aspects of life at Cornell. From your peers in the Ph.D. program, we want you to know that we are happy to talk to you and give you advice based on our own experiences. The comments and advice have been gathered from a broad spectrum of students, with varying backgrounds and experiences. We hope that this will provide you with a number of perspectives and ideas on how to handle the first year and succeed to the best of your ability.

You Are Here for a Reason

The Cornell Ph.D. program in economics admits a wide variety of students, with various backgrounds and levels of academic preparation. By some system, the faculty sifts through literally hundreds of applications, to find a broad profile of students that best fit the research interests and teaching needs of the department. It should be no surprise that many of your classmates list labor, development, theory or econometrics as primary fields of interest – these are four of the areas in which Cornell Economics is strongest. The research done in each of these areas, as well as the other economics fields, requires fairly different skill sets, and therefore the students chosen for admission will vary in their preparation for the focus of the firstyear: learning quantitative tools, basic economic modeling frameworks, and mathematical problem solving. Some of your classmates may have seen some of the material before. Don't let this discourage you – with sufficient effort and perseverance, you are all capable of succeeding in the first year. In order for you to be admitted, someone took notice of your file and saw something they liked. Remember these facts in the many challenging and difficult days you will face in the coming year. The Department does not accept students unless it believes they are capable of successfully completing the program, and differences in preparation in September will seem smaller come June.

You are also hopefully here for another reason, namely because you have decided that this is what you want to do (this being quantitatively-oriented research). For that reason, you should make the best of the opportunities here. Work as hard as you can, but enjoy the process. Yes, it is tough at times, but tough things can be made more bearable when we really enjoy the stuff and believe it is important. For this reason also, take initiative for your course of studies.

Belief is key – know that you can do this, as much as you might be tempted to doubt yourself (we all do). If you make the decision early to take the material seriously and try to master it and internalize it, and not just memorize, the dividends will be great. This takes commitment, but know that what seems confusing and abstract early on will clear up later. For example, it is quite common for students to struggle through the first semester of microeconomics, only to come out saying things like, "it was hard, but now I can see how it all fits together." The material will seem easier once you've worked at it and grasped it, and this takes time and hard work! It will be tempting to doubt yourself, as you enter a new academic setting in which nearly all of the students are accustomed to being "top of the class," so don't let early struggles get you down, and don't let yourself believe that you're not smart enough.

The Schedule

Of course, you will all get a schedule for first-year that lists your courses. However, we thought you might want a better feel for the rhythm of the first year.

Math Camp in August gives you a nice, gentle introduction to the program. For those of you who find it easy, don't get overconfident, because you will be challenged in time. For those of you who struggle, take it as a signal of things you need to work on. Just because some of the material covered in Math Camp may be difficult or new to you, it doesn't mean that you can't handle the program – but it does mean that you may have to put in extra time over the next few months ensuring that you understand the mathematical tools that you will need to know (this is part of what ECON 6170 is about). Fall semester is as much about picking up tools and mathematical skills as it is about learning economics (which is more of the focus in spring semester).

While the first week or two of classes are usually quite gentle, you will quickly hit the first wave of exams. At Cornell, almost every first-year Econ Ph.D. class has two exams (aka. prelims, midterms, quizzes), plus a final exam. The Econ Ph.D. program coordinates things, so you have two waves in the fall semester of about an exam or two per week (one wave in late September/early October, and one around November). Be prepared, and don't underestimate the classes based on the first couple of weeks. In second semester the schedule changes a little, and the focus shifts in the final run-up to qualifying exams (aka. "Qs"), which occur in early June. There are two weeks of intense studying between finals in May and the Qs in June. There are re- takes of the qualifying exams that are given at the beginning of August.

As mentioned above, the first semester courses focus a lot on building up tools and problem-solving skills. Many would say that the most important course during this semester is Econ 6090: Microeconomics I, which lays much of the foundation for what you do in later classes. It teaches you the basic structure of graduate-level economics, and also how to do fundamental things like solve an optimization problem, do comparative statics, or think about economic uncertainty in a rigorous way. Your macroeconomics sequence (Econ 6130 in the fall and Econ 6140 in the spring) is basically an introduction to dynamic modeling and a presentation of some of the key static and dynamic models in the field. Your Mathematics for Economists class (Econ 6170) is mainly focused on mathematical problem solving, though the material it conveys is also very important in other classes and for all economists to know. Your Econometrics I class (Econ 6190) is mainly focused on conveying the essential things you "need to know" in probability and statistics, both for later work in econometrics, and also for other theory courses.

In second semester, the focus shifts a little, with more emphasis on materials that can be mapped into real economic modeling and analysis. The microeconomics course in general equilibrium theory (Econ 6100), builds off of Microeconomics I, and in the end provide you with a broad look at much of the foundational material in microeconomics that is used by researchers in every imaginable area of economics. Your Econometrics II course gives a broad (and very fast) overview of many of the important topics in econometric theory (i.e. regression analysis). You may be asked to come up with, work on and present (both orally and in written form) a small empirical project, to demonstrate that you are capable of finding, organizing and analyzing economic data.

Most students take all eight of these core courses (three in micro, two each in macro and econometrics, and one in mathematical economics) during the first year. The exceptions are usually students who pass out of the math course or the first econometrics course. All course planning advice should come from the faculty, and especially our graduate director, Prof. Levon Barseghyan. Please talk to Prof. Barseghyan and/or senior faculty in the relevant area if you want to discuss your course planning further, and they can be extremely helpful in general. Remember, the department wants you to succeed.

If you are taking all four courses in you first semester, you will have two lectures per day of one hour and fifteen minutes each from Monday through Thursday. Lectures are taught by one of the faculty. On top of this, you will have four sections on Friday, again one hour and fifteen minutes each, which are taught by TAs (usually upper-years Econ Ph.D. students). Fridays give you an opportunity to look at material again from a different (often more directly applied and exam-relevant) perspective. But the biggest drain on your time will be problem sets, which are assigned on roughly a weekly basis in each class. Once you start having four problem sets a week, you may occasionally need to sacrifice a lot to get through these. Do get through them though – give each problem set the attention it deserves because solving problem sets is the primary way to learn graduate-level material.

One other thing you might not expect is the number of students in your classes. Beyond your core group of twenty-or-so first-year economics Ph.D. students, you will have about as many other students from other departments or academic levels. The next biggest group will be students from the Applied Economics and Management (AEM) department, who are required to pass our microeconomics qualifying exam, and also pass a semester of macro. There will also be small bunches of students from other Ph.D. or masters programs – in Policy Analysis and Management, Business, Finance, certain areas of engineering, etc. There are also students who are re-taking some of the first-year classes for various reasons. And finally, you'll usually see a couple of ambitious undergrads taking the Ph.D.-level courses.

How to Study

You're here, right? So you must know something about how to study. Yet sometimes the techniques that got you here may not necessarily be the ones that will carry you through successfully. Remember, Ph.D. means Doctor of Philosophy – which carries the implication that the holders of such degrees will have acquired knowledge at a level deeper than simple short- term memorization. It means the ability not just to understand material, or even to respond to specific (familiar) questions, but to compare, contrast and criticize various theories and arguments, and to be able to contribute to that knowledge and convey one's insights to others. Acquiring such mastery, especially within the mathematical framework of mainstream economics, requires time, practice and hard work, and you will need to develop a system that works best for you in your first year. Here are some things that have worked well for others:

  • Take problem sets (very) seriously. Perhaps the most important skill you need to develop in the first-year is the ability to understand and solve challenging economic problems (usually with mathematical content). Your ability to learn the skill of problem solving and proving mathematical results will help you succeed in your class exams, qualifying exams, and ultimately in your future research. Whenever you are faced with a problem (or something you don't understand in a lecture or in your reading), try to figure it out yourself. Then, try to look it up. Failing that, go to your peers (eg. your study group) or the TA. Then go back to it. If all else fails, see the professor.
  • Learn how topics fit together and develop your intuition. Hopefully you will notice throughout the year that some approaches and concepts reappear many times through the eight courses in your first year. The sooner that you find these links the more successful you will be. The Microeconomics qualifying exam is known for introducing material that you haven't seen before – but it is more about applying concepts you have seen to new areas. If you are able to see this link, it will make your life easier through your first year, on qualifying exams, and looking at research projects.
  • Form a study group. At Cornell there is no quota on how many students can pass the qualifying exams. This means that students are not in direct (only relative or indirect) competition with each other. This means that you can leverage thetremendous learning benefit of regularly studying with peers. It is difficult to overemphasize the benefit you can derive from being able to discuss problems, see how other people do things, and get hints and help with places where you are stuck. Try to find a good group of people that you can work well with, and plan a regular (eg. weekly, bi-weekly, etc.) meeting time. Some people insist that they learned more in graduate school from their study group and peers than from their lectures.
  • Work on your own before meeting your study group. Your study group should be there to leverage the knowledge of your classmates – but not to replace working out problems on your own. There is tremendous value in struggling through material on your own before going to your study group for help. If you don't try problems on your own first, you will be unable to learn from your mistakes and the same mistakes are likely to reappear on your exams. As noted before, struggling through the material to the point of defolicating yourself before you actually understand it is fairly common.
  • How much should you read? This is a personal thing. Just be aware that there are (quickly) diminishing returns to underlining and highlighting. Academic economists will tell you that it is best to read (eg. textbooks, articles, etc.) with a pencil in hand and some paper close by, and to try to jump ahead and solve the math yourself whenever possible and practical while you read. Such discipline will benefit you later on. In a similar vein, don't overload yourself with study materials. While some people find it helpful to supplement their primary textbooks with other texts or resources, getting different viewpoints will not replace deeply digesting the material in one book.
  • See your TAs. TAs are some of the greatest resources your courses have to offer – students experienced in the courses, and with time available to help you through your difficulties. Try to talk to them regularly, even about things you think you understand, to reinforce your knowledge and understanding. You should read their problem set solutions to learn new ways to solve problems. On the other hand, do not overtax TAs – they are also not private tutors, and as a Ph.D. student you are expected to put in the necessary effort to figure things out yourself. So, don't be surprised if a TA occasionally seems surprised at something you don't understand or says that ‘this should be obvious from …'. If it isn't obvious to you ask for clarification or another text or notes where you could find a more detailed exposition. The main thing to remember here is, don't wait until it's too late to ask for help. Better to ask early than be sorry later. Don't suffer in silence! Also, do not be embarrassed if others in your class seem to be breezing through and you are struggling. If they are it is extremely likely because they have seen this exact material before, for example in a Master's program somewhere and not because they are smart and you are dumb.
  • The style of learning in a Ph.D. program is different from undergrad. You will often need multiple encounters with the material to develop mastery. This may come through lecture, TA sections, reading, problem sets, discussion with peers and further examination of the concepts. But effort spent in mastering economic theory will yield tremendous benefits in your future research career no matter what area you specialize in.
  • It is important to avoid the big pitfall of looking at others' solutions to old exams (Q or in- semester) before or while trying to solve them yourself. This typically leads to memorization and not understanding. A pitfall being that you can then very easily get stuck in a new problem (in your exam) that follows the same theme as the ones you have solved but has a different twist than the previous one. This also means that you need to be able to learn from your mistakes. You will fall down at some points, but stay positive and learn to analyze what went wrong and how to fix it.
  • What difference do grades make? Certainly, you shouldn't take them as seriously as you have been trained to in the past. They are definitely a nice signal of your progress and understanding of the material, and your ability to take exams under pressure (which we must all do on the qualifying exam). However, do not take them too seriously. If you do well, do not get overconfident, because there is always more to learn. If you do not do as well as you would like, know that almost everybody in the program has struggled at certain points or in certain classes. Sometimes, a bad exam is just a fluke and nothing more, which can occur for various reasons. And in the end, grades are a noisy predictor of ultimate success in research.In any case, as long as you are really learning and internalizing the material, you will be fine on the qualifying exams, and having passed those, the first-year will be largely forgotten anyway (although hopefully the material won't…).
  • Time management. Of course, this is key. You must find a system that works for you. If you've made it this far, you probably have. If not, try to get advice on this from other students.
  • A very good suggestion for digesting material is to review your class notes within a few hours after the lectures. One way to do this is by going through in detail, trying to "fill in the blanks" and construct many simple and complex examples based on the material. You will find that the material you learn successively builds up, so it is good to build on a solid foundation from the start, even if things seem somewhat easy at first. It is amazing how easy it is to think that you have understood something, when you really didn't, so try to work with the material frequently.
  • One technique for internalizing knowledge that works well for some students is to write up a "summary" of the material leading up to an exam (or keeping a running summary). The idea is to write up a briefer summary of the material in your own words, highlighting the most important points. This can be both a great way to go over material and force yourself to write and think, and also can provide great "crib sheets" for later review.
  • Don't hide under the veil of "not realistic." Many first years complain that this and that model or theory is not real-world based, or they don't make any real-world sense. Good students look to the core, find the objectives of the models, and assess the model on how it addresses such objectives. Bear in mind, there ain't no "General Theory of the Real World." We can only provide snapshots of whatever phenomena we are interested in. If you don't want to believe the theories, fine. But you should know that a lot of these works have great motivations behind them, not only mathematical curiosity.
  • A big determinant of your success will be the attitude you take to your studies – try to stay positive as much as possible. Try to see ways in which the material you are learning can be useful later. A wide and deep knowledge of economic theory will benefit you no matter what future research you do (including applied or empirical work) – it will provide you with tools and structures that allow you to communicate and analyze ideas more rigorously, effectively and professionally.

The "Q's"

There are three qualifying exams (or Qs, qualifying exams, quals, etc.), one in econometrics, one in microeconomics, and one in macroeconomics. They are usually given in the second week of June and again in early August. The exams are four hours long, and consist of graduate-level economic problem solving. They will be chosen roughly from the areas of study you have covered in your core micro and macro classes, though you will usually also see stuff you "haven't seen before."

If you want to make normal progress in the program, you need to pass them by the end of your first year, and this is your primary responsibility in the first year. However, most people pass them, and you should not let yourself be overwhelmed by the thought of them.

Here are some brief suggestions on things you can do to prepare throughout the year:

  • Learn the material in your classes. This is the best thing you can do. Don't just study hard leading up to prelims and finals – master and internalize material as much as possible (mainly by independently solving problems), because it is hard to review a whole year's material in the two weeks between May finals and the Qs.
  • You can ask the Graduate Field Assistant to share with you a Box folder containing the past 10 years of Q exams sometime later on in the fall. One technique is to use Q problems relevant to the exams in your classes as exam-prep materials. Since 10 years of Qs means about 120 micro problems and 80 macro problems (though not all relevant), it can be useful to start early, though don't panic and start too early. Another technique is to use your breaks as time for Q prep (eg. a couple weeks in January, spring break, etc.). Another is to set aside a little time each week in second semester to study for Qs.
  • Don't worry about what other people are doing. How you chose to study for the Qs is a personal choice, and everybody has their own study habits that work for them. There is no right or wrong way to study (except, of course, not studying). It is important to decide what will work for you, even if it is different from what your classmates are doing.
  • Don't get stressed over the numbers. You will hear various figures about pass rates in previous years' Q exams. Remember, these are meaningless. The exam is not graded on a curve, and the faculty grading the exam does not have a target pass rate. All you can do is study as well as possible throughout the entire academic year, and set yourself up to perform at your best on the exam.
  • The last two weeks before June Qs are a good time to go back over your weaknesses and prep. Use them well. One successful strategy is to regularly (eg. daily) take full 4-hour practice Q exams, especially if you are not familiar with the experience and physical challenge of taking longer exams. One part of success in the Q is the ability to deal with the time pressure in the exam and pace yourself, yet solve problems relatively quickly and efficiently. You need to learn this skill, and it takes practice. Plus, doing practice exams gets you to solve more practice problems, and gives you something to go over with your study group.
  • The Qs are ultimately about showing the faculty that you're ready to move on in the program and do research. This means, as discussed above, the ability to tackle, solve and analyze original problems (broadly understood). In many cases, the professors care as much about your ability to set up a problem, and "see" the solution, or apply economic intuition, as anything. Therefore, students who get into the Q and sit down and try to simply write whatever comes to mind, as quickly as possible, tend to be less successful.
  • You are allowed to take food and water into the exam, and this can also help one stay fresh and energized.
  • It's not the end of the world if you don't pass in June. It happens. Don't count on passing the June Qs – i.e. don't pack your summer with plans, because that only puts on extra pressure. Do whatever you can to take the pressure off so you can go in and do your best.
  • Get advice from other students and faculty on what and how to study for the Qualifying exams throughout the year if you feel that will help. You will find people very forthcoming with advice (since everyone here has gone through the Q process at some time), but remember that everyone learns differently and you will find a schedule that you are comfortable with.

Don't worry too much about Qs right now. The upper-years graduate students in the department will probably provide you with more information and advice on Qs specifically, in the spring.

Life in the Department

Hopefully, you will enjoy life in the department, and find your place. You will find that the grad students and faculty at Cornell are generally a friendly, though socially diverse, group. Quite early on you will hear about the Graduate Student Association For Economics (GSAFE), which is essentially the "student government" inside the department. GSAFE is traditionally made up of second-year students, who take on social and academic responsibilities like organizing departmental parties and grad student gatherings, representing the department on graduate student committees in the university, and acting as a liaison between the grad students and the faculty in the department. Take advantage of the events and other things that GSAFE organizes. The "graduate student union" at Cornell is the Big Red Barn, which is conveniently located within a 1-minute walk from Uris Hall. There are various grad student-oriented events held there, and the Friday afternoon T.G.I.F. ("tell grads it's Friday") is particularly popular with Econ Ph.D. students. Oftentimes upper-year students won't get to know you unless you get involved or introduce yourselves. But they do enjoy the chance to talk, so make use of their presence.

Unlike some programs, economics has quite a structured and focused first-year. Most, if not all, of your first-year courses are explicitly mapped out, and there is a specific target to focus on – passing qualifying exams. For this reason, the interaction between grad students and professors is usually not as extensive in the first year as in other doctoral programs. Sure, you may interact with your professors in regards to the courses, but serious discussions about research and advisement usually happen after the first year. So don't be disappointed about this, but still take the chance to get to know who's doing work in areas you're interested in, and what field courses you might like to take in subsequent years.

If you are empirical, talk to empirical professors once in a while too. They'll provide comforting and great advice for people heading towards that direction (even what you should look to gain from first year classes). Empirical and applied people should also find the Johnson School of Business, AEM, ILR (Industrial and Labor Relations), and PAM (Policy Analysis and Management) comforting as places to meet faculty and students with similar interests, take future classes, and perhaps find a TA-ship.

Finally, one of the department's big gifts to its graduate students is an awesome seminar program. There are weekly presentations from star economists in Micro and Macro Theory, Econometrics, Development, Labor, Applied Micro, Public Economics, Policy Analysis and more. Seminars are scheduled throughout the week, usually at 4:00 pm, and (for the most part) classes are timed so as not to conflict with seminars. Attendance at a weekly seminar is only required as of third year, but you should not view them as a chore. In first year you will not generally have the time to go to a presentation regularly, but you are certainly welcome to attend them and we would encourage you to go to at least one or two presentations in each semester. Remember that there is life after the Qs and you will ultimately be judged on your ability to make the transition from student to researcher – getting a feel for the research done by top-name economists in your area of interest is an integral part of this process.

Being Successful Isn't Just About Studying

Do not take this point too lightly. While some of you may have Herculean visions of prolific studying exploits, in reality you do need to rest, as hard as that may seem at times. First of all, from the standpoint of a simple cost-benefit analysis, you are human, and therefore to perform at your peak you need to have reasonable amounts of sleep and rest. While it is true that you can push yourself for periods of time (and this is certainly necessary at certain times), you also need to listen to your body. Secondly, some of you may come here with families, significant others, etc., and they'll still want to hear from you and spend time with you. You may have a religious affiliation, and it can be nice to stay connected to that community during a trying year. And finally, rest time gives your brain time to subconsciously absorb and digest material. So if you find yourself studying 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, you probably need to think twice about your study habits and how efficiently you are using your time. Making new friends at Cornell is also important. However, while socializing is important, partying is not. Use your Cornell friends for human contact and social support, but make sure that your social life does not take energy away from studying.

Going through a Ph.D. program is not only an academic challenge – it is a mental, emotional and psychological challenge, too. It is perfectly normal if sometime in the next few months you find yourself questioning your abilities, your decision to come here, why in the world anyone would care about the stuff you're learning, or any other common feeling. Know this: you are not alone. Don't let disappointing grades, hard material, frustrating lecturers, or personal stresses get you down too much. Remember, the first year is important for your life as economist, but it is not everything. Seek help if you need it – your fellow grad students can be good sounding boards, and in a more difficult situation you can try to talk to someone at the Counseling Centre in Gannett Health Service. There is no question that this program is hard – it should be. Do what you need to do to be at your best.

Another good habit is to try to exercise regularly. Be realistic about this – some people come here with overly ambitious plans about athletic endeavors, and in many cases you will have to choose studying over the sports or activities you enjoy. But at the same time, try to find time a couple times every week to at least get out, have a walk, go for a jog, go dancing, or play a sport. Talk to other grad students about the activities available in and around Ithaca and Cornell.

To Research Or Not to Research

Some of you will come here with a research background and will be eager to continue that work. Others might have ideas they want to start exploring early on. Ultimately, research is what we are here for – not exams, problems sets, or listening to lectures. But the research frontier in economics has high technical demands, and to reach it we need preparation and study. That is what the first-year is mostly about.

Some professors and grad students will tell you that you should be thinking about research ideas and working on things in your first year. They will say that you should try to attend seminars (see above). These are all good things to try to do, as long as you are fulfilling your primary responsibility in the first-year – preparing to pass the qualifying exam. Some would say that attending seminars and doing your own research provides extra motivation and energy to master the tools thrown at you in the classes, especially if you find places where they can overlap. Others might say that it can be a distraction, and the attitude needed for research is different than that needed to master the large body of material thrown at you in first-year. This is ultimately something you must decide on your own, but it is good to seek multiple opinions and experiment. Usually, one's first attempts at research are rather weak and unsuccessful, and so it can be nice to get such attempts out of the way early, for more successful progress in second and subsequent years. Or as some faculty and students put it, ‘the first paper is crap anyway'. Additionally, being able to get something out of seminars is something that takes time (they generally involve presentations of technical, frontier-level research, and so if you only understand 10% of what is said in your first few seminars, that is quite normal), and so again, starting early can get you ahead of the game later on.

Taking Advantage of Cornell Resources

One of the great things about being at a world-class research university is the great set of resources at your disposal, in terms of people, technology, and other support. Right when you arrive on campus, you will receive information about things like library tours and computing classes. When it comes time to write your paper for Econometrics II, you can look into taking econometric software classes in programs like Stata and SAS through CISER (Cornell Institute for Social and Economic Research), and sign up for a CISER computing account that allows you online access to most of the leading econometric software packages from almost anywhere in the world.

One thing that some graduate students do is apply to use a "carrel" at Olin library. Applications for new grad students are in late August, and a carrel is basically a desk that you get first priority over. You can see them if you go to the stacks in Olin library and walk to the sides of the library near the windows. Depending on how you like to study, this can be a convenient place to do most of your work, or at least have a place to stop by and get work done during the day. Unless you are a TA or RA in your first year, you will not have a proper office assignment in the Economics Department, so a carrel can be a useful alternative. The application is free but competitive, so look up the library web page early to find out about the application process.

In future years (or for some students, in first year), you might take advantage of courses offered in other departments like Mathematics, Statistics or Operations Research, or even Regional Planning, Sociology, Psychology, Government, Computing, Information Science or any other, within Cornell's motto of "any person, any study." You might attend lectures and talks in these other departments.

We hope that this document has provided you with a useful head start on the first year. We all know that it is challenging, but you need to know that it is worth it. To achieve excellence in any field, one needs to master the fundamentals, and that is what the first year is all about. Yes, it requires discipline and diligence, but keep the end-goal in mind – the opportunity to pursue the interests and areas that first fascinated you about economics, but now with a whole new set of tools and language with which to do so.

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Phd in economics: requirements, salary, jobs, & career growth, what is phd in economics.

A PhD in Economics is a doctorate-level degree that focuses on advanced training and research in the field of economics. It is a research-oriented degree that prepares students to contribute to the field through original, in-depth research and analysis.

The program typically involves taking advanced coursework in economics, completing a research project, and writing a dissertation that presents original findings. The coursework and research topics covered in a PhD in Economics program can include microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, game theory, economic history, and various specialized areas within the field.

The PhD in Economics is ideal for individuals who are interested in pursuing careers in academia, government, international organizations, or research-focused organizations. Graduates of the program are equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to conduct independent research, analyze data, and develop innovative solutions to complex economic problems.

How much money do people make with a PhD in Economics?

The earning potential of individuals with a PhD in Economics can vary widely based on a number of factors such as their experience, location, and type of employer. On average, economists with a PhD can expect to earn a higher salary than those with a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in the field.

According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for economists was $105,020 in May 2020. However, salaries can range from less than $60,000 for entry-level positions to over $150,000 for experienced economists in leadership positions.

In academia, assistant professors with a PhD in Economics can expect to earn a starting salary in the range of $70,000 to $90,000, while full professors can earn well over $100,000. In the government sector, economists with a PhD can earn salaries that range from $70,000 to $120,000 or more, depending on their level of experience and the type of agency they work for.

In the private sector, salaries for economists with a PhD can be even higher, particularly for those working in consulting, finance, or other high-paying industries. However, the earning potential in the private sector is highly dependent on the specific job and the location, with salaries in certain cities, such as New York or San Francisco, being significantly higher than those in other parts of the country.

It’s important to note that salaries can vary greatly based on factors such as the individual’s level of experience, the type of employer, and the location.

What is expected job growth with PhD in Economics?

The job growth for individuals with a PhD in Economics is expected to be relatively strong in the coming years. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of economists is projected to grow 6% from 2019 to 2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Demand for economists is expected to remain strong, particularly in the government and private sectors, as organizations continue to seek individuals with expertise in analyzing data, developing economic models, and creating solutions to complex economic problems.

In the government sector, there is expected to be continued demand for economists who can analyze economic data and provide research and policy analysis to inform government decision-making.

In the private sector, economists with PhDs are expected to be in high demand in consulting firms, financial institutions, and other organizations that require advanced economic analysis and problem-solving skills.

In academia, opportunities for economists with PhDs are expected to remain strong, as universities continue to seek highly trained individuals to conduct research and teach the next generation of economists.

Overall, the job outlook for individuals with a PhD in Economics is positive, and they can expect to have a range of opportunities across various sectors and industries. However, as with any job market, there may be fluctuations in demand based on economic conditions and other factors.

What can you do with a PhD in Economics?

A PhD in Economics provides individuals with advanced training and research skills in the field of economics, preparing them for a variety of careers in academia, government, international organizations, the private sector, and non-profit organizations. Some of the most common career paths for individuals with a PhD in Economics include:

1. Academia: Many individuals with a PhD in Economics pursue careers in academia as university professors, where they conduct research, teach courses, and mentor students.

2. Government: Economists with a PhD can find careers in the government sector, working in agencies such as the Federal Reserve, the Department of Labor, or the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

3. International organizations: PhD economists can also find careers in international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, or the United Nations.

4. Private sector: Economists with PhDs can also find careers in the private sector, working for consulting firms, financial institutions, or other businesses that require advanced economic analysis.

5. Non-profit organizations: Economists with a PhD can also find careers in non-profit organizations, where they can use their expertise to address social and economic issues.

6. Research organizations: Economists with a PhD can also find careers in research organizations, where they can conduct independent research and publish their findings. 

What are the requirements for a PhD in Economics?

The requirements for a PhD in Economics can vary slightly depending on the specific program and university, but in general, most PhD programs in Economics require the following:

1. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in economics or a related field: Most PhD programs in Economics require applicants to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in economics or a related field, such as mathematics, statistics, or finance.

2. Coursework: PhD programs in Economics typically require students to complete advanced coursework in economics, including microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, game theory, and other specialized areas of the field.

3. Examinations: Many PhD programs in Economics require students to pass written and oral comprehensive exams to demonstrate their mastery of the field.

4. Research project: PhD students in Economics are typically required to complete a research project, either independently or as part of a team, and present their findings in a written thesis or dissertation.

5. Teaching experience: Many PhD programs in Economics also require students to complete teaching experience, either as a teaching assistant in an undergraduate course or as the instructor of their own course.

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How long does it take to get a phd in economics.

The time it takes to complete a PhD in Economics can vary, but most programs take between 4 to 7 years on average. The exact duration of the program depends on a number of factors, including the specific program requirements, the student’s course load, and the amount of time they can dedicate to their studies.

Typically, the first 2 to 3 years of a PhD in Economics program are spent completing coursework and exams, while the remaining years are dedicated to research and writing a thesis or dissertation. During this time, PhD students are also typically required to complete teaching or research assistantships to gain practical experience in their field.

In some programs, students may be able to complete their PhD more quickly by taking a heavier course load, while in others, students may need to take more time to complete their research and writing.

It’s important to keep in mind that the length of a PhD program can vary significantly depending on the specific program and the student’s individual circumstances.

Some students may complete their PhD in as little as 4 years, while others may take 7 years or more. Additionally, some programs may allow students to take a leave of absence or pause their studies for personal or professional reasons, which can also impact the overall duration of the program.

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Do you need a masters in economics to get a phd in economics.

Not all PhD programs in Economics require a master’s degree, but many do. A master’s degree in economics can provide students with a strong foundation in the field and help them prepare for the more advanced coursework and research required in a PhD program.

However, some PhD programs in Economics accept applicants with only a bachelor’s degree, particularly if they have strong academic performance and relevant work experience.

In some cases, PhD programs in Economics may offer a combined master’s and PhD program, allowing students to complete both degrees in a shorter amount of time. This can be a good option for students who are interested in pursuing a career in academia or research and want to obtain both degrees as quickly as possible.

What are the Best PhD in Economics Degree programs?

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The Complete Guide to Getting Into an Economics Ph.D. Program

Math challenged? Never taken an econ class? Don't worry about it. There's hope for you yet.

how to get a phd in economics

Back in May, Noah wrote about the amazingly good deal that is the PhD in economics. Why? Because:

  • You get a job.
  • You get autonomy.
  • You get intellectual fulfillment.
  • The risk is low.
  • Unlike an MBA, law, or medical degree, you don't have to worry about paying the sticker price for an econ PhD: After the first year, most schools will give you teaching assistant positions that will pay for the next several years of graduate study, and some schools will take care of your tuition and expenses even in the first year.

Of course, such a good deal won't last long now that the story is out, so you need to act fast! Since he wrote his post , Noah has received a large number of emails asking the obvious follow-up question: "How do I get into an econ PhD program?" And Miles has been asked the same thing many times by undergraduates and other students at the University of Michigan. So here, we present together our guide for how to break into the academic Elysium called Econ Ph.D. Land:

(Note: This guide is mainly directed toward native English speakers, or those from countries whose graduate students are typically fluent in English, such as India and most European countries. Almost all highly ranked graduate programs teach economics in English, and we find that students learn the subtle non-mathematical skills in economics better if English is second nature. If your nationality will make admissions committees wonder about your English skills, you can either get your bachelor's degree at a -- possibly foreign -- college or university where almost all classes are taught in English, or you will have to compensate by being better on other dimensions. On the bright side, if you are a native English speaker, or from a country whose graduate students are typically fluent in English, you are already ahead in your quest to get into an economics Ph.D. program.)

Here is the not-very-surprising list of things that will help you get into a good econ Ph.D. program:

  • good grades, especially in whatever math and economics classes you take,
  • a good score on the math GRE,
  • some math classes and a statistics class on your transcript,
  • research experience, and definitely at least one letter of recommendation from a researcher,
  • a demonstrable interest in the field of economics.

Chances are, if you're asking for advice, you probably feel unprepared in one of two ways. Either you don't have a sterling math background, or you have quantitative skills but are new to the field of econ. Fortunately, we have advice for both types of applicant.

If You're Weak in Math... Fortunately, if you're weak in math, we have good news: Math is something you can learn . That may sound like a crazy claim to most Americans, who are raised to believe that math ability is in the genes. It may even sound like arrogance coming from two people who have never had to struggle with math. But we've both taught people math for many years, and we really believe that it's true. Genes help a bit, but math is like a foreign language or a sport: effort will result in skill.

Here are the math classes you absolutely should take to get into a good econ program:

  • Linear algebra
  • Multivariable calculus

Here are the classes you should take, but can probably get away with studying on your own:

  • Ordinary differential equations
  • Real analysis

Linear algebra (matrices, vectors, and all that) is something that you'll use all the time in econ, especially when doing work on a computer. Multivariable calculus also will be used a lot. And stats of course is absolutely key to almost everything economists do. Differential equations are something you will use once in a while. And real analysis -- by far the hardest subject of the five -- is something that you will probably never use in real econ research, but which the economics field has decided to use as a sort of general intelligence signaling device.

If you took some math classes but didn't do very well, don't worry. Retake the classes. If you are worried about how that will look on your transcript, take the class the first time "off the books" at a different college (many community colleges have calculus classes) or online. Or if you have already gotten a bad grade, take it a second time off the books and then a third time for your transcript. If you work hard, every time you take the class you'll do better. You will learn the math and be able to prove it by the grade you get. Not only will this help you get into an econ Ph.D. program, once you get in, you'll breeze through parts of grad school that would otherwise be agony.

Here's another useful tip: Get a book and study math on your own before taking the corresponding class for a grade. Reading math on your own is something you're going to have to get used to doing in grad school anyway (especially during your dissertation!), so it's good to get used to it now. Beyond course-related books, you can either pick up a subject-specific book (Miles learned much of his math from studying books in the Schaum's outline series ), or get a "math for economists" book; regarding the latter, Miles recommends Mathematics for Economists by Simon and Blume, while Noah swears by Mathematical Methods and Models for Economists by de la Fuente. When you study on your own, the most important thing is to work through a bunch of problems . That will give you practice for test-taking, and will be more interesting than just reading through derivations.

This will take some time, of course. That's OK. That's what summer is for (right?). If you're late in your college career, you can always take a fifth year, do a gap year, etc.

When you get to grad school, you will have to take an intensive math course called "math camp" that will take up a good part of your summer. For how to get through math camp itself, see this guide by Jérémie Cohen-Setton .

One more piece of advice for the math-challenged: Be a research assistant on something non-mathy. There are lots of economists doing relatively simple empirical work that requires only some basic statistics knowledge and the ability to use software like Stata. There are more and more experimental economists around, who are always looking for research assistants. Go find a prof and get involved! (If you are still in high school or otherwise haven't yet chosen a college, you might want to choose one where some of the professors do experiments and so need research assistants -- something that is easy to figure out by studying professors' websites carefully, or by asking about it when you visit the college.)

If You're New to Econ... If you're a disillusioned physicist, a bored biostatistician, or a neuroscientist looking to escape that evil Principal Investigator, don't worry: An econ background is not necessary . A lot of the best economists started out in other fields, while a lot of undergrad econ majors are headed for MBAs or jobs in banks. Econ Ph.D. programs know this. They will probably not mind if you have never taken an econ class.

That said, you may still want to take an econ class, just to verify that you actually like the subject, to start thinking about econ, and to prepare yourself for the concepts you'll encounter. If you feel like doing this, you can probably skip Econ 101 and 102, and head straight for an Intermediate Micro or Intermediate Macro class.

Another good thing is to read through an econ textbook. Although economics at the Ph.D. level is mostly about the math and statistics and computer modeling (hopefully getting back to the real world somewhere along the way when you do your own research), you may also want to get the flavor of the less mathy parts of economics from one of the well-written lower-level textbooks (either one by Paul Krugman and Robin Wells , Greg Mankiw , or Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok ) and maybe one at a bit higher level as well, such as David Weil's excellent book on economic growth ) or Varian's Intermediate Microeconomics .

Remember to take a statistics class, if you haven't already. Some technical fields don't require statistics, so you may have missed this one. But to econ Ph.D. programs, this will be a gaping hole in your resume. Go take stats!

One more thing you can do is research with an economist. Fortunately, economists are generally extremely welcoming to undergrad research assistants from outside econ, who often bring extra skills. You'll get great experience working with data if you don't have it already. It'll help you come up with some research ideas to put in your application essays. And of course, you'll get another all-important letter of recommendation.

And now for...

General Tips for Everyone Here is the most important tip for everyone: Don't just apply to "top" schools . For some degrees -- an MBA for example -- people question whether it's worthwhile to go to a non-top school. But for econ departments, there's no question. Both Miles and Noah have marveled at the number of smart people working at non-top schools. That includes some well-known bloggers, by the way--Tyler Cowen teaches at George Mason University (ranked 64th ), Mark Thoma teaches at the University of Oregon (ranked 56th ), and Scott Sumner teaches at Bentley, for example. Additionally, a flood of new international students is expanding the supply of quality students. That means that the number of high-quality schools is increasing; tomorrow's top 20 will be like today's top 10, and tomorrow's top 100 will be like today's top 50.

Apply to schools outside of the top 20 -- any school in the top 100 is worth considering, especially if it is strong in areas you are interested in. If your classmates aren't as elite as you would like, that just means that you will get more attention from the professors, who almost all came out of top programs themselves. When Noah said in his earlier post that econ Ph.D. students are virtually guaranteed to get jobs in an econ-related field, that applied to schools far down in the ranking. Everyone participates in the legendary centrally managed econ job market . Very few people ever fall through the cracks.

Next -- and this should go without saying -- don't be afraid to retake the GRE. If you want to get into a top 10 school, you probably need a perfect or near-perfect score on the math portion of the GRE. For schools lower down the rankings, a good GRE math score is still important. Fortunately, the GRE math section is relatively simple to study for -- there are only a finite number of topics covered, and with a little work you can "overlearn" all of them, so you can do them even under time pressure and when you are nervous. In any case, you can keep retaking the test until you get a good score (especially if the early tries are practice tests from the GRE prep books and prep software), and then you're OK!

Here's one thing that may surprise you: Getting an econ master's degree alone won't help. Although master's degrees in economics are common among international students who apply to econ PhD programs, American applicants do just fine without a master's degree on their record. If you want that extra diploma, realize that once you are in a PhD program, you will get a master's degree automatically after two years. And if you end up dropping out of the PhD program, that master's degree will be worth more than a stand-alone master's would.

For getting into grad school, much more valuable than a master's is a stint as a research assistant in the Federal Reserve System or at a think tank -- though these days, such positions can often be as hard to get into as a Ph.D. program!

Finally -- and if you're reading this, chances are you're already doing this -- read some econ blogs. (See Miles's speculations about the future of the econ blogosphere here .) Econ blogs are no substitute for econ classes, but they're a great complement. Blogs are good for picking up the lingo of academic economists, and learning to think like an economist. Don't be afraid to write a blog either, even if no one ever reads it (you don't have to be writing at the same level as Evan Soltas or Yichuan Wang ); you can still put it on your CV, or just practice writing down your thoughts. And when you write your dissertation, and do research later on in your career, you are going to have to think for yourself outside the context of a class. One way to practice thinking critically is by critiquing others' blog posts, at least in your head.

Anyway, if you want to have intellectual stimulation and good work-life balance, and a near-guarantee of a well-paying job in your field of interest, an econ PhD could be just the thing for you. Don't be scared of the math and the jargon. We'd love to have you.

Why Get an Economics Ph.D?

What the Econ Bloggers Have to Say

  • U.S. Economy
  • Supply & Demand
  • Archaeology
  • Ph.D., Business Administration, Richard Ivey School of Business
  • M.A., Economics, University of Rochester
  • B.A., Economics and Political Science, University of Western Ontario

I've been getting quite a few e-mails lately from people asking me if they should consider doing a Ph.D. in Economics. I wish I could help these people more, but without knowing more about them, I'm not at all comfortable giving career advice. However, I can list a few types of people who should not do graduate work in economics:

Types of People Who Have No Business in an Economics Ph.D. Program

  • Not a superstar in mathematics . By mathematics, I do not mean calculus. I mean, the theorem - proof - theorem - proof type mathematics of real analysis. If you are not excellent at this type of mathematics, you will not make it to Christmas in your first year.
  • Love applied work but hate theory . Do a Ph.D. in Business instead - it is half the work and when you leave you to get twice the salary. It's a no-brainer.
  • Are a great communicator and teacher, but bored by research . Academic economics is set up for people who have a comparative advantage in research. Go somewhere where a comparative advantage in communication is an asset - such as a business school or into consulting.

A recent blog post by GMU Economics Prof Tyler Cowen, titled Trudie's advice to would-be economists that is an absolute must-read for anyone considering attempting a Ph.D. in Economics. I found this part particularly interesting:

Types of People Who Succeed As Academic Economists

Cowen's first two groups are relatively straight-forward. The first group includes exceptionally strong students at math who can get into top-ten schools and are willing to work long hours. The second group is those who enjoy teaching, do not mind the relatively low pay and will perform a little research. The third group, in Prof Cowen's words: "3. You do not fit either #1 or #2. Yet you have climbed out of the cracks rather than falling into them. You do something different and still have managed to make your way doing research, albeit of a different kind. You will always feel like an outsider in the profession and perhaps you will be under-rewarded...

Sadly, the chance of achieving #3 is fairly low. You need some luck and perhaps one or two special skills other than math... if you have a clearly defined "Plan B" your chance of succeeding at #3 diminishes? It is important to be fully committed." I thought my advice would be a great deal different that Dr. Cowen's. For one thing, he completed his Ph.D. in Economics and has a pretty successful career at it. My situation is a great deal different; I transferred from doing a Ph.D. in Economics to a Ph.D. in Business Administration. I do just as much economics as I did when I was in Economics, except I now work shorter hours and get paid a great deal more. So I believe I'm more likely to discourage people from going into Economics than Dr. Cowen.

High Opportunity Costs Destroy Grad School Completion Rates

Needless to say, I was surprised when I read Cowen's advice. I always hoped to fall into the #3 camp, but he's correct - in economics, it's very, very tough to do. I can't stress enough the importance of not having a plan B. Once you get into a Ph.D. program, everyone is very bright and talented and everyone is at least moderately hard working (and most could be described as workaholics). The most important factor I've seen that determines whether or not someone completes their degree is the availability of other lucrative options. If you've got nowhere else to go, you're a lot less likely to say "to heck with this, I'm leaving!" when things get really tough (and they will). The people that left the Economics Ph.D. program I was in (University of Rochester - one of those Top Ten programs Dr. Cowen discusses) weren't any more or less bright than those who stayed. But, for the most part, they were the ones with the best external options. Opportunity costs are the death of graduate school careers.

Economics Graduate School - Another Point of View

Prof. Kling also discussed the three categories on the EconLib blog, in an entry titled Why Get an Econ Ph.D.? . Here's a snippet of what he said: "I see academics as very much a status game. You worry about whether or not you have tenure, the reputation of your department, the reputation of the journals in which you publish, and so on..."

Economics as a Status Game

I would agree with all that as well. The idea of academia as a status game goes well beyond Economics; it's no different at business schools, from what I've seen.

I think an Economics Ph.D. is a terrific option for many people. But before you dive in, I think you need to ask yourself if the people described as succeeding at it sound like you. If they don't, you might want to consider a different endeavor.

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  • Harvard Business School →
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PhD Programs

  • Accounting & Management
  • Business Economics
  • Health Policy (Management)
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Technology & Operations Management

Students in our PhD programs are encouraged from day one to think of this experience as their first job in business academia—a training ground for a challenging and rewarding career generating rigorous, relevant research that influences practice.

Our doctoral students work with faculty and access resources throughout HBS and Harvard University. The PhD program curriculum requires coursework at HBS and other Harvard discipline departments, and with HBS and Harvard faculty on advisory committees. Faculty throughout Harvard guide the programs through their participation on advisory committees.

How do I know which program is right for me?

There are many paths, but we are one HBS. Our PhD students draw on diverse personal and professional backgrounds to pursue an ever-expanding range of research topics. Explore more here about each program’s requirements & curriculum, read student profiles for each discipline as well as student research , and placement information.

The PhD in Business Administration grounds students in the disciplinary theories and research methods that form the foundation of an academic career. Jointly administered by HBS and GSAS, the program has five areas of study: Accounting and Management , Management , Marketing , Strategy , and Technology and Operations Management . All areas of study involve roughly two years of coursework culminating in a field exam. The remaining years of the program are spent conducting independent research, working on co-authored publications, and writing the dissertation. Students join these programs from a wide range of backgrounds, from consulting to engineering. Many applicants possess liberal arts degrees, as there is not a requirement to possess a business degree before joining the program

The PhD in Business Economics provides students the opportunity to study in both Harvard’s world-class Economics Department and Harvard Business School. Throughout the program, coursework includes exploration of microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, probability and statistics, and econometrics. While some students join the Business Economics program directly from undergraduate or masters programs, others have worked in economic consulting firms or as research assistants at universities or intergovernmental organizations.

The PhD program in Health Policy (Management) is rooted in data-driven research on the managerial, operational, and strategic issues facing a wide range of organizations. Coursework includes the study of microeconomic theory, management, research methods, and statistics. The backgrounds of students in this program are quite varied, with some coming from public health or the healthcare industry, while others arrive at the program with a background in disciplinary research

The PhD program in Organizational Behavior offers two tracks: either a micro or macro approach. In the micro track, students focus on the study of interpersonal relationships within organizations and the effects that groups have on individuals. Students in the macro track use sociological methods to examine organizations, groups, and markets as a whole, including topics such as the influence of individuals on organizational change, or the relationship between social missions and financial objectives. Jointly administered by HBS and GSAS, the program includes core disciplinary training in sociology or psychology, as well as additional coursework in organizational behavior.

Accounting & Management  

Business economics  , health policy (management)  , management  , marketing  , organizational behavior  , strategy  , technology & operations management  .

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  1. Why I Chose To Get a PhD in Economics

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  3. How to Get a Doctorate in Economics (with Pictures)

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  5. Read Getting a PhD in Economics Online by Stuart J. Hillmon

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COMMENTS

  1. The complete guide to getting into an economics PhD program

    Here is the not-very-surprising list of things that will help you get into a good econ PhD program: good grades, especially in whatever math and economics classes you take, a good score on the ...

  2. PhD Program

    PhD Program. Year after year, our top-ranked PhD program sets the standard for graduate economics training across the country. Graduate students work closely with our world-class faculty to develop their own research and prepare to make impactful contributions to the field. Our doctoral program enrolls 20-24 full-time students each year and ...

  3. PhD Program

    The Ph.D. Program in the Department of Economics at Harvard is addressed to students of high promise who wish to prepare themselves in teaching and research in academia or for responsible positions in government, research organizations, or business enterprises. Students are expected to devote themselves full-time to their programs of study.

  4. Best PhDs in Economics

    How to Get Into an Economics PhD Program: Admission Requirements. The admission requirements to get into an economics PhD program include a bachelor's degree in a related field and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Other admission requirements can include GRE exam scores, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a resume. Admissions counselors ...

  5. How to prepare for a PhD in Economics

    If you want to get into a top PhD program, it is especially important to take real analysis (Math 142AB or Math 140ABC—likely Math 140A is enough) and do well in the class. Real analysis teaches you how to write and understand proofs. These skills will be important to your success in first-year graduate courses as well as in your research ...

  6. Doctoral Program

    Doctoral Program. The Ph.D. program is a full time program leading to a Doctoral Degree in Economics. Students specialize in various fields within Economics by enrolling in field courses and attending field specific lunches and seminars. Students gain economic breadth by taking additional distribution courses outside of their selected fields of ...

  7. Admissions

    Please note that the MIT / Harvard Economics AAMP is a volunteer-based, student-run program. This program is not considered part of the admissions process for the Economics PhD at MIT or Harvard, nor will any student's participation in the AAMP be considered by the Graduate Admissions Committee at either school.

  8. Ph.D. Program Preparation

    A PhD in economics is a research degree. Students should pursue this degree if they are interested in a career answering questions on issues from health to monetary policy to development using economic models and/or data. Although the requirements of the economics degree at Yale will give you a good foundation for graduate studies, most Ph.D ...

  9. Ph.D. Program

    Ph.D. Program. Make an impact: The intellectual rigor from researchers associated with Yale Economics drives innovations in domestic and international policy. Yale's Department of Economics offers a challenging and rigorous academic program, a distinguished and accessible faculty, and a friendly, supportive environment for study.

  10. Admissions

    These include Business Economics, Political Economy and Government, Public Policy, and Health Policy. Many students in these programs have considerable overlap in their coursework with courses offered to PhD students in economics. Many also have dissertation committees that include faculty members of the economics department.

  11. About the Ph.D. Program

    About the Ph.D. Program. The Ph.D. Program in Economics at UCLA prepares students for careers as economists in academia, business and government. The program combines rigorous work in economic theory and careful study of real-world problems and institutions. Graduates from this program work at major universities around the world, national and ...

  12. Ph.D.

    The first two years of our Ph.D. program is largely devoted to rigorous coursework. After the second year, however, students devote most of their time to their own research under the supervision of faculty advisors. Students in our program generally complete their Ph.D. in 5 or 6 years. Admission to the Ph.D. program is highly selective.

  13. Why Earn a PhD in Economics?

    A PhD prepares you to do independent research at the frontier of Economics. In this section, we are going to focus on being a competitive applicant for top Economics PhD programs. We want our very best undergraduates to have a chance to get into these highly competitive programs right after completing an undergraduate degree.

  14. Graduate Program

    The graduate economics program at Penn is a Ph.D. program administered by the Graduate Group in Economics, which consists of the faculty of the Department of Economics, and some of its secondary appointments in the Wharton School and the School of Arts and Sciences.A master's program in Economics is not offered at the University of Pennsylvania.. The program trains students to conduct ...

  15. Admissions FAQ

    Admissions FAQ. Admissions Financial Support FAQ Curriculum and Thesis GEA Job Market. Please review these commonly asked questions carefully before reaching out to the department. Still can't find the information you need? Send us an email at [email protected].

  16. Preparing for a PhD in Economics

    Preparing for a PhD in Economics. The minimum requirements of the Economics undergraduate major are not designed to be training for doctoral economics programs. Students who plan to continue their education should take more quantitative courses than the minimum required for the major. Preparation should start early in your undergraduate ...

  17. Read This Before Applying to an Economics PhD Program

    First, it was genuine. It wasn't a "why didn't I get into a Ph.D. program" rant, but a personal story told with thoughtful insights. In fact, my experience has been nearly identical, and I would encourage any undergraduate student considering pursuing a Ph.D. in economics to take this reader's insights to heart.

  18. Advice for First-Year Ph.D. Students in Economics at Cornell

    While the first week or two of classes are usually quite gentle, you will quickly hit the first wave of exams. At Cornell, almost every first-year Econ Ph.D. class has two exams (aka. prelims, midterms, quizzes), plus a final exam. The Econ Ph.D. program coordinates things, so you have two waves in the fall semester of about an exam or two per ...

  19. Why an economics PhD might be the best grad degree

    An economics PhD is one of the most attractive graduate programs: if you get through, you have a high chance of landing a good research job in academia or policy - promising areas for social impact - and you have back-up options in the corporate sector since the skills you learn are in-demand (unlike many PhD programs). You should especially consider an economics PhD if you want to go into ...

  20. PhD in Economics: Requirements, Salary, Jobs, & Career Growth

    In academia, assistant professors with a PhD in Economics can expect to earn a starting salary in the range of $70,000 to $90,000, while full professors can earn well over $100,000. In the government sector, economists with a PhD can earn salaries that range from $70,000 to $120,000 or more, depending on their level of experience and the type ...

  21. The Complete Guide to Getting Into an Economics Ph.D. Program

    But to econ Ph.D. programs, this will be a gaping hole in your resume. Go take stats! One more thing you can do is research with an economist. Fortunately, economists are generally extremely ...

  22. Why Get an Economics Ph.D?

    Academic economics is set up for people who have a comparative advantage in research. Go somewhere where a comparative advantage in communication is an asset - such as a business school or into consulting. A recent blog post by GMU Economics Prof Tyler Cowen, titled Trudie's advice to would-be economists that is an absolute must-read for anyone ...

  23. PhD Programs

    The PhD in Business Economics provides students the opportunity to study in both Harvard's world-class Economics Department and Harvard Business School. Throughout the program, coursework includes exploration of microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, probability and statistics, and econometrics. ...

  24. Best Online Ph.D. In Management Of 2024

    A Ph.D. in management is one of the most advanced degrees you can attain in the business field. If you aspire to a high-level role in research, academia or consulting, you might consider pursuing ...

  25. Alumni Speaker Series

    Alumni Speaker Series - Cory Mullins '19

  26. Polished professionals: CUW students get a lesson in etiquette

    Scott Niederjohn, PhD Director of the Concordia Free Enterprise Center Professor of Economics Business Scholars Advisor "I'm very pleased that our Business Scholars Association made this event a priority this year. Their hard work in planning and promoting this dinner provided benefits for so many CUW students of many majors from across our ...