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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

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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


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

A financial advisor sitting in an office and giving finance application tips to a client  taking notes, based on her monetary policy knowledge and econ background

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.


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 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.


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


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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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 students complete their degree in five to six years. Students undertake core coursework in microeconomic theory, macroeconomics, and econometrics, and are expected to complete two major and two minor fields in economics. Beyond the classroom, doctoral students work in close collaboration with faculty to develop their research capabilities, gaining hands-on experience in both theoretical and empirical projects.

How to apply

Students are admitted to the program once per year for entry in the fall. The online application opens on September 15 and closes on December 15.

Meet our students

Our PhD graduates go on to teach in leading economics departments, business schools, and schools of public policy, or pursue influential careers with organizations and businesses around the world. 

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What Can I Do with a PhD in Economics?

phd economics career options

If a graduate degree in economics is on your mind, you may wonder why someone would pursue a doctorate degree in the field. After all, many master's degrees in economics are designed to prepare students like you for myriad economics careers. But while a master's degree will help you stand out against competitors in the job. market, a PhD can open even more doors.   

Earning a PhD in Economics means you have completed the highest level of education in the discipline, thereby creating nearly unlimited opportunities for any job in a related field. 

What does an Economics PhD do?

Economics PhDs specialize in areas like labor economics, macroeconomics,  industrial organization, or international economics and pursue careers within that specialization. For example, institutions like the World Trade Organization (WTO) — the international trade body —  the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the World Bank might seek to hire economists who have specialized in international economics.

The Federal Reserve Bank system hires lots of PhD macroeconomists. Government agencies like the Federal Trade Commission hire PhD economists specializing in industrial organization. The Census Bureau hires lots of PhD economists specializing in fields like labor economics.

These complex, high-profile positions are often found in the corporate sector or government and frequently involve exploring regulatory, strategic or public policies.

In addition to jobs in government and industry, academic economists play leading roles in the development of new ideas in economics and hold faculty positions in a variety of academic settings.

Industry Profile for Economists 

The need for candidates with extensive economic knowledge and an upper-level understanding of quantitative analysis continues to grow as the government and private corporations seek to understand international competition, predict consumer behaviors and apply analysis to a rapidly changing global environment. 

Industries With the Highest Levels of Employment in Economics

Nearly every entity relies on economists in some way to help research and advise, optimize results, interpret data and recommend solutions. Some of the top industries that employ economists include:

  • Federal and state governments
  • Management, scientific and technical consulting services
  • Scientific research and development firms
  • Finance and insurance companies 

How to Get a Doctorate in Economics: The Econ PhD Program at SMU

The PhD program in Economics at SMU is the oldest PhD program at the university and has been providing students with rigorous training in a broad range of fundamental methodologies for conducting economic research for more than 55 years. 

With a low student-to-faculty ratio in a relatively small program, the Economics PhD program at SMU allows for an open and friendly environment, careful supervision, quality contact time with faculty and individualized mentoring that can’t be matched elsewhere. 

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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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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.   

What You Should Know Before Applying to an Economics PhD Program

Here's One Student's Experience Applying to an Economics PhD Program

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I recently wrote an article about the types of people who shouldn't pursue a Ph.D. in economics . Don't get me wrong, I love economics. I've spent a majority of my adult life in the pursuit of knowledge in the field studying around the world and even teaching it at the university level. You may love studying economics, too, but a Ph.D. program is an entirely different beast that requires a very specific type of person and student. After my article was published, I received an email from a reader, who just happened to be a potential Ph.D. student. 

This reader's experience and insights into the economics Ph.D. program application process were so on point that I felt the need to share the insights. For those considering applying to a Ph.D. program in Economics, give this email a read.

One Student's Experience Applying to an Economics Ph.D. Program

"Thanks for the graduate school focus in your recent articles. Three of the challenges you mentioned [in your recent article ] really hit home:

  • American students have a comparative disadvantage for selection compared to foreign students.
  • The importance of math cannot be overstated.
  • Reputation is a huge factor, especially that of your undergraduate program.

I applied unsuccessfully to Ph.D. programs for two years before conceding that I might not be ready for them. Only one, Vanderbilt , gave me even a wait-list consideration.

I was a little embarrassed at being shunned. My mathematics GRE was 780. I had graduated at the top of my class with a 4.0 GPA in my economics major and completed a statistics minor . I had two internships: one in research, one in public policy. And accomplished this all while working 30 hours a week to support me . It was a brutally hard couple of years.

The Ph.D. departments I applied to and my undergraduate adviser all pointed out:

  • I attended a small, regional public university, and our professors spent significant time with students to the detriment of their own publishing.
  • Though I took a heavy load of statistics coursework, I only had two terms of calculus.
  • I had never been published; not even in an undergraduate journal.
  • I aimed for highly-ranked schools in the Midwest like Illinois, Indiana, Vanderbilt, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington University in St. Louis, but neglected schools on the coasts, which might have seen me as a more 'diverse' candidate.

I also made what many considered a tactical error: I went to talk with the graduate programs before I applied. I was later told that this is a taboo and seen as schmoozing. I even talked at length with the director of one program. We ended up talking shop for two hours and he invited me to attend presentations and brown bags whenever I was in town. But soon I would learn that he would be ending his tenure to take a position at another college, and would no longer be involved in the approval process for that program.

After going through these obstacles, some suggested I prove myself with a Master's Degree in Economics first. I had originally been told that many schools pick top candidates immediately after undergraduate, but this new advice made sense because departments commit considerable resources to their Ph.D. candidates and want to make sure their investment will survive first-year exams.

With that path in mind, I found it interesting that so few departments offer a terminal Masters in Economic. I'd say about half as many as those that offer only the terminal Ph.D. Fewer still offer an academic Master's - most of these are professional programs. Still, I'm glad it gives me a chance to dig deeper into research and see if I'm ready for Ph.D. research."

My Response 

This was such a great letter for many reasons. 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. I, myself, was in a Master's program (at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada) before I entered my Ph.D. program. Today, I must admit that I wouldn't have survived three months as a Ph.D. student had I not attempted an MA in Economics first. 

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Careers in economics

What careers follow after an economics degree.

phd economics career options

Economics majors are successful in a wide variety of careers. Although various roles in businesses are most common, economics majors are successful in law, medicine, government, non-profits, and international relations, as well as in academic roles.


Career earnings

The corporate world and the mba, economic consulting, the legal profession, central banks, government, and not-for-profits, the economics profession.

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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  (Considerations for prospective graduate students in Economics)  (Alphabetical list of U.S Graduate Programs in Economics)  (Conferences, events and fellowships through the American Economic Association) (American Economic Association Summer Training Program, AEASP)

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While some students know what they want to do after graduation, many do not.  This page can help economics-interested students think about some possibilities.  Here, we narrow 'after graduation' options to (1) work and (2) school.  (But, if you want to travel the world, take time off, or anything else, we'd love to chat with you about that too!)

As you browse this page, remember that (1) your concentration does not determine your career and (2) where you land after graduation does not determine your career.  And, as always, if you want to chat, come see an ec concentration advisor.

The world is your oyster after graduation!  But, there are some jobs that economics concentrators might find particularly interesting (many are places where ec alums have worked).  On careers in Economics, here is a recent panel discussion hosted by the Harvard University Inclusion in Economics , recorded on April 29th, 2022.  Additionally, here are just a few possibilities, in five broad categories: 

Private Sector/For-Profit

  • Finance .  Many Harvard undergraduates join the financial sector after graduation, both at large organizations like Goldman Sachs, small firms targeting a niche market, and everything in between.  There is on-campus recruiting and a lot of information from the Office of Career Services' finance page . 
  • Consulting .  Many Harvard undergraduates pursue consulting positions after graduation, at a huge variety of consulting firms.  There are large strategy consulting firms like Bain and Company and large economics consulting firms like Analysis Group and NERA, as well as other firms focused in specific areas such as the environment, health care, public policy, and development (eg, Oxford Policy Management ).  There is on-campus recruiting and a lot of information from the Office of Career Services' consulting page .
  • Market Research .  Many companies have an interest in market research to better understand their current and potential clients, changing tastes and preferences, etc.  Your insight into decision-making combined with econometrics skills make you well-prepared for jobs like this.
  • Risk analysis .  Many companies are interested in analyzing risk; your econometrics skills will really come in handy!  For example, Moody's Analytics , credit card companies, car insurance companies...
  • Health industry .  Pharmaceutical companies (for humans as well as animals), health care insurance providers, health care exchanges, and many other places will all have jobs where the economics tool kit you've built over four years will be very valuable.
  • Analytics and Strategy .  Many companies specialize in analyzing big data for companies, sports, elections, and so much more.  Check out groups like Civis Analytics , Clarity Campaign Labs , BlueLabs , Opta , and Avero . Professional sports teams also hire data analysts.  Moneyball is real!
  • Social Enterprise .  Companies focused on social enterprises can be either for-profit or non-profit.  Some examples of interesting SE companies are Polymath Ventures ,  Reboot , and Central Square Foundation .
  • A truly huge array of interesting jobs.  Past concentrators have gone to Tootsie Roll, Pinterest, Las Vegas casinos, Microsoft, the fashion industry, and more.  The possibilities are endless.  

Government and government-related jobs

  • General website for US government jobs . USDA, DOT, HUD, EPA, BLS, Census… so many possibilities!
  • Congressional Budget Office
  • Federal Trade Commission  
  • The Federal Reserve .  The  individual Fed Reserve Banks have their own websites and conduct their own job searches.
  • LIS , the Luxembourg Data Center  

International Organizations

  • International Monetary Fund  
  • United Nations
  • World Economic Forum
  • DevJ , a site focused on jobs in international development  

Research and Think Tanks

  • National Bureau of Economic Research
  • Brookings Institution
  • Abt Associates
  • J-PAL , the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT
  • IFPRI , the International Food Policy Research Institute.  One of 15 centers that forms the  CGIAR Consortium.
  • Mathematica Policy Research , nonpartisan research organization
  • Council on Foreign Relations
  • RAND Corporation
  • Urban Institute
  • WRI , the World Resources Institute
  • A list of econ-focused think tanks , from RePEc
  • Compilation of job opportunities for those interested in  research-based careers  

Non-Profit sector

  • Princeton in Asia   Program, one-year fellowship for an immersive work experience in Asia
  • Princeton in Africa Program, one-year fellowship to work in the field of development on the African continent
  • Teach for America
  • Mercy Corps
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • 3ie , International Initiative for Impact Evaluation
  • The Asia Foundation
  • IDinsight , using randomized trials to help developing country leaders improve social impact
  • The Working World , venture capitalists with a social mission
  • ideas42 , using behavioral economics to solve social problems
  • Acumen , fellows program focused on solutions to poverty
  • Bridgespan Group , aiming to advance social change

At some point in post-graduation life, many concentrators pursue an advanced degree.  Here we discuss (1) graduate study in a variety of areas common among our concentrators and (2) economics Ph.D. programs. 

Graduate Study: a variety of options

Economics concentrators pursue graduate programs in a variety of fields: Business School, Law School, Medical School, non-economics Ph.D. programs, and more.  In terms of Masters programs, the possibilities are huge: public policy programs, international relations, elementary and secondary education, statistics, mathematical finance, just to name a few.  Some concentrators also consider Masters programs in Europe; in particular, several universities in the United Kingdom have strong one-year Masters programs (as well as two-year programs). 

Masters programs in Economics and economics-related fields are plentiful.  While most top-tier US research universities do not offer Masters programs in their economics departments per se, you can find 'related' Masters programs.  At Harvard, for example, the Economics Department does not offer a Masters degree, but the Kennedy School offers economics-related Masters level studies.  

There is a lot of information online about all of these programs, and more.  And, of course, you can always chat with your concentration advisor.

Economics Ph.D. Programs

Graduate study in economics (at the Ph.D. level) is very different from undergraduate coursework.  It is not only a continuance and deepening of the undergraduate curriculum; it is also about research. In this sense, the honors thesis provides a closer look at the enterprise of graduate study. Although some doctoral students choose careers in nonacademic sectors such as government service or finance, most are accepted and trained with the objective of producing academic professionals whose research will advance the discipline. Most admissions committees gauge the potential applicants in three ways: preparation, aptitude, and creativity. A scholar with all three could make important contributions to our understanding of economics. Aptitude is assessed largely through one's undergraduate record and professor recommendations. To a smaller extent, scores such as the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) are also considered. Creativity is demonstrated primarily through work on the honors thesis and other research, the quality of which is relayed through professor recommendations. Preparation is particularly important and is demonstrated through coursework in mathematics, statistics and econometrics, and economic theory. First, candidates with a well-developed mathematical foundation will not struggle with the high level of abstraction of graduate work. Students interested in graduate school should take coursework in multivariable calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, and real analysis. Each area deserves a semester of study, though a year of real analysis is especially impressive.  Second, the greater a student’s training in statistics and econometrics, the greater the scope and depth of empirical research they can understand and complete. Students should consider statistics and econometrics courses using stochastic calculus, such as the graduate sequence ECON 2110 and ECON 2120.  Graduate schools also value theoretical courses, which prepare students for the demands of graduate coursework. At the intermediate theory level, students are encouraged to take the ECON 1011AB sequence.  Beyond that, graduate schools are impressed with further coursework in microeconomics and macroeconomics, especially at the graduate level. They also look for coursework in particular areas of theory, such as game theory. Graduate school represents an important and exciting decision in the academic careers of Harvard undergraduates.  Starting to develop and demonstrate these three components will provide you with an impressive background for graduate study in economics.

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Career Options for Economics Majors

In the Economics Career Development Office, we are commonly asked about what careers economics majors go into after graduation. Majoring in economics is like majoring in critical thinking. You are well-prepared to apply your coursework to a variety of careers and industries. Your economics major opens up a wide range of career options to you. Sometimes the range of choices makes it difficult to decide what you would like to do after graduation. However, we have complied a list of the most popular industries below. If you would like to talk to someone about your career interests, the Economics Career Development Office is here to help!

Students majoring in economics gain skills that are valuable for many jobs and in many settings. An economics education:

  • Trains you to think analytically and critically in solving complex problems.
  • Provides skills to observe and make inferences from data.
  • Teaches you effective verbal and written communication skills.

More specifically, economics teaches and develops a variety of skills. The lists below are just some skills you may gain.

Research/Analysis Generating/developing ideas Organizing materials Designing projects Analyzing results Applying statistical methods Testing an idea/hypothesis

Problem Solving Assessing needs Defining problems Reviewing/evaluating goals Relating theory to practice Applying quantitative analysis Generating solutions Evaluating policies Projecting/forecasting results

Financial/Data Maintaining accurate records Tabulating data Manipulating numerical data Developing budgets Cost analysis/projections Preparing financial reports/statements

Communication Writing reports articles Reading/interpreting reports/statements Summarizing data Writing grant proposals Analyzing data Sizing up an audience Speaking clearly Presenting proposals/reports

Career Opportunities Frequently Pursued by Economics Majors

Below is a list of a few of the common industries economics majors have gone into in the past. This is not a complete list of everything you can do with a major in economics. Think of it as a starting point. Your career advisor can help you learn more. If you click on each area, it lists helpful information for someone interested in that area, including, potential courses, student orgs, and sample job titles.  Please note that these are guides only;  you are not required to take all the courses that are listed or join any student organizations listed.

Business Banking and Finance Economic Development Entrepreneurship Federal Reserve Public Finance Government Graduate School in Economics Healthcare International Trade Law Marketing and Retail Public Policy Real Estate and Urban Planning

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Economics Major Requirements


ECON2001.01 Principles of Microeconomics-3 credits (COMPLETE FRESHMAN YEAR)

ECON2002.01Principles of Macroeconomics-3 credits (COMPLETE FRESHMAN YEAR)

ECON4001.01-Intermediate Microeconomic Theory-3 credits (pre-reqs ECON2001.01 and ECON2002.01. COMPLETE SOPHOMORE/JUNIOR YEAR)

ECON4002.01Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory-3 credits (pre reqs ECON2001.01 and ECON2002.01. COMPLETE SOPHOMORE/JUNIOR YEAR)

ECON4400-Elementary Econometrics-3 credits (pre-req STAT1450 or ECON3400 or higher level Statistics. COMPLETE SOPHOMORE/ JUNIOR YEAR)

ECON3000+ elective -9 credits (excluding ECON3400. COMPLETE SOPHOMORE/ JUNIOR YEAR)

ECON5000 level electives-6 credits (COMPLETE JUNIOR/SENIOR YEAR)

ECON writing requirement (ECON2367.02 or ECON5130 or ECON5140. IF CHOOSING ECON2367.02, COMPLETE SOPHOMORE YEAR. IF CHOOSING 5130 or 5140, COMPLETE JUNIOR/SENIOR YEAR)-3/4 credits

Minimum Math required for Bachelor of Arts students: MATH1148


ECON4001.02 Intermediate Microeconomic Theory with Calculus-3 credits (pre-reqs ECON2001.01 and ECON2002.01, MATH1151 or higher. COMPLETE SOPHOMORE/JUNIOR YEAR)

ECON4002.02 Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory with Calculus-3 credits (pre reqs ECON2001.01 and ECON2002.01, MATH1151 or higher. COMPLETE SOPHOMORE/JUNIOR YEAR)

ECON3000+ elective -9 credits (excluding ECON3400 and ECON4400. COMPLETE SOPHOMORE/ JUNIOR YEAR)

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From community college to UD graduate student

Article by Amy Cherry Photo by Ashley Barnas Larrimore April 12, 2024

Connected Degree program helps medical sciences master’s student achieve goals

When he was in high school in Brooklyn, New York, Jake Peluso-Vargas never imagined he would be walking across the University of Delaware convocation stage once, let alone twice.

“I’m looking forward to walking that stage and getting that diploma,” he said. “That will be an awesome moment that I’ll never forget.” 

Peluso-Vargas, a first-generation college student, will graduate with his master’s degree in medical sciences this May after spending just three years at UD. He came to UD’s College of Health Sciences through the Connected Degree program after obtaining his associate degree in biological sciences from Delaware Technical and Community College. 

The 2+2 pathway allowed Peluso-Vargas to get his bachelor’s in applied molecular biology and biotechnology (AMBB) from UD in two years. Shortly after transferring to UD, Esther Biswas-Fiss , professor and chair of the Department of Medical and Molecular Sciences (MMSC), steered him toward the 4+1 program. For the first time, the first-generation college student imagined having an advanced, accelerated degree. 

“I hadn’t really given graduate school a serious thought, but it sounded amazing to get my master’s in one year,” recalled Peluso-Vargas. 

Biswas-Fiss was confident he would be an excellent fit for the program.

“From the outset, Jake displayed a significant degree of drive and motivation,” said Biswas-Fiss. “Science is never easy, and the key to success in this field is the level of interest. In addition to being a good student academically, he showed a high level of enthusiasm, essential for continued study at the graduate level.”

Come May, Peluso-Vargas will be the first student in the MMSC Department to complete a master’s degree starting at a community college. 

“Being a first-generation college student who began my higher education journey at a community college, I believe it is essential for students to be informed about the various opportunities they have for pursuing advanced education, whether they joined UD as freshmen or as transfer students as part of our 2+2 pipelines,” Biswas-Fiss said. 

Becoming a part of something bigger

Peluso-Vargas has always loved science. He was enrolled in the medical science institute at his high school, which challenged him with rigorous coursework. Those academic challenges continued in the MMSC Department at UD, where he called the curriculum “current, modern and applicable” to various professions. 

Mona Batish , an associate professor of medical and molecular sciences, mentored Peluso-Vargas throughout his master’s program. 

“She helped me hone my capstone project, which was on CRISPR gene editing and its application to treating medical diseases like HIV and Duchenne muscular dystrophy,” Peluso-Vargas said. 

Throughout his studies, Peluso-Vargas learned what it takes to be a successful research scientist.

“Persistence, determination and tenacity,” he said. “In this field, working in research and lab settings, you must expect the unexpected. You should expect experiments to fail, and you must learn from those failures, adapt and try harder.”

His first experience with research — and UD — came during the gap year between high school and getting his associate degree. He entered the Delaware INBRE Summer Student Research Program, where he studied the developmental biology of sea urchins with Jia Song, an associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences . There, he got his first feel for UD’s campus and hoped to be back one day.

“I realized that experiments are optimized in genetics class and biology labs,” Peluso-Vargas said. “In conducting independent research outside the classroom, I optimized my experiments and had to troubleshoot when something went wrong; I learned that persistence is key to obtaining reportable, valid results.” 

The troubleshooting is what attracted him to research. 

“I get a lot of gratification from exploring the unknown and getting answers through successful experiments,” he said. 

Throughout his master’s studies, Peluso-Vargas worked as a quality control technician for a Newark biotechnology company. Unsure what he wants to do next, Peluso-Vargas intends to let his academic achievements sink in.

“Getting my bachelor’s was surreal,” he said. “Getting a master’s will just give me such satisfaction and gratification.”

Ultimately, he envisions himself working on gene therapy within the biotech industry. 

“I want to develop therapeutics to treat and ultimately cure patients with genetic disorders,” he said. “It’s a growing field, and I want to be a part of it.” 

He encourages other first-generation college students and transfer students to chase their dreams, regardless of their backgrounds. 

“Neither of my parents graduated from high school, and my family reminds me how proud they are of how far I’ve come every single day,” he said. “It’s not always been easy, but that fuels me and is definitely a driving force behind my motivation to obtain my master’s. 

“Sometimes people just need a chance or need steering in the right direction,” Peluso-Vargas said. “I think anyone can do it. When people are given an opportunity, that’s all they need.”

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front cover of master your future guide

Master of International Economics and Finance

Expand your career across global markets by gaining unique expertise in international economics and finance.

In an ever-changing world, equip yourself with advanced knowledge of international finance to best identify emerging challenges, create long-term solutions, and adapt to meet growing demands in the global economy. 

One of UQ's most sought-after postgraduate degrees, the Master of International Economics and Finance incorporates 2 distinct study areas to diversify your skillset and boost career opportunities across public and private sectors. Designed for students from any academic discipline, the program develops critical expertise in various economic models and concepts, financial markets, international trade and investment, and consumer behaviour. 

From theoretical knowledge in analysing market risks to practical skills in programming probabilities, you’ll learn how to address global challenges both independently and collaboratively. You will graduate with a unique skillset that prepares you to succeed in finance and investment, government policy, commercial enterprise and international development.  

Program highlights

  • Prepare for one of many exciting careers in the growing world of globally integrated economics and finance.
  • Build your personal profile and employability with practical assessments, feedback from industry experts, international networking and careers advice.
  • UQ School of Economics is consistently ranked in the top 5 per cent of research-intensive economic departments in the world. Source: Research Papers in Economics

1 in Queensland for business and economics

Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2024

74 in the world for business and economics

Watch Meet Neeharika, a UQ Master of International Economics and Finance student from India on YouTube.

How you'll learn

Your learning experiences are designed to best suit the learning outcomes of the courses you choose.

  • Research experience
  • Peer-assisted study sessions

What you'll study

At UQ, degrees are called 'programs' and subjects are called 'courses'. Here's a sample of the courses you could study in this program:

  • International Financial Management
  • International Trade and Investment
  • Research Methods in Economics

See courses and program structure

Career possibilities

Postgraduate study can take you anywhere. Here are some of the careers you could be on your way to:

  • Finance analyst
  • Portfolio manager
  • Quantitative analyst
  • Pricing strategist
  • Performance analyst
  • Market risk analyst

Professional memberships

When you graduate, you may be eligible for memberships with the following professional organisations. Contact the organisation to find out how to become a member.

  • Economic Society of Australia

Rycia Mantua

With a diverse range of courses and specialisations offered, my program is one of a kind. I really enjoy the well-structured and informative content, which allows me to diversify my knowledge and become confident in my skills and potential as an economist.


The Master of International Economics and Finance helped me gain the theoretical knowledge and practical experience to critically engage with complex issues in society, lead as an industry change maker, and forge a successful career in the corporate world.

Camilla, UQ MBA graduate

18 April - 1 May

MBA Information Event

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phd economics career options

Postgraduate study in economics and finance is fuelling Diana's drive for success

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Entry requirements

It's possible to complete this degree in 2 years or 1.5 years depending on your qualifications and experience.

You can apply for any duration as long as you meet the entry requirements. You may also be eligible to apply for credit or exemptions to shorten your degree further. You'll graduate with the same qualification no matter how long you take to complete the degree.

2-year degree (32 units of study)

To be eligible to complete the degree in 2 years full-time (or part-time equivalent) full-time (only available as full-time study) , you'll need:

  • a bachelor's degree (or equivalent) in any discipline, or
  • a Graduate Certificate in Economic Studies from UQ, or
  • a Graduate Diploma in Economics from UQ.

 You must have a grade point average (GPA) of 4.5 on a 7-point scale in your previous qualification.

1.5-year degree (24 units of study)

If you have relevant prior learning or experience, you can reduce the number of courses you need to complete and graduate in less time.

To be eligible to complete the degree in 1.5 years full-time (or part-time equivalent) full-time (only available as full-time study) , you'll need:

  • a bachelor's degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline (see below), or
  • a Graduate Certificate in Economics from UQ.

Relevant disciplines for previous qualifications

Relevant disciplines include:

  • a bachelor degree in economics, business or commerce, or
  • a bachelor degree containing at least 4 courses in any of the following 3 areas:
  • microeconomics
  • macroeconomics
  • mathematics

GPA equivalent

Select where you studied and your qualification to see the GPA equivalent you need to be considered for this program.

Use the GPA equivalent as a guide. When you apply, we’ll calculate your GPA using the UQ grading scale. Any failing grades will be included. Entry requirements are subject to change.

Equivalent subjects

Related programs.

Depending on your previous qualifications and current goals, you might want to consider one of these related programs:

Master of Economics

  • Graduate Diploma in Economics
  • Graduate Certificate in Economic Studies

English language requirements

IELTS overall 6.5; reading 6; writing 6; speaking 6; listening 6. For other English Language Proficiency Tests and Scores approved for UQ

TOEFL iBT (including Paper Edition) - Overall 87, listening 19, reading 19, writing 21 and speaking 19.

PTE Academic - Overall Score of 64 and 60 in all sub bands.

BE - A minimum overall grade of 4 plus a minimum grade of C in all macro skills.

CES - Overall 176 and 169 in all sub bands.

OET is not accepted.

There are other ways to meet the English language requirements. For some programs, additional conditions apply.

Learn how to meet the English language requirements

Student visas

International students who are accepted into full-time study in the Master of International Economics and Finance are eligible to apply for an Australian student visa (subclass 500).

There are a number of requirements you must satisfy before a visa is granted, including the Genuine Student (GS) requirement.

Learn more about student visas

Fees and Scholarships

Indicative annual fee.

Approximate yearly cost of tuition (16 units). Your fees will vary according to your study load. Fees are reviewed each year and may increase.

Fee information for 2025 is not yet available. Fee information displayed is for 2024.

Learn more about postgraduate fees

Approximate yearly cost of full-time tuition (16 units). Your fees will vary according to your study load. Fees are reviewed each year and may increase.

AUD $50,560

Government assistance, financial aid.

As an international student, you might be eligible for financial aid – either from your home country, or from the Australian Government.

Learn more about financial aid

Domestic students who are accepted into the Master of International Economics and Finance pay tuition fees.

FEE-HELP is an Australian Government loan scheme to assist eligible students with the cost of their tuition fees.

Learn more about FEE-HELP

Centrelink support

The Australian Government offers a number of income-support payments to eligible Australian university students.

Learn about Centrelink payments for students


You may be eligible for more than 100 scholarships, including:

Applying online

All international applications should be submitted to UQ. If you prefer, you can use an  approved UQ agent in your country .

The program code for the Master of International Economics and Finance is  5590 .

This program is available in multiple durations. You can apply for any duration as long as you meet the entry requirements.

When you apply, select your preferred duration. If you don't meet the requirements for your first preference, we'll automatically consider you for entry into a longer duration.

Find out more about applying for postgraduate coursework study

All domestic applications should be submitted to UQ.

The program code for the Master of International Economics and Finance is 5590 .

When you apply, select your preferred duration. You can also ask us to consider you for a longer duration if you don't meet the entry requirements for your first preference.

Important dates

The closing date for this program is:

  • To commence study in semester 2 - May 31 of the year of commencement.
  • To commence study in semester 1 - November 30 of the previous year.

To learn more about UQ dates, including semester start dates, view the Academic Calendar .

  • To commence study in Semester 1 - January 31 of the year of commencement.
  • To commence study in Semester 2 - June 30 of the year of commencement.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants

For support with applying – or if you have any questions about university life – get in touch with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit.

Contact the ATSIS Unit

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