how hard is it to get a phd in economics

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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.

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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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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. programs expect students to have taken additional courses, particularly in statistics and mathematics.

Mathematics. Most graduate programs expect familiarity with multivariate calculus (for example, Math 120), linear algebra (Math 222, or even better, a proof-based course such as 225 or 226) and real analysis (Math 255 or 256). More advanced mathematics work in linear algebra, differential equations, analysis and other proof-based courses is useful preparation for graduate work.

Econometrics and Statistics.  It is strongly recommended that students take at least two semesters of econometrics. More advanced courses in econometrics (for example financial time series or applied microeconometrics) , or in probability, statistics and stochastic processes (offered in the math or statistics departments) are useful preparation for graduate work.

Economic Theory.  Although the more mathematical theory courses (Econ 125, 126, 350, and 351) are not required for admission to graduate school, taking one or more of them gives extra preparation and exposes students to the kind of course material they can expect in graduate school.

Research Assistance. Working as a research assistant to an economist on campus  or off campus , provides excellent exposure to the type of work that PhD economists do.

Senior Essay.  The independent research experience involved in writing a senior essay is extremely valuable as preparation for graduate school.

Additional Resources.  Each year the department has an information session for undergraduate students interested in pursuing a PhD. The slides from the most recent meeting are here . The American Economic Association (AEA) has an informative section on Preparing for Graduate School  to help students wade-through the process of a terminal degree in economics.   This article in the AEA annual newsletter, Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession , gives a good overview of getting into and finishing a PhD program.

AEA Summer and Scholarship Programs .  Since 1974, the AEA Summer Training Program and Scholarship Program have increased diversity in the field of economics by preparing talented undergraduates for doctoral programs in economics and related disciplines. AEASP is a prestigious program that enables students to develop and solidify technical skills in preparation for the rigors of graduate studies. As many as 20% of PhDs awarded to minorities in economics over the past 20 years are graduates of the program.

All students receive 2 months of intensive training in microeconomics, math, econometrics and research methods with leading faculty. At 3 credits per class, students have the opportunity to earn 12 college credits.

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.   

Economics Department corridor

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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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]

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


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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  • Why earn a PhD in Economics?
  • A PhD prepares you to do independent research at the frontier of what economists know. In fact, a key requirement for earning a PhD is that your dissertation provides new knowledge that moves out the frontier of the profession.
  • A PhD is required if you want to do research and teaching at a university. For many top jobs in government, at consulting firms, or large companies, a PhD is required.
  • PhD vs MA? Top PhD programs are typically free because they offer their incoming class TA-ships (sometimes RA-ships) and a small stipend for 4-6 years.  (Note:  MA programs typically do not provide financial support).
  • There is no specific timeline for earning a PhD. You will earn a PhD when you complete the coursework, pass the qualifying exams and complete a dissertation.  A PhD typically takes 5-6 years to complete with 80% of programs requiring 50-60 hours of studying per week according to the AEA .   MA programs are typically either a 1 or a 2 year program.
  • Here is what the AEA has to say for PhD Economists. We also recommend checking out Cawley's guide to the job market process .
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The Economy of Everything

Why you need a phd in economics.

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How to Become an Economist: PhD Required

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. 

As a PhD economist, you'll have the skills to analyze real-world economic data with rigorous statistical techniques, critically assess the economic implications of public policy, and understand the complex relationships behind key macroeconomic variables like GDP growth, interest rates and inflation. 

The Department of Economics at SMU is highly ranked among economics departments in the United States and has prepared PhD candidates for careers as economists in both academic and non-academic positions for more than 55 years. 

If you want to become a PhD Economist, this guide will help you understand SMU's unique approach to the study of economics and prepare you to apply to our PhD program with confidence. 

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Pursuing a PhD in economics is a big investment. Even though you will have a full tuition waiver and a stipend to cover your cost of living, you must also consider the cost of lost wages during your education. This guide will help you calculate the ROI of your PhD in Economics and determine if it's the right choice for you compared to a master's in economics. 

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A PhD in economics is the only one worth getting

Here’s the equation you need to know. PhD in economics=JOB.

People often ask me: “Noah, what career path can I take where I’m virtually guaranteed to get a well-paying job in my field of interest, which doesn’t force me to work 80 hours a week, and which gives me both autonomy and intellectual excitement?” Well, actually, I lied, no one asks me that. But they  should  ask me that, because I do know of such a career path, and it’s called the economics PhD.

“What?!!” you sputter. “What about all those articles telling me  never ,  ever , ever , ever  to get a PhD?! Didn’t you read those?! Don’t you know that PhDs are  proliferating like mushrooms  even as  tenure-track jobs disappear ? Do you want us to be stuck in eternal postdoc hell, or turn into adjunct-faculty wage-slaves?!”

To which I respond: There are PhDs, and there are PhDs, and then there are econ PhDs.

Basically, I think of PhDs as mostly falling into one of three categories:

1. Lifestyle PhDs . These include math, literature and the humanities, theoretical physics, history, many social sciences, and the arts. These are PhDs you do because you really, really, really love just sitting and thinking about stuff. You work on your own interests, at your own pace. If you want to be a poor bohemian scholar who lives a pure “life of the mind,” these PhDs are for you. I totally respect people who intentionally choose this lifestyle; I’d be pretty happy doing it myself, I think. Don’t expect to get a job in your field when you graduate, though.

2. Lab science PhDs.  These include biology, chemistry, neuroscience, electrical engineering, etc. These are PhDs you do because you’re either a suicidal fool or an incomprehensible sociopath. They mainly involve utterly brutal hours slaving away in a laboratory on someone else’s project for your entire late 20s, followed by years of postdoc hell for your early 30s, with a low percentage chance of a tenure-track faculty position. To find out what these PhD programs are like,  read this blog post . If you are considering getting a lab science PhD, please immediately hit yourself in the face with a brick. Now you know what it’s like.

(Note: People have been pointing out that electrical engineering isn’t as bad as the other lab sciences, with somewhat more autonomy and better job prospects. That’s consistent with my observations. But econ still beats it by a mile…)

3. PhDs that work.  I’m not exactly sure which PhDs fall into this category, but my guess is that it includes marketing, applied math and statistics, finance, computer science, accounting, and management. It  definitely , however, includes economics. Economics is the best PhD you can possibly get.

Why get a PhD in economics? Here’s why:

Reason 1: You get a job

Can I say it any more clearly? An econ PhD at even a middle-ranked school leads, with near-absolute certainty, to a well-paying job in an economics-related field. I believe the University of Michigan, for example, has gone many, many years without having a PhD student graduate without a job in hand.

You will not always get a tenure-track job, though there are a lot more of those available right now than in other fields (thanks, I am guessing, to the nationwide explosion in business schools, which hire a lot of econ PhDs, including yours truly). But if you don’t get a tenure-track job, you will get a well-paid job as a consultant, or a well-paid job in finance, or a decently-well-paid job in one of the many, many government agencies that hire armies of economists. All of these are what are commonly referred to as “good jobs,” with good pay, decent job security, non-brutal working conditions, and close relation to the economics field.

Now, this may be less true at lower-ranked schools; I don’t have the data. I imagine it’s not as certain, but still far, far better than for lab science PhDs at similarly ranked schools.

Why do so very few newly minted econ PhDs face the prospect of unemployment? Part of it is due to the econ field’s extremely well-managed (and centrally planned!)  job market . Part of it is due to the large demand from the lucrative consulting and finance industries. And part is due to the aforementioned proliferation of b-schools. There may be other reasons I don’t know. But in an America where nearly every career path is looking more and more like a gamble, the econ PhD remains a rock of stability—the closest thing you’ll find to a direct escalator to the upper middle class.

Reason 2: You get autonomy

Unlike the hellish lab science PhD programs, an econ grad student is not tied to an adviser. Since profs don’t usually fund econ students out of grants (few even have big grants), economics students mostly pay their way by teaching. This means you usually have to teach, but that is not nearly as grueling as working in a lab. Even when a professor does support you with a grant, he or she generally employs you as a research assistant, and gives you ample time to work on your own research.

Compare this to a lab science PhD, in which you basically do the project your adviser tells you to do, and you succeed or fail in part based on whether your adviser chooses a project that works out. Your destiny is out of your hands, your creativity is squelched, and your life is utterly at the mercy of a single taskmaster. In economics, on the other hand, you can start doing your own original, independent research the minute you show up (or even before). Professors generally encourage you to start your own projects. Unlike in lab science PhD programs (but as in “lifestyle” PhD programs), your time is mostly your own to manage.

This means that as an econ grad student, you’ll have a life. Or a chance at having a life, anyway.

Reason 3: You get intellectual fulfillment

Econ is not as intellectually deep as some fields, like physics, math, or literature. But it’s deep enough to keep you intellectually engaged. Econ allows you to think about human interactions, and social phenomena, in a number of different intellectually rigorous ways (e.g. game theory, incentives, decision theory, quantification of norms and values, bounded rationality, etc.). That’s cool stuff.

And economists, even if their research is highly specialized, are encouraged to think about all different kinds of topics in the field, and encouraged to think freely and originally. That’s something few people appreciate. In a lab science, in contrast, you are encouraged to burrow down in your area of hyper-specialization.

In econ, furthermore, you get exposed to a bunch of different disciplines; you get to learn some statistics, a little math, some sociology, a bit of psychology, and maybe even some history.

Also, as an economist, your status as an intellectual will not disappear when you get a job. Even if you go to work as a consultant or a financier, your thoughts will be welcomed and considered by economists in the blogosphere. And you can even publish econ papers as a non-academic.

In fact, it’s also worth pointing out that econ is a field in which outsiders and mavericks are able to challenge the status quo. This is in spite of the economics profession’s well-known deference to intellectual authority figures. The simple fact is that in econ, you don’t need money to advance new ideas, as you do in biology or chemistry. And you don’t need math wizardry either, as you would if you wanted to introduce new ideas in physics.

Reason 4: The risk of failure is low

In economics PhD programs, the main risk of failure is not passing your preliminary exams. This happens to a substantial fraction of people who get admitted to econ programs (maybe 25% or fewer at Michigan). But if you flunk out,  you get a complimentary Master’s degree , which is probably worth the 2 years that you’ll have spent in the program. And after you pass the prelims, there is little risk of not finishing a dissertation; unlike in most fields, you do not have to publish to graduate.

Caveats about the econ PhD

Of course, I don’t want to make it seem like the econ PhD is an utterly dominant strategy for life fulfillment. There are some caveats that you should definitely take into account.

First, there is the fact that an econ PhD program is still a PhD program. That means, first of all, that you will be in poverty in your late 20s. That is not fun for most people (some “lifestyle PhD” students and bohemian artists excepted). Also, econ PhD programs force you to manage your own time, while giving you very little feedback about how well or badly you’re actually doing. That can be stressful and depressing.

Second, be aware that the culture of economics is still fairly conservative, and not in the good way. Econ is one of the few places in our society where overtly racist and sexist ideas are not totally taboo ( Steve Landsburg is an extreme example, but that gives you the general flavor). Discrimination against women, in particular, probably still exists, though I’d say (or I’d hope, anyway) that it’s on the wane.

Finally, there is the fact that if enough people read and believe this blog post, it will cease to be true. There’s a piece of economics for you: as soon as people become aware that a thing is overvalued, they will start bidding up its price. But information diffuses slowly. Expect the econ PhD to lose its luster in five to 10 years, but that still gives you a window of time.

Anyway, despite these caveats, the econ PhD still seems like quite a sweet deal to me. And compared to a hellish, soul-crushing, and economically dubious lab science PhD, econ seems like a slam dunk. There are very few such bargains left in the American labor market. Grab this one while it’s still on the shelves.

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PhD Economics admissions FAQs

LSE has a well-established infrastructure for admitting and funding PhD students in the Department of Economics. We have a Chair and committee for both PhD Admissions and PhD Recruitment. In addition we have a dedicated professional staff at School and Department level dealing with funding and admissions. Applications are processed centrally through the  Graduate Admissions Office .

There is a strict application deadline for the PhD Economics 2024 entry. All applicants are advised to read the  MRes/PhD Economics 2024 prospectus page .

Admissions FAQs (2024 entry)

Below you will find various FAQS categorised by application , post application , funding and programme queries.

Application queries

1. when is the application deadline for the phd economics .

For direct entry to the PhD Economics programme there is an application deadline of  14 December 2023 . Complete applications must be received by the LSE Graduate Admissions Office by 23.59hrs (UK time) on 14 December 2023. We will not be able to accept any materials that arrive after the deadline; only complete applications supplied with all required supporting information by 14 December 2023 will be considered.

2. How should I apply?

Applications must be submitted via  LSE’s Online Application System  and are processed through LSE’s central  Graduate Admissions Office . All applicants are advised to read the  Department of Economics 2024 prospectus page  (for entry in 2024).

3. When should I apply?

The deadline to submit an application is 23.59hrs (UK time) 14 December 2023. Candidates are encouraged to apply early rather than wait until very close to the deadline to avoid unforeseen circumstances (eg. technical issues) preventing timely submission. Applicants who are considering re-taking the GRE test to improve their scores should do so in time to submit their new scores by the application deadline.  The Department cannot accept new GRE scores after the application deadline. 

4. What are the entry requirements? 

Entry requirements for the PhD Economics are stated on the departmental prospectus page . See also the LSE Minimum Entry Requirements including information for international students .

For details about the programme itself, see the Department of Economics Research Programmes  and the prospectus pages. See also details of the PhD Economics coursework requirements .

5. What should my application include?

Your application should include:

  • An application form
  • Application fee
  • Statement of academic purpose
  • Transcripts
  • Two academic references
  • Research statement (see guidance on the Research statement below)
  • A separate list of all the courses you are currently taking and/or will be taking (if you are currently undertaking a degree programme)
  • English language test scores (if applicable - see English language requirements )

For a full explanation of what you need to supply, please see Graduate Admissions advice on  How to Apply and guide to Supporting Documents .

6. How can I get help with the application process?

Questions about the mechanics of the application process should be submitted to LSE’s central Graduate Admissions Office . See how you can Contact the Graduate Admissions Office . A full range of Graduate Admissions guidance and information is available via their Graduate Knowledge Base  page. If you do not find the answer to your question there, please follow the “ I Need Help ” link which allows you to contact the Graduate Admissions Office by email or Live Chat.  

7. Do I need to submit a written sample? 

No, applicants to the PhD Economics are not required to submit a sample of their written work. We will, however, require a research statement.

8. Do I need to submit a Statement of academic purpose as well as a Research statement? 

Yes, the Statement of academic purpose is a school-wide requirement as it helps our academic selectors understand your personal motivation for undertaking the programme and gives you the opportunity to explain your academic strengths, relevant interests and tell us what you can bring to the programme. This Statement can be brief (ideally not exceeding 1000 words). 

9. What should my Research statement contain? 

Your Research statement should be submitted in place of the Outline research proposal, along with your application form and other required supporting documents, via the LSE online application system.

Please answer the following questions clearly and concisely. Max 200 words per question.

  • Why do you want to do research in economics?
  • Can you explain how your studies and experience make you suitable to do research in economics?
  • Which aspect of the PhD do you think you will like the most? Which will you dislike the most? Why?
  • Tell us about your favourite paper in economics. What do you like about it? How would you improve it?
  • Write a comment for a general audience on ONE of the following topics (i) Is inequality good for growth?   (ii) Do immigrants take the jobs of native workers?   (iii) Is CEO compensation excessive? (iv) Is universal minimum income a good idea? (v) Overall, has central banks' move to inflation targeting been a success? (vi) Is culture an important determinant of differences in income per capita across countries? (vii) Markets function well as information is aggregated efficiently through prices. (viii) Elections are effective at disciplining politicians who do not have the public interest as their main goal.

10. How can I demonstrate research potential?

If you have served as research assistant for an economist please ask that person to write a letter focussing on your research skills and describe your experience – reference point 2 (above) of the research statement.

If not, please list any evidence you think would be valuable. Examples include but are not restricted to: experience working autonomously under stress without any guidance, demonstration of creativity in any form, experience of writing original research.

11. Should my application include a diversity statement?

LSE is committed to building a diverse, equitable and truly inclusive university, a vision the Department of Economics fully supports. We believe strongly in expanding the diversity of our graduate student body and invite you to share your experiences, values, perspectives, and/or activities that shape you as a PhD candidate and align with these commitments as part of your statement of academic purpose.

Should a candidate submit a diversity statement as part of their statement of academic purpose the information provided will help the selection committee to contextualise the application; however, it will not play a part in assessing a candidate’s suitability for the MREs/PhD Economics programme. 

12. Can I contact faculty in advance, with a request to be my PhD supervisor? 

This is neither necessary nor desirable. Applicants must submit a complete application by the published deadline. There is a formal review process whereby the Department will decide if we can offer candidates a place on the programme. The allocation of a supervisor is done after completion of Year 1 of the programme, based on each student's area of interest and availability of faculty. There is no presumption that a student will be allocated the supervisor of their own choice, or any member of faculty they may have contacted before/during the application process.

13. Do I need to submit a GRE (Graduate Record Examination) score? 

All applicants must have taken the GRE General Test  and must include the test score with their application. For details of how to take the test, see the ETS website. The GRE has three sections: Verbal, Quantitative and Analytical. High GRE scores, especially in the Quantitative section, will further strengthen a good application. Most successful PhD Economics applicants have scores of 166 or more in the quantitative section. Applicants must enter their full and percentile GRE scores for all three sections. The test scores should be less than five years old on 1 October 2024.

14. Can I request an exemption on the GRE score requirement? 

GRE is a compulsory requirement, irrespective of the MRes/PhD Economics applicant’s academic background. Normally, no GRE waiver is possible.  However, applicants faced with exceptional and  unavoidable  circumstances may submit a waiver request by email, with relevant supporting information, to the Department’s admissions team .  The Selection Committee will consider such requests on a case-by-case basis and the GRE waiver cannot be guaranteed. NB. Please note that booking a late GRE test date will normally not be considered sufficient grounds for a waiver.

15. Can I submit an application solely for the MRes?

No, the MRes is an integral stage of the PhD Economics programme, and may only be taken by students who are committed to completing a PhD, subject to satisfying progression requirements.

16. Can I transfer from a PhD programme at another University?  

Applicants who commence/are already undertaking a PhD programme in another institution will not normally be allowed to transfer directly into a later stage of our PhD Economics. Such applicants would be expected to submit a full application to the programme like any other candidate and, if offered a place, would be required to undertake all parts of the course from the start of the programme, i.e. they would be registered as MRes students and undertake both years of the taught MRes programme along with the rest of the cohort. Exemption from parts of the PhD Economics, on grounds of having studied certain topics at a previous institution, will not normally be permitted.

17. Who should I contact for further information and advice?

If you have a query about our postgraduate Economics programmes that is not addressed above, or on the departmental website, contact the  Department of Economics postgraduate admissions team .  Please note that we are not able to reply to questions that constitute a request for an informal assessment. Applicants who have questions about their eligibility should consult the   Department of Economics prospectus page .

All enquiries about the application process must be addressed to LSE’s central  Graduate Admissions Office .

Post application queries

18. do you hold an open day.

As part of our recruitment process successful offer holders are invited to attend an Open Day where they will be able to meet and network with faculty and current MRes/PhD Economics students.

Applicants are, of course, very welcome to visit LSE on their own and attend a guided or self-guided tour – see more details about a visit to LSE . 

LSE also has many  public events  which are often open to all, although some do require a ticket.  There are also LSE Virtual Open Day events - for more information and to register your interest please visit the LSE Webpage .

19. What happens to my application after I click submit?

During this phase, the Graduate Admissions team conducts checks to ensure you have included all of the required documents with your application. Please note, the Department will not receive your application until you have supplied all of the required documents, which must be submitted by the application deadline. 

Once the deadline passes and the Department receives all complete applications the Selection Committee begins its review of all applications, until they arrive at a final shortlist of candidates. This process usually takes around 4 weeks at the end of which the Committee holds its final meeting to decide on who to make an offer to.

NB: The Department of Economics does not hold interviews as part of its selection process. 

After the Selection Committee meeting, all applicants who are offered a place on the PhD Economics programme are reviewed by the Funding committee for consideration of all funding at our disposal. The Department cannot guarantee that all of those offered places to study will also be offered funding. 

From early March onward, formal offers will be sent out by the LSE Graduate Admissions Office after carrying out its standard checks. The Department will also contact candidates to whom we wish to offer a place on the PhD Economics. At that stage, each candidate will be advised if they have been awarded funding, waitlisted for funding or have not been allocated funding at all. 

Candidates who are unsuccessful will be informed of the final decision by the Graduate Admissions Office. We typically expect this decision to be communicated to you around the beginning of March. 

20. When will I get my decision on my PhD Economics?

Admissions decisions will be made by a committee in the Department of Economics. Applicants will be informed of the decision by early March 2024. If your application is successful, we expect you to let us know by 15 April 2024 whether you are planning to enrol.

21. What are my chances of admission?

The admission committee reviews all applications and offers a place to those candidates with sufficient research potential.

Applicants who have questions about their eligibility for applying to research programmes at LSE should consult the  LSE Minimum Entry Requirements   and the  programme-specific  page for the programme to which they intend to apply. Also see  additional information for international students . Meeting the minimum requirements is not a guarantee of admission. In fact, most successful candidates exceed one or more of the requirements.

We regret that we cannot provide any further information or comment on an individual's chances of admission prior to receiving a complete formal application. The committee will make their decision based on all the information submitted with the application, which should be submitted online to the central  Graduate Admissions Office .

Funding queries

22. is there a separate process to apply for phd economics funding.

There is no separate process to apply for any funding which is administered and awarded by LSE - as a matter of normal procedure, all applicants who are offered a place on our PhD Economics would be considered for all types of funding at our disposal and for which they are eligible, on the basis of the information submitted in their application - see  Costs and financial aid  

As competition for places is very high and competition for funding is even more intense, we may not be able to offer funding to all PhD Economics students, hence applicants are advised to actively explore all sources of potential funding – see information in the School's  Financial Support Office  pages  (please check regularly for 2024 information updates) . 

23. Will there be funding options available once I've started the PhD Economics

Offer holders are expected to only take up a place on the PhD Economics if they have funds in place to finish their degree; please be aware that it's very unlikely there will be any funding available from the Department of Economics to fund PhD Economics students after they have started their degree. While there might be limited sources of funding at later stages of the PhD, e.g. from teaching or research assistant positions, these cannot be guaranteed nor can specific amounts (if any) be estimated at this stage. 

24. Will my financial status be a factor in the selection process?

Admissions decisions are made on the basis of academic merit alone, without any reference to an applicant’s financial situation. Applicants who are able to fund themselves or succeed in securing a scholarship or sponsorship from any source will be considered for entry to the programme in exactly the same way as applicants who have no funding in place. The same procedures and standards apply to all applicants competing for entry.

Programme queries

25. What can you tell me about the structure of the programme?

See the prospectus page for the PhD Economics programme – section “ Programme structure and courses” . The PhD Economics programme is grounded in two years of coursework through the MRes component followed by three to four years of research through the PhD.

Also see the LSE A cademic Calendar  for all Research Students at LSE, where clicking on “Programme Regulations” and “Research Course Guides” will give you detailed insight into the topics covered in each programme of study. 

26. Is the PhD Economics offered on a part-time basis?

The PhD Economics is only offered on a full-time basis.

27. How does the programme differ from the US and European programmes?

The programme has the standard structure of top US programmes with compulsory coursework in the first two years and research thereafter.  As in most US programmes, students take core courses in year one and field courses in year two.

28. Can I progress to the PhD Economics via an MSc programme at LSE?

There will no longer be automatic and direct progression from any LSE programme into our MRes/PhD Economics from the 2024/5 academic cycle.  Students registered in the LSE Department of Economics during the 2023/4 academic year, who wish to be considered for 2024 entry to the MRes/PhD Economics would need to submit the standard full application package by the deadline for 2024 entry (14 December 2023).  All applicants - including LSE students - will be given equal consideration, as part of the MRes/PhD Economics' standard process for admission as well as funding.  

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how hard is it 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  (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)

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 hard is it 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.

 University of Missouri Graduate School

The header image is the default header image for the site.

Economics, doctor of philosophy.

*This program is eligible for the STEM OPT Extension .

Admission Criteria

  • The application deadline, guidelines for grades, test scores, and more are available on this Economics PhD application information page .

Minimum Language Requirements

Click here to view the minimum English language proficiency test scores*

* Note : Every non-native English-speaking applicant who is applying to the PhD program in Economics at the University of Missouri must submit an English proficiency test score even if they meet all the criteria set by the University to be exempt from the English language requirement.

Required Application Materials

For the graduate school.

  • Completed Graduate School online application
  • Unofficial Transcripts- As part of the application submission process, all applicants are required to upload unofficial copies of all post-secondary transcripts to the online application. Official transcripts are only required if accepted by the academic program.
  • Official Results of  English Proficiency Exams  (International applicants only)

For the Economics Program

All application materials must be uploaded through the  Graduate School online application. More detailed instructions on uploading required materials are available on this Economics PhD application information page .

  • 3 letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Official GRE scores

Requirements for the doctoral degree

For the Economics PhD program details, including degree requirements, qualifying process, and dissertation requirements, please see the PhD Handbook on the  Economics PhD website .

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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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Mikeie Reiland, MFA

Published: Mar 26, 2024, 4:14pm

Industrial-organizational (I/O) psychology applies psychological principles to human problems in business and the workplace. Industrial-organizational psychologists help workers perform their best while also prioritizing their well-being.

Organizational psychology looks particularly at human behavior as part of a company or an organization. Organizational psychologists examine the roles of teamwork, leadership and drive within a company’s workforce.

A Ph.D. is the terminal degree in organizational psychology, and psychologists who want to become board-certified through the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology must earn a doctoral degree.

We’ve ranked four of the most reputable U.S. colleges offering online Ph.D.s in organizational psychology. Read on to learn about each of them.

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  • 6,290 accredited, nonprofit colleges and universities analyzed nationwide
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Our Methodology

We ranked four accredited, nonprofit colleges offering online Ph.D. programs in organizational psychology in the U.S. using 14 data points in the categories of student experience, credibility, student outcomes and affordability. We pulled data for these categories from reliable resources such as the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System ; private, third-party data sources; and individual school and program websites.

Data is accurate as of February 2024. Note that because online doctorates are relatively uncommon, fewer schools meet our ranking standards at the doctoral level.

We scored schools based on the following metrics:

Student Experience:

  • Student-to-faculty ratio
  • Socioeconomic diversity
  • Availability of online coursework
  • Total number of graduate assistants
  • Portion of graduate students enrolled in at least some distance education


  • Fully accredited
  • Programmatic accreditation status
  • Nonprofit status

Student Outcomes:

  • Overall graduation rate
  • Median earnings 10 years after graduation


  • In-state graduate student tuition and fees
  • Alternative tuition plans offered
  • Median federal student loan debt
  • Student loan default rate

We listed all four schools in the U.S. that met our ranking criteria.

Find our full list of methodologies here .

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Degree Finder

Best online ph.d. programs in organizational psychology, should you enroll in an online ph.d. in organizational psychology program, accreditation for online ph.d. programs in industrial organizational psychology, how to find the right online ph.d. in organizational psychology for you, frequently asked questions (faqs) about online doctorates in organizational psychology, liberty university, the chicago school at los angeles, keiser university-ft lauderdale, adler university, featured online schools.

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial credit and much more by clicking 'Visit Site'

Liberty University

Program Tuition Rate


Percentage of Grad Students Enrolled in Distance Education

Overall Graduation Rate

Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University enrolls more than 135,000 students, 97% of whom take at least some distance learning courses. The university’s online Ph.D. program in industrial-organizational psychology requires 60 credits, does not include in-person requirements and features multiple start dates throughout the year.

Program courses last for eight weeks each and cover the teaching of psychology and organizational behavior and development. Military students receive a significant tuition discount.

  • Our Flexibility Rating: Learn on your schedule
  • School Type: Private
  • Application Fee: $50
  • Degree Credit Requirements: 60 credits
  • Program Enrollment Options: Full-time
  • Example Major-Specific Courses: Teaching of psychology; organizational behavior and development
  • Concentrations Available: N/A
  • In-Person Requirements: No

The Chicago School at Los Angeles


Based out of Chicago with additional campuses in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and online, the Chicago School offers an online Ph.D. in business psychology with an industrial and organizational track. Bachelor’s degree holders in the program must complete 97 credits to graduate, while master’s degree holders must complete 61 credits.

The program includes an in-person residency requirement and an opportunity to complete an applied research project. The program takes three years to complete for master’s degree holders and five years to complete for students with bachelor’s degrees.

  • Degree Credit Requirements: 61 credits (post-master’s) or 97 credits (post-bachelor’s)
  • Example Major-Specific Courses: Statistics and lab; social psychology/behavioral economics
  • In-Person Requirements: Yes, for an in-person residency

Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale


Located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Keiser University features an online Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology that usually takes three to four years to complete. Classes last eight weeks, and Keiser delivers most online coursework asynchronously. Notable courses in the program’s 60-credit curriculum include personnel psychology and organizational psychology.

Distance learners must visit campus to complete two on-campus residencies over the course of their degree. Students can enter the program with a relevant bachelor’s or master’s degree.

  • Application Fee: $55
  • Example Major-Specific Courses: Personnel psychology, organizational psychology
  • In-Person Requirements: Yes, for on-campus residencies

Adler University


Based in Chicago with a satellite campus in Vancouver, British Columbia, Adler University also delivers several online programs, including a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology. Post-bachelor’s students must complete 90 credits to graduate, which takes around three years.

One of the program’s main draws is its social justice practicum, during which online students dedicate eight to 10 hours per week for 200 total hours to a specific community site.

  • Our Flexibility Rating: Learn around your 9-to-5
  • Application Fee: $30
  • Degree Credit Requirements: 90 credits
  • Example Major-Specific Courses: Statistics, social justice practicum
  • In-Person Requirements: Yes, for a practicum

Pursuing any online degree, especially one as rigorous as a Ph.D., is a large undertaking, and distance learning may not suit all students. To determine if online college is for you, ask yourself a few key questions:

  • What are your other commitments? Flexibility is arguably the main draw of online learning. If you’re juggling large responsibilities outside of school, you may want to prioritize asynchronous online programs, which do not have scheduled class times and offer maximum scheduling flexibility.
  • What’s your budget? Distance learners often avoid certain costs associated with on-campus learning, including housing and transportation. Moreover, some public universities allow students who enroll only in online coursework to pay in-state or otherwise discounted tuition rates.
  • How do you learn best? While online learning is generally more flexible and affordable than on-campus learning, it isn’t the right fit for everyone. Distance learning requires a great deal of discipline, organization and time management. If you need additional structure, perhaps in the form of a classroom or an in-person cohort, on-campus learning might provide a better fit.

There are two key types of college accreditation : institutional and programmatic.

Institutional accreditation applies to the whole school. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee the agencies that handle institutional accreditation. These agencies vet schools for the quality of their finances, faculty, programs and student services, among other categories.

You should enroll only at institutionally accredited schools. Otherwise, you will be ineligible for federal student aid, and employers and credentialing bodies may not recognize your degree as valid. To check a school’s accreditation status, you can visit its website or check the directory on CHEA’s website .

Programmatic accreditation provides a similar vetting service for specific degree programs and departments. In psychology, keep an eye out for accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA). To become a board-certified organizational psychologist in the U.S., you’ll need an APA-accredited doctorate.

Keep the following in mind as you survey your options for online organizational psychology doctoral programs.

Consider Your Future Goals

A Ph.D. in organizational psychology can lead to lucrative careers with high levels of responsibility in academia, research, management consulting, policy and human resources, among other fields. That said, every program is different, and it’s important to choose the option that best aligns with your goals and circumstances.

For example, consider each prospective program’s dissertation and field experience requirements. If you’re looking to pursue an academic career after earning your doctorate, you should complete a dissertation, which can give you research experience and help you get published. Alternatively, field experience can also prepare you for work in your area of interest, whether that’s consulting, policy or human resources.

If you want to become a board-certified industrial-organizational psychologist, you can earn that credential through the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology after you finish your doctoral program.

Understand Your Expenses and Financing Options

Per-credit tuition rates for the qualifying programs in our guide range from $595 to $1,703. Credit requirements vary from around 60 (for master’s degree holders) to 90 (for bachelor’s graduates). As such, total tuition costs for the programs in our guide range from around $36,000 to $150,000.

To lower the cost of your education, you should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). The FAFSA is your portal to federal student aid opportunities like loans, grants and scholarships. You can also seek aid through third parties like nonprofits, private organizations, private lenders and your future university.

On-campus Ph.D. programs sometimes provide stipends to graduate students who work as teaching assistants for undergraduate courses or assist professors with research. However, these opportunities aren’t always available to distance learners.

Is a Ph.D. in organizational psychology worth it?

It depends on your goals and circumstances. If you want to become board-certified as an organizational psychologist or pursue high-level roles in consulting or academia, a Ph.D. in the field is often worth it.

Is it possible to get a Ph.D. in psychology online?

Yes. We’ve ranked four qualifying schools that offer online Ph.D. programs in organizational psychology.

How long does a Ph.D. in industrial organizational psychology take?

Master’s degree holders can often finish a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology in three years, while bachelor’s degree holders may need up to five years to finish. Dissertation requirements can also affect completion times.

Mikeie Reiland, MFA

Mikeie Reiland is a writer who has written features for Oxford American, Bitter Southerner, Gravy, and SB Nation, among other publications. He received a James Beard nomination for a feature he wrote in 2023.

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New Visiting Researchers Program brings Postdoctoral and PhD Student Fellows to Harvard's Center for International Development

By CID Staff

group of people

The Center for International Development (CID) at Harvard University launched the  Visiting Researcher Program this academic year. With sponsorship from UniCredit Foundation, this program brings postdoctoral and PhD student researchers from the UniCredit Bank’s extensive European network to Harvard CID. Program participants have the opportunity to join CID’s vibrant research community and learn from leading Harvard faculty and researchers.

Over a three-year period, the support from UniCredit will fund postdoctoral fellowships for researchers whose research focuses on education related to a UniCredit country: Austria, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia. In addition, visiting fellowships at CID will be awarded to PhD students from institutions in UniCredit territories listed above. CID welcomed the first two PhD students this spring and will welcome two postdoctoral candidates in fall 2024. The call for additional PhD students for fall 2024 is currently open.

“Through this new program, we are thrilled to bring early-stage researchers to the CID community at Harvard University. We hope to build new relationships that spark innovative ideas and translate into research that will have a significant impact on education and economic development,” said Eliana La Ferrara, CID Faculty Affiliate and Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School who is overseeing the program. 

Andrea Orcel, CEO of UniCredit and chairman of the UniCredit Foundation, visited CID on November 28, 2023 to launch the program alongside CID leadership. He noted the importance of investing in the education of the next generation of scholars. CID faculty and fellows discussed global trends and challenges on education. 

“Education is the bedrock upon which we build our future, and we are proud of UniCredit’s commitment to supporting educational development through our Foundation,” Orcel said. “This program will act as a further tool to better understand educational needs enabling researchers to generate new evidence about the countries where we operate.”

“We are delighted to welcome these visiting researchers to the CID community,” shared CID’s Faculty Director Asim I. Khwaja. “Building and investing in the talent of the next generation of researchers is one of our top priorities at CID. We want to support and grow their research and watch the ripple effect as they advance learning on critical development issues. I am grateful to the UniCredit Foundation for helping us get this incredible initiative off the ground.”

Award recipients

The CID Visiting Researcher Program welcomed its inaugural cohort of PhD students in spring 2024:

Dilnovoz Abdurazzakova

The CID Visiting Researcher Program will welcome two postdoctoral candidates in fall 2024:


How to Get Published in Economics: Harvard Faculty and Colleagues Share their Advice

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    Best Online Ph.D. Programs in Organizational Psychology. Liberty University. The Chicago School at Los Angeles. Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale. Adler University. 1.

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