The American Economic Association Graduate Study in Economics Web Pages

This website addresses questions typical of individuals interested in graduate study of economics. The website provides a centralized location for obtaining objective and comprehensive information about graduate training in economics and about academic and non-academic careers of those with a Master's or Ph.D. in economics.

Graduate Training in Economics

1. Graduate Degrees in Economics

a. Ph.D. Degree. The Ph.D. is the most advanced degree in the field of economics and is generally considered a research degree. Earning a Ph.D. typically involves several years of post-baccalaureate study, including advanced courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, quantitative analysis, and econometrics, followed by courses in the student's field of specialization. The fields of specialization are classified by the Journal of Economic Literature (see AEAWeb and Econlit for a list and description.) Offerings and strengths of faculty by field differ by Ph.D. program. Most programs require students to pass one or more examinations (often called preliminary, qualifying, or core examinations) before they are allowed to continue their Ph.D. studies by taking courses in their fields of specialization. After all coursework is completed, students develop a research plan for a doctoral dissertation. In many Ph.D. programs, the proposed research path is the subject of an oral examination before the research path is approved. The Ph.D. is awarded after successful defense of the doctoral dissertation, usually during a final oral examination.

b. Master's Degree. The Master's degree in economics can be viewed as a terminal degree or as additional preparation (beyond the baccalaureate degree) for more advanced study. In some cases, a Master's degree is routinely awarded after completion of a designated phase of a Ph.D. program. Earning a Master's degree in economics typically involves two years of post-baccalaureate study, generally including courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, quantitative analysis, and econometrics. Terminal Master's degree requirements generally include completion of a Master's thesis.

2. Graduate Programs in Economics

This alphabetical list includes a description of the degrees offered, the location, and the website of each program.

3. Considerations for prospective graduate students in economics

Students from a wide variety of backgrounds earn graduate degrees in economics. This includes economics and non-economics majors, those with and without prior graduate training, and those with and without prior economics employment experience. To decide which program is the best fit, potential students should examine their own qualifications (including their GRE scores, their GPA, and their mathematical preparation) as well as the methodological approach, fields of specialization, predominant ideology, size of program, program culture (cooperative, competitive, etc.), typical time-to-degree, required examinations, financial aid, emphasis on mathematics, job prospects, and location of the programs to which they apply. For those who wish to pursue academic careers, the availability of training in teaching methods during graduate school may also be a consideration.  Some applicants find it useful to contact students at their target programs to find out about current students' perceptions and experiences.  When choosing a program, it is typically not wise to go to a program because of a desire to work with one specific faculty member, since faculty tend to be fairly mobile during their careers.

Tips on Applying to Top Graduate Programs in Economics (from the UC San Diego Department of Economics)
Tips for Applying to PhD Programs in Economics (from the Occidental College Department of Economics)

One criterion admissions committees use to gauge applicant qualifications is the GRE exam. Research by Stock, Finegan, and Siegfried (Stock, Wendy A., T. Aldrich Finegan, and John J. Siegfried. 2006. "Attrition in Economics Ph.D. Programs." American Economic Review, 96 (2), pp. 458-466) reveals that the average GRE quantitative score was 772 (out of a possible 800, which translates to 161 on the most recent GRE quantitative scale), and the average GRE verbal score was 562 (which translates to 157 on the most recent GRE verbal scale) for the entering Ph.D. class of 2002.

Among students in tier 1 schools*, the averages were 785 (163) and 575 (158); among students in tier 2 schools, the averages were 782 (163) and 547 (156); among students in tier 3 schools, the averages were 765 (160) and 573 (158), respectively.

*The National Research Council rankings of economics graduate programs divide programs into tiers. The top three tiers include:

  • Tier 1 (ranked 1-6): Chicago, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford and Yale
  • Tier 2 (ranked 7-15): Columbia, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Pennsylvania, Rochester, California-Berkeley, UCLA, and Wisconsin-Madison
  • Tier 3 (ranked 16-30): Illinois-Urbana, Boston University, Brown, Cornell, Duke, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, New York University, North Carolina, Texas-Austin, Virginia, California-San Diego, University of Washington, and Washington University-St. Louis

4. Suggested Application Timeline

5. Advice on Mathematical Preparation

6. Funding Graduate School

7. Rankings of Graduate programs

There are many sources that rank graduate programs in economics: Graduate Programs Rankings Links

8. Literature about graduate study in economics

Extensive research has been done on graduate study in economics: Research on Graduate Education in Economics

Research related to gender and race in graduate economics education
Research related to foreign students in graduate economics education


Careers in Economics

1. Overview

Individuals with graduate degrees in economics pursue a wide variety of careers, including:

  • Government (e.g., the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Trade Commission, the Centers for Disease Control, the General Accounting Office)
  • Academe (e.g., universities, four-year colleges, community colleges, and technical colleges)
  • Business/Industry (e.g., credit agencies, banks, consulting firms, brokerage firms)
  • International Organizations (e.g., the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund)
  • Research Organizations (e.g., Rand, the National Bureau of Economic Research)

Other Links to Career Information:

2. Compensation

There are several sources of current salary and job market information for economists:

The research literature related to compensation of economists is extensive: Job Market & Salary Literature

3. Job Search Process

The job search process for Ph.D. economists, particularly for fresh graduates seeking academic careers, is remarkably structured. The primary market for new graduates begins in the fall of each year, when job openings are listed in the AEA’s JOE, and continues during the annual job market at the Allied Social Sciences Association meetings, held each January.

At these meetings, academic institutions and other potential employers conduct short (generally under 1 hour) pre-arranged interviews with selected job candidates. These interviews lead to longer follow-up interviews as the candidate list is narrowed. The primary job market generally clears in spring.

There is a large literature related to the job market in economics: Job Market & Salary Literature


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For Graduate Students

Graduate Study in Economics

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Graduate Schools

-- Graduate Program Rankings

Graduate Education Research

-- Gender and Race

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Job Market and Salary

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