Advice on Mathematical Preparation

Although economics graduate programs have varying admissions requirements, graduate training in economics is highly mathematical. According to Lee Hansen's (1991) report, "The Education and Training of Economics Doctorates: Major Findings of the American Economic Association's Commission on Graduate Education in Economics," when presented with the following five levels of mathematics

  1. high school mathematics only
  2. basic calculus and linear algebra
  3. applied mathematics, differential equations, linear programming, and basic probability theory
  4. advanced calculus, advanced algebra and stochastic processes
  5. real and complex analysis, advanced probability theory, and topology,

economics Ph.D. students at the time reported that the level of mathematics used in their various graduate courses was slightly above level 3 ( p.22). There has been an upward trend in the level of mathematics used in graduate courses since that time. For example, the website suggests that:

"Two or three terms of calculus, and often linear algebra, are deemed minimum preparation; similarly a semester of mathematical statistics. First-year graduate courses draw heavily on real analysis. Background in real analysis is highly valued and indeed almost expected of a strong applicant. Real analysis is usually the first "rigorous" mathematics course, where you have to work through all proofs and write some yourself. The course is supremely effective preparation for initial graduate courses."

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