Overview of graduate programs
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 degrees in economics
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. 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.
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.
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. Keep in mind that faculty tend to be fairly mobile throughout their careers, so it may be risky to choose a program out of a desire to work with one specific faculty member.
Further reading for students considering graduate study in economics
- 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
- BYU provides a guide for undergraduates preparing for graduate work in economics
- Handbook for preparing for grad school in economics
- So, you want to go to grad school in Economics? A practical guide of the first years (for outsiders) from insiders
- The summer 2014 CSWEP newsletter includes a guide for Getting Into and Finishing a PhD Program