Graduate degrees in economics

There are several types of graduate degrees in economics, including the PhD, Master's, and joint degrees that combine graduate study in economics with study in other disciplines. 

PhD Degree

The PhD is the most advanced degree in the field of economics and is generally considered a research degree. Earning a PhD 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 PhD 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 PhD 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 PhD programs the proposed research path is the subject of an oral examination before the research path is approved. The PhD is awarded after successful defense of the doctoral dissertation, usually during a final oral examination. The median time to earn a PhD in economics is five to six years. This generally includes two years of coursework and the remaining time spent researching and writing a dissertation.

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 PhD 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.

Joint Degree Programs

An increasing number of universities offer joint PhD degrees in economics and other fields. The most common of these are joint PhD/JD degrees and joint PhDs in Economics and Finance. Some schools also offer joint PhD degrees in Economics and Public Policy, in Economics and Statistics, and in Economics and Applied Mathematics. There are also many joint Master's degree programs that combine economics with other disciplines. There is substantial variation in the time it takes to earn a joint degree. Most joint PhD programs require students to meet the degree requirements for both of their disciplinary choices.