Is a PhD in Economics Worth It?

May 31, 2020

Through obtaining a Doctorate in Economics, individuals will gain a deeper understanding of all economic systems and be able to provide in-depth analysis and detailed models to their prospective employers. Below are five career paths that those with a PhD tend to pursue upon graduation.

PhD in Economics Jobs/Salary

Those who acquire a PhD in Economics will be able to analyze various monetary data and be able to help governments and corporations make sound decisions related to their budget, as well as, aid them in improving various programs. Having taken courses in economic theory and in micro and macroeconomics, recent graduates will be able to seek out and test solutions to real-world problems and make swift adjustments when necessary. They can educate fellow employees and managers on different economic factors and develop systems to ensure that the most cost-effective choices are being made. To give you a better idea of what kinds of jobs you can get with a PhD in Economics there is a table below with five potential careers along with their job growth and median salary information.

Job Title Median Salary (2019)* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Economists $105,020 8%
Mathematicians and Statisticians $105,030 (Mathematicians), $91,160 (Statisticians) 30%
Urban and Regional Planners $74,350 11%
Financial Managers $129,890 16%
Postsecondary Economics Teachers $104,370 8%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

PhD in Economics Careers


Economists spend part of their time studying how society uses natural and man-made resources to provide goods and services. They then use this information to guide government agencies, private firms or corporations toward financial policies. In addition, they use the economic data that they collect to generate models and reports which they then present to their employer. Through studying about financial markets and statistical analysis in obtaining their degree, those with a doctorate will have the experience necessary to complete such tasks effectively.

Mathematicians and Statisticians

Mathematicians and Statisticians solve real-world problems and answer questions by analyzing mathematical data. Oftentimes, these individuals come up with their own data collection methods and alter them when necessary to ensure that they meet quality control standards. Having already been educated in mathematical theories and data collection techniques, recent graduates will have a deep understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each method and be able to interpret information accordingly.

Urban and Regional Planners

Individuals who seek jobs as urban and regional planners will be tasked with meeting with developers, public officials, and the public in regards to project developments. In addition, they will also make recommendations about how to allocate funds within projects or programs and make sure that both are in compliance with state and federal rules and regulations. These same individuals use their educational background in economics to identify potential cost-saving measures and create forecasts which detail what the economic climate in an area might look like in the future. Furthermore, they help to enforce policies as it relates to land use on a given project.

Financial Managers

Financial Managers create departmental budgets and actively monitor their progress and make changes when necessary to ensure that they continue to be in line with the preassigned budget. They actively work with department heads and staff to gain a better understanding of how funds are being allocated in an effort to make certain that they stay within their spending limits. Additionally, they help to reduce expenses and aid in the improvement of department efficiency across the board. Those with a doctorate in economics will be ideal for this position and have the education necessary to remain competitive in an ever-changing marketplace.

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers seek out students to recruit to their graduate programs and provide academic guidance. Through completing a graduate program of their own, professors who have secured a PhD in Economics will be able to guide individuals toward the right set of coursework and teach them effective study and research skills. They will work directly with fellow faculty to create programs which actively reflect the changing demands of the field of study and develop easy to read course outlines for their students. In addition, these individuals actively monitor their students' progress and give them advice on the ways in which they can achieve their educational goals.

Admission and Graduation Requirements

The average time to complete a PhD in Economics is five years and according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average tuition fee at public universities is $11,303 and $23,919 at private ones during the 2015-2016 school year. During the completion of their degree, students will typically take courses in mathematical economic analysis, microeconomic analysis, financial economics and macroeconomics. They are typically required to have maintained a 3.5 GPA within their Bachelor's or Master's degree and have completed one full year of calculus courses. In addition, those seeking admittance into graduate programs generally have a score of 165 in the GRE and have three to five letters of recommendation. Those with a Master's can expect to have to take around 50 credits to graduate whereas those with a Bachelor's will have to take up to 70 credits or more on average.

With one of the lowest unemployment rates among graduate students, those with a PhD in Economics will have a good chance of remaining in the workforce well into the future. They will learn the complexities of all financial systems and be an ideal candidate for both education and managerial positions.

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