PhD in Economics Vs. MBA

Apr 16, 2019

Some of the greatest differences between a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Economics and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) are the scope and depth of subject material, length of program, and available program formats. Here we discuss these differences and other program requirements for each degree in more detail.

Comparing a PhD in Economics to an MBA

PhD in Economics

PhD in Economics degree programs are fairly common on-campus, full-time programs that may require a minimum of around 64 credits and take between 4 and 6 years to complete. Some of these degree programs may allow students to earn a Master of Arts in the field while working towards the doctorate and typically require students to choose from various fields of study, such as game theory, finance, labor economics, or econometrics, to focus their research and coursework. Doctoral students are usually required to maintain a particular GPA throughout the program, complete comprehensive exams and a dissertation, attend seminars, and/or fulfill the responsibilities of a teaching assistantship. Coursework in these programs is fairly flexible as students can take courses in their specific fields of study and interest, but may include topics in statistics, econometrics, microeconomics, and macroeconomics. Graduates of PhD programs in economics may pursue research-based careers in the field.


MBA degree programs are very common, may require around 36 credits to complete, and take as little as 15 months to complete. These degree programs are often available in flexible formats, such as part-time and/or online, may require a capstone experience, and/or may include various hands-on learning experiences, like global immersions. Typically these degree programs provide a wide range of available concentration areas within business, including finance, marketing, accounting, entrepreneurship, or economics. Students take core business courses in many of these areas, as well as specialized courses in their given concentration, such as courses like econometrics, micro/macroeconomics, and the global economy for students in an economics concentration. Graduates of MBA programs are prepared to work in leadership and managerial positions in various areas of business, such as consulting, banking, marketing, or finance, with job titles like financial analyst, market research consultant, or entrepreneur.

Common Entrance Requirements

Admission to either a PhD in Economics or an MBA program can be competitive and students must have at least a bachelor's degree. Students applying to the PhD program typically need to have GRE scores, while many MBA programs will accept the GRE or GMAT exams, but some MBA programs may not require the exams at all. Some PhD in Economics programs may also require applicants to have prior coursework or knowledge in areas like calculus, algebra, and economics theory. Applicants to either program usually need to include their transcripts, letter(s) of recommendation, and personal statement/essay responses. PhD in Economics programs may also require an interview process, while MBA programs may also like to see a resume and/or any relevant work experience.

Students can earn a PhD in Economics on-campus in 4 to 6 years or pursue an on-campus or online MBA program in various areas of concentration in less than 2 years. Students in the PhD program are also required to complete a dissertation, while MBA students may complete a capstone experience.

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