Pros & Cons of a PhD in Economics

Oct 17, 2018

Individuals who enter a PhD program in economics can concentrate their studies in areas like applied microeconomics, economic development, and economic theory. We'll take a look at some of the positives and negatives of earning a PhD, potential career options, and general graduation requirements.

Pros of a PhD in Economics

Having a good chance at employment after graduation is just one of the positives to earning a PhD in Economics. Some of these positives include:

A Degree That's in Demand

Students who earn an economics PhD have the ability to secure jobs in not just research and academia but in business and finance as well. Their deep understanding of the factors that affect various economic systems will also make them ideal candidates for jobs within government. In fact, job candidates with an economics PhD are preferred by government think tanks.

High Earning Potential

All of the extra effort that goes into earning a PhD won't go unrewarded, as individuals with such a degree can earn much higher salaries than those who do not because they will have the educational background and experience necessary to obtain high end positions in management. Here's a look at a few potential career options for those who have earned a PhD in Economics.

Job Title Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Postsecondary Economics Teachers $98,350 11%
Financial Managers $125,080 19%
Economists $102,490 6%
Mathematicians and Statisticians $84,760 33%
Urban and Regional Planners $71,490 13%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Fast Track to Research and Academics

While the job market is very receptive to applicants who have earned a PhD in Economics, within the area of research and academics the level of competition for full-time positions with tenure is sky high. An economics PhD qualifies graduates to teach at any traditional college or university, and thanks to teaching assistantships, graduates already have teaching experience. PhD holders can use this experience, along with their ability to conduct independent research, to increase their chances of moving up the ranks toward tenure.

Cons of a PhD in Economics

Though a PhD in Economics certainly has its benefits, there are some drawbacks as well. Below you will find information on some of the negatives associated with such a degree.

Many Years of Study at High Risk

A bachelor's or master's degree program gives you a little bit more flexibility in terms of what grades you must earn to continue on with your studies. When it comes to a PhD in economics, however, things get much more difficult. While programs can vary on the requirements for their graduate students, many dictate that students must maintain a B+ average throughout their coursework. This means that you could be halfway through your program and receive a grade that would cause you to be removed.

Strong Competition

Many PhD programs in economics have a lot of competition for admission due to limited space. This means that your undergraduate program and the university where you earned your degree are equally important. Both of these aspects play a part in determining which doctoral programs will accept you in the long run. Additionally, students will need to have achieved a GPA of 3.5 or better in their respective bachelor's or master's programs.

All About the Numbers

Economics PhD programs are theoretical in nature and math intensive. Prerequisites can include coursework in such areas as univariate and multivariate calculus, game theory, and systems analysis, and the PhD curriculum itself could include several courses in statistics, econometrics, calculus, and advanced mathematics. For students who don't excel in these areas, the bad news is that an economics doctorate might not be for them.

Out of the Workforce

One of the major drawbacks of a PhD program in economics is the time it takes to complete. Applicants with a bachelor's or master's might not have the degree level required for some jobs in the field of research and academics, but they will spend more time in the workforce if they opt not to continue their education. Recent PhD graduates will not only have lost out on work experience, but potential earnings as well. This is because there is little time outside of teaching and research to pursue gainful employment while earning a PhD.

PhD in Economics Graduation Requirements

The amount of time required to earn a PhD in Economics is dependent upon the degree that a student starts with and his or her respective degree program's requirements for graduation. Students who enter a program with a bachelor's degree will need to engage in seventy or more credit hours' worth of coursework, while those who are starting from their master's will only need around fifty. Students should expect their degree program to take four to six years to complete.

Individuals who wish to pursue a PhD in Economics will have to take several courses in mathematics and spend many years out of the workforce to do so. In return, they will have gained a degree that increases their earning potential while giving them added job security.

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