PhD in Economics Program Information

Sep 11, 2019

A Ph.D. program in economics can take 4-5 years to complete, and this does not include the undergraduate work that is required first. However, this is a useful degree if you want to get a career teaching or formally researching economic subjects.

Essential Information

A Ph.D. program in economics focuses on advanced economic theory and requires the preparation and defense of a dissertation. Research is a key component of an economics Ph.D. program, and applicants may want to have an idea of what they would like to research before applying to the program. Jobs in research and academia are available to graduates with a Ph.D.

Career Titles Economists Postsecondary Economics Teachers
Education Requirements A master's degree or a Ph.D. in economics A Ph.D. in economics
Projected Job Growth (2018 - 2028) 8%* 10% to 14%**
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $104,340 $104,480

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O'Net Online

Career Options

Economists can find work in both the public and private sector, performing work ranging from market research to financial analysis. Economists with a Ph.D. may also become university professors.


An economist researches and interprets trends related to goods, services and resources. They provide advice on economics to businesses and individuals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment for economists would increase by 8% between 2018 and 2028 ( Median annual salaries for economists were $104,340 as of May 2018.

Postsecondary Economics Teachers

These professionals teach economics courses at colleges and universities, but they may also conduct economics-related research. Postsecondary economics teachers earned a median income of $101,480 annually, as of 2018. According to O'Net Online, employment of these specialists was expected to expand at a rate of 10% to 14% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than average.

Program Information for a Ph.D. in Economics

While Ph.D. programs in economics may vary in structure from school to school, most include two years of core courses in general and specialized areas, including microeconomics, econometrics and applied theories. During their second year, most students will have to pass a 1-hour oral exam in order to continue the program. The examination is designed to test a student's knowledge of key concepts in economics and his or her chosen concentrations. Students may also have to draft a dissertation research proposal.

Once the proposal is approved and the oral exam passed, the final years of enrollment are dedicated towards the research, writing and defense of a dissertation. In total, these programs can take 4-5 years to complete.

Admissions Requirements

Although an undergraduate degree or a master's degree in economics may be helpful for admission, most programs only require prospective students to have completed a year or more of college-level economics. Additionally, many programs require applicants to have completed several semesters of calculus. While not required, some programs also recommend that students complete courses in statistical analysis before applying.

In addition, most programs require applicants to submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and letters of recommendation. Many economics departments require that prospective candidates also provide a statement of purpose. The statement should outline the student's goals and also indicate possible research areas, like international economics or income distribution.

Postsecondary economics teachers and economists are two careers in which a Ph.D. in Economics is helpful. Both of these careers have many options in where to find employment. To enter into a Ph.D. program, a student must prepare first with an undergraduate or master's degree in economics, as well as exam scores and letters of recommendation.

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