Graduate Programs in Economics
If you enjoyed the more technical, mathematical, and econometric aspects of your economics major and did well in these classes, graduate study in economics might be for you. The first year of a PhD program in economics is a very math-based treatment of microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics. At the end of this first year, students must pass qualifying exams to continue in the PhD program. After that, they’ll spend the next 1-2 years training in their chosen fields of specialty and take an additional 1-2 years to complete an original research project, known as the dissertation. Thus, a motivated student can complete the PhD in four years, but it usually takes around five years. PhDs go on to become economists/analysts for government agencies and private industry or work as economics professors.
Ph.D. programs do not require a master’s degree for enrollment and many students enroll directly into a Ph.D. program after completing a bachelor’s degree. However, some universities (such as the UO) do offer a separate Master’s program in economics. Students with master’s degrees can go on to work as economists/analysts in government and private industry at a more advanced level than that those with bachelor’s degrees.
Recommended Preparation Courses
Graduate programs assume a high level of mathematical skills. At a bare minimum, students should complete a full year of calculus in the more-rigorous Math 251, 252 and 253 sequence. Some of the top economics graduate programs require students to complete linear algebra (Math 341 and 342). Other mathematics courses that are helpful for graduate economics programs are:
- MATH 256 — Introduction to Differential Equations
- MATH 281, 282 — Several-Variable Calculus
- MATH 315 — Elementary Analysis
- MATH 461, 462 — Mathematical Methods of Statistics
In addition, you can take the following advanced classes in economic theory and econometrics to better prepare yourself for graduate studies in economics:
- EC 411 — Advanced Microeconomic Theory
- EC 413 — Advanced Macroeconomic Theory
- EC 423, 424 & 425 — Advanced Econometric Sequence
In the fall before you apply, you should be taking the GRE and asking professors to write letters of recommendation for you. The GRE has three parts, and most economics graduate programs place the most weight on your scores in the quantitative and analytical sections of the GRE. Allmost no graduate economics programs require the subject test. So don’t take it unless a school you are applying to requires it.
Unlike professional schools, such as MBA and law programs, many economics graduate programs offer teaching and research assistantships, or fellowships, that cover most of the cost of attending the school, as well as a small amount toward living expenses. An additional form or an essay may be required to apply for funding.
Picking the Right Economics Program
Deciding which graduate program is right for you is easier if you know the field of interest you will want to pursue in graduate school. Programs can vary significantly in the faculty and resources they devote to various fields. The following link provide directories of economics departments’ web pages to help you in your research.
Rankings of various programs are important if you’re interested in landing a job in a highly-ranked academic position upon graduation. It may be a less important if you’re interested in careers in private industry or government. The top ten programs are enrolling students with at least a 3.5 GPA in challenging math and economics courses and near-perfect GRE scores in the quantitative and analytical sections. Good economics programs require a minimum of a 3.0 GPA in challenging math and economics courses with a minimum of 75-80th percentile in GRE quantitative and analytical sections. See the latest rankings here.