Skip to Content

Grad School in Economics

If you are considering a PhD in Economics . . .

Admission to PhD programs in economics is very competitive. An economics PhD admissions committee will typically consider five factors in determining which applicants to accept:

  1. Math/Statistics Courses - The level of mathematical sophistication increases significantly when going from an undergrad economics major to an economics PhD program. Therefore, schools will look to make sure that you are comfortable with math. The best way for you to signal that you are comfortable with the mathematics that are needed for an economics PhD program is to do well in a large number of math courses (see list of recommended courses below).
  2. GRE - When applying to an economics PhD program, you will need to take the GRE. To get accepted at the top schools, it is important that you receive a high score on the quantitative reasoning section of the GRE. Students at top schools regularly score in the 95th percentile on the quantitative section of the GRE.
  3. GPA - Your GPA is an important determinant of what schools you will be able to get into. Even if your overall GPA isn't the best, you can still be successful if you have a high GPA in economics and math courses, as well as if you have shown an improvement in your GPA as you have progressed through school.
  4. Letters of Recommendation - Most applications for economics PhD require three letters of recommendation. It is important that you make sure that several professors know you so that they can write a letter for you.
  5. Research - Another thing that graduate schools will look for is some research experience. This could include helping a professor with their research as well as writing a senior honors thesis.

Recommended Courses

Below is a list of courses that are recommended if you are thinking about applying to an economics PhD program. The courses are divided into three tiers:

Tier 1 is the minimum recommended amount of math and stats courses needed if you are considering applying to an economics PhD program. Students with very little flexibility in their course schedule should prioritize these courses:

MA 26100 - Multivariate Calculus
MA 26500 - Linear Algebra
MA 30100 - An Introduction To Proof Through Real Analysis
STAT 41600 - Probability

Tier 2 is a step up in difficulty from the first tier and is recommended if you want to apply to the top economics PhD programs. Tier 2 is for motivated students who recognize early that they want to get a PhD in economics. Students should select the Economics Honors major with a minor in Mathematics or double major in Mathematics and Economics Honors.

MA 26100 - Multivariate Calculus
MA 30100 - An Introduction To Proof Through Real Analysis
MA 34100 - Foundations of Analysis
MA 35100 - Elementary Linear Algebra (replaces MA 26500)
MA 35300 - Linear Algebra II With Applications
MA 36600 - Ordinary Differential Equations
STAT 51100 - Statistical Methods (replaces STAT35000)
STAT 51600 - Basic Probability and Applications (replaces STAT 41600)
ECON 51100 - Microeconomics (replaces ECON 34000)
ECON 51200 - Macroeconomics (replaces ECON 35200)
ECON 56200 - Econometrics (replaces ECON 36000)

Tier 3 is only recommended to the most highly motivated students. Those students know that they want to apply to a PhD program very early, and want to get into the very best economics PhD programs. Disclaimer: It is important to remember that while getting a good grade in these courses is one of the best signals you can send to a graduate program, these courses will be very difficult.

MA 26100 - Multivariate Calculus
MA 36600 - Ordinary Differential Equations
MA 44000 - Honors Real Analysis (replaces MA 34100)
MA 51100 - Elementary Linear Algebra (replaces MA 35300)
MA 51600 - Advanced Probability and Options with Numerical Methods
MA 52100 - Introduction to Optimization Problems
STAT 51100 - Statistical Methods (replaces STAT35000)
STAT 51600 - Basic Probability and Applications (replaces STAT 41600)
STAT 52000 - Time Series and Applications
ECON 51100 - Microeconomics (replaces ECON 34000)
ECON 51200 - Macroeconomics (replaces ECON 35200)
ECON 56200 - Econometrics I (replaces ECON 36000)
ECON 60600 - Micro Theory I
ECON 60700 - Micro Theory II