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Why does everyone say that Econ PhD's are worth it only for acadamia? I'm seeing lots of private sector jobs

So I'm at a crossroads right now and I don't know whether I should pursue an econ PhD. Everyone keeps saying that you it's only worth it if you go into academia however I'm looking at the AEA job posting site here:

https://www.aeaweb.org/joe/listings ?

And I'm seeing tons of private sector jobs. Huge companies like Uber and Apple and big banks all have economist openings. The salaries on Glassdoor are pretty good to, average of $120k or so. Am I missing something here? Are these jobs mostly reserved for PhD's that come from high ranking institutions or is it for everyone?

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Economics Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Economics

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Economics Jobs by Salary

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Gender breakdown for doctor of philosophy (phd), economics, job satisfaction, popular companies for doctor of philosophy (phd), economics degree s.

Pay ranges for people with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Economics degree by employer.

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  • Resources for Students
  • Careers in economics

Career earnings

What economists can expect to earn in different fields.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook (online in 2023) reports annual wages for economists. For economists of all educational levels, the median earnings in 2023 were $115,730 with $62,520 at the tenth percentile and $216,900 at the 90th percentile.

Median Annual Wages for Economists in May 2023 in the Top Five Industries Employing Economists (from the Occupation Outlook Handbook )

Scientific research and development services $140,940
Federal government, excluding postal service $135,200
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services $110,120
Local government, excluding education and hospitals $91,980
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals $74,900

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook , Economists. (Visited May 23, 2024).

Payscale.com reports its survey of people with Baccalaureate degrees (and no more) who are employed full time, showing starting salaries (typically with two-years of experience) and mid-career annual earnings.  Here are selected occupations for the 2023 report.

Petroleum Engineering $97,500 $212,500
Operations Research & Industrial Engineering $98,300 $191,800
Interaction Design $74,700 $173,600
Building Science $69,000 $163,100
Actuarial Mathematics $70,700 $160,000
Operations Research $92,200 $160,000
Systems Engineering $87,000 $159,100
Optical Science & Engineering $79,600 $158,300
Information & Computer Science $76,000 $157,800

Source: Majors That Pay You Back, Payscale.com

The economics profession

Preparing for graduate school.

PhD in Economics Salary

PhD in Economics Salary

Having PhD in economics offers some of the highest starting salaries of any field in the United States. In fact, a PhD in economics has the best starting salary of any non-STEM field, comparable to computer science or engineering.

We took a closer look at PhD in economics salaries, and here’s what we found:

  • Early Career - $102,000 / year
  • Mid Career - $134,000 / year
  • Experienced - $150,000 / year

One problem is that PhD in economics salaries have high variance. Private industry jobs (e.g. economists working in data science) tend to have significantly higher wages than economists working in academia or the non-profit sector.

For example, PhDs in economics working in data science earn $114,000 / year on average, about 13% more than the annual average for all economics PhDs.

PhD in Economics: Salary by Job Title

Private sector jobs for economics PhDs have increased rapidly. Amazon, for example, has a Central Economics Team , which specifically hires economists to develop models to answer some of the business questions for the company.

Since most PhDs in economics tend to enter at mid- or senior-level positions, salaries tend to increase exponentially. Overall, the average yearly salary for senior economists in the U.S. is $150,000. FAANG companies tend to pay a premium for senior-level economists.

Salaries for senior economists at FAANG companies:

  • Google: Up to $219,000 / year
  • Amazon: Up to $171,000 / year + additional compensation of $140,000+

PhD in Economics Salary vs Other Fields

A PhD in economics salary equates to one of the top mid-career salaries in any field of study. It’s currently ranked #5, with an average mid-career salary of $134,000, behind only computer engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, and biomedical engineering:

Phd in Economics Salary vs Other Fields graph

Salaries for PhD in economics rank higher than computer science ($131,000) and physics ($130,000).

PhD in Economics for Data Science

A PhD in economics has many practical applications in data science, and it remains one of the top fields of study among data scientists. According to the Burtch Works 2021 Salary survey, 6% of surveyed data scientists held an advanced degree in economics:

Area of Study

Similarly, the majority of FAANG companies, fintech, and consulting firms hire PhDs. Therefore, if you want to pursue a career in tech, a PhD in economics offers a path into top companies.

Economics PhDs typically enter data science and earn mid- to senior-level data science salaries .

Is a PhD in Economics Worth It?

Ultimately, pursuing a PhD requires a lot of time, about 5-7 years on average. During this time, working as a teaching assistant may only net you up to $30,000 / year. As such, delayed earnings may outweigh any potential salary increases down the line.

However, if you have a passion for economics and research, you might consider a PhD in economics if you:

  • Have strong math skills and enjoy building models
  • Can study for 50-80 hours per week
  • Enjoy conducting research
  • Are a strong self-starter and can thrive in a self-directed environment

Starting a PhD program is all about commitment. If you have the time and resources to invest and want to spend 5-7 years researching, then a PhD in economics may be a good option for you.

If your goal is a career in data science, economics is a great subject area, but you might also consider a PhD in statistics or a PhD in data science (which is becoming increasingly common).

PhD in Economics: Advice

We talked with an economics PhD candidate to learn more about PhD programs, tips for students, and how to know if you should pursue a PhD in economics. If you want to know if a PhD in economics is worth it, ask yourself these questions:

Are you interested in research?

PhD candidates conduct research and gain valuable experience in experiment design. This is becoming an increasingly desired skill in private industry, as more and more tech companies seek to measure complex processes and user experiences. If economics research excites you, you should consider a PhD program.

If not, you might consider a master’s in economics. If you’re interested in a data science career, use your electives to focus on programming and statistics, in addition to core courses in micro and macroeconomics. An applied economics program is another great option for this path.

Not sure if you’re interested in research?

Economics PhD programs typically start with actual courses, followed by a research training component. Then, you’ll conduct your own research and write a dissertation, with this final research period lasting 1-3 years.

Visit our salary page if you’re interested in learning more about various data science roles and their respective pay. Check out our blog for more insights and amazing content that you may find worthwhile.

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phd economist salary

  • INOMICS Salary Report

Which economists are paid the most, and where?

Read a summary or generate practice questions using the INOMICS AI tool

The following article first appeared in the INOMICS Handbook 2023.

Download the INOMICS Handbook

Around the world, economists are paid well compared to other occupations. This may not be a surprise, but how much economists are paid, how different employers compare in terms of pay, and other factors (such as “is an economics PhD worth the pay increase?”) may be less clear to burgeoning economists.

This article will shed some light on these questions and more using our data from the 2022 INOMICS Salary Report . Read on to learn more about which employers pay economists the most, regional differences in economist salaries, and more.

This article will discuss both academic and non-academic (or “industry”) economists. If you’re curious about the differences between these two general types of economists, you should read our article written by an economist who has worked in both spheres, “ Policy or academic economist: which should I become? ”.

Regardless of an economists’ chosen path, how much can one expect to earn, and which economists earn the most?

An Overview of Economist Salaries Globally

As mentioned above, many organizations value the specialized skills that economists bring to the table. The below graph constructed from our 2022 Salary Report data shows how average economist pay varies by these different types of employer around the world:

phd economist salary

Figure 1: Regional average salaries by employer type (USD, PPP-adjusted, thousands)

Figure 1 shows average economist salaries by each type of employer in different regions around the world (note that a handful of series are excluded due to sample size issues, i.e. NGO in East Asia & Australasia). Two things stand out from this figure. First, average pay in North America is very high, while average pay in Western Europe & Scandinavia and East Asia & Australasia are the next highest on average. The other regions of the world are more comparable with each other (we will explore each region individually later on in the article).

Second, central banks appear to pay economists the most on average. Readers might be interested in the very high central bank salaries in East Asia & Australasia; the entire sample of central bank economists from the region in our survey are located in Hong Kong, which is a high-paying city in its part of the world. Private businesses and governments also pay quite well in general, with the exception that government pay in North America appears to be lower than other options there. Meanwhile, research institutions and NGOs appear to pay the least, though the difference is not stark.

While this graph is interesting, one important detail is left out that can skew the results. More educated economists are paid more highly, so the proportion of PhD-holding economists in each role should be accounted for as well to get an even more accurate picture of economist pay.

Salary Breakdown by Type of Employer and Level of Education

Some employers, like central banks, are more likely to require an economics PhD. Thus, on average these employers offer higher salaries for their highly educated workforce. On this basis, it is useful to differentiate between the level of education when comparing salaries offered by different types of employers. This breakdown can be seen for each region in the following Figures 2 – 9.

Note that our survey data lacks a sufficient sample size of Bachelor’s degree respondents to subdivide Bachelor’s economists by employer type. This is partially because most economists attain at least a Master’s degree; it is rare, though not impossible, for an economist to develop their career with only a Bachelor’s degree.

These salaries are presented in thousands of USD, and were converted using purchasing power parity data taken from the World Bank 1 (PPP conversion accurate as of January 20, 2023).

phd economist salary

Figure 2: Average salary by position and degree in North America (USD, PPP-adjusted, thousands)

In North America, a PhD in economics has a clear payoff in terms of salary, especially for university and private business positions. Government, NGO, and research institution roles pay less of a premium for PhDs, but even these still pay roughly 35-40% higher salaries to PhDs than for Master’s degree holders. The lowest pay gap is at central banks, but these institutions tend to hire only accomplished economists with many years of experience. Getting a job at a central bank with only a Master’s degree likely requires extensive years of experience that early-career economists don’t have.

phd economist salary

Figure 3: Average salary by position and degree in Western Europe and Scandinavia (USD, PPP-adjusted, thousands)

In Western Europe and Scandinavia, a PhD in economics also has a clear payoff in terms of salary for university, research institution, and private business positions. However, other roles feature less pronounced differences. Economists who wish to work in government or in an NGO in Western Europe ought to examine the local conditions and the payoff of a PhD in their country and subdiscipline to assess if it’s worth it. Central banks also do not appear to pay a premium for PhD economists in this region, but again these institutions tend to hire economists with many years of experience, so getting a job at one with only a Master’s degree as an early-career economist might be difficult.

phd economist salary

Figure 4: Average salary by position and degree in East Asia & Australasia (USD, PPP-adjusted, thousands)

In East Asia and Australasia, economists with a PhD enjoy a significant pay increase in university, research institution, and private business positions. Central banks once again pay the most for economists in this region, though no central bankers with a Master’s degree responded to the survey in this region, perhaps suggesting that central banks are less likely to hire economists without a PhD in East Asian / Australasian countries. In this region, a PhD appears to be well worth the investment of time and effort. NGO or charity and government roles are not included due to small sample size.

phd economist salary

Figure 5: Average salary by position and degree in Central, Southern & Eastern Europe (USD, PPP-adjusted, thousands)

In Central, Southern and Eastern Europe, starting a career as an economist with only a Master’s degree is feasible, but a PhD is an excellent investment in terms of salary. Almost every employer type in this region pays a premium for an economics PhD. An interesting exception are central banks, which actually feature higher average pay for economists with a Master’s degree. Again, it’s important to note that getting a job at a central bank usually requires years of experience and demonstrated expertise; it’s possible that central banks in this region do not emphasize a PhD as strongly as extensive work experience when recruiting economists. NGO and charity roles are excluded due to small sample size.

phd economist salary

Figure 6: Average salary by position and degree in South Asia (USD, PPP-adjusted, thousands)

In South Asia, universities and private businesses pay a (relative) premium for economists with a PhD. Economists in these roles stand to gain much from pursuing a PhD. Meanwhile, Research institution pay is about equal for economists with a Master’s or a PhD. A large amount of highly-paid, Master’s degree-holding economists in NGO and charity roles work in this region. In fact, the highest paid role in these regions appear to be for those types of economists. This could be due to foreign investment or aid programs, which typically spend money on projects that industry economists – not academic ones – would manage, or other factors. Central bank roles are not reported here due to small sample size.

phd economist salary

Figure 7: Average salary by position and degree in Caribbean, South & Central America (USD, PPP-adjusted, thousands)

In the Caribbean, South America, and Central America, a PhD in economics appears to be a worthwhile investment. Almost every position pays a premium for an economist with a PhD in this region; those at private businesses and NGOs or charities stand to gain the most from attaining a PhD. One exception is government roles, where economists with a Master’s degree slightly out-earn PhD economists on average.

phd economist salary

Figure 8: Average salary by position and degree in Middle East, Central Asia & North Africa (USD, PPP-adjusted, thousands)

The Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa is similar to the Caribbean, Central and South America region. Here too, a PhD in economics pays off very well. Every employer except for NGOs pay a premium for an economist with a PhD in this region. The highest earners appear to be PhD economists in universities and in government, alongside Master’s degree holders in NGOs. But, in this region NGO pay is very high. Like with South Asia, it’s possible this is due to foreign aid or investment being sent for projects or investments that are closely related to industry economists’ jobs, which in general may not require as much education as academic economist roles.

phd economist salary

Figure 9: Average salary by position and degree in Africa (USD, PPP-adjusted, thousands)

Africa is a unique region when it comes to economist pay. Pay in government and for private companies follows a similar pattern as other regions, where a PhD in economics grants a sizeable increase in pay. Universities still follow this pattern, though pay at universities in African countries typically appears lower compared to other economist jobs in Africa relative to the rest of the world. Besides this, economists with a Master’s degree earn decent pay in other roles. Unless one wishes to work for the government or a private organization in Africa, a Master’s degree in economics might be sufficient.

The most highly paid academic economists out-earn most industry economists

It may appear from these graphs that academic economists earn less money than their counterparts in industry. While the value of a PhD is clear in certain cases, like with high private company pay, it might not be clear whether it’s worth it pay-wise to enter academia.

However, these averages by employer type mask one important fact: professors of economics earn much more money than non-professor-level economists employed at universities. In fact, professors of economics earn salaries that are comparable to the highest earners in industry. This can be seen below in Figure 10:

phd economist salary

Figure 10: Average salaries for economist jobs globally (USD, thousands, PPP-adjusted)

Figure 10 shows that industry positions pay more than academic positions on average, but economics professor (and to a lesser extent, associate professor) salaries are comparable to high-paying industry positions. Professors of economics on average are only outpaid by executive leadership roles.

Thus, new economics PhDs should not be discouraged from entering academia by somewhat lower salaries shown in the regional breakdowns. Although industry economists will out-earn most academics in junior roles, a full professor of economics salary makes up the difference, only out-earned by executive leadership roles.

Are you curious to learn more about economist salaries? Help INOMICS analyze even more about the state of pay in economics by answering our anonymous Salary Survey . It only takes a couple of minutes and is available here: https://inomics.com/salary-survey . After answering the survey, you’ll have the option to subscribe for early access to the results, published in the fourth quarter of each year.

And if you’re looking to take the next step in your career as an economist, we can help. Check out available courses , jobs , and programs to find the next skill, degree, or job in your path as an economist. No matter your choice of degree or position, economists have much to offer – and their compensation often reflects their valuable skills, and the contributions they make to the economy, and society, around them.

The above article first appeared in the INOMICS Handbook 2023 , which you can download on our site.

Header image credit: wirestock on Freepik.de.

1: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/PA.NUS.PPP.  PPP data originally accessed on January 20, 2023. PPP data may have changed since that date.

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Best Doctorates in Economics: Top PhD Programs, Career Paths, and Salaries

If you’re a graduate student and interested in pursuing an advanced study in the field of economics, you should start researching the best PhDs in Economics. By enrolling in an economics PhD program, you’ll be getting an in-depth education on past and current economic trends.

In this article, we’ll try to help you choose the right PhD in Economics by going over some of the best programs in the United States. We’ll also cover some of the highest-paying economics jobs on the market and provide an overview of the PhD in economics salary possibilities.

Find your bootcamp match

What is a phd in economics.

A PhD in Economics degree is an advanced doctoral degree program that studies the distribution and consumption of goods and services. Economics classes teach students to analyze small-scale and global-scale economic factors to make predictions for future markets.

The main goal of economics departments in PhD programs is to teach students how to help different institutions improve and optimize their economic actions. Through a mix of teaching, research, and a heavy course load, economics grad students will perfect their quantitative skills and learn to make decisions that increase the profitability of the organizations they work for.

How to Get Into an Economics PhD Program: Admission Requirements

The admission requirements to get into an economics PhD program include a bachelor’s degree in a related field and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Other admission requirements can include GRE exam scores, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a resume. Admissions counselors will look at a student’s comprehensive experience before grad school.

Different schools have other specific admission requirements for their economics PhD programs, but all international and English as a second language-speaking (ESL) students will have to submit proof of English proficiency in the form of Test of English as a Second Language (TOEFL) exam scores.

PhD in Economics Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree in a related field
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA
  • GRE test scores (optional for most schools)
  • Two to three letters of recommendation
  • Proof of English proficiency (for ESL and international students)
  • Statement of purpose
  • Previous knowledge in math-intensive subjects, such as economic theory, statistics, mathematics, differential and integral calculus, and linear algebra

Economics PhD Acceptance Rates: How Hard Is It to Get Into a PhD Program in Economics?

It can be very hard to get into economics PhD programs. Economics PhD acceptance rates vary between 2.4 and 7.4 percent. At Johns Hopkins University, for example, only 12 students are selected to enroll in the Economics PhD program out of more than 500 applications.

How to Get Into the Best Universities

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Best PhDs in Economics: In Brief

School Program Online Option
Arizona State University PhD in Economics Yes
Colorado State University PhD in Economics No
Drexel University PhD in Economics No
Johns Hopkins University PhD in Economics No
Kansas State University PhD in Economics No
Oregon State University PhD in Applied Economics No
Syracuse University PhD in Economics No
University of Maryland PhD in Economics (ECON) No
University of Utah PhD in Economics No
West Virginia University PhD in Economics No

Best Universities for Economics PhDs: Where to Get a PhD in Economics

The best universities for PhD economics programs include Arizona State University, John Hopkins University, Syracuse University, and Drexel University. These schools will adequately equip you with the economic knowledge and skills needed to ensure you are ready for a well-paying job in the economics career path of your dreams. Continue reading for all you need to know to prepare for grad school at one of the top Phd in Economics degree programs.

Arizona State University is a public research university founded in 1886. It is considered one of the best institutions for superior education. ASU offers more than 400 graduate degree programs led by experts and has been ranked as the nation’s most innovative university by US News & World Report . 

PhD in Economics

This economics PhD program provides training in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory, applied economics, and econometrics. Classrooms are relatively small, with about 45 graduate students, to facilitate mentoring and provide greater faculty attention within the department of economics. The program prepares students for teaching and research positions in the field of economics. 

PhD in Economics Overview

  • Program Length: 5 years
  • Acceptance Rate: Not stated
  • Tuition: $ 858/credit (in state); $1,361/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, graduate teaching assistantships
  • Bachelor's or master's degree from a regionally accredited institution
  • Minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0
  • Graduate admission application and application fee
  • Official transcripts
  • Three letters of recommendation

Colorado State University was founded in 1870. It is a public land-grant research university and is considered the flagship university of the Colorado State University System. It offers several programs and certificates across many fields and has over 7,000 enrolled graduate students.

This economics doctoral program offers meticulous training and teaches research methods in the many different areas of economics. These math intensive classes include microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, and econometrics. This econ program requires a minimum of 72 credits and allows students to focus on different areas like environmental, international, political, Keynesian, feminist, or regional economics.

  • Tuition: $601.90/credit (in state); $1,475.80/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Graduate assistantships, scholarships, fellowships, internships, grants
  • Online application and application fee
  • Official transcripts of all collegiate work completed post-high school
  • Letters of recommendation

Drexel University was founded in 1891. It is a private research university with over 8,900 enrolled graduate students. Their co-op education program sets this university apart from others, offering students the opportunity to get paid and gain real-world experience prior to graduating.

This PhD in Economics teaches a set of core courses including microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics. Students are then required to specialize and demonstrate math skills in industrial organization, international economics, or macroeconomics. This PhD is an official STEM Designated Degree Program. Each class is composed of three to six doctoral students to optimize and facilitate interactions between students and faculty. 

  • Tuition: $1,342/credit
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Graduate assistantships
  • GRE scores from the past five years
  • Personal statement
  • Two letters of recommendation

Johns Hopkins University is a world-renowned private research university. It was founded in 1876 and is now organized into 10 campuses in Maryland and Washington, with international divisions in Italy and China. The university has over 22,000 graduate students enrolled across its social sciences, engineering, arts, and business schools.

This economics program is led by expert faculty and trains students in applied microeconomics and macroeconomics, economic theory, and econometrics. Students will receive one-on-one attention from faculty, allowing them to conduct better research and strengthen the complex analysis and quantitative skills necessary in the field of econ. 

  • Program Length: 5-6 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 2.4%
  • Tuition: $58,720/year 
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Departmental fellowship (1st year), teaching or research assistantships (2nd to 5th years), Carl Christ Fellowship, Kelly Miller Fellowship, tuition fees funded by the department for enrolled students
  • Unofficial transcripts from all previous colleges and universities
  • GRE scores (quantitative scores of 160 or above)
  • Minimum of two letters of recommendation

Kansas State University was founded in 1863 as the first public institution of higher education in Kansas. KSU is a public land-grant research university and has over 4,500 enrolled graduate students across 73 master's and 43 doctoral degree programs.

This PhD Economics program teaches students about the latest advances in econometrics, economic theory, and computation. The program requires the completion of a minimum of 90 credits, of which 30 are designated to researching and writing a high-quality dissertation.

  • Tuition and Fees: $6,282/year (in state); $12,746/year (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Teaching assistantships, the Wayne Nafziger Graduate Scholarship, the Lloyd and Sally Thomas Graduate Scholarship, and Edward Bagley Graduate Scholarship; tuition fees funded by the department for enrolled students
  • Academic transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate coursework from each institution attended
  • Short statement of objectives for graduate study
  • GRE scores from the past five years (optional but encouraged)

Oregon State University ’s roots can be traced back to 1856 as a public land-grant research university that was founded as a primary and preparatory community school. Today, the university is the largest in Oregon. Oregon State is particularly renowned for its programs in earth, marine, and biological sciences and has over 5,668 enrolled graduate students.

PhD in Applied Economics

The 108-credit Applied Economics PhD degree program teaches students about economic theory, econometrics, development economics, and other quantitative methods. Grad school students of this program will gain the intellectual autonomy needed to examine real-world problems and apply relevant solutions regarding policy, education, trade, and the environment. 

PhD in Applied Economics Overview

  • Program Length: 4-5 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 6.7%
  • Tuition: $498/credit (in state); $1,011/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Graduate assistantship

PhD in Applied Economics Admission Requirements

  • Academic records from each institution attended
  • Letters of reference
  • Statement of objectives

Syracuse University is a private research university founded in 1831 with over 6,800 enrolled graduate students. Syracuse is ranked 59th on US News & World Report’s list of best national universities and features famous alum President Joe Biden. 

The PhD in Economics program at Syracuse University is a research-oriented degree that requires the completion of 72 credits. The program teaches students about mathematical economics, microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, and econometrics. Students will specialize in a primary field in labor, international, public, urban economics, or econometrics. 

  • Acceptance Rate: N/A
  • Tuition: $32,436/year
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: University Fellowships, graduate assistantships, Melvin Eggers Graduate Economics Scholarship for Doctoral Students, David Greytak Fellowship Fund
  • Transcripts from all collegiate and post-collegiate work
  • Three letters of recommendation 

University of Maryland (UMD) at College Park was founded in 1856 and is the flagship campus of the University System of Maryland. UMD is a public, land-grant research university with 10,500 enrolled graduate students in over 230 graduate degree programs.  

PhD in Economics (ECON)

This econ PhD program offers a wide range of specializations to students, including advanced macroeconomics or microeconomics, behavioral and experimental economics, econometrics, economic history, international trade, and public economics. Students who enroll directly after they finish their bachelor’s degree are also able to obtain a Master of Arts degree simultaneously. 

PhD in Economics (ECON) Overview

  • Acceptance Rate: 4.1%
  • Tuition: $1,269/semester (in state); $2,496/semester (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Graduate assistantships, Fellowship in Support of Diversity and Inclusion

PhD in Economics (ECON) Admission Requirements

  • Transcripts from all institutions attended after high school
  • Description of research and work experience
  • GRE exam scores (optional)

University of Utah was established in 1850 as a public research university and is now considered the flagship institution of the Utah System of Higher Education. It currently has over 8,400 enrolled graduate students and offers several programs with financial assistance, academic opportunities, and postdoctoral fellows.

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This economics PhD program allows students to explore many topics, including economic theory, post-Keynesian macroeconomics, Marxian economics, the economics of gender, labor market institutions, and intensive math classes. The program focuses particularly on themes of inequality, globalization, and sustainability. 

  • Acceptance Rate: 7.4%
  • Tuition and Fees: $1,271.79/credit (in state); $4,517.11/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Graduate assistantships (research and teaching), fellowships, scholarships
  • Completion of intermediate microeconomic and macroeconomic theory prerequisite courses 
  • Three academic reference letters
  • Brief statement of personal academic goals

West Virginia University was founded in 1867 as a public land-grant research university. Today, the university enrolls over 5,700 graduate students in more than 350 programs throughout 14 colleges and high-quality schools.

This 45-credit PhD program trains students to conduct original research, produce publishable articles, analyze real-world problems from economists and policymakers, and effectively communicate their results. Doctorate students must choose a specialization in health, international, monetary, public, regional, or urban economics. Classes in economics have a small number of students to facilitate and encourage interaction between students and faculty.

  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Tuition and Fees: $899/credit (in state); $2,053/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Graduate assistantships, Arlen G. and Louise Stone Swiger Doctoral Fellowship, W.E.B. Du Bois Fellowship, Provost Graduate Fellowship
  • Minimum GRE score of, 300
  • Completion of statistics, intermediate micro and macro theory, and calculus prerequisite courses

Can You Get a PhD in Economics Online?

Yes, you can get a PhD in economics online. Liberty University currently offers an online PhD in Public Policy with a concentration in Economic Policy. This program focuses on teaching students how to shape economic policy across legislation, communications, politics, education, and international relations. Grad school students can complete this online program in three years.

Best Online PhD Programs in Economics

School Program Length
Liberty University Online PhD in Public Policy with Concentration in Economic Policy 3 years

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD in Economics?

It takes five years on average to get a PhD in Economics. The first two years are usually spent completing core classes in economics, and by the third year, students prepare for exams in their specialization field of choice. The final two years are for research and writing a dissertation.

Some students are able to complete their PhD program in less time. Others take up to seven years to finish their degrees, especially if they don’t already have a master’s degree in the field, or are taking courses part-time.

Is a PhD in Economics Hard?

Yes, a PhD in Economics is a hard degree to obtain. However, at this level of education, regardless of the area of study you choose, all programs are hard to complete. Doctoral programs are intended for students who wish to become true experts in their field of choice.

Economics PhD programs are hard because extensive research and practical capabilities are required of candidates. Through a heavy course load, econ grad students are expected to work hard to develop their skills to the maximum and create publishable, high-quality work.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a PhD in Economics?

It costs an average of $19,314 per year to get a PhD in Economics , according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This value is an average of the graduate tuition required in all public and private institutions between 2018 and 2019. Tuition rates will vary by school, and private universities are often more expensive than public institutions.

How to Pay for a PhD in Economics: PhD Funding Options

PhD funding options that students can use to pay for a PhD in Economics include research and teaching assistantships, and many different fellowships and scholarships. These can either be provided directly by the university or by independent institutions and organizations.

Some of these include the Provost Graduate Fellowship, the Melvin Eggers Graduate Economics Scholarship for Doctoral Students, and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

Best Online Master’s Degrees

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What Is the Difference Between an Economics Master’s Degree and PhD?

The main difference between an economics master’s degree and a PhD is that master’s degrees are more career-oriented, while PhDs are focused on research. Since many doctorate students wish to pursue academic careers and teach in high-quality schools, they opt for a PhD program that allows them to acquire expert-level knowledge through research and assistant teaching.

Other differences between these two programs include funding options for payment, as master’s degrees don’t have as many funding options as PhD programs do, as well as the time of completion and the difference in salary between economics master’s and PhD graduates.

Master’s vs PhD in Economics Job Outlook

Employment for both economics master’s and PhD graduates is expected to grow in the next 10 years. However, the growth percentage is much higher for certain economics jobs for those with a doctoral degree. For example, employment for budget analysts, a position that requires only a Master’s Degree in Economics, is projected to grow five percent from 2020 to 2030, which is slower than the average growth for all occupations.

On the other hand, employment for postsecondary teachers, who typically need to have a PhD in Economics, is expected to grow 12 percent in the next 10 years .

Difference in Salary for Economics Master’s vs PhD

Considering the differences mentioned above, there’s a significant difference in average salaries for economics master’s and PhD graduates. While a budget analyst makes around $84,240 on average per year, a postsecondary teacher makes $124,090 on average per year.

According to PayScale, the average salary of someone with a Master’s Degree in Economics is $82,000 per year , whereas the average salary of someone with a PhD in Economics is $110,000 per year .

Related Economics Degrees

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Why You Should Get a PhD in Economics

You should get a PhD in Economics because it will allow you to learn many valuable quantitative and analytical skills in the field, improve how you communicate with peers and non-experts alike, learn from a wide variety of specializations, and put you on track for a career in research and academics.

Reasons for Getting a PhD in Economics

  • Wide range of specializations. A PhD in Economics allows you to specialize in an area that interests you most, such as financial, labor, international, political, business, feminist, Keynesian, environmental, or development economics.
  • Improve communication skills. Throughout your economics PhD program, you’ll be required to publish high-quality articles for peer review. This means that you’ll also be expected to learn how to communicate your findings to the common layman.
  • Learn many relevant skills. Econ students learn skills that will allow them to work for several institutions. They’re able to evaluate and calculate risk, make predictions, develop and use mathematical models, and deeply understand market dynamics.
  • Work in academia. Most PhD graduates desire to become professors themselves. A PhD in Economics allows students to work for all kinds of superior institutions and have a fulfilling career in research and academia.

Getting a PhD in Economics: Economics PhD Coursework

A financial advisor sitting in an office and giving finance application tips to a client  taking notes, based on her monetary policy knowledge and econ background

Getting a PhD in Economics begins with core economics PhD coursework. For most programs, these courses include micro and macroeconomics, econometrics, mathematics for economists, and research design and methodology.

Microeconomics

A microeconomics course teaches decision-making when it comes to allocating resources of production, exchange, and consumption. Students learn about consumer and producer theory, general equilibrium theory, game theory, and other key applied microeconomic topics.

Macroeconomics

Macroeconomics is the area of economics that studies the economy as a whole. It accounts for the total goods and services provided, economic growth, and total income and consumption. In this course, students learn about the different macroeconomic models and current trends in macroeconomic thought.

Econometrics

In an econometrics course, students learn about probability and statistics, random variables, and hypothesis-testing procedures. Students will also be able to apply mathematical formulations to create complex economic models.

Mathematics for Economists

This core course is important to review the mathematical techniques required in economics. Students consolidate their knowledge in calculus, matrixes, algebra, differential equations, and set theory.

Research Design and Methodology

This introductory course is fundamental to guide students through conducting relevant research in economics literature for their dissertation, article publications, seminars, and any other papers they’ll need to prepare.

Best Master’s Degrees

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How to Get a PhD in Economics: Doctoral Program Requirements

If you’re wondering how to get a PhD in Economics, the answer is pretty straightforward. To successfully complete an economics PhD program, students will have to complete all of the doctoral program requirements. These include successfully concluding core economics classes, establishing a program of study, passing the qualifying exam and candidacy examination, and defending a final dissertation.

Every PhD student will have to take a common set of core courses during their first year. These courses in micro and macroeconomics, econometrics, and mathematics provide students with basic training for conducting research in their field at advanced levels.

At the end of the first year, students will take their first-year exam to prove their competence in the core course and readiness to continue with the program. Passing these exams will allow students to choose their specialization courses for the second year.

Just before the beginning of the second year, students will work with an advisor to help them figure out the specialization courses best for them. They will also facilitate the process of finding a permanent advisor and creating a program of study for the rest of the degree program.

Candidacy examinations, or field course exams, are tests that prove a student’s knowledge in the specialized fields in which they wish to pursue their dissertation research. Upon passing these examinations, students are then recognized as PhD candidates.

By the end of the fifth year, most students have already completed their research and are ready to present and defend their theses. Students defend their dissertation in a final oral examination. Upon passing the defense, students must submit a final copy of their dissertation.

Potential Careers With an Economics Degree

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PhD in Economics Salary and Job Outlook

Getting a PhD in Economics will grant you career stability and financial security. Career prospects in the economics field are great, as employment in these jobs is projected to grow faster than average. Continue reading for a list of some of the best PhD in Economics jobs available to graduates and an overview of their annual salaries.

What Can You Do With a PhD in Economics?

With a PhD in Economics, you can apply to many high-paying jobs in the field. These jobs can include financial manager, postsecondary economics teacher, economist, personal financial advisor, or even urban and regional planner roles.

Best Jobs with a PhD in Economics

  • Financial Manager
  • Postsecondary Economics Teacher
  • Personal Financial Advisor
  • Urban and Regional Planner

What Is the Average Salary for a PhD in Economics?

The average salary for someone with a PhD in Economics is $110,000 per year , according to PayScale. This value varies depending on the career path you choose, the company you work for, or even the industry you base your work in.

Highest-Paying Economics Jobs for PhD Grads

Economics PhD Jobs Average Salary
Financial Manager
Postsecondary Economics Teacher
Economist
Personal Financial Advisor
Urban and Regional Planner

Best Economics Jobs with a Doctorate

In this section, we’ll cover the best economics jobs you can get with a doctoral degree. They include financial managers, postsecondary teachers, and economists. Other high-paying jobs include personal financial advisors and urban and regional planners.

Financial managers are responsible for the financial standing of a company or organization. They coordinate accounting and investing, create financial reports, and develop long-term financial goals for their company. They must have knowledge of the tax laws and regulations specific to their industry.

  • Salary with an Economics PhD: $153,460
  • Job Outlook: 17% job growth from 2020 to 2030
  • Number of Jobs: 681,700
  • Highest-Paying States: New York, Delaware, and New Jersey

Many economics PhD students are interested in teaching in postsecondary academic institutions. After being hired, these professors are placed in the school’s department of economics where they can conduct research and teach one or more courses in the field.

  • Salary with an Economics PhD: $124,090
  • Job Outlook: 12% job growth from 2020 to 2030
  • Number of Jobs: 1,276,900
  • Highest-Paying States: New Hampshire, Montana, and California

Economists apply their knowledge and skills in economic analysis within a great variety of fields. They study the cost of products, examine employment, taxes, and inflation levels, and analyze economic history trends to make predictions for the future.

  • Salary with an Economics PhD: $120,830
  • Job Outlook: 13% job growth from 2020 to 2030
  • Number of Jobs: 18,600
  • Highest-Paying States: New York, Washington DC, and California

Personal financial advisors advise clients on investments, insurance, mortgages, taxes, and other areas related to financial investment and management. They work to assess a client’s needs and help them make the best financial decisions for their future.

  • Salary with an Economics PhD: $119,960
  • Job Outlook: 5% job growth from 2020 to 2030
  • Number of Jobs: 275,200
  • Highest-Paying States: New York, Washington DC, and Washington

Urban and regional planners gather and analyze information regarding economic, population, and environmental factors to advise developers on their plans to use land. Using their analytical and data skills, they eventually have the final say on whether a land project is feasible.

  • Salary with an Economics PhD: $81,310
  • Job Outlook: 7% job growth from 2020 to 2030
  • Number of Jobs: 39,100
  • Highest-Paying States: Washington DC, California, and New York

Is a PhD in Economics Worth It?

Yes, a PhD in Economics is worth it. Getting an economics PhD is a great way to gain valuable skills for the econ job market, work on your overall communication, and guarantee financial security and stability over the course of your career.

Economics PhD graduates can choose between conducting research and teaching in superior institutions, prestigious government positions, and continuous work at some of the highest-paying private institutions.

Additional Reading About Economics

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PhD in Economics FAQ

Some of the top companies that are hiring economists in 2022 include RAND, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the World Bank. Fannie Mae, the IMF, and Amazon are also top companies looking for economists.

Yes, you are expected to teach or somehow be involved in classroom experiences during your PhD program. Most students receive financial funding through teaching assistantships. These are viewed as an important component of the PhD college career.

You’ll need to have some kind of mathematics background to be admitted to an economics PhD program. All candidates must have taken intensive math classes and need proven math ability in calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations.

No, you don’t need an econ master’s degree to enroll in an economics PhD. However, only a small number of applicants are accepted into these programs and a master’s degree could be considered a competitive edge.

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Phd in economics: requirements, salary, jobs, & career growth, what is phd in economics.

A PhD in Economics is a doctorate-level degree that focuses on advanced training and research in the field of economics. It is a research-oriented degree that prepares students to contribute to the field through original, in-depth research and analysis.

The program typically involves taking advanced coursework in economics, completing a research project, and writing a dissertation that presents original findings. The coursework and research topics covered in a PhD in Economics program can include microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, game theory, economic history, and various specialized areas within the field.

The PhD in Economics is ideal for individuals who are interested in pursuing careers in academia, government, international organizations, or research-focused organizations. Graduates of the program are equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to conduct independent research, analyze data, and develop innovative solutions to complex economic problems.

How much money do people make with a PhD in Economics?

The earning potential of individuals with a PhD in Economics can vary widely based on a number of factors such as their experience, location, and type of employer. On average, economists with a PhD can expect to earn a higher salary than those with a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in the field.

According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for economists was $105,020 in May 2020. However, salaries can range from less than $60,000 for entry-level positions to over $150,000 for experienced economists in leadership positions.

In academia, assistant professors with a PhD in Economics can expect to earn a starting salary in the range of $70,000 to $90,000, while full professors can earn well over $100,000. In the government sector, economists with a PhD can earn salaries that range from $70,000 to $120,000 or more, depending on their level of experience and the type of agency they work for.

In the private sector, salaries for economists with a PhD can be even higher, particularly for those working in consulting, finance, or other high-paying industries. However, the earning potential in the private sector is highly dependent on the specific job and the location, with salaries in certain cities, such as New York or San Francisco, being significantly higher than those in other parts of the country.

It’s important to note that salaries can vary greatly based on factors such as the individual’s level of experience, the type of employer, and the location.

What is expected job growth with PhD in Economics?

The job growth for individuals with a PhD in Economics is expected to be relatively strong in the coming years. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of economists is projected to grow 6% from 2019 to 2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Demand for economists is expected to remain strong, particularly in the government and private sectors, as organizations continue to seek individuals with expertise in analyzing data, developing economic models, and creating solutions to complex economic problems.

In the government sector, there is expected to be continued demand for economists who can analyze economic data and provide research and policy analysis to inform government decision-making.

In the private sector, economists with PhDs are expected to be in high demand in consulting firms, financial institutions, and other organizations that require advanced economic analysis and problem-solving skills.

In academia, opportunities for economists with PhDs are expected to remain strong, as universities continue to seek highly trained individuals to conduct research and teach the next generation of economists.

Overall, the job outlook for individuals with a PhD in Economics is positive, and they can expect to have a range of opportunities across various sectors and industries. However, as with any job market, there may be fluctuations in demand based on economic conditions and other factors.

What can you do with a PhD in Economics?

A PhD in Economics provides individuals with advanced training and research skills in the field of economics, preparing them for a variety of careers in academia, government, international organizations, the private sector, and non-profit organizations. Some of the most common career paths for individuals with a PhD in Economics include:

1. Academia: Many individuals with a PhD in Economics pursue careers in academia as university professors, where they conduct research, teach courses, and mentor students.

2. Government: Economists with a PhD can find careers in the government sector, working in agencies such as the Federal Reserve, the Department of Labor, or the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

3. International organizations: PhD economists can also find careers in international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, or the United Nations.

4. Private sector: Economists with PhDs can also find careers in the private sector, working for consulting firms, financial institutions, or other businesses that require advanced economic analysis.

5. Non-profit organizations: Economists with a PhD can also find careers in non-profit organizations, where they can use their expertise to address social and economic issues.

6. Research organizations: Economists with a PhD can also find careers in research organizations, where they can conduct independent research and publish their findings. 

What are the requirements for a PhD in Economics?

The requirements for a PhD in Economics can vary slightly depending on the specific program and university, but in general, most PhD programs in Economics require the following:

1. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in economics or a related field: Most PhD programs in Economics require applicants to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in economics or a related field, such as mathematics, statistics, or finance.

2. Coursework: PhD programs in Economics typically require students to complete advanced coursework in economics, including microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, game theory, and other specialized areas of the field.

3. Examinations: Many PhD programs in Economics require students to pass written and oral comprehensive exams to demonstrate their mastery of the field.

4. Research project: PhD students in Economics are typically required to complete a research project, either independently or as part of a team, and present their findings in a written thesis or dissertation.

5. Teaching experience: Many PhD programs in Economics also require students to complete teaching experience, either as a teaching assistant in an undergraduate course or as the instructor of their own course.

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How long does it take to get a phd in economics.

The time it takes to complete a PhD in Economics can vary, but most programs take between 4 to 7 years on average. The exact duration of the program depends on a number of factors, including the specific program requirements, the student’s course load, and the amount of time they can dedicate to their studies.

Typically, the first 2 to 3 years of a PhD in Economics program are spent completing coursework and exams, while the remaining years are dedicated to research and writing a thesis or dissertation. During this time, PhD students are also typically required to complete teaching or research assistantships to gain practical experience in their field.

In some programs, students may be able to complete their PhD more quickly by taking a heavier course load, while in others, students may need to take more time to complete their research and writing.

It’s important to keep in mind that the length of a PhD program can vary significantly depending on the specific program and the student’s individual circumstances.

Some students may complete their PhD in as little as 4 years, while others may take 7 years or more. Additionally, some programs may allow students to take a leave of absence or pause their studies for personal or professional reasons, which can also impact the overall duration of the program.

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Do you need a masters in economics to get a phd in economics.

Not all PhD programs in Economics require a master’s degree, but many do. A master’s degree in economics can provide students with a strong foundation in the field and help them prepare for the more advanced coursework and research required in a PhD program.

However, some PhD programs in Economics accept applicants with only a bachelor’s degree, particularly if they have strong academic performance and relevant work experience.

In some cases, PhD programs in Economics may offer a combined master’s and PhD program, allowing students to complete both degrees in a shorter amount of time. This can be a good option for students who are interested in pursuing a career in academia or research and want to obtain both degrees as quickly as possible.

What are the Best PhD in Economics Degree programs?

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What Is the Average Economist Phd Salary by State

State Annual Salary Monthly Pay Weekly Pay Hourly Wage
District of Columbia $136,159 $11,347 $2,618 $65
California $134,936 $11,245 $2,595 $65
New Jersey $134,079 $11,173 $2,578 $64
Alaska $133,223 $11,102 $2,562 $64
Massachusetts $133,101 $11,092 $2,560 $64

Economist Phd Salary Paid by States in the U.S.

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How Much Do Economist Phd Jobs Pay Per Year?

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Economics PhDs

By Roman Duda · Published June 2015

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Economics PhDs  

On this page:.

  • 1 Research process
  • 2 What is this career path?
  • 3 Entry requirements
  • 4.1 Doing high impact research
  • 4.2 Advocacy potential
  • 4.3 Other benefits
  • 5 What are the downsides of doing an economics PhD?
  • 6 Who should consider doing an economics PhD?
  • 7 Next steps
  • 8 Learn more
  • 9 Get free, one-on-one career advice

An economics PhD is one of the most attractive graduate programs: if you get through, you have a high chance of landing an impactful research job in academia or policy. In particular, academic economics is one of the best ways of conducting and promoting global priorities research, one of our priority paths . You have back-up options in the corporate sector since the skills you learn are in-demand (unlike many PhD programs). You should especially consider an economics PhD if you want to go into research roles, are good at math (i.e. quant GRE score above 165) and have a proven interest in economics research.

  • • Decent chance of entering economics academia, which has potential for highly valuable research (such as contributing to global priorities research) and the option of working on topics in related social sciences.
  • • In demand by think-tanks, government departments and international organisations (e.g. IMF, World Bank).
  • • Gain a broad set of tools for understanding how the social world works and evaluating causes and interventions.
  • • High degree of autonomy when writing your dissertation.
  • • Backup options in the corporate sector.
  • • Takes a long time (5-7 years), with low pay.
  • • Doing highly open-ended research provides little feedback which can be unmotivating.

Key facts on fit  

You can test your ability and interest by taking classes in economics, math and statistics either at your university or online. You don’t need an economics undergraduate degree to enter but proven math ability is required, so make sure you study quantitative subjects. See this guide to getting into an economics PhD program.

Get free, one-on-one career advice

We’ve helped hundreds of people compare between their options and introduced them to people who can help them with their career. If you’re interested in using an economics PhD to work on issues like global priorities research or artificial intelligence policy , apply for our free coaching service :

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If you are well suited to this career, it may be the best way for you to have a social impact.

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Based on a shallow investigation 

Table of Contents

Research process

For this profile, we interviewed economist Robin Hanson and read the following sources. See all our research in our wiki .

What is this career path?

In this profile we focus on doing an Economics PhD in the US, which usually takes 5-7 years. 1 In the first two years you take classes and the remaining time is spent on writing a dissertation. You usually have to teach during your PhD. More detail on what you do in each phase is here . At the end, you usually apply for jobs through the centrally organised Job Openings for Economists , which is run by the American Economic Association, or you can apply for jobs independently.

phd economist salary

Entry requirements

An economics major isn’t required but you need proven math ability and it helps to have taken mathematical economics classes.

You also need:

  • A high score on the quantitative reasoning section of the GRE – 165 (90th percentile for all individuals taking the GRE) or higher for most programs. If your score is less than 160, your chances are very low. 2
  • A high GPA (3.5+), especially in economics and mathematics. 3
  • Excellent letters of recommendation from academics; ideally, those that are well-known.

Can you enter from a non-quantitative background? It’s possible, but difficult. You’ll need to spend one to three years retraining. See some advice on how to meet the entry requirements if you have a non-quantitative undergraduate degree .

Why should you do an economics PhD?

Doing high impact research.

Research in economics academia is a potentially very high impact option because you can work on priority cause areas, like global priorities research or AI policy . For example, to contribute to global priorities research you might work on the economics of existential risk and long-term trajectory change, while the macroeconomics, political economy and industrial organisation of AI will be important for developing informed AI policy.

Doing such research is a realistic option because Economics professors get a lot freedom to do research across a wide range of topics and disciplines. That also gives you great option value for future research. 4 You often even get a high degree of autonomy with your dissertation and aren’t forced to specialise narrowly in your advisor’s research interests, giving you freedom to pursue research topics that you most want to work on during your PhD itself (though we’ve heard that sometimes there is pressure to choose topics with higher publication and job market value).

If you do an economics PhD, you have a decent chance of getting a job as an academic: Data indicates that more than half of economics PhD’s get jobs in academia after their PhD. 5

Non-academic research

If you don’t get a job in academia, or if you don’t want to, there are other important sectors that explicitly hire economics PhD’s, including:

  • Government (e.g. Federal Reserve, Treasury, Department of Justice)
  • Nonprofit research organisations and think-tanks (e.g. RAND , National Bureau of Economic Research)
  • International organisations (e.g. World Bank, International Monetary Fund)

The impact you can have in these jobs tends to be more direct and focused on specific issues than in academia. Many of these jobs are advertised on the Job Openings for Economists , which means you don’t have to apply for them separately from academic jobs.

Advocacy potential

Having an economics PhD also puts you in a position to build a public platform and become a public intellectual through journalism and writing books.

You can also influence policy through your research, though some claim that most of the time economists just provide arguments for people with pre-existing views. However there could be room for outsized influence if you provide policy recommendations on issues that are orthogonal to popular disputes, 6 and our guess is that in the long-run economists can change conventional wisdom about what is good policy. You might do this by engaging directly with policy or by conducting academic research on the most pressing problems in order to shift the research priorities of the economics community. Examples of organisations working on the latter are the Global Priorities Institute and the Forethought Foundation .

Other benefits

  • You gain a broad set of tools for understanding how the social world works, which is helpful for evaluating causes and interventions. This may help you better evaluate your future career options to have more impact. A notable example of this in action is the founding of GiveDirectly (one of GiveWell’s top recommended charities), which was founded by economics PhD students.
  • Excellent job prospects: You are nearly guaranteed a job. The unemployment rate for economics PhD’s is very low (0.8% in 2013) and data indicates that it has the lowest unemployment rate of all science and engineering PhD’s. 7 You also get the benefit of the centrally organised Job Openings for Economists , which allows you to apply to many different jobs in a short period of time and interview for them at the same time, in the same place.
  • Academic salaries for economics PhD’s tend to be higher than other PhD’s. The median pay for those who gained economics PhD’s in 2013 and were in full-time employment at a university was $108,000, which is higher than all other science PhD’s. 8 Moreover, the jobs outside of academia which economics PhD’s get are higher paid than non-academic jobs other PhD’s get. 9

What are the downsides of doing an economics PhD?

  • You have a relatively low income whilst doing your PhD and have to work very long hours.
  • You spend 5-7 years getting exposure only to academia, making this option less good for exploration value.
  • The high degree of autonomy you get means there is little external structure on your time, which can be stressful, and you get very little feedback about how well you are doing which can be demotivating.
  • Many PhD economists end up in academic jobs where they spend a large portion of their time teaching, leaving less time for research. 10

Who should consider doing an economics PhD?

Commonly given advice is that you should only do an economics PhD if you:

  • Are good at math and enjoy formal models in economics
  • Are willing to study 50-80 hours per week (hours are particularly long in the first year)
  • Love intellectual pursuits and have a strong drive to do self-directed research. 11

If you meet those conditions, then an economics PhD may be a good option for you if you want to go into economics academia or if you want to do high-level research at think-tanks or international organisations.

To get a sense of what academic research looks like, try reading published papers in major journals, such as the American Economic Review ( here is one paper ). You can then test your ability and interest by taking classes in economics, math and statistics either at your university or online.

If you are interested in global priorities research, read our problem profile on the topic, and the research agenda of the Global Priorities Institute.

There are many guides online to getting into an economics PhD. We recommend that you start by reading this one , and then read a few of the others . If you’re applying from a non-quantitative background, see these tips by one of our users.

  • Ideas for research questions in economics
  • Noah Smith – If you get a PhD, get an economics PhD
  • All our articles on Economics PhD’s
  • Publishing and Promotion in Economics: The Tyranny of the Top Five by James J. Heckman and Sidharth Moktan
  • Podcast: Dr Eva Vivalt’s research suggests social science findings don’t generalize. So evidence-based development – what is it good for?
  • Podcast: David Roodman on incarceration, geomagnetic storms, & becoming a world-class researcher
  • Podcast: Rachel Glennerster on how “market shaping” could help solve climate change, pandemics, and other global problems
  • Podcast: Prof Yew-Kwang Ng is a visionary economist who anticipated many key ideas in effective altruism decades ago. Here’s his take on ethics and how to create a much happier world.
  • Podcast: Mushtaq Khan on using institutional economics to predict effective government reforms
  • Podcast: Economist Bryan Caplan on whether lazy parenting is OK, what really helps workers, and betting on beliefs

Notes and references

  • See our wiki. ↩
  • GRE Guide Table 1a and A Guide for UCSB Undergraduates Considering a PhD in Economics ↩
  • “An overall GPA of at least 3.5 is a prerequisite. It is not uncommon to see an almost perfect GPA among top candidates.” Tips on Applying to Top Graduate Programs in Economics ↩
  • “What other profession gives you so much freedom to choose your research topics? Many economists now devote their careers to studying topics which an outsider would classify as political science, psychology, or sociology. Some economists even do work that basically amounts to history or philosophy, though they probably need to work on more conventional topics until they get tenure.” Bryan Caplan – Is the Econ Ph.D. a Free Lunch? ↩
  • “Among the successful job seekers, 62.8 percent found employment in academic institutions as compared to 61.0 percent in the 2013-14 year.” Center for Business and Economic Research, University of Arkansas. SURVEY OF THE LABOR MARKET FOR NEW PH.D. HIRES IN ECONOMICS 2015-2016 See also National Science Foundation. TABLE 61. Statistical profile of postgraduation plans of doctorate recipients in social sciences fields, by sex and field of study: 2013 ↩
  • “Economists rarely influence policy as advisors for people who haven’t made up their minds and want advice. Instead, people who favor a certain position generally seek policy advisors who they will expect will provide arguments favoring their position. So economists, and other policy advisors, often have influence mainly by providing ammunition for advocates of the views they support. There is more room for influence if you provide policy recommendations that are orthogonal to popular disputes.” The value of economics PhDs: A conversation with Robin Hanson ↩
  • National Science Foundation. Table 4-1. Unemployment rate among doctoral scientists and engineers, by field of doctorate: 2013 ↩
  • National Science Foundation. Table 54. Median annual salaries of full-time employed doctoral scientists and engineers, by field of doctorate and sector of employment: 2013 ↩
  • In 2013 Economics PhD’s had the highest median starting salaries of all science doctorates in government ($137,000), nonprofits ($135,000), and for-profit private companies ($148,000). National Science Foundation. Table 54. Median annual salaries of full-time employed doctoral scientists and engineers, by field of doctorate and sector of employment: 2013 ↩
  • “…many econ PhDs teach college level courses while conducting very little research.” A Guide for UCSB Undergraduates Considering a PhD in Economics ↩
  • A Guide for UCSB Undergraduates Considering a PhD in Economics ↩
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Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Average salary of an economics phd.

careertrend article image

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the terminal degree in economics. Earning the degree requires years of study and culminates in the completion and defense of a dissertation of economic research. Many recipients of the PhD pursue academic careers as professors of economics, business and related fields. Others pursue careers in government or consulting. The average salary of a PhD in economics depends on the selected career path.

Academic Economists at Doctoral Institutions

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Most four-year colleges and universities require a PhD for employment as a faculty member in economics. In addition, some PhD economists hold faculty positions in schools of business, law and public affairs or public policy. Salaries for economists in academia vary by whether an economist is on the faculty of a university that grants PhDs or only undergraduate and master’s degrees. The American Economic Association reported in 2007 that senior assistant professors at PhD-granting institutions earn an average of nearly $96,000 a year. Professors who earn tenure can expect to earn even more. The AEA reported that salaries for tenured associate professors average $128,600 a year, while full professors’ annual salaries average $204,800 a year.

Other Academic Economists

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Economics PhDs who find employment as faculty members at universities in which the master’s is the terminal degree earn less than their counterparts at PhD-granting institutions. The AEA reported in 2007 that salaries for senior assistant professors average $80,167 a year. Tenured associate professors receive a small boost, with their salaries averaging $82,333. Full professors at colleges and universities that grant only bachelor’s and master’s degrees earn average annual salaries of $97,500, according to the AEA.

Government Economists

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PhD economists with strong public policy interests find rewarding careers in government, especially at the federal level. The federal government has jobs for economists in many agencies and departments. These include the Federal Reserve Board and its regional banks, the U.S. Department of State, the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Department of Labor. A PhD in economics can begin a career on GS-12 of the federal government’s pay scale, according to the American Economic Association. Starting salaries on the GS-12 grade range from $60,274 to $78,355 a year, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s 2011 pay scale for federal employees.

Business Economists

Career opportunities for PhD economists are not limited to civil service and academia. Others enter the private sector, working in consulting, financial markets, banking, manufacturing and other business sectors. The National Association of Business Economics’ 2010 salary survey reported that its members with doctoral degrees earned an average of $150,000 a year, well above the $120,000 median for all NABE members, regardless of degree. In addition, the average starting salary for a PhD was $85,000. Highlights of the NABE report indicated that respondents to the survey included government economists as well as those in business, finance and consulting.

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Shane Hall is a writer and research analyst with more than 20 years of experience. His work has appeared in "Brookings Papers on Education Policy," "Population and Development" and various Texas newspapers. Hall has a Doctor of Philosophy in political economy and is a former college instructor of economics and political science.

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Calculating ROI: Getting Your Master’s vs. PhD in Economics

phd economist salary

No matter what field they study, prospective graduate students should always consider the value of their degree.  As a potential graduate economics student, you’re likely familiar with the term return on investment or ROI — the ratio used to calculate the efficiency of an investment or compare the efficiency of several different investments.

Though there’s no cut-and-dry way to determine the value of a graduate degree , there are some important numbers and factors to consider when determining which degree will be most valuable to you.  

The overall ROI of any graduate degree comes down to:

  • the type of job you want,
  • the school you attend,
  • the degree you pursue,
  • your program length
  • and available financial assistance.

Want to know more about graduate funding opportunities at SMU? Learn how the Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies is reducing financial barriers to earning a graduate degree thanks to a $100 million commitment from the Moody Foundation. 

PhD in Economics Salary

The most important factor to consider first is the type of job you want. Most of the time, a Master’s degree opens the door to more advanced positions in the same types of jobs you can get with a Bachelor's degree. But, a PhD opens the door to jobs in the private sector, academia, government, think tanks and international organizations. Remember, on average, a PhD economist has a 34% higher salary than a Master’s economist.

Next, you need to consider cost. Economics PhD students, including our SMU students, have a full tuition waiver and a stipend to cover living costs. So, the only cost is lost wages from the job you would otherwise have. On the other hand, an Economics Masters's degree takes 2 years or less but the average cost of a master’s degree in the U.S. is $66,340.

You need to weigh up these costs and benefits to know the return on investment for you of pursuing an advanced degree in economics. 

What Can I Do with a PhD in Economics?

Earning a PhD in Economics means you have completed the highest level of education in the discipline, thereby creating nearly unlimited opportunities for any job in a related field. 

Economics PhDs specialize in areas like labor economics, macroeconomics,  industrial organization, or international economics and pursue careers within that specialization. For example, institutions like the World Trade Organization (WTO) — the international trade body —  the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the World Bank might seek to hire economists who have specialized in international economics.

  • The Federal Reserve Bank system hires lots of PhD macroeconomists.
  • Government agencies like the Federal Trade Commission hire PhD economists specializing in industrial organization.
  • The Census Bureau hires lots of PhD economists specializing in fields like labor economics.

These complex, high-profile positions are often found in the corporate sector or government and frequently involve exploring regulatory, strategic or public policies.

In addition to jobs in government and industry, academic economists play leading roles in the development of new ideas in economics and hold faculty positions in a variety of academic settings.

Explore Economics at SMU

The Department of Economics at Southern Methodist University (SMU) is highly ranked among economics departments in the United States and offers comprehensive coverage of the major fields in modern economics. For more than 55 years the department has prepared PhD candidates for careers as economists in both academic and non-academic positions.

Ready to find out what you can do with a PhD in Economics?

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IMAGES

  1. Highest Phd Salary In The World

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  2. PhD in Economics Salary

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  3. ECONOMISTS WITH PHD EARN 86% MORE

    phd economist salary

  4. The PhD Degrees That Pay Off With The Highest Salaries [Infographic]

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  5. Will Obtaining a PhD in Economics Guarantee a Higher Salary in the

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  6. ECONOMISTS WITH PHD EARN 86% MORE

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COMMENTS

  1. Salary: Phd Economist in United States 2024

    The estimated total pay for a Phd Economist is $166,936 per year, with an average salary of $108,042 per year. These numbers represent the median, which is the midpoint of the ranges from our proprietary Total Pay Estimate model and based on salaries collected from our users. The estimated additional pay is $58,894 per year.

  2. Why does everyone say that Econ PhD's are worth it only for ...

    Huge companies like Uber and Apple and big banks all have economist openings. The salaries on Glassdoor are pretty good to, average of $120k or so. Am I missing something here? ... Those "PhD" positions will often accept similar specialist knowledge as well, since the econ PhD typically signals "can work alone on projects, knows how to gather ...

  3. 20 of the Highest Paying PhD Degrees (Plus Salaries)

    20. Immunology. National average salary: $182,342 per year Immunologists with a Ph.D. study infectious diseases and create public health policies related to disease transmission and prevention. A background in a relevant degree program related to immunology is typically a prerequisite for this area of study.

  4. Doctorate (PhD), Economics Salary

    Avg. Salary $122k. Artium Baccalaureus (AB), Economics. Avg. Salary $58k — $213k. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Economics and Mathematics. Avg. Salary $122k. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Health ...

  5. Salary: Economics Phd in United States 2024

    The estimated total pay for a Economics Phd is $122,154 per year, with an average salary of $91,363 per year. These numbers represent the median, which is the midpoint of the ranges from our proprietary Total Pay Estimate model and based on salaries collected from our users. The estimated additional pay is $30,790 per year.

  6. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Economics Salary

    Avg. Salary $117k. Master of Arts (MA), Economics & Political Science. Avg. Salary $70k — $147k. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), International Economics. Avg. Salary $117k. Bachelor of Science (BS ...

  7. The economics profession

    The economics profession Becoming a professor, researcher, or educator. ... The AEA's Universal Academic Questionnaire Summary Statistics reports that average starting salaries for assistant professors at PhD granting institutions was $149,378 in 2023-2024. The table below reports the average salary of economists at each academic rank by type ...

  8. Career earnings

    The UAQ is a survey of US economics departments taken each fall. One survey is addressed to the chair of the Department of Economics of each institution. Another resource is the annual "Survey of the Labor Market for New Ph.D. Hires in Economics" conducted by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas.

  9. PhD in Economics Salary

    Early Career - $102,000 / year. Mid Career - $134,000 / year. Experienced - $150,000 / year. One problem is that PhD in economics salaries have high variance. Private industry jobs (e.g. economists working in data science) tend to have significantly higher wages than economists working in academia or the non-profit sector.

  10. Economist Phd Salary

    An Economist Phd's salary can be paid hourly, weekly or monthly depending on the company and job type. Most part-time jobs will be paid hourly or weekly. Using the salary calculator, the average pay comes out to be about $58 an hour, $2,322/week, or $10,061/month. The average salary of an Economist Phd ranges from $105,248 to $142,474.

  11. Is an Economics PhD Worth It? The PhD Pay Premium

    According to the latest INOMICS Salary Report, economists with a Master's as their highest degree experienced a 3.2% increase in pay on average since 2022, while those with a PhD have experienced a 35.9% increase. This has widened the earnings premium between the two categories from 80% in 2022 to 91% in 2023.

  12. Which economists are paid the most, and where?

    In North America, a PhD in economics has a clear payoff in terms of salary, especially for university and private business positions. Government, NGO, and research institution roles pay less of a premium for PhDs, but even these still pay roughly 35-40% higher salaries to PhDs than for Master's degree holders.

  13. Best PhDs in Economics

    While a budget analyst makes around $84,240 on average per year, a postsecondary teacher makes $124,090 on average per year. According to PayScale, the average salary of someone with a Master's Degree in Economics is $82,000 per year, whereas the average salary of someone with a PhD in Economics is $110,000 per year.

  14. PhD in Economics: Requirements, Salary, Jobs, & Career Growth

    However, salaries can range from less than $60,000 for entry-level positions to over $150,000 for experienced economists in leadership positions. In academia, assistant professors with a PhD in Economics can expect to earn a starting salary in the range of $70,000 to $90,000, while full professors can earn well over $100,000.

  15. Economist Phd Average salary by state in US

    The salary of an Economist Phd in Alaska is 12.1(%) higher than $105,023(national average). In states with high Economist Phd salaries, there are more relevant career opportunities. These states may have more chances to get a better salary in this position.

  16. Economists with PhD earn 86% More

    Economists with PhD earn 86% More - INOMICS Salary Report 2020/21 incl. COVID-19 Impact Based on survey data from nearly 1,500 economists, new report examines economics salaries, health of job ...

  17. Why an economics PhD might be the best grad degree

    Academic salaries for economics PhD's tend to be higher than other PhD's. The median pay for those who gained economics PhD's in 2013 and were in full-time employment at a university was $108,000, which is higher than all other science PhD's. 8 Moreover, the jobs outside of academia which economics PhD's get are higher paid than non ...

  18. Average Salary of an Economics PhD

    The National Association of Business Economics' 2010 salary survey reported that its members with doctoral degrees earned an average of $150,000 a year, well above the $120,000 median for all NABE members, regardless of degree. In addition, the average starting salary for a PhD was $85,000. Highlights of the NABE report indicated that ...

  19. Salary: Phd Student In Economics in United States 2024

    The estimated total pay for a PhD Student In Economics is $132,208 per year in the United States area, with an average salary of $104,388 per year. These numbers represent the median, which is the midpoint of the ranges from our proprietary Total Pay Estimate model and based on salaries collected from our users.

  20. Calculating ROI: Getting Your Master's vs. PhD in Economics

    But, a PhD opens the door to jobs in the private sector, academia, government, think tanks and international organizations. Remember, on average, a PhD economist has a 34% higher salary than a Master's economist. Next, you need to consider cost. Economics PhD students, including our SMU students, have a full tuition waiver and a stipend to ...

  21. 400+ PhD Economist Jobs, Employment July 4, 2024| Indeed.com

    Economist. US Bureau of Economic Analysis. Washington, DC 20230. ( Downtown area) Federal Triangle. $82,764 - $181,216 a year. Full-time. Supervisory or project coordination assignments involving a staff of professional economists, and requiring the evaluation and interpretation of economic…. Posted 13 days ago ·.

  22. Salary: Senior Analyst Phd Economist (Jun, 2024) US

    How much does a Senior Analyst Phd Economist make? As of Apr 16, 2024, the average annual pay for a Senior Analyst Phd Economist in the United States is $107,594 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $51.73 an hour. This is the equivalent of $2,069/week or $8,966/month.