What Is the Curriculum of a Ph.D. Degree Program in Economics?

Though they may have different focuses, Ph.D. in Economics curriculums typically require upper level courses, research, comprehensive examinations and a dissertation. Continue reading for more details about economics doctoral programs and career information. Schools offering Economics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Curriculum Overview of a Ph.D. Degree Program in Economics

Ph.D. programs in economics traditionally focus on preparing students for work in academia and research, but many programs now offer a more applied economic curriculum. Graduates are prepared for work in financial and business institutions, non-academic research establishments and government. Some schools are now offering joint Ph.D. in Economics and J.D. degree programs due to the continued convergence of economics and law. Many schools state that their Ph.D. programs take five years to complete with the possibility of less time depending upon students' management of workload. Common courses include sub-topics of mathematics, finance and economics. Students will also take several examinations and complete a dissertation.

Important Facts About This Field of Study

Degree Fields PhD degree in Finance, PhD in Accounting
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree, linear algebra, mathematical statistics
Professional Certification May pursue certification as Chartered Economist
Possible Careers Economic consultant, investment banker, economic researcher


The first few years students spend taking graduate-level courses in economics. Students generally choose a specialization during this part of a program. A few possible areas of specialization include econometrics, macroeconomics, finance, psychological economics, political economics and international economics. Ph.D. programs in economics usually include the following courses:

  • Microeconomic theory
  • Statistics and probability
  • Macroeconomic theory
  • Econometrics
  • Economic history
  • Mathematical economics
  • Economic data methods
  • Applied policy methods


Most schools have written and oral exams that test material learned in the previous classes, serve as qualifying exams for different specializations and aid in dissertation development. Students generally take qualifying exams just prior to acceptance as candidates into the Ph.D. program when work on the dissertation begins.


Like virtually every other Ph.D. program, economics programs require students to write and defend a dissertation or thesis based on their research in a particular topic. The research must be unique, useful and a significant addition to the body of research work currently available for its particular subject. Often, but not always, students' dissertations are several hundred pages long. They typically take at the very least one year to complete.

Career Information

PhD in Economics graduates may go into academia or applied work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for economists are expected to increase by 6% from 2014-2024. Most jobs should be in consulting, and individuals with a graduate degree should have better opportunities. Employment change for postsecondary teachers in general is predicted to be 13% during that decade. In 2014, economists made a median annual salary of $95,710, and postsecondary economics teachers made a median of $90,870.

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