Find Out If a PhD in Economics Is Right For You

Students in the economics field are often uncertain of the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a PhD in economics. To acquire the highest degree in the field, students will need to make a few sacrifices, including time, money and dedication. However, the educational benefits and eventual job opportunities may make the doctorate a worthy goal. Consider the following items before beginning your journey toward a PhD in economics.

Time Length & Price

Economics students should expect to spend five to six years chasing the doctorate. While this is the typical time span, a student may complete the program early or spend extra time in academia, depending on factors such as the specific field of concentration. The first and second years typically encompass formal coursework, which builds upon previous education from a bachelor’s or master’s program. The following years are dedicated to developing a thesis proposal and then constructing a dissertation through in-depth research.

These years will come with a price tag, which varies based on the school and program. Financial aid may be available that partially or completely covers the cost of school. Finding a job as a research assistant or teaching assistant would not only lighten the financial load, but also add to field experience. In addition, when considering the cost of education, keep in mind that the median annual salary for individuals with a PhD in economics is roughly $85,000.

The Courses

Courses vary between programs; however, most schools require students to tackle the following classes:

  • Microeconomic theory
  • Macroeconomic theory
  • Econometrics
  • Economic History and Development

Based on the field of concentration, classes such as international economics, labor economics and environmental economics will also be available. Course examinations will test the students’ knowledge of these subjects. Later in the program, a thesis proposal and defense will eventually lead to the construction of a dissertation. The dissertation is typically defended orally in front of a committee. While the curriculum may be challenging, those who are passionate about furthering their education will embrace the coursework.

The Job Opportunities

Individuals with a PhD in economics are well-prepared for various career paths. Some PhDs work in the private sector, serving as consultants and researchers. Others become professors at colleges, where they teach and conduct research. Government agencies, such as the Census Bureau, Federal Trade Commission and Social Security Administration, also require economists and statisticians. The following are a few examples of potential career paths and estimated median salaries from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Economists – $89,450
  • Statisticians – $73,830
  • Postsecondary Teacher – $62,000

The Schools

Many schools around the nation offer PhD programs in economics. A few examples of the top schools for economics include the following:

  • Harvard University
  • Princeton University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • University of Chicago

Rather than a PhD in economics, some schools, such as the City University of New York and Michigan Technological University, offer terminal Master’s programs. Earning a Master’s degree is a quicker path than pursuing a PhD in economics, but it does not lead to as many job opportunities.