Skip to main content

Ph.D. Application FAQs

Where do I start?

For useful background information, some rankings, and requisite skills, see

I really like economics. Should I get a Ph.D. in economics?

A Ph.D. in economics is not for everyone. It takes 5 to 6 years (full-time), requires an extensive math background (to be successful), and you have to enjoy working on original research projects and doing original thinking. If these factors are encouraging to you, then it is worth considering.

Your long-term career goals will substantively impact your choice. If you are interested in industry, then a Ph.D. is less likely the best educational choice. On the other hand, if you are interested in teaching, and research, then a Ph.D. is essentially a requirement.

How do I identify a Ph.D. program in economics that is right for me?

First, you should realistically assess your own abilities and commitment. Ph.D. studies are very demanding; generally, the better the program, the more demanding your studies will be.

The most important determinants of being admitted are:

Other things to consider:


How many programs should I apply to?

Things to consider:

You should seek (and pay attention to) advice from the faculty. Pay particularly close attention to those faculty member(s) that are writing a recommendation letter for you.

Where do I find graduate school rankings?

There are various rankings around: some are free (and available on the web). Be aware that rankings tend to be subjective, so comparing more than one source is likely useful. See, for example or US News and World rankings (which are available online for a fee).

How do I finance my Ph.D.?

Many programs offer teaching or research assistantships. These typically cover tuition and provide a stipend (typically from $10,000 to $20,00).

What math courses should I take?

The following math classes are recommended (UMSL course numbers in parenthesis):


Preferably add:

What steps do I need to take in securing a faculty recommendation?

A faculty member that knows you well is good place to start. It is best to ask faculty who have a high regard for your abilities. You might ask a faculty member, "do you think you could write a good reference letter for me?"

Make it easy as possible on the faculty member:

What else should you do?

Plan ahead. Make yourself the best possible candidate. Take the quantitative courses in economics; take the necessary math; get involved in the department (this will help you get better letters), get excellent grades, prepare for the GREs so as to achieve the highest possible scores, and be as "research active" as possible (e.g., participate in Grad Research Fair, Midwest Economics Association Meetings, etc).

For recent articles in the CSWEP newsletter on getting a PhD in Economics, see

For additional information, contact Don Kridel, Director of Graduate Studies: