Becoming an Economist

With a PhD in economics, you can choose to become a college professor or work at the Federal Reserve, international agencies, consulting firms, private banks, or other for-profit ventures. Learn more about the economics profession here

If you are interested in earning a PhD in economics, talk to your academic advisor early in your career. Competitive applicants have strong grades in their intermediate economics and advanced mathematics courses (see Choosing Electives guide for details), as well as research experience. For additional advice, read the following resources: 

You may also want to consider attending one of several summer programs for aspiring PhD Students. These programs are designed to help you prepare for graduate school, to connect you with peers and mentors, and to help you decide if graduate school is right for you. These programs include:

  • The AEA Summer Training Program & Scholarship Program. This 8-week intensive residential program "prepares talented undergraduates from under-represented groups for doctoral programs in Economics and related disciplines." The application deadline is often in January.

  • The Becker Friedman Institute Summer Institute. This 3-week program aims to increase the diversity of the economics profession by attracting “extraordinary students from colleges and universities around the country who would not otherwise consider studying economics — and to get them excited about this important area of study through exposure to some of the most innovative faculty in the field.” This program is ideal for college students early in their undergraduate educations. The application typically opens in December.

PREDOC is a consortium of universities and research institutions providing a pathway into PhDs in the social sciences. In addition to running a summer program, PREDOC also acts as a clearinghouse for research and job opportunities.

Note that most students do not begin PhD programs in economics directly after their undergraduate career. Instead, students often develop their skills (and learn if a PhD is the right choice for them) by first working as an economics research assistant or analyst, or by participating in a one-year pre-doctoral master's program designed to enrich students' quantitative skills. Common pre-doctoral opportunities include:

  • Economic Consulting Firms: Analysis Group, Bates White, Brattle Group, Charles River Associates, Compass Lexecon, Cornerstone Research, EconOne, Edgeworth Economics, NERA, Quant Economics
  • Policy Organizations: RAND Corporation, The Brookings Institution, International Monetary Fund, Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Federal Reserve Board and Regional Banks 
  • Research Assistant Positions: Many academic economists hire pre-doctoral researchers for full time employment. Available jobs are posted on the NBER Jobs site and on the Econ RA Twitter Feed.
  • One-year Master's in Economics: University of Wisconsin, University of Texas at Austin, Duke University, Tufts University, UCLA, Washington University, and Vanderbilt University

Recent Oxy Econ Alumni Pursuing PhDs:


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