​​​​​Frequently Asked Questions about ​Graduate Work in Economics​

Students who are interested in pursuing graduate work in economics should also seek advice from other students and faculty members.

1. What is graduate school like? 
2. What preparation is required for graduate work? 
3. What is the application process? 
4. How do I decide where to apply? 
5. What do admissions committees look for? 
6. How will I pay for graduate school? 
7. What do former BYU students have to say about their experience? 

Another source for information on graduate study in economics is The American Economics Association for Graduate Study in Economics.​

1. What is graduate school like? 

  • Graduate work in economics typically means pursuing a doctorate degree.  Most prospective graduate students apply for admissions to a Ph.D. program while they are an undergraduate. In some programs, students can receive their master's degree when they complete the doctoral coursework; however, a master's combined with a doctorate is not essential, nor does it give students much of an advantage . 
  • Typical programs involve two years of course work, followed by a dissertation. The total time to completion (course work and dissertation) is usually four or five years. Most graduate students are involved in either teaching or research assistantships, although some programs allow students to concentrate exclusively on course work for the first year or two.

2. What preparation is required for graduate work in economics? 

  • The single most important aspect of preparation for graduate work in economics is acquiring technical skills. Simply "completing the major" will not qualify you for a doctoral program. There is some variation in what schools require, but most require significant preparation in mathematics (calculus and linear algebra) and economic theory. Students can prepare best by taking Math 113, 214, 313 & possibly 341 or 334. 
  • Econ 580, 581, 586 & 588
  • Even if you they have not taken all of these courses, students can still be admitted to excellent programs; however, the better prepared they are, the better they can expect to do in the admissions process and in the graduate program. If you have the time, there are several other courses in mathematics that might be helpful: Math 290, 342, 543, 544, 553, 541, and 570. There is also value in breadth. Students are encouraged to take a variety of 400-level Econ courses and it is also beneficial to have experience in computer programming (SAS, Stats, SPSS, etc.). Stat 212 is a SAS programming class that some students may find useful.  

3. What is the application process? 

  • With few exceptions, graduate schools only accept students for enrollment in the fall. The timeline is roughly as follows:
  • March/April - Consider whether graduate school is for you
  • April to September - Take the GRE and solicit application packages
  • Late summer/Early fall - Begin fellowship/scholarship applications
  • Early November - Request letters of recommendation
  • December/January - Applications are due
  • Mid-March/Early April - Admissions decisions are made
  • August/September - Begin graduate school
  • GRE Hints:  The earlier you take the GRE, the better of an idea you will have of your options for graduate school. Plan on taking it no later than October. 
  • ​​How well do econ students typically do on the GRE?

4. How do I decide where to apply?

  • There are two primary considerations in sending out applications: (1) What you are interested in, and  (2) where you will be successful. The Graduate School Information ​​page summarizes the different schools that offer graduate programs in economics.  You should spend some time learning about the many different programs, their standards, and what they can offer you. Your career will most likely vary from other students, so it would also be important to seek advice from professors, careers advisors, and individuals in the profession you want to pursue.

5. What do admissions committees look for?

  • Although every school is unique, most committees will look heavily at your coursework, GPA (major and overall), and GRE scores. Letters can be important factors in the admission process. In addition to an assessment of academic ability, those writing letters are often asked to assess personal characteristics, such as leadership, maturity, creativity, and ability to conduct independent research. In order to write an informative letter, faculty need to know you outside of the classroom. Working as a teaching assistant and/or a research assistant is very helpful. In most cases, letters should be written by economics faculty that know you the best. 
  • The application itself is also very important. Make it neat and presentable, with no typos. Essay requirements should be taken seriously.

6. How will I pay for graduate school? 

  • Graduate school is expensive.  Most of our students who have gone to graduate school have been offered some form of financial aid from the program they attend. Sometimes this is a genuine grant with no obligations other than doing well in school, but often it comes in the form of research or teaching assistantships. There are a few outside fellowships (such as the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship) available to particularly well-qualified applicants.