Economics PhDs: The Truth

If you’re here, you’re curious about a PhD in Economics. While I don’t have one, I have looked into it a lot more than your average undergraduate student. I have learned through personal experience and through the experience of my teachers that there are some things to consider when earning a PhD in Economics.

There Will Be Naysayers

In other words: Haters gonna hate. When you decide that you want to major in Economics in a PhD program, there are some people that think you’re crazy. They might think you’re not thinking it through. Most of all, they usually won’t understand. Don’t let them get to you. If they want to be naysayers, you can explain to them that you’re wanting to teach or that you’re wanting to study something that you’re passionate about. Sometimes, naysayers are just jealous because they didn’t study something that they’re passionate about.

Economics PhDs Don’t Necessarily Make You Specialized

One thing you’re probably going to hear at some point is, “Why do you want a PhD in economics? I mean, anytime you get an advanced degree, you’re getting more and more specialized.” This is something that I heard at a family campout. My aunt’s friend had just gotten her PhD in some kind of science. But there’s the reason why she thought I was becoming more specialized: She was a science major. Science has so many fields. There’s chemistry, biology, geology, physics, and then there’s a lot of branches of science like fishery science and marine biology.

The reason why a PhD in economics isn’t going to specialize you the same way is because you don’t get a diploma that says “Doctor of Philosophy in Macroeconomics.” It just doesn’t work like that. The two fields you choose in your PhD program are specialties, sure. But your diploma says “Doctor of Philosophy in Economics.” That means that you get into advanced micro/macroeconomics and econometrics. Your fields are extensions and applications of those. This is how you can get specialized, but not in the sense that a science major is specialized. In other words, you can find a job in a wide variety of companies and government rather than specific labs.

You Don’t Need a Masters Degree

There are many subjects that will not allow you to get a doctoral degree without first earning a masters degree. This is not the case with economics. An Economics PhD program will be more than happy to take you with only a bachelors degree if you meet their standards. Do good on the GRE and get a good GPA and you’ll be fine. Also, many schools will give you a masters degree after you pass your first year.

You Don’t Need a PhD to Work

Many people think that you need a PhD to work a job in economics. This isn’t true in the least bit. You usually need one if you’re going to teach at a four-year college or university or if you’re going to work for the Federal Reserve as the president of a branch. Some large corporations will want a PhD, but others will be just fine with a master’s degree. A two-year institution or high school (in Oregon at least) will require a master’s degree.