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We focus on being a competitive applicant for top Economics PhD programs so that our very best undergraduates have a chance to get into these highly competitive programs right after completing an undergraduate degree. A PhD in Economics is not necessarily for everyone, however, and we want you to pursue a career path that is right for you. For great career resources outside a PhD in economics, please see UCSD Career Services Center.

Preparing for graduate school in Economics can often be a confusing process for students. The goal of this webpage is to illuminate this process and clarify what is required to be a competitive applicant. While we emphasize the importance of taking difficult mathematics courses, in general, as you choose less selective Economics PhD programs, you can take fewer upper division mathematics classes and still be a competitive applicant. 

There are also many PhD and MA programs outside of economics (in finance, business, public policy, data analytics, business analytics, data science, etc.) that you may be more interested in and be well qualified for.  Please speak with our Vice Chair for Undergraduate Education and other economics faculty about any higher education program you are interested in and get their advice about what it will take for you to be to be a competitive applicant. We are all excited to see you succeed!

First Steps

A key requirement for earning a PhD is that your dissertation provides new knowledge that moves out the frontier of the profession

Why earn a PhD in Economics?

The key thing you need to know is that PhD programs in economics are highly mathematical

How to Prepare for a PhD in Economics

While the prompts vary across schools, generally a personal statement will ask you to describe your research interests, qualifications, and career goals.

Writing Personal Statements

Letters of Recommendation

Conducting Research with a professor or graduate student will help prepare you for graduate school and can help you gain useful letters of recommendation

Research Experience

Letters from faculty members who know you well are the most useful letters for gaining admission to top 30 PhD and MA programs

Getting Useful Letters of Recommendation

If you earned a B+ or lower in a UC San Diego Economics class, contact your Professors directly about getting a letter of recommendation

Asking for a Letter of Recommendation

More Resources

Even though most graduate programs come with funding, it is potentially a good idea to apply for outside funding as well

PhD Student Funding


Read the common questions about Economics Phd programs


Advice and more information from some external sources

Helpful Links