Interested in a PhD in Economics?

The Economics Department has a tremendous record of placing students in top Ph.D. programs. Once there, former W&M undergrads have done quite well. In the last 25 years, nearly 50 alums completed Economics Ph.D.s at top graduate programs. In the last 10 years alone, 15 former W&M students did so. In addition, 8 recent graduates are currently working on their Economics Ph.D.s at top graduate schools, including Harvard, Illinois, Maryland, Penn, Northwestern, and the University of California at San Diego.

Economists with Ph.D.s readily find jobs in research universities and liberal arts colleges, and in economic consulting, investment banking, and other financial firms in the private sector. Many are employed by government agencies such as the Federal Reserve Board, the Congressional Budget Office, the EPA, the Department of Justice, or by international organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank.

The majority of W&M alums with Economics Ph.D.s are teaching and doing research at leading universities. Some have held senior research positions in key government agencies such as the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board. One has led the President’s Council of Economic Advisors. Our alums have also worked with international organizations like the World Bank, and they have headed leading consulting firms. Several others have research positions in prominent financial institutions.

General Advice for Graduate School

For current students planning to go to graduate school, or simply trying to determine whether a PhD in economics is right for them, we recommend a helpful website run by Sita Slavov, a former W&M student and current professor at Occidental College.  We also recommend that any student who is ready to apply to graduate school consult a website run by Susan Athey, a Harvard economics professor.

Recommended Undergraduate Courses

Most graduate program admissions committees probably will not care about the specific economics courses you have taken, but they will like to see that you have taken at least Mathematics 111 and 112 (Calculus), 211 (Linear Algebra) and 212 (Multivariate Calculus) in the Mathematics Department.  Moreover, one should have good grades in these courses.  Here is a link to superb advice from a William and Mary double major in mathematics and economics, now doing a PhD at Harvard.

That said, your undergraduate economics curriculum is not irrelevant.  For one thing, you will have an easier time at the graduate level if you have taken lots of econometrics as an undergraduate, and perhaps some 400-level economic theory as well.  In addition, you will have a better idea what you want to concentrate on in graduate school if you have taken a range of economics courses at William and Mary.

For more information about planning for graduate school, talk to your major advisor.