Find Online PhD in Economics Programs to Meet Your Goals

Is your goal to become a top leader in the world of economics? See what it takes to get there by finding the online PhD in economics program that best suits your academic and career goals.

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Written by Staff

Last updated

Oct 18, 2022

There’s an increasing need for top-tier economic professionals who have a PhD in economics to lend expertise in a wide range of economics-related fields, including business, finance, academics, and research. That need is fueling the demand for colleges and universities to offer doctorates in economics programs that feature the flexibility and convenience of online study. The result is a growing number of high-quality, fully accredited online and blended PhD in economics programs. If you’re interested in moving into a career that places you in the very top of the economics profession, you’ll need to answer several important questions, including:

Do I need to earn a PhD in economics to reach my career goals? How can I fit a degree program into my busy work and life schedules? Which PhD in economics program is right for me?

This guide is designed to answer all of these questions and more. Keep reading to learn about the top online PhD in economics programs currently available out there and how you can find the best one for you.

Best Online PhD in Economics Programs for 2021

Regardless of whether you decide complete your PhD in economics degree online or through an on-campus program, one key to your success will be choosing the degree program that best suits your individual academic and career goals, study preferences, and busy lifestyle. Take the time to assess your unique personal and profession situation and search through the various degree programs available. To help you start your program search, we’ve spotlighted the following online doctorate programs in economics to give you an idea of what to expect in terms of cost, study formats, admissions and academic requirements, and more.

Online Economics PhD Spotlight: Liberty University

Liberty University’s PhD in economic policy is designed for students interested in economics policy as it relates to the public interest on both the national and global levels. Study is focused on developing student expertise in economic politics, as well research and policymaking skills. The program is offered 100% online, including a dissertation that is presented and defended virtually. The average completion time for all degree requirements, including dissertation, is three years.

  • The cost of this 60-credit hour program is $595 per credit.
  • Students can save on program costs by transferring in up to 30 previously earned credits.
  • Admissions requirements include a master’s degree earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students with a master’s GPA below 3.0 may be admitted under caution.

Benefits of the Online PhD in Economics

There are plenty of benefits to earning your PhD in economics online, but two crucial benefits for busy working adults are flexibility and convenience. Program features like customized curriculums, specialization options, and ease of coursework access make the online PhD in economics flexible and convenient. Below are two of the biggest conveniences of online doctorate in economics programs:


Individualized study pace
Doctorate degree programs typically consist of two stages: pre-candidacy and candidacy. The time it takes to complete both of these stages, particularly the candidacy state, varies from student to student. This is due mostly to a combination of the time required to complete research on the specific dissertation subject and the amount of time the individual student can devote to his or her academic studies.

Online programs accommodate these issues by offering both full-time and part-time study options and generous completion times. It’s not unusual, for example, for online doctorate students to be allowed as much as six years or more to complete all of their program requirements. As always, it’s important to gain a clear understanding of the specific program completion length requirements of any degree program you’re considering.


Asynchronous coursework
Asynchronous coursework can be completed anytime. You can access course content, like reading assignments and lectures, at times that fit your schedule. Some programs may include an occasional lecture or activity that must be attended at a specific time. All programs still have deadlines for assignments and tests. Still, you’ll be able to complete the bulk of your coursework at times most convenient to you.

Types of Online PhD in Economics Programs

Another very important feature of online learning has to do with study formats. There are two basic types of online study formats available: fully online and partially online. Here’s what to expect from both:

Fully online

Many online degree programs are presented in 100% online formats, meaning students can access and complete all of their coursework and other program requirements entirely via distance learning. This includes all class-related elements like lectures, readings, homework assignments, and tests, as well as support services such as academic, career, and personal counseling.

Be careful when you see a program advertised as 100% online, because that claim may refer only to coursework that is fully online and may include in-person components like on-campus orientations, seminars, and residencies, as well as in-person dissertation presentations and defenses. Check program requirements carefully before enrolling in any online doctorate in economics degree program.

Partially online

A partially online degree program means there are some curriculum components that cannot be completed entirely online. The online portion may be classwork, while there may also be on-campus components as discussed above. You may also see references to “hybrid” or “blended” classes that are completed partly online and partly on-campus. If you’re confused when you see any of these terms in a program or course description, contact the program for clarification before signing up.

Timeline: Online Economics PhD

PhD in economics programs, like those for other majors, consist of two basic stages.

Pre-candidacy: Students complete foundational coursework in research skills and advanced major-specific topics, culminating in general comprehensive examinations qualifying the student to advance to degree candidacy.

Candidacy: Consists mainly of the completion, presentation, and defense of the candidate’s dissertation. The total time required to complete both stages can be as long as six years or more. On the shorter end, some programs offer fast-track options that allow students to complete their doctorate in economics in as little as three years or less.

The timeline below provides a look at the year-by-year progression for completion of a typical PhD in economics degree program. The actual course of progression you’ll take will vary depending on your particular program, so be sure you’re aware of the specific progression requirements and time-limits of any program you’re considering before enrollment.


First-year curriculums center on coursework that develops the student’s core analytic skills in microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, mathematics, and research methods. Elective courses in specialized subjects of interest to the student may be included. Progress is measured in course grades, culminating with year-end qualifying exams. Only students meeting minimum stated GPAs on their exams will be permitted to continue into the second year of studies. Students may be required to work with faculty members as research assistants.


The focus in the second year remains primarily on coursework, but with a shift in emphasis. Students are typically required to select one or two specialized areas of economics to focus their coursework on and to work on a research project concerning their chosen areas of specialization, either under the supervision of faculty or as part of their work with a faculty member as a research assistant. These projects may be finished in year two or three. The second year culminates with exams that qualify the student to continue on into their third year of studies and transition from pre-candidacy to the candidacy stage. Students may also begin preparations for work on their dissertations.


If they haven’t already, students complete the exams required to advance to candidacy and begin the dissertation process. Students attend workshops and seminars and work on dissertation research and writing. They’ll also typically complete their research projects fairly early in the year and present them in a seminar or other program-related setting. Fast-track students in three-year programs will, of course, be on the “fast-track” this year, completing all degree requirements and graduating on to their careers.

4 and beyond

At this point, it’s all about the dissertation. The number of years it will take to complete your dissertation depends on several factors, like the dissertation’s subject matter and nature of the necessary research, but mostly on the amount of time you have to devote to dissertation work.

The dissertation process begins with a dissertation proposal (or prospectus) that is submitted to a faculty committee for approval. Following approval, students conduct research and write the dissertation paper under the supervision of a faculty advisor and dissertation committee. The dissertation itself can take one of a number of forms (a single paper addressing one major issue or subject, or two or more research papers to be published in scholarly journal) depending on the requirements of the specific degree program. The process culminates in submitting the written dissertation paper, along with its oral presentation and defense before a faculty committee.

PhD in Economics Learning Outcomes

Any doctorate in economics degree program should provide prospective students with a learning outcome statement that details the foundational knowledge, major concepts, competencies, and practical skills that graduates can expect to attain through successful completion of the program. A program’s learning outcome statement as the academic backbone of the program. Learning outcome statements can typically be found on the degree program’s website. If you can’t find one, contact the program and request it.

Below are five learning outcomes similar to ones you can expect to find in your program’s learning outcome statement:


Economic theory
A developed understanding of advanced economic theory and principles related to core fields of microeconomics and macroeconomics, including a mastery of all relevant historical and current scholarly research and literature. Attained breath of knowledge in economic institutions and empirics, as well as advanced expertise in one or more areas of specialization.


Developed strong foundational knowledge of both established and current advanced research methods and practices, as well as specialized skills applicable to the student’s chosen field of economics research. Students will be able to create, develop, conduct, and present high-quality research projects suitable for publication in academic books and journals, as well as for use in both academic and non-academic settings.


Mathematics and statistics
A developed understanding and demonstrated mastery of advanced mathematical and statistical concepts, tools, and techniques as employed in the economics field. Ability to apply mathematical and statistical methodology to scholarly work both within and outside of academic settings.


Developed communications skills, both oral and written that allow the graduate to effectively present their work in the full range of presentation environments, including governmental agencies, non-governmental policy and research organizations, private businesses and non-profit organizations, as well as in the classroom and other academic settings.


Developed teaching and assessment methods to assure effective learning in college-level classrooms and in one-on-one interactions with students. Ability to create effective course syllabi, lectures, and presentations, and lead class discussions that support and facilitate learning. Developed skills in the evaluation of learning outcomes and in giving constructive feedback to students.

Specialization in Economics: Making Your Degree More Valuable by Focusing Your Studies

Specializations play a crucial role in your doctorate in economics studies. In fact, many PhD in economics programs require students to select one or two specializations. Whether your program requires choosing specific specializations or simply offers courses in specialized subjects, specialization allows students to tailor their academic work to fit their unique interests within the larger economics field and prepare for careers that focus on those specialized areas.

Below are examples of five specializations currently offered by PhD in economics programs that you may be able to incorporate into your degree studies:


Econometrics is the area of economics that concerns the quantitative use of mathematical and statistical models in describing economic systems. Students learn about the history of econometrics and methodologies employed in econometric practice.

Health Economics

This specialization focuses on the application of economic theories and empirical methods of analysis to a range of health and healthcare issues and subjects, including patient care, provider and insurer policies and practices, evaluation of health care interventions, and more.

International Economics

Students choosing this specialization will focus on the application of economic theory and methodologies as they apply to a range of international economics topics, including international business, international development, and finance.


The labor specialization focuses on labor and workforce issues and challenges in business operations, such as pay and benefits, employee recruitment and retention, and legal and public policy issues.

Public Economics and Public Policy

This specialization concerns the subjects of governmental policy and economics of the firm, and how they relate to one another. Topics covered include, international markets and finance, trade and migration, environmental economics, and others.

Accreditation & Online PhDs in Economics

Postsecondary accreditation refers to the recognition a school or degree program has met and maintains certain minimum education standards. Proper accreditation of a PhD in economics degree program is your way to be certain that the program’s curriculum and support services will provide you with the quality educational foundation you need for a successful professional career. In short, the only online PhD in economics program you should ever consider is a properly accredited online PhD in economics program.

Accreditation in the U.S. comes in two basic types: institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation. Institutional accreditation most commonly applies to the entire college or university and indicates that each entity within the institution contributes to meeting its overall objectives. In the U.S., institutional accreditation is provided by a number of accrediting agencies approved by the Department of Education.

Programmatic accreditation normally applies to the evaluation of specific degree programs and departments within the larger institution. While some business schools and departments within a college or university that house economics doctorate programs may be accredited, there is currently no programmatic accreditation specifically for doctorate in economics programs in the U.S.

Applying to an Economics PhD Online

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the vast majority of PhD in economics programs, both online and on-campus, share many of the same admissions requirements. These requirements include a previously earned college degree in economics or closely related field, minimum GPA figures for prior college coursework, resumes, personal statements, letters of recommendation, and proof of English language proficiency for international applicants. What may surprise you are some of the admissions requirements that can play a key role in whether or not you’re accepted into the degree program. Here are three of the most important that you should know about:

Previously earned degree

All PhD in economics degree programs require applicants to hold a previously earned degree from a properly accredited program. In most cases, this will be a master’s degree. Some programs, however, require only a bachelor’s degree. Acceptance with only a bachelor’s degree may include additional admissions requirements.

Prerequisite coursework

Doctorate in economics programs often require applicants to have completed one or more undergraduate or graduate courses in subjects like microeconomics, macroeconomics, statistics, and calculus prior to acceptance into the program. Most applicants will have completed these courses as part of their master’s programs. If you haven’t, speak with an admissions counselor to see if you can take the courses in the initial term of the PhD program.

Real-world experience

Whether or not it’s an actual stated requirement, admissions committees prefer candidates who come into their programs with real-world experience, particularly in those areas of economics that correspond to the degree specializations they offer. So, be sure to emphasize your experience in your resume/CV and personal statements.

Tuition & Fees

The costs associated with obtaining any college degree, including a PhD in economics, are substantial. This is true whether you’re pursuing your degree online or in a traditional campus setting. These costs can vary significantly from program to program depending on such elements as the total credits required after factoring in previously-earned credits transferred into the program, and whether the school offering the program is public or private.

The table below offers current tuition rates for four PhD in economics programs, including some with on-campus formats. Bear in mind, however, that these are tuition figures only, and the actual cost of your program will be different due to additional items than can add to your costs (like fees and charges, out-of-state residency, books and supplies, computers, and Wi-Fi), as well as items that can lower total costs (like savings on campus-related expenses such as transportation and parking).

SchoolCost per CreditTotal CreditsSubtotal
Liberty University (online)$595 (full-time study); $650 (part-time study)60$35,700–$39,0000
Fordham University (campus)$1,54668$105,128
University of Delaware (campus)$850 (resident), $950 (out-of-state)59$50,150 (resident), $56,050 (out-of-state)
University of New Hampshire (campus)$785 (New Hampshire resident); $885 (New England regional resident); $1,368 (out-of-state)66$51,810 (New Hampshire resident); $58,410 (New England regional resident); $90,288 (out-of-state)

NOTE: Don’t let the numbers above intimidate you. Many colleges and universities offering online doctorates in economics offer a range of financial aid and assistance opportunities to students, some of which are available to all students enrolled in the program. Examples include school-sponsored scholarships and grants, enrollment incentive discounts, tuition discounts for members of special interest groups like active military and veterans, and full-time students. In light of these potential program cost cutters, consider the above tuition figures as merely a starting point when calculating the total costs of any PhD in economics program you’re considering.

Salaries for Economics PhDs

According to the most recent data from, the estimated average salary for PhD in economics degree holders is $98,394. For comparison,’s current comparable salary figure for MS in economics degree holders is $80,092. Of course, what you will actually earn with your degree depends on several variables, most notably work experience, geographic location, and specific job title. The table below offers a look at recent salary figures for three job titles commonly occupied by PhD in economics graduates. These figures do not include additional payments, such as bonuses, profit sharing, and 401(k) match.

Job TitleMedian Earnings90th Percentile Earnings
Economic Analytics Consultant$83,000$117,000
Postsecondary Professor of Economics$88,000$164,000