Apr 24, 2023
The demand for economic professionals with a PhD in economics is rising across various fields, including business, finance, academics, and research. To meet this demand, colleges and universities are offering online PhD in economics programs that provide flexibility and convenience for students. As a result, there is a growing number of fully accredited online and blended PhD in economics programs that provide high-quality education. 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?
By reading this guide, you can find answers to all of your questions regarding online PhD in economics programs. You will be able to explore the top programs currently available and discover how to select the best program to suit your needs.
Best Online PhD in Economics Programs for 2023
Selecting the best PhD in economics program to meet your academic and career goals, study preferences, and busy lifestyle is crucial to your success, regardless of whether you choose to complete your degree online or on-campus. It is important to take the time to assess your individual situation and explore the various available degree programs. To help you get started with your program search, we have highlighted some online doctorate programs in economics that provide insight into the cost, study formats, admissions and academic requirements, and other important factors.
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
Earning your PhD in economics online has numerous benefits, especially for busy working adults, including flexibility and convenience. Online programs offer customized curriculums, specialization options, and easy access to coursework, making it easier to balance academic pursuits with work and personal responsibilities. 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 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:
Online PhD in economics programs are typically presented in 100% online formats, allowing students to complete all coursework and program requirements via distance learning. This includes lectures, readings, assignments, and tests, as well as access to support services such as academic, career, and personal counseling.
When considering an online PhD in economics program, be sure to carefully review program requirements to ensure that the program is fully online, as some programs may have in-person components like orientations or residencies that are not fully virtual.
A partially online PhD in economics program may include both online coursework and in-person components, such as on-campus orientations, seminars, residencies, and dissertation presentations and defenses. Be sure to clarify the program’s requirements to ensure it meets your needs.
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.
In the second year of a typical PhD in economics program, students focus on specialized areas of economics and complete a research project, either with faculty supervision or as a research assistant. The year culminates with qualifying exams and preparation for the candidacy stage and dissertation work.
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 is the culmination of the PhD in economics program and begins with the submission of a dissertation proposal for approval by a faculty committee. Students then conduct research and write the dissertation under the guidance of a faculty advisor, with the final step being an oral presentation and defense of the dissertation before the committee.
PhD in Economics Learning Outcomes
A learning outcome statement is an essential component of any doctorate in economics degree program, and it outlines the fundamental knowledge, key concepts, competencies, and practical skills that students will acquire upon completion of the program. You can usually find a program’s learning outcome statement on the degree program’s website, but if you can’t find one, you can always contact the program directly to request it.
Below are five learning outcomes similar to ones you can expect to find in your program’s learning outcome statement:
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
Choosing a specialization is a key component of a PhD in economics, with many programs requiring students to select one or two areas of focus. Specializations allow students to tailor their academic work to their unique interests within the economics field and prepare for careers in 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.
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.
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 is the process of acknowledging that a school or degree program has fulfilled and upholds specific minimum education criteria. It is crucial to ensure that a PhD program in economics has proper accreditation to ensure that the curriculum and support services offered meet the necessary standards, providing you with a strong educational foundation for a successful career. Therefore, it is highly recommended to only consider online PhD programs in economics that are properly accredited.
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 is typically focused on assessing specific degree programs and departments within a larger institution. Although certain business schools and departments that offer PhD programs in economics may be accredited, there is currently no programmatic accreditation exclusively for doctoral programs in economics in the United States.
Applying to an Economics PhD Online
It is not surprising to discover that the majority of both online and on-campus PhD programs in economics share similar admission requirements. These requirements typically include a previously obtained degree in economics or a related field, minimum GPA standards for prior college coursework, resumes, personal statements, letters of recommendation, and proof of English language proficiency for international applicants. However, some unexpected admissions requirements can also significantly impact your chances of being accepted into the 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.
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.
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).
|School||Cost per Credit||Total Credits||Subtotal|
|Liberty University (online)||$595 (full-time study); $650 (part-time study)||60||$35,700–$39,0000|
|Fordham University (campus)||$1,546||68||$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 payscale.com, the estimated average salary for PhD in economics degree holders is $98,394. For comparison, PayScale.com’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 payscale.com 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 Title||Median Earnings||90th Percentile Earnings|
|Economic Analytics Consultant||$83,000||$117,000|
|Postsecondary Professor of Economics||$88,000||$164,000|