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Economics | PhD Program

Admission to the PhD Program

University requirements for admission include a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university; 3.0 GPA in last 60 hours (90 quarter hours) of undergraduate work; scores from the GRE General Aptitude test; and for international students whose first language is not English, a TOEFL score of 600 (or 100 on the internet based test), a minimum score of 68 on the Pearson Test of English, or a minimum IELTS score of 7.

In addition to meeting the minimum university requirements for graduate study, applicants must earn a satisfactory score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general tests (verbal, math, analytical). Admission is based on academic record, test scores, and at least two letters of recommendation. In general, a B+ average for previous undergraduate work or a B+/A- average for previous graduate work, whichever is more recent, is the minimum required. (Most students admitted have higher grade averages.) Students are admitted for the fall semester only. Applications are due January 15 to be considered for financial support. 

Apply online or visit the Graduate Admissions website for additional information.


Frequently Asked Questions

Listed below are frequently asked questions about the PhD program in economics.

What kind of GRE scores are expected from successful applicants to your program?

Doctoral-level work in economics requires students to analyze and learn to manipulate economic models expressed in mathematical form, and to develop a strong command of applied econometrics. As a result, strong aptitude for quantitative work is a requirement for admission. Successful applicants to the program tend to have quantitative GRE scores of 750 or above; applicants with scores in the 700-750 range can receive favorable consideration when other factors in their backgrounds suggest strong potential for doctoral work in economics (strong undergraduate grades, relevant work experience, etc.). While less weight is placed on the score for the verbal GRE, applicants with higher scores have higher chances of admission and better prospects for receiving financial aid.

I took the GRE in 2005. Do I have to take it again?

As per the university’s requirements, GRE scores may not be more than 5 years old.

What kinds of math classes do I need to have taken to be considered for admission to your program?

At minimum, one year of calculus at a college level is required for admission. Additional math preparation is beneficial.

I didn’t major in economics as an undergrad. Could I still be admitted to the PhD program?

An undergraduate degree in economics is not a requirement of admission. However, PhD coursework assumes that incoming students have strong basic knowledge of economic theories and concepts (inflation, growth, unemployment, utility functions, production functions, marginal analysis, etc.), so that they can progress immediately to advanced study. As a result, successful applicants are expected to have, at minimum, some amount of undergraduate coursework in both micro- and macro-economics, preferably through the intermediate level, with grades suggesting high potential for strong performance in a doctoral program.

I did my degree at an English-speaking university outside the U.S. Do I have to submit a TOEFL score?

As per the university’s requirements: all international students are required to submit official scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), from the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam, or from the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE). Exemptions are granted for students whose native language is English, or who have obtained a 4-year undergraduate degree or a graduate degree from an accredited institution in the United States or other English-speaking country.*

The minimum acceptable TOEFL score is 600 on a paper-based exam, or 100 on the Internet-based exam. The minimum acceptable IELTS score is 7. The minimum acceptable PTE score is 68. Please have scores sent directly to the College of Arts and Sciences. Our TOEFL institutional code number is 8439; there is no department code.

* TOEFL exam, IELTS exam, and PTE exam scores can be waived if student has obtained a 4-year undergraduate or 2+ year graduate degree from an accredited institution in another English-speaking country, such as Canada, United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand.

Where do AU students ‘place’ after they finish their degrees?

Our PhD students go on to work for a wide variety of academic, public-policy, research, and private-sector employers. With our location in Washington, D.C., many students acquire work experience at U.S. government agencies (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Census Bureau, Department of Agriculture/Economic Research Service, Congressional Budget Office); international financial institutions (World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Inter-American Development Bank); and think tanks (Urban Institute, Economic Policy Institute); many transition into career positions after finishing their degrees. Some international students return home to take up positions of responsibility in central banks, Ministries of Finance, and other government agencies or research institutions. Our students are also well-situated to compete for positions in U.S. colleges and universities that value teaching as well as research (Trinity College, UMass-Amherst, St. Mary’s College in Maryland), in part because our pluralistic curriculum gives AU students training in fields not typically taught in PhD programs, such as economic history, economic thought, and political economy.


Application Deadline

The application deadline is January 15.

Apply Online Now

Graduate Admissions Website