Preparing for Graduate School

If you decide to pursue graduate work in economics, you should plan on getting a PhD. While some programs offer master's degrees, the employment opportunities are substantially greater with a PhD. This usually takes four to five years of graduate study. Students planning to go to graduate school should speak with their advisor. See our PhD program page for more information.

Economists with PhD's work in:

  • Academics
  • Government (such as the Departments of Labor, Justice, State, and Treasury, the Federal Reserve, Social Security Administration, and so on)
  • Research organizations (such as the Rand Corporation)
  • International organizations (such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, GATT, or the United Nations)
  • Banks, law firms, and businesses


A good background in mathematics and statistics is essential for graduate work in economics. Graduate schools will also look at your math/stat background when making decisions on admission and financial aid. Useful math classes include differential equations (Math 163), multidimensional analysis (Math 164), linear algebra (Math 235), probability (Math 201), mathematical statistics (Math 203), and stochastic processes (Math 202).

You certainly do not need to take all these classes. (A complete analysis is given in Mathematics Training for Students Interested in Economics) But the better your background in classes like these, the greater your opportunities and likely success later on.

Besides math and statistics courses, you should consider taking graduate-level classes in economics at Rochester as an undergraduate. The Economics Department at Rochester is generally recognized as one of the best in the world. Rochester PhD's teach at Harvard, Penn, Brown, Yale, Chicago, and many other highly rated institutions.

If you plan to take one of the first-year graduate classes in microeconomics or macroeconomics, you should first talk to your advisor. You will then need the permission of the professor to register for the course. You should begin in the fall, because courses taught in the spring require the fall courses as prerequisites.

When choosing among undergraduate courses offered by the Economics Department, you should concentrate particularly on classes that will build your theoretical skills. These will be more useful to you later than more applied classes.

Pre-Doctoral Research Programs

Many students find it useful to work in a research environment for a few years before pursuing a graduate degree. While the programs are highly competitive, we have had good success at placing qualified students in the past. Interested students should go to the following web site and use the username "urecon", and password "meliora".