An In-Depth Look At The University Of Chicago’S Prestigious Economics Phd Program

Deciding where to pursue a PhD in economics is one of the most important choices an aspiring economist can make. The university you choose will have a major impact on your graduate school experience, research opportunities, career prospects, and professional network.

If you’re looking for a quick answer: the University of Chicago’s economics PhD program is one of the top programs in the world, known for its rigorous academic training in free-market economics and impressive roster of alumni. Graduates go on to top careers in academia, government, and the private sector.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know as you consider applying to the University of Chicago for a PhD in economics. You’ll learn about the program’s unique curriculum, faculty experts, research resources, student culture, career outcomes for graduates, program rankings, and tips for applying.

Overview of the Program

The University of Chicago economics department has an unmatched reputation for advancing free-market economic theories. Its PhD program is extremely prestigious yet intensely challenging. Students who are accepted into the program can expect to receive a top-notch education in economics and be well-prepared for careers in academia, research, or policy-making.

The Program Length

The program takes an average of 5-6 years to complete. This duration allows students to delve deep into the field of economics and develop a strong foundation of knowledge and skills. During this time, students will engage in rigorous coursework, independent research, and collaboration with faculty and fellow students.

The Curriculum

Students in the University of Chicago’s economics PhD program will take highly technical courses in microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, and econometrics. The curriculum emphasizes analytical modeling, statistical analysis, and economic institutions.

This comprehensive approach equips students with the tools they need to analyze complex economic systems and make informed decisions.

The program follows a ‘Chicago school’ approach, with a focus on issues like monetary policy, deregulation, and reduced government intervention. This approach is rooted in the belief that free markets lead to the most efficient allocation of resources and promote economic growth.

Students will have the opportunity to explore these concepts in depth and contribute to the ongoing research and debates in the field.

Furthermore, the program encourages interdisciplinary collaboration and allows students to take courses in other departments, such as mathematics, statistics, or public policy, to complement their economics training.

This interdisciplinary approach helps students develop a well-rounded understanding of economic issues and their broader societal implications.

Faculty and Research

The University of Chicago’s Economics PhD program boasts an impressive roster of faculty members, including several Nobel laureates and winners of the prestigious John Bates Clark Medal. Among the well-known professors in the department are John Cochrane, Steven Levitt, Kevin Murphy, Richard Thaler, and Robert Lucas.

These esteemed scholars bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the program, offering students a unique opportunity to learn from some of the brightest minds in the field.

Moreover, the department’s research output is consistently ranked among the top in the United States. In fact, it holds the impressive position of being ranked #2 for research output. This recognition speaks to the department’s commitment to producing high-quality research that contributes to the advancement of economic theory and understanding.

As part of the program, students have the privilege of working closely with faculty members on their research projects. This close mentorship allows students to gain valuable insights and guidance from experts in their respective fields.

In addition, the department provides students with access to extensive research resources, including databases, libraries, and data sets, to support their research endeavors.

Areas of expertise

The University of Chicago’s Economics PhD program offers students the opportunity to specialize in a wide range of areas within the field of economics. The faculty members have diverse expertise, covering various subfields and specializations. Some of the areas of expertise include:

  • Price theory
  • Labor economics
  • Development economics
  • Financial economics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Applied microeconomics
  • And more

This breadth of expertise ensures that students have the opportunity to explore and delve deep into the specific areas of economics that align with their interests and career goals. Whether students are interested in studying the intricacies of market dynamics, understanding labor market trends, analyzing economic development, or exploring the complexities of financial markets, the program offers a range of courses and research opportunities to cater to their individual interests.

Curriculum and Graduation Requirements

The curriculum has 4 main components: core theory courses, field courses in chosen expertise, research work and thesis, and a 3rd year research paper.

The University of Chicago’s prestigious Economics PhD program offers a rigorous and comprehensive curriculum that prepares students for successful careers in academia, research, and policy-making. The program is designed to provide students with a strong foundation in economic theory, empirical methods, and specialized knowledge in their chosen field of expertise.

The curriculum is divided into four main components. First, students are required to complete a series of core theory courses. These courses cover microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, and econometrics, using advanced mathematical models to analyze economic phenomena.

These courses provide students with a solid understanding of economic principles and analytical tools that are essential for conducting high-quality research.

The second component of the curriculum consists of field courses in the student’s chosen area of expertise. These courses allow students to delve deeper into specific topics within economics and develop a specialized knowledge base.

The University of Chicago’s economics department offers a wide range of field courses, covering areas such as labor economics, industrial organization, international trade, and monetary economics, among others.

The third component of the curriculum focuses on research work and thesis. Students are encouraged to engage in independent research projects under the guidance of faculty members. This research work culminates in the completion of a doctoral thesis, which showcases the student’s ability to conduct original and meaningful research in their field of study.

The fourth and final component of the curriculum is the requirement to present a 3rd year research paper. This research paper allows students to demonstrate their research skills and present their findings to faculty and fellow students.

It is an opportunity for students to receive feedback and engage in scholarly discussions, further enhancing their research abilities.

Core theory courses cover microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, and econometrics using advanced mathematical models.

The core theory courses offered in the University of Chicago’s Economics PhD program are designed to provide students with a solid foundation in economic theory and econometric methods. These courses cover microeconomic theory, which examines individual economic behavior and market interactions, as well as macroeconomic theory, which focuses on the behavior of the economy as a whole.

Econometrics courses teach students how to analyze economic data and test economic theories using statistical methods.

The University of Chicago’s economics department is renowned for its rigorous approach to economic theory and its emphasis on mathematical modeling. Students are exposed to advanced mathematical concepts and techniques, allowing them to develop strong analytical skills and the ability to tackle complex economic problems.

The department’s faculty members are leading experts in their respective fields and provide students with cutting-edge insights and knowledge.

To graduate, students must complete coursework, pass qualifying exams, present a 3rd year research paper, fulfill teaching requirements, and defend a dissertation.

Graduating from the University of Chicago’s Economics PhD program is a significant achievement that requires students to meet several requirements. First and foremost, students must complete the required coursework, which includes core theory courses and field courses in their chosen area of expertise.

In addition to coursework, students must also pass qualifying exams, which test their knowledge and understanding of economic theory and methods. These exams are comprehensive and rigorous, ensuring that students have a deep understanding of their field of study.

Successfully passing these exams demonstrates a student’s readiness to conduct independent research and contribute to the field of economics.

Furthermore, students are required to present a 3rd year research paper, which showcases their ability to conduct original research and contribute to the existing body of knowledge in their field. This research paper is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their research skills, analytical capabilities, and ability to communicate their findings effectively.

In addition to coursework and research requirements, students are expected to fulfill teaching requirements. This involves serving as teaching assistants for undergraduate courses, where they have the opportunity to gain valuable teaching experience and mentorship from faculty members.

Teaching experience is highly valued in academia and can enhance a student’s job prospects after graduation.

Finally, students must defend a dissertation, which is the culmination of their research work during the program. The dissertation is a comprehensive and original piece of research that makes a significant contribution to the field of economics.

Defending the dissertation involves presenting and defending the research findings before a committee of faculty members, who evaluate the quality and significance of the research.

Student Culture and Experience

The University of Chicago’s Economics PhD program is renowned for its intense competitiveness and demanding nature. Students in the program work tirelessly to excel in their studies and research. However, amidst the rigorous academic environment, they also form strong bonds with their classmates.

The program encourages collaboration and teamwork, fostering a supportive and tight-knit community.

The Program as a Cohort

During their first year in the program, students take classes together as a cohort. This allows them to build relationships with their peers and establish a supportive network. The cohort model creates a sense of camaraderie as students navigate through the initial challenges of the program together.

They study side by side, tackle complex problem sets, and engage in stimulating discussions that further deepen their understanding of economics.

Independent Research and Field Courses

In their second year, students begin to embark on independent research projects and take field courses. This is a pivotal stage in their academic journey, where they have the opportunity to delve into their specific areas of interest.

The program offers a wide range of field courses, allowing students to explore various subfields within economics. This exposure helps them develop a well-rounded understanding of the discipline and refine their research focus.

Access to Resources and Support

Students in the Economics PhD program at the University of Chicago have access to a plethora of resources and support. They have the opportunity to work closely with esteemed faculty advisors who provide guidance and mentorship throughout their academic journey.

Additionally, students may secure teaching and research assistantships, which not only enhance their learning but also provide valuable practical experience.

The program also offers seminars and conferences where students can present their research and engage with scholars from around the world. These events provide valuable networking opportunities and expose students to cutting-edge research in economics.

Moreover, the university provides comprehensive career guidance to students, helping them navigate the job market and obtain rewarding positions in academia, industry, or government. The Economics PhD program equips students with the skills and knowledge necessary for successful careers in various fields.

For more information on the University of Chicago’s Economics PhD program, you can visit their official website here.

Career Outcomes for Graduates

Many graduates become economics professors at top universities like Yale, MIT, Harvard, Princeton, and more.

Graduates of the University of Chicago’s prestigious Economics PhD program often go on to secure positions as esteemed economics professors at renowned universities. These universities include Ivy League institutions such as Yale, MIT, Harvard, Princeton, and many more.

The rigorous academic training and research experience gained during the program equip graduates with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in the field of economics.

Becoming a professor at such esteemed institutions is a testament to the quality of education and training provided by the University of Chicago. It also highlights the recognition and respect that the program’s graduates receive within the academic community.

Other common career paths include: research roles at central banks, economic consulting, policy research, and senior economics positions in government.

While pursuing a career in academia is a popular choice for graduates of the University of Chicago’s Economics PhD program, there are also numerous other career paths that they can explore. Graduates are well-equipped to take on research roles at central banks, where they can contribute to shaping monetary policy and analyzing economic trends.

Economic consulting is another common career path for graduates, where they can apply their expertise to help businesses and organizations make informed decisions based on economic analysis. Additionally, many graduates find fulfilling careers in policy research, where they can influence and shape economic policies at various levels of government.

Furthermore, graduates from the program often secure senior economics positions in government, where they can contribute their knowledge and expertise to inform important policy decisions. These career paths offer a wide range of opportunities for graduates to apply their skills and make a meaningful impact in the field of economics.

The program has an impressive global alumni network in academia, banking, business, and policy circles.

One of the many strengths of the University of Chicago’s Economics PhD program is its extensive and impressive alumni network. Graduates of the program can tap into this network to forge connections and create opportunities in various sectors, including academia, banking, business, and policy circles.

Within academia, the program’s alumni can collaborate on research projects, share insights, and contribute to the advancement of the field. In the banking and business sectors, alumni can leverage their expertise to excel in leadership roles and contribute to economic growth and development.

Furthermore, the program’s alumni often occupy influential positions in policy circles, where they can shape economic policies and contribute to the betterment of society. This global alumni network not only serves as a valuable resource for graduates but also highlights the program’s strong reputation and the impact of its graduates in various sectors.


The University of Chicago’s PhD program in economics is one of the most reputable and rigorous in the world. For students interested in advanced economic theory and research, it offers unparalleled opportunities to work with leaders in the field.

Graduates leave equipped with outstanding technical skills and a network of accomplished alumni across academia and industry. However, the program’s intense demands require exceptional commitment, stamina, and focus.

If you believe you have what it takes to succeed at Chicago, it may be the ideal place to pursue your PhD in economics. We hope this guide provided helpful insights as you explore this top-tier program and make this important decision.

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