Kristin A. Van Gaasbeck

Dept. of Economics | College of SSIS | Sacramento State
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Doctoral Programs

Recommended Coursework
:: Mathematics Minor | Mathematics Major | What about the GRE?
Ph.D. Programs in Economics
:: Getting Started | What to Expect
A great resource for undergraduate and graduate students interested in applying to Ph.D. programs in Economics, as well as current Ph.D. students. This includes detailed information on admissions decisions for a large group of U.S. Ph.D. programs.



Recommended Coursework

Students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Economics should complete a significant amount of coursework in Mathematics before applying to doctoral programs. Graduate admissions committees at doctoral programs usually don't care about your economics coursework, they focus on your quantitative training. This is because success during the first year hinges critically on your math skills.

At a minimum, the majority of programs require the following courses in Mathematics (prerequisites in parentheses):

  • MATH 30: Calculus I (MATH 029 or four years of high school mathematics which includes two years of algebra, one year of geometry, and one year of mathematical analysis; completion of ELM requirement and Pre-Calculus Diagnostic Test.)
  • MATH 31: Calculus II (MATH 30 or appropriate AP credit)
  • MATH 35: Introduction to Linear Algebra (MATH 30) OR MATH 100: Applied Linear Algebra (MATH 26B or MATH 31)

Recently, students seeking admission to doctoral programs are expected to have added coursework in economics and mathematics, including the following:

  • ECON 141: Introduction to Econometrics (ECON 1A, ECON 1B, and ECON 140; ECON 100A and ECON 100B are recommended)
  • ECON 200M: Math for Economists (MATH 26A or MATH 30, ECON 100A, and ECON 100B)
  • MATH 32: Calculus III (MATH 31)
  • MATH 45: Differential Equations for Science and Engineering (MATH 31)
  • MATH 108: Introduction to Formal Mathematics (MATH 31, MATH 35)
  • MATH 117: Linear Algebra (MATH 110A)
  • MATH 130A: Functions of a Real Variable (MATH 32, MATH 45, and MATH 108)
  • MATH 150: Introduction to Numerical Analysis (MATH 32 OR MATH 45)
  • MATH 170: Linear Programming (MATH 31 and MATH 35)
  • STAT 115A: Introduction to Probability Theory (MATH 31; STAT 1 or STAT 50 recommended)
  • STAT 115B: Introduction to Mathematical Statistics (STAT 115A)

It would be advantageous for students to complete the minor or major in Mathematics. This strengthens the student's quantitative background and application to doctoral programs.

In recent years, students who do not have a strong background in mathematics are not admitted to doctoral programs in Economics. Applicants to doctoral programs come from a variety of backgrounds and universities. In order to compete with applicants from the nation's top universities, students with more formal math training are more likely to be successful. This coupled with an outstanding GRE score allows students from college and universities outside of the top 25 to compete. For more advice, please review the Admissions Guide provided by This include comments from graduate coordinators at a variety of institutions.


Mathematics Minor

(with recommended elective coursework)

Recommended Minor in Mathematics for students interested in applying to doctoral programs in Economics (Option I):

  • MATH 30: Calculus I
  • MATH 31: Calculus II
  • MATH 35: Introduction to Linear Algebra OR MATH 100: Applied Linear Algebra
  • MATH 108: Introduction to Formal Mathematics
  • MATH 170: Linear Programming
  • STAT 115A: Introduction to Probability Theory or other upper division MATH/STAT course.


Mathematics Major
(with recommended elective coursework)

Recommended Major in Mathematics (double major in Economics, or minor in Economics that includes ECON 100A, ECON 100B, ECON 141, and ECON 200M):

  • (20 units) Lower Division Courses: MATH 30, MATH 31, MATH 32, MATH 35, MATH 45
  • (3 units) Computer Science: CSC 10
  • (15 units) Upper Division Core Courses: MATH 108, MATH 110A, MATH 130A, MATH 130B
  • (12 units) Concentration (Applied Mathematics and Statistics): STAT 115A, STAT 115B, MATH 150, MATH 170 (In addition, MATH 117 is recommended)

If an undergraduate Economics major is interested in applying to doctoral programs in Economics, the student should see a major advisor early in his/her academic career. Since the majority of mathematics courses must be completed in sequence, it is essential to get started early.


What about the GRE?

Students accepted to Ph.D. Programs in Economics are expected to have extremeley high GRE scores, especially in the quantitative section of the exam. In terms of overall GRE scores, students applying to Economics Ph.D. Programs have the 4th highest GRE scores (behind only 1-Physics, 2-Mathematics, and 3-Computer Science).

In order to be competitive, students coming from California State University system schools need to earn very high GRE scores and have oustanding preperation in mathematics. To get a sense of who is admitted and who is not, take a look at's Decision Tables and Scott Barkowski's admission statistics for a variety of Ph.D. programs.

The GRE is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Study guides and other information on the GRE can be found at Study Guide Zone.


Ph.D. Programs in Economics

Resources to look for Ph.D. Programs in Economics.

Getting Started

Admissions Guide
From, Provides information on what to expect, competitiveness, and how to insure that you have a strong application (see my recommendations about preperatory math coursework above).

Ph.D. Program Rankings
Rankings of programs, broken down into fields.

Economics Programs with Ph.D. Programs in the United States of America and Canada
Complete listing of programs with doctoral programs.

Ph.D. Job Candidates (and Placements)
Links to Ph.D. programs with Ph.D. candidates looking for jobs. Most include information on where students place after completing their doctorates.

Economics Departments, Institutes, and Research Centers in the World


What to Expect

Lecture Notes from Ph.D. Programs (listed by subject)
Want to know what you're getting into? This list include syllabi and notes from Ph.D. courses, as well as notes for calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, and advanced mathematics.

Schematic of your life in a Ph.D. Program
An amusing empirical depiction of your life in graduate school.

Advice on the first year in a Ph.D. Program
From Matthew Pearson (U.C. Davis).



©2007 Kristin Van Gaasbeck | Department of Economics | 6000 J Street | Sacramento, CA 95819-6082 | 916.278.6223