Frequently Asked Questions about Graduate Admissions
How do I apply?
- General information about the application process
- Online application materials
- Social Sciences Division FAQ
- Economics Department Brochure and Guidebook
The Economics Department is housed within the Social Sciences Divsion and is not part of the Booth Graduate School of Business. Though there is a joint Economics/GSB Program; apply through either.
What are the Department’s Areas of Research?
Please see: Areas of Research
What are the prospects for admission and financial aid?
We receive 600-700 applications each year, making it impossible to answer individual questions. In a typical year, about 80 applicants are offered admission. Of those students, approximately one-quarter enter each autumn. Students admitted to the program either have multi-year full funding from external fellowship programs or are supported by a University of Chicago award. In addition to merit-based fellowships and scholarships many students earn income from part-time employment in such positions as research assistant. Appointments as a teaching assistant or lecturer beyond that required by a fellowship is an option for many advanced students. The University also participates in a number of educational loan programs for U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
If I send you a short description of my personal background, can you advise me about whether I am likely to be admitted into your economics program?
No, we cannot offer quick estimates of your chances to be admitted; emails of this kind cannot be answered. The question of your admission to the program can be decided only by the admissions committee, on the basis of all the materials included in each application. Our applicants cover a wide range of backgrounds, and we cannot pre-screen them in any way.
Do you have an MA course, offer Short-Term Courses, long-distance, online, or external learning programs, accept transfer students or visiting students to take 1 or 2 courses?
No. The Department does not offer MA degrees, short-term courses, accelerated, part-time, visiting, long-distance, online, or external learning programs. The program is designed exclusively as a Ph.D. program and does not admit students who intend to do only a master’s degree; therefore, all admissions are only to the PhD program. All potential transfer students must apply during the one-time annual admission for all students which is in the Autumn Quarter; the deadline for these applications is December 28 of the previous year. Transfer students’ applications will be considered along with all other applications. Even if an applicant already has an MA, each must still complete the application process; what matters in the acceptance process is preparation more than whether one has an MA or BA. All accepted students must complete all required coursework; transfer credits are not awarded.
What kind of writing sample do you want in my application?
A writing sample is required in the application for admission to graduate study in this department. Ideally the writing sample would be an economics research paper, such as a term paper for a course or an undergraduate or master’s thesis. The writing sample could also be something that you wrote as a homework assignment or as research in another field. A good writing sample could be anything that you have written which shows something about your interest in research and your ability to do research. The writing sample must be in English and preferably on 8 1/2” x 11” paper.
What can I do over the next few years to better prepare myself for a top PhD program in economics?
Before you enter a PhD program in economics, you should try to learn as much as you can about the substance and methods of research in economics. In work or in study, you should try to get some significant exposure to research in economics. It is very valuable to take some graduate-level classes in economics or related fields. We would strongly encourage you to take some advanced courses in mathematics, such as real analysis, to develop your ability to read and write rigorous mathematical arguments.
Do you allow application re-activates, re-application, or deferrals?
It is possible to re-activate your prior application, but there is a slight difference between those who were once admitted and those whose application was rejected. If you have been accepted once, you may re-apply the following year with no guarantee of acceptance nor of being awarded financial aid. The Department keeps your application information and there is no need to repay the application fee.
If you applied and were rejected, you may re-apply the following year with no guarantee of acceptance nor of being awarded any financial aid. You may have to resubmit application materials and you DO REPAY THE APPLICATION FEE. In either case, check with SSD Admissions.
Can I come and visit the department?
We do not have any structured program for visits by applicants before they have been admitted to the program. After admissions decisions have been announced, applicants who have been admitted are strongly encouraged to visit the department. In particular, we organize a special day each spring when admitted prospective students are invited to speak at length with members of the department. However, you are welcome to visit Robert Herbst, the Graduate Student Affairs Administrator, in Saieh Hall room 511, in the Autumn, Winter, and Spring quarters and audit classes and workshops during your visit (Summer visits are less ideal in that there are no classes and faculty are not available). Robert's open office hours are Monday through Thursday between 1:00-3:00pm.
How long does it take to complete the program?
Completion times vary, but 5 years is most common. Students typically complete most of their required courses for the PhD in the first two years, but developing a research topic and writing a PhD thesis regularly takes two to four years of further work.
What are tuition and fees?
Please check the bursar’s web site for current fees:
Do a lot of students fail out of your program?
No. Thesis research can require many years of work and many specialized technical skills, so it is inevitable that some fraction of the people who enter a PhD program like ours will find that their talents are different from those required for a successful career in economics. To reduce risks of failure in the long process of writing a thesis, our PhD program offers a thorough evaluation of students’ aptitude for research by a rigorous general examination that follows our first-year core courses. All students are given two attempts to pass the core. If after two attempts a student has still not demonstrated the skills necessary for research in economics, the student is required to withdraw from the program. On average, one person per cohort cannot pass the Core a second time and leaves the program.
In recent years, about 70-75% of the entering students passed the core requirement on the first try. Among those who passed the core, the great majority (about 86%) went on to successfully complete a thesis and earn a PhD degree. Those who withdrew after the core exams still got substantial value from their period of study at Chicago, because our core courses gave them a valuable opportunity to broaden their understanding of economics, and many earned a master’s degree. So we find that a thorough evaluation of students early in the program substantially reduces the risk of being unable to complete a thesis after many years of graduate research, with little effect on the fraction of entering students who ultimately earn a PhD.
What kinds of jobs do your students get after graduation?
In recent years, about 65% of our graduates have taken jobs in academic institutions, including universities and colleges throughout the world; about 25% have taken jobs in private-sector firms, including banks, investment houses, and consulting firms; about 10% have taken jobs in government financial and regulatory institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Federal Reserve system, and central banks from other countries; and about 1% went on to further study, such as law school. Among those who took academic jobs, about 40% took their first jobs at universities with the top 20 economics departments in the United States (according to a recent ranking).
Where can I get more information about the department?
You can start at the Economics Department’s web page. From our list of faculty members, you can go to their home pages for information about their teaching and research. You can read their publications in the professional journals of economics. If you want to learn more about what is exciting in economics today, you should also look at some recent issues of the Journal of Political Economy, which is edited by faculty here in Chicago.
After looking at our faculty, you might want to learn something about our students. You can find online information about students from our department who have recently gone on the job market. Take a look at the kinds of research that they have been doing, and compare them with students from departments anywhere in the world. We are proud of their achievements.