About the PhD in economics

The PhD program in Economics at the University of Iowa prepares students to become active researchers in economics. Admission into the program is highly competitive, with approximately three to five students admitted yearly from a pool of hundreds of applicants. This small, selective program allows for a high degree of student-faculty interaction and encourages students to become engaged in research early during the program. The program emphasizes high quality instruction with a focus on econometrics and the applied microeconomics fields of labor economics and industrial organization. Students should be able to complete the program in five or six years.

Learn more in our Guide to the PhD Program in Economics.

Note: Economics will not be accepting applications for fall 2022. The next intake for new PhD students will be Fall 2023, with an application deadline of January 15, 2023.

Getting in

First, you need to meet the minimum PhD admissions criteria. Other criteria for admission include:

Academic record
Aside from the minimum requirements, an undergrad degree in economics isn't a prerequisite for admission. The recommended academic background includes:

  • Coursework in economics: intermediate micro and macro, econometrics, game theory, and mathematical economics
  • Coursework in mathematics: multivariate calculus, linear algebra, introductory probability/statistics, real analysis, and optimization

Your academic record in economics and mathematics/statistics courses (in particular those listed above) will be closely reviewed. We don't expect you to have taken all the courses listed above, but at a very minimum, a very good performance in the full calculus sequence is required. At least two more math courses and two econ courses from the above list are usually needed.

A 3.0 minimum is required. We also consider the rigor of your undergrad or master's institution(s).

GRE score
We do not accept GMAT scores in lieu of the GRE. 

Statement of purpose
Content and overall seriousness are considered. Applicants should describe how their research interests match with the emphasis of the program on econometrics and applied microeconomics fields and with the research interests of the faculty.

Letters of recommendation
We're interested in their assessment of your strengths, weaknesses, motivation, and ability to succeed.

English proficiency
This applies only to international applicants whose native language is not English. Automatic waivers of the English Proficiency Requirement are granted if you've completed a bachelor's degree (or higher) at an accredited university in the United States. We accept TOEFL and IELTS. The Graduate College minimum score requirements are:

IELTS: 7.0 with no subscore under 6.0*
DuoLingo: 105 minimum score*

*All IELTS and DuoLingo test-takers will be required to take the on-campus English Proficiency Evaluation when they arrive.

Financial support

You'll be guaranteed financial aid for at least five years, provided you're making satisfactory academic progress. 

Our financial aid package includes:

  • All tuition payments
  • A 9-month stipend
  • Health and dental insurance

PhDs earn the stipend by serving as research or teaching assistants. See details on the base funding package.

Other benefits

  • Departmental fellowships and summer fellowships
  • Research assistantships during the second year
  • Competitive fellowship or teaching opportunities during the semester
  • Competitive fellowships for one or two semesters during the dissertation phase
  • Funding for travel to conferences
  • Financial assistance during the job market search

Curriculum and plan of study

The PhD in economics requires 72 semester hours of credit, in addition to a dissertation. The typical time to complete the degree is five or six years.

An M.A. in economics or an allied field may be earned concurrently with the doctoral degree. Students typically satisfy the requirements of the M.A. degree in economics with successful completion of the first two years of doctoral studies.

Year 1

  • Two-semester sequence in microeconomics covering the core models that are the basis for economic research
  • Two-semester sequence in statistics and econometrics covering the theory and application of statistical tools to economics
  • One-semester course in macro
  • One-semester course in economic analysis/mathematical tools
  • End of year: Qualifying exams in micro and econometrics. Successful completion is required for continuing the PhD

Year 2

  • Two fields among econometrics, labor economics, and industrial organization. Each field consists of two courses
  • Research assistantship in the spring semester with faculty mentor
  • Complete an original research paper with a faculty mentor during the summer

Year 3

  • Complete an independent, original research paper
  • Dissertation process begins; identify dissertation topic

Year 4

  • Continue dissertation research
  • Proposal defense

Year 5

  • Enter job market
  • Final dissertation defense