Note: Economics will not be accepting applications for fall 2024.

A smaller program offers big advantages

The PhD program in economics at the University of Iowa prepares students to become active researchers in economics. 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.

Faculty just down the hall

The program's small scale means you’ll interact with faculty on a consistent basis who will support and encourage your research. Explore our research to learn more about our areas of expertise.

See faculty research

Career placements

Our PhD program has a long history of successful placements. Since 2009, our PhDs have joined universities, businesses, governmental orgs, and NGOs around the world, including:

  • University of Chicago
  • Federal Reserve Bank (Chicago, Dallas)
  • International Monetary Fund
  • University of Virginia Syracuse
  • University Central Bank of Chile
  • Indiana University
  • Copenhagen Business School
  • Capital One Bank
  • Samsung
  • Amazon
  • U.S. Census Bureau
  • Texas A&M University
“Even people I’ve never worked with directly have come up from time to time and asked if I needed anything. That’s special to the small program here.”

Getting in

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

Academic record

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 requirement applies only to international applicants whose native language is not English. We follow the Graduate College's English proficiency requirements

Curriculum and sample 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