Economics Society

Grad School

Graduate School

There are five main types of graduate programs that economics majors have considered or pursued. Each of these programs serve a very distinct market and are not interchangeable for the most part: 1) MBA, 2) Terminal Masters, 3) Applied Masters, 4) Specialized Masters, and 5) Ph.D. Programs.

If you are thinking about graduate school for economics we recommend you discuss this decision with our fine economics faculty as they are a great resource and can offer some guidance.

Also note that for the vast majority of these programs you will need to take the GRE, economics programs tend to put more weight on the quantitative potion of the GRE. If you are considering an MBA, the vast majority require the GMAT; however, some have started to accept the GRE in its place.


Disclaimer: These notes are the result of a few students personal research and should be used in conjunction with your own research and discretion.


Masters in Business Administration (MBA)

MBA programs are the continuation of ones business education often offering some degree of specialization in a given field (ex. Security Analysis). These programs due overlap in curriculum with an undergraduate degree in business because many of their students are returning to school after a period in the work force or are in the process of switching careers from a non-business background.

These programs are the least math intensive on the list, but are also the most expensive and common in the workforce.


Terminal Masters Programs

Terminal programs are stand alone programs and do not lead directly into further education (i.e. a Ph.D. program). They are typically around 24 months in length and are more focused on economic theory and its application compared to their applied masters program counterparts. What is more they often require a masters thesis.

These programs can be used as a stepping stone to Ph.D. programs for students with insufficient mathematical training, but it varies by program (see below Ph.D. Mathematics).

These programs often offer a range of specializations (AKA fields) similar to Ph.D. programs (see Ph.D. Fields below)

You can find a list of terminal (and doctoral) programs here:


Applied Masters Programs

Applied programs focus their curriculum on applying economic theory and econometric tools to real world problems; moreover, they are geared towards students interested in working for companies, local governmental agencies, and consultancies.

Typically these programs are between 12-24 months in length and often include a summer session or summer internship opportunity. Some programs do require a masters thesis.

These programs often have applied emphasis (example: Finance, Marketing, Policy, Business, etc.) where students can gain specialized skills for a targeted industry or area of work.

Mathematical Background (varies by program)

–          Calculus I (differential) required
–          Calculus II (integral) recommended
–          Linear Algebra recommended

Example applied masters program: Marquette University

Also note that this is the type of program UWW is currently (Fall 2012) in the process of developing.


Specialized Masters Programs

These are programs that offer a great deal of specialization (outside of economics). Often these programs are highly quantitative and/or involve computer science/programming. The most common type of specialized programs are those in quantitative finance and financial engineering where students learn how to build and develop financial instruments and package securities.

Key Words to Google: Masters in Quantitative Finance, Masters in Financial Engineering


Ph.D. Programs

Ph.D. programs are very different from all of the programs above in that they are typically 5 years in length and are extremely rigorous both theoretically and mathematically. These programs are geared towards individuals interested in a career in academics and/or research. The vast majority of Ph.D.s go onto work at educational institutions to teach and do research in their field(s) of interest (see below). Some do go onto to work for places like the Federal Reserve Bank, International Monetary Fund, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and other large research institutions. Very few, relatively, go onto to work in the private sector and work for companies; however, those that do are often compensated handsomely.

These programs are highly mathematical in nature and it is recommended that students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. major in Mathematics as an undergrad (a minor is pretty much the bare minimum).

Ph.D. Mathematics expected to have had in undergrad (on average)

–          Calculus I (differential)
–          Calculus II (integral)
–          Calculus III (multi-variable)
–          Linear Algebra
–          Ordinary Differential Equations strongly recommended
–          Mathematical Statistics strongly recommended
–          Probability recommended
–          Real Analysis recommended
–          Optimization recommended

Many of the high points to these math courses are touched on in Dr. Yamin Ahmad’s Advanced Economic Analysis (ECON 413) taught every fall semester, but note that this class is not a substitute for formal mathematical training.

If a Ph.D. is your ultimate goal and you meet the bare minimum math requirements you are encouraged to apply directly to Ph.D. programs but may want to hedge your bets by applying to one or two terminal masters. Your best course of action may be to lengthen your undergraduate career to complete you mathematical education (it would be shorter than a masters and decidedly cheaper).

Ph.D. Fields

Development Economics
Economic History
Industrial Organization
Labor Economics
Public Economics
Environmental Economics
(there are more but it depends on the institution and program)

 Notes on Funding

One of the benefits of doctoral programs is that admitted students often have tuition covered and receive a living stipend (averages between $14,000-21,000) and health insurance. Some universities will partially fund masters students but this is relatively rare.

For more information please feel free to stop into the economics department and discuss this with our professors. When it comes to the application process, GRE scores etc feel free to contact Jaeger Nelson at having recently gone through this process he may be able shed some light on the matter.


Best of Luck,


The Economics Society Executive Board (2012-2013)

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