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Use scholarship to find answers for some of the world’s most pressing questions including the future of work, ending global poverty, and improving the environment.

The Harvard Department of Economics has long tried to use scholarship to find answers for some of the world’s most pressing questions including the future of work, ending global poverty, and improving the environment. We believe nothing should limit the economist’s imagination.

You will be part of a program that includes people working in many fields, such as finance, economic history, behavioral economics, political economy, and many more. The program will prepare you for a productive and stimulating career as an economist. You will attend seminars given by top scholars from both domestic and international communities and will have access to over 13 million books and pamphlets from 90 separate library units at Harvard.

Examples of student research include how investor base composition is an important determinant of bond price dynamics and capital allocation outcomes in response to aggregate credit cycle fluctuations, and the long-term effects that temporary upstream steel tariffs on US manufacturing have on downstream industries.

Graduates have secured academic positions at prestigious institutions like MIT, Stanford University, and Yale University. Others have gone on to careers at organizations like the International Monetary Fund, Vanguard, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and Amazon.

Additional information on the graduate program is available from the Department of Economics and requirements for the degree are detailed in Policies.

Admissions Requirements

Please review admissions requirements and other information before applying. You can find degree program-specific admissions requirements below and access additional guidance on applying from the Department of Economics.

Academic Background

Applicants should have an understanding of economics and have taken at least some economics courses beyond the principles level. Applicants should be able to demonstrate their ability to do research by either having done research previously or via experience as a research assistant. In the latter instance, a letter from the supervisor indicating the ability to do research is critical.

Writing Sample

A writing sample is required and must be no less than 15 pages.

Math Preparation

The minimum level of mathematical preparation to be considered for admission includes calculus and linear algebra and demonstration of proficiency with mathematics. Increasingly, successful applicants will have taken more mathematics classes. In particular, most successful applicants now take real analysis, although that is not a requirement.

Standardized Tests

GRE General: Required
GRE Subject Test: Optional

Applying to More Than One Program

Harvard has several PhD programs that may also be of interest to students considering applying to the PhD program in economics. These include Business Economics, Public Policy, and Health Policy. Many students in these programs have considerable overlap in their coursework with courses offered to PhD students in economics. Many also have dissertation committees that include faculty members of the economics department.

We encourage those with interest in any of those programs to also apply to those programs. The Department of Economics will make admissions decisions independently, so application to or admission to other programs will not adversely affect admissions decisions within the department. However, please note that if you choose to apply to additional programs, you can only submit three applications to Harvard Griffin GSAS during the course of your academic career.

Campus Visits

The department arranges for campus visits for all admitted students and we cover a portion the costs associated with these visits. We do not encourage visits prior to being admitted. Since the department receives an overwhelming number of applications, it’s simply more efficient to arrange meetings with faculty after students are accepted rather than before.

Theses & Dissertations

Theses & Dissertations for Economics


See list of Economics faculty


Degrees Offered


Questions about the Program?

Brenda Piquet
Assistant Director, PhD Programs