Relating to Economics PhD programs

I have a friend that was recently admitted to graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis for the PhD program and offered a $30,000 annual fellowship without any teaching or TA’ing obligations.

Basically, how competitive is this offer for economics PhD programs? Pretty top-tier or a fairly standard offer? Additionally, how well regarded is Washington’s Economics Department? Finally, how long does a traditional economics PhD program last and what type of job prospects exist outside of academics for newly minted PhD’s?


I can’t give you a factual answer, but 10 years ago, when my friends and I were going to grad school, the offer sounds like a pretty good one. First, it was higher than anything any of us got (well, arguably, my first year law school tuition and books were covered by my scholarship, which suprisingly went over the $29k tuition estimate listed in the brochure). Second, we all had some sort of job to do for the university, which was mainly TA-ing. I don’t know how well Wash U’s econ dept is, but it was a pretty good school for undergrad, respected amongst my peers. I went to UofChicago for undergrad, and people I know also applied to Wash U. My econ friends went to UofC, UPenn, Stanford, CalTech, and Carnegie Mellon. They chose their schools not based on rank, but on programs that they wanted to do and the faculty heading the program. However, I guess US News and World Report is as a good a place as any to rank (i.e. like all rank listing, don’t take them too seriously). Economc Inquiry and National Academy of Sciense also put out a studies (though Economic Inquiry might have been a paper, sorry, my memory is lapsing).

A PhD program should take about 7 years, more or less depending on how one structures their dissertation. A really good job afterwards would be to work at a bank, possibly in one of their junior executive type programs. All of my friends work for banks. Two of my friends work on emerging capital markets and make twice what I make. Others do more scholoary type work for the bank, and still pull down a pretty good salary.

It is a very good offer, assuming tuition is thrown in as well. Washington University has a well respected Economics program (or at least it did 10 years ago). I wouldn’t put it in the Stanford, University of Chicago area, but still very respectable. In fact, depending on which field of economics (macro, micro, game theory, econometrics, int’l trade, agricutlural, public finance, etc.) it maybe even a little better than some of those schools. Best thing to do is have your friend talk to the faculty at his/her current/local university, especially in a field they are interested in.

Seven years is the high end (BTW, as a discalimer I went to the University of Rochester for seven years and all I got was an ABD :)) Your friend cannot really rely necessarily on that fellowship for 7 years, they start to get impatient at about year five. Outside of academics, I think the job market is actually pretty good for a PhD economist, but I can’t say for sure as I haven’t really looked in a long time.

On a related note, have they torn down Wash U.'s horrible political science/economics building yet? I took too many classes in that grey bunker.