Prospective Students

Thank you for your interest in Duke's Ph.D. program in Economics. Beginning in August, the online application for admission for 2015-16 may be found at the Graduate School Admissions page. The deadline for applications for 2015-16 admission may be found at the Graduate School Deadlines page (please note that we typically accept applications after the Graduate School's priority deadline).  Our department matriculates Ph.D. students in the summer only.  Students begin in late July/early August with a mandatory math review course, commonly called Math Camp.

Prospective Student Profile

The usual profile of a matriculant who receives financial aid from Duke for study in the first year would be: (1) an undergraduate record strong in economics, mathematics, or physical science; (2) a perfect or near perfect score on the quantitative section of the GRE; (3) mathematical skills including multi-variable calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, real analysis, and introductory statistics and probability; (4) a GPA of 3.5 or better; (5) letters from individuals which confirm the intellectual strength of the candidate. Prospective students not presenting qualifying credentials are discouraged from applying for the Ph.D. program. For more information please refer to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Degree Programs page.

Application Fees

The application fee is $80. The Department of Economics does not waive application fees.


Please visit the Funding page for more information on financial aid, funding and an overview of expenses for Ph.D. students, including tuition, fees and cost of living. In order to be considered for any and all financial aid and funding for graduate school, simply indicate "Yes" on the electronic application in the section where financial aid is discussed. No additional paperwork is required.

GRE Scores

In order to meet the January application deadline, GRE tests should not be taken later than the preceding November test date. GRE scores older than five years at the time of application will not be accepted as official. Duke University accepts both the old GRE with the Analytical section graded on the 800 point scale and the newer Writing Analytical section graded on the 6.0 point scale. Only the GRE general test is required, not the subject test. The Ph.D. program does not accept, nor will it review, the GRE subject test or the GMAT in lieu of the GRE general test for admissions purposes.   Please request an official score report to be sent directly to the Graduate School, institution code 5156.  No department code is necessary.

The Department of Economics does not eliminate any applicant solely on the basis of GRE. However, over 90% of all applicants to the Ph.D. program earn the highest score on the Quantitative section. Scores that are significantly lower (see the Graduate School's Admissions Statistics webpage) and are supported by less then impressive grades in mathematics and economics related courses may result in rejection on the basis that the applicant is not competitive with the rest of the applicant pool. 

English Language Proficiency Tests
(for international applicants)

The Duke University Graduate School requires that any applicant whose native language is not English submit scores from either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the academic modules of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).  The Economics PhD program recommends that all international applicants take the TOEFL/IELTS regardless of whether or not they have attended another U.S. institution or participated in an ESL program. The TSE is not accepted. The Graduate School will accept only official TOEFL /IELTS scores; those which are submitted by ETS. ETS will not submit any scores more than two years old at the time of application. It is the policy of the Graduate School to admit only those students with a minimum TOEFL score of 90 or a minimum IELTS score of 7.0.  Please request an official score report to be sent directly to the Graduate School, institution code 5156.  For more information on the TOEFL or the IELTS, please see Admission Requirements.

NOTE: All international students whose first language is not English are required to take oral and written English placement exams administered by the English for International Students program. These exams are independent of the TOEFL/IELTS score submission requirement. Depending on their exam results, students are either exempted from or placed into one or more EIS courses. Students with EIS requirements must begin these courses in their first year of study. For more details, visit the Economics Department Requirements page.

Transcripts and Test Scores

Applicants should upload unofficial copies of transcripts.  Official, paper copies of transcripts will be requested if the applicant is offered admission.  Applicants should provide official copies of GRE and TOEFL scores. If transcripts are in a language other than English, they must be accompanied by an official, certified translation, which most universities and/or embassies provide. For statistics on GRE and GPAs for students admitted see the statistics section of the Graduate School's website.

Application Statistics

Each year more than 500 people apply to the Ph.D. program in Economics. Of those applicants approximately 50 are offered admission, with approximately 90% of them receiving an offer of five years of financial aid. The aid typically covers tuition and fee waivers and a combination of fellowships and teaching, graduate, and research assistantships which adequately cover the costs of living for the student, including rent, utilities, food, etc. We do not discriminate against any applicant based on country of origin or previous educational experience in deciding which students receive financial aid. Of the students offered admission to the Ph.D. program, about 35% decide to come to Duke, and we matriculate an average of 20 students each year. Approximately 70% of the students in our program are from outside of the United States; we pride ourselves on our broad spectrum of academic talent from all over the world.

The Economics Department at Duke University does not pre-screen potential applicants. We are unable to evaluate a student's "chances" for admission to our program simply from looking at their self-reported scores and academic history. Every year we judge each applicant's potential against the strength of the entire applicant pool, which varies from year to year. We do not measure students against a set of minimum criteria in order to decide upon admission, but instead gauge them against the overall caliber of all the applicants.

Students who are viewed as the most competitive for the Ph.D. program will typically demonstrate a solid academic or professional history with mathematics, including multi-variable calculus, linear algebra and real analysis, as they are the cornerstones of the program, which is quite math intensive. While prior experience in the field of economics is preferred, many successful applicants to the Ph.D. program have come from a variety of backgrounds, including public policy, political science, math, computer science, business, accounting, and engineering.

Final Notes

When the candidate's admissions file is complete, the Graduate School sends the file to the Economics Department. It is reviewed by a committee chaired by the Director of Graduate Admissions. Aid offers are made on a rolling basis, as funds permit, beginning in late February. Of the approximately 20 new Ph.D. students each year, 90% or more are supported by Duke, and the remainder are either supported by external funding sources or are self-supported. The Department attempts to develop partial aid programs for such self-supported students through hourly payment for grading papers or tutoring. Loans and work-study funds, in limited amounts, are available also. Students who are projected to be successful Ph.D. candidates are generally offered aid in the form of scholarships, teaching assistantships, or research assistantships for the second year and beyond.

Please see the Graduate School website for more information on graduate education at Duke University.

Economics Ph.D. Admission Deadline

January 14, 2015

Please note: This means we will accept applications after The Graduate School's suggested deadline. All applications recieved by our deadline will be considered for full funding.

Ph.D. Program Contacts

Director of Graduate Studies

Assistant to the Director of Graduate Studies, Ph.D.

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