Econ PhD (U.S. & India)

Last updated in November 2023



Why Econ PhD?

Presumably, you have completed your masters in economics and have realized that research in the discipline is your calling. Or you do not have a background in economics at all, but have a keen interest in research in the same. And now you are contemplating pursuing a PhD. A standard PhD in economics begins with mandatory coursework whose duration varies from 6 months to 2 years, followed by a dissertation period of about a couple of years (or more), at the end of which the candidate needs to defend their thesis. What the programme equips you with is sophisticated tools for in-depth analysis in specific questions in economics. If this sounds interesting to you and if you have the perseverance to survive the entire duration of the programme, then PhD is definitely the way to go. The job prospects after this degree include mostly academics (you would begin with the Assistant Professor title at universities/institutes), but a good proportion of graduates also join the industry as consultants in consulting firms like BCG and Deloitte. Some people even join the government or its agencies in the area of economic advisory and consultancy. 

From where and why?

The best place to pursue a PhD in Economics would be a good university in the U.S.A. (United States of America). There are several reasons for that, and they are listed below. If you have constraints because of which you can not leave India, your best bets would be the top 6 I.I.M.s (Indian Institutes of Management) and I.S.B. (Indian School of Business, Hyderabad). If you do not have a constraint, the best strategy would be to apply to some universities in the US, along with the IIMs and ISB as back-up.

The following are the reasons why it is advisable to pursue an Economics PhD from universities in the U.S. or from the IIMs/ISB in India:



That said, the information that follows would still be useful for you.


An indicative matrix of requisite funds for the application and transition procedure is displayed below (approximate costs mentioned as of June 2019). If you are applying to both universities in the US as well as to the IIMs/ISB, you would need to spend some money in Indian Rupees, and if you finally go to the US, some amount in USD. It is always good to be aware of the total amount of funds required for PhD applications beforehand. I wish somebody had presented this spreadsheet to me before I had begun with the procedure!

*Correction: Vaccinations for the US = 10,000

*Addition: Doctor's prescription and medicines = 5000

Addition: Smart Phone = 300

Though the total cost of all this would turn out to be around INR 8-9 Lacs (if you apply to around 15 universities in the US and 7 institutes in India), there are three things to consider: 

Application and Transition Procedure

Surviving Econ PhD in the U.S.

Here is a good quick start guide on Econ PhD in the US: Shanjun Li's Phd Econ Resources

Here is an excellent website that provides free resources for PhD Economics:


One of my biggest observations was that apart from requiring good mathematical skills, the PhD programme consists of introducing 'uncertainty' in both microeconomics and macroeconomics in the first year. This is quite unlike undergrad or masters level economics. It makes sense because with an increase in the level of modelling the economy, economists try to get closer and closer to the real world which is full of uncertainty. This means that you need a good grip on probability and expectations and related concepts of statistics.

Here is some of my advice for acing the first year of PhD Economics in the US: