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The application deadline is December 15.

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Before You Apply

Degrees Offered

The Department of Economics offers a full-time Ph.D. program.

Please note that the department does not admit students for a terminal MA degree. An MA degree is only available to Economics Ph.D. students who have successfully completed the first year of the doctoral program, and to students enrolled in other doctoral programs at Northwestern.


  • Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree or its equivalent by the time they begin graduate work.
  • Applicants are not required to have majored in economics but must possess a solid mathematics background. All students are expected to have a total of four quarters of differential and integral calculus plus linear algebra before entering the program. Students occasionally are admitted with an inadequate mathematical background if their record is extremely strong otherwise and they agree to take remedial math courses upon arrival. In most cases, however, students with inadequate mathematical training are advised to delay graduate school and take a year of math first.

Application Steps

Step 1: Complete the University's Online Application Form

All applicants must first complete the University's standard on-line application form, and pay the application fee. Applications can be made starting in September of the application year. Go to the Graduate School's website at and click on "Admission" then "Apply Online." As part of the application, you will be asked to write a statement of purpose. Please see the notes below concerning the content of such a statement. Also note that the Department does not consider writing samples.

Program Code for the Ph.D. program in economics is E05PH.

Application Fee: The fee is $95.00. The application fee must be paid by credit card when making the on-line application.

Deadline: For all applicants who wish to begin study in the fall quarter; the on-line application must be made and all supporting documents (see below) should be postmarked by the December 15. Applicants are considered for admission to the fall term only. There are no winter or spring admissions.

Minority Applicants: The Department of Economics welcomes applications by minority students. Northwestern participates in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and accepts the CIC FreeApp. Interested minority applicants who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents and have a serious intent to pursue a career in teaching and academic research may use the CIC FreeApp to request an application fee waiver at Northwestern. Eligibility criteria and the CIC FreeApp on-line application can be found at the CIC site:

CV / Resume: A concise CV / Resume is very important. It should make clear what you have done since graduating from high school without leaving any gaps. It should describe briefly any full time jobs that you have held, research experience while a student, publications (if any), and awards and honors. 

Departmental Form: A table that summarizes the six most advanced courses you have completed in both economics and mathematics at a university or college. You can download this form as a fillable PDF.

If you cannot download this form, then it is acceptable if you create your form which contains the same information in a similar format.

  • List only courses that have been already graded, and not courses that you are currently taking, or are planning to take.
  • In the first five columns, you should fill in the course number, title, the school at which it was taken, date of completion, and grade exactly as they appear on your transcript.
  • In the sixth column, mention the main textbook for the course, if there was such a text (it is enough to write the author(s) name(s) and the first few words of the title as space permits).
  • If you have taken more than six courses in any of these disciplines, pick the six most advanced ones (but ensure that you mention core courses in intermediate microeconomics, intermediate macroeconomics and econometrics).
  • If you are taking very "substantial" courses during the Fall term and do not have the grades in time to be included in this form application, you may send an updated version of the form as an e-mail attachment to after you know your grade. By substantial courses we mean advanced math courses such as Real Analysis or graduate economics courses.
  • If your Fall courses are standard economics courses of a similar level to those you have taken before, there is no need to report their results after submitting the application.

Statement of Purpose: Please note that for most applicants, this document has little bearing on the admissions decisions. If the applicant has a "normal" background that included some math and some economics courses in college and if they have not spent too many years in school or out of school, then they need not really write a lengthy statement. Applicants with an unusual history (e.g., having unusually weak background in math and economics, taking many years to complete college, or graduated from college many years ago, etc.), unusual achievements (serious published research in any field of study, international grand master in chess, winners of math competitions, etc.), or unusual interests should use this statement to explain briefly these aspects.

Writing Samples: The standard University application allows the possibility of submission of writing samples. The Economics Department does not require writing samples. However, if you have a research paper you wish us to consider as part of the application, you can upload it in this part of the application. Do not upload more than one paper, so select your best paper.

Letters of Recommendation are required from at least two people. You do not need to have more than two recommendations, but you can have more if you want to. Recommenders must submit their letter on-line. To do this, your initial on-line application to the University should provide an e-mail for each of your recommenders. The University then contacts the recommender directly with instructions on how to do so.

Scanned Copies of GRE, and (if necessary) TOEFL/IELTS results. If you have already received your GRE and TOEFL/IELTS results, scan the results and upload them as part of your on-line application. More details on these tests are described in Steps 2 and 3 below. If you receive your results after you submitted your initial application, you can return to your on-line application and upload your results. Results should be submitted by the December 15 deadline. Note that the University verifies your results based on information provided directly to the University from the testing companies.

Scanned Copy of your Transcript(s). An official transcript is required from each institution attended. Transcripts must bear the registrar's signature or official seal to be considered official and acceptable. Scan the transcripts(s) and upload them as part of your on-line application. If you ultimately enroll at Northwestern, you will be asked to supply the University with an official hard copy of your transcript(s).

For more Information: For more information on the University's admission process, see The Graduate School information.

Step 2: Complete the GRE

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required for all applicants applying to the Ph.D. program in economics. Scores must be reported directly by ETS (The Educational Testing Service) to the Graduate School to be considered official. You should upload an scan of your GRE scores, if you have them, as part of your on-line application. However these scores are not considered official unless they are reported directly to the Graduate School by ETS. Information on the GRE can be obtained from:

The institution code for Northwestern University is 1565, and the Economics Department code is 1801.

Step 3: Certify English Proficiency

Your success in graduate study of economics depends on your ability to understand, read, write and speak English. If English is not your native language, evidence of proficiency in its use will be decisive in reviewing your application for admission. Because of the nature of economics, the Department has stricter language requirements than the minimum required by the University.

You can demonstrate English proficiency in only three ways:

  • be a native English speaker;
  • by earning an undergraduate degree in an English-speaking country at an accredited institution where the language of instruction is also English, and you attended this institution for all years of your undergraduate study; or
  • by providing official scores for either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examination.

Earning a graduate degree in an English-speaking country, without having attended an English-speaking institution in an English-speaking country for your undergraduate degree, is insufficient demonstration of proficiency in English. You should take the TOEFL/IELTS to support your admission to the Department of Economics.

Students taking the TOEFL must score a minimum of 600 on the paper-based exam, 250 on the computer-based exam, or 100 on the internet-based exam (TOEFL iBT). Students taking the IELTS must have a minimum overall score of 7.0. The tests must have been taken no more than two years before the intended date of entry (which  means no more than 15 months prior to your application). Results of the TOEFL/IELTS test are reported directly to the Graduate School. However, if you already have your results, upload a scan as part of your on-line application. Details on the TOEFL are available from:

The institution code for Northwestern University if 1565, and the relevant department code of 01. If you are taking the computer-based examination, when prompted, request that your scores be sent to the graduate office (versus the undergraduate office) and then select the program name that most closely matches Economics.

Information on the IELTS is available from:

In addition to these language requirements, most international students from non-English speaking countries will take the Versant English Test on their arrival at Northwestern to demonstrate their spoken English. Obtaining a score of at least 65 on this test is required to make a student eligible to be considered for appointment as a Teaching Assistant, a common form of financial support in the second and subsequent years.  However, students scoring 26 or higher (out of a possible 30) on the Speaking Section of the TOEFL internet-based test will be considered as meeting the spoken English proficiency requirement and will not need to take the Versant test on arrival at Northwestern.

Step 4: The Decision Process

Your application form and supporting materials are considered by the Department's Admissions Committee. The committee also decides whether to offer financial aid. You will be notified if you have been admitted, and whether you will be offered financial aid, by April 1. Successful applicants then have until April 15 to notify the department of their decision.

Step 5: Visas for International Applicants

For general information on the visa process once you have been admitted, please visit Northwestern's International Office website at

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Any alleged violations of this policy or questions regarding the law with respect to nondiscrimination should be directed to Director of Equal Employment Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Disability Services, 720 University Place, Evanston, Illinois 60208-1147, phone +1-847-491-7458.

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