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The Department of Economics at Northwestern is committed to an individualized and holistic review of each application to the PhD program.  This review will take into consideration the substantive disruptions of the COVID19 pandemic as well as other challenges that influence personal circumstances.  We recognize that many institutions converted to a Pass/No Pass (P/N) grading system in response to the pandemic. Finally, we understand that there are circumstances which may prevent students from submitting a complete application. Please email with any individual requests or concerns.

The Department of Economics and The Graduate School (TGS) at Northwestern encourages underrepresented students to apply for admission to our doctoral program.

The application will be available in September. The application deadline is January 4, 2024, 11:59pm CST

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Before You Apply

Degrees Offered

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

The Department of Economics and the Finance Department in the Kellogg School of Management offer a joint full-time Ph.D. program in Financial Economics.  Read more about the program requirements and how to apply.

Applicants who wish to pursue graduate education in an Economics-based program at Northwestern University, either in the Kellogg School of Management or Department of Economics, are permitted to submit one application for a primary or first choice PhD program while requesting additional consideration for a second choice PhD program. Read more about the dual application process and requirements.

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 Application Form

All applicants must complete the standard application form, and pay the application fee. Procedures and qualifications for fee waivers can be found here. The application is available in September of the application year. 

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

Application Fee: The fee is $95.

Deadline: The application deadline is January 4, 2024 at 11:59pm.  Applicants are considered for admission to the fall term only. There are no winter or spring admissions.

Applicants from underrepresented groups: The Department of Economics welcomes applications by students from underrepresented groups. Northwestern participates in the Big Ten Academic Alliance and accepts the FreeApp. Interested 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 FreeApp to request an application fee waiver at Northwestern. Eligibility criteria and the FreeApp online application can be found at the Big Ten Academic Alliance 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. 

Courses Form: You will be prompted to complete a courses form in the application.  It summarizes the six most advanced college courses you have completed in both economics and mathematics. You can download this form as a fillable PDF.

If you cannot download this form, then it is acceptable if you create your own 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 substantial courses during the fall term and do not have the grades in time to be included in this 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.

Academic Statement of Purpose (500 to 1,000 words):  The academic statement of purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words and should focus on your research interests and goals, and how your qualifications and strengths will enable you to formulate important and creative research topics and convincingly execute the research.  

Writing Sample: The standard 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.  Students may also submit grant applications, such as the NSF research proposal, as a writing sample.

Letters of Recommendation are required from at least three people. You will provide emails for your recommenders in the application. The university then contacts the recommender directly with instructions on how to submit their letters. Up to five letters of recommendation will be accepted.

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 application. More details on these tests are described in Steps 2 and 3 below.  Results should be submitted by the January 5 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 transcript(s) and upload them as part of your application.  Please wait to upload your transcript(s) until after your fall grades have been posted.  If your fall grades aren’t available by January 5 (application deadline), upload your most current transcript.  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 on the University's admission process, see The Graduate School Admissions page.

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 can upload an unofficial scan of your GRE scores as part of your application. Information on the GRE can be obtained from:

The institution code for Northwestern University is 1565.

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 at an accredited institution where the language of instruction is 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 at an English-speaking institution without having attended an English-speaking institution 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).  We accept MyBest Scores for the 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 application. 

The institution code for Northwestern is 1565, and the relevant department code is 01.

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.

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 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

Northwestern University reserves the right to change without notice any statement in this publication concerning, but not limited to, rules, policies, tuition, fees, curricula, and courses.

It is the policy of Northwestern University not to discriminate against any individual on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, parental status, marital status, age, disability, citizenship, or veteran status in matters of admissions, employment, housing, or services or in the educational programs or activities it operates, in accordance with civil rights legislation and University commitment.

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.