PhD Economics Entry Requirements

Studying a PhD in Economics is a great way of levelling up your knowledge, pursuing more specific areas of interest, and accessing research-focused careers. However, PhD programmes in Economics are typically very competitive, and it is essential that applicants meet the minimum entry requirements in order to have a realistic chance of securing a place.

This guide goes through all of the entry requirements for PhD Economics programmes at top universities, including what qualifications, work experience and additional tests you need to complete to maximise your chances of receiving an offer.


What is an Economics PhD?


An Economics PhD is a postgraduate qualification that involves undertaking research into one or multiple areas of interest in the field of Economics. Applicants typically submit their own research proposal on a topic of their choice when applying to study an Economics PhD.

Sometimes you can submit a more general application and then go on to refine your research topic later. Typically, when studying for a PhD in Economics, you can specialise in an area such as Macroeconomics, Econometrics, Microeconomics, Economic History, Globalisation, Development, Environment, or another area of interest.

Top tip: Sometimes universities will list the topics on which they are willing to accept research proposals, so it’s important to check on your chosen university’s website thoroughly before submitting an application. For example, the University of Leeds is currently interested in receiving proposals on: Work, labour and organisation; Financialisation and globalisation; Development and wellbeing; Environment, infrastructure, innovation and the circular economy; and the macro economy and macroeconomic policy.

For support on how to develop and write a compelling Economics research proposal and help finding potential supervisors, get in touch with our team of postgraduate admissions experts today.


Entry requirements for top universities


In order to apply for a PhD, you will always be required to have at least an undergraduate degree – usually a 2:1 minimum – in a relevant subject. Most often, universities will require PhD applicants to have a Master’s degree in a relevant subject as well.

In addition to academic qualifications, many universities require PhD Economics applicants to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and submit their scores as part of their application.

The table below shows the entry requirements for the top 10 universities for Economics in the UK, including degree requirements and GRE test requirements.

RankingUniversityEntry requirementsGRE requirement
1University of CambridgeA Distinction-level Master’s degree in Economics – of an equivalent level to the Faculty’s MPhil in Economic Research.
Specifically, candidates must have advanced technical training in Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Econometrics.
Only applicants whose previous university training is from countries outside the UK must submit the results of a recent GRE test.
The university will not normally consider admitting students with scores below the 90th percentile in the Quantitative Reasoning section and below the 50th percentile in the Analytical Writing section of the test.
2University of OxfordOutstanding performance in a rigorous Master’s course in Economics. A 1st class or strong 2:1 undergraduate degree in Economics or another relevant subject (such as Mathematics).If you do not hold, or will not shortly hold, a UK postgraduate degree, you must submit the results of a GRE test obtained within the last 5 years. It is also recommended that applicants from UK universities submit a GRE score. Entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants will have GRE scores of 160 in verbal, 164 in quantitative, and 4.5 in analytical sections.
3London School of Economics (LSE)A 2:1 degree (or equivalent) in any field. Some preparation in Economics, a strong Mathematics background and evidence of research potential are essential.The GRE is required for all applicants. This must be no more than five years old on 1 October 2023 and must show full and percentile scores for all three sections. Most successful PhD Economics applicants score 166 or above in the quantitative section.
4University of Warwick1st class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) and/or MSc with Distinction.A GRE score is required, with a score of 166 in the quantitative section.
5University College London (UCL)Applicants must have a Master’s degree in Economics or closely related subject with distinction-level performance. Applicants must demonstrate that they are qualified to proceed to research work.A GRE score is required except for applicants with an MSc Economics degree from UCL or those currently enrolled on the UCL Economics MSc programme.
Your quantitative score should be at least 162.
6Durham UniversityA Master’s degree, normally with a mark of at least 65% in your Master’s dissertation (or equivalent).N/A
7University of St AndrewsA good Master’s degree which must be related to your area of research.N/A
8King’s College LondonA Master’s degree with at least a Merit including a dissertation mark of no less than 65% (or equivalent).N/A
9University of Bath2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent) and a Master’s degree with Merit or higher (or equivalent) in Economics or a related area.N/A
10University of Leeds1st class or good 2:1 undergraduate degree with a minimum average score of 60% (or equivalent) and a UK Master’s degree (or equivalent) or an equivalent professional qualification. Qualifications must be in an appropriate academic discipline or provide skill sets which are particularly relevant to the PhD research project.N/A

What is the GRE?

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is a common admissions test required by postgraduate quantitative and Business-related courses, including PhD Economics. The test is divided into three sections – Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing – which are designed to assess specific skills necessary for postgraduate level study.

Some PhD Economics courses require applicants to take the GRE in order to qualify for entry (see the table above). Most universities will specify an overall score requirement, and some will specify score requirements for each individual section. You may also be able to find the average GRE scores of successful applicants on university websites, which can give you a guide on what to aim for.

Always check with your chosen university directly to confirm if you are required to take the GRE and what score you will need in advance, and visit the GRE website for more details on scoring.

Our team of dedicated GRE tutors can help you prepare for the test and achieve the test scores required to enter top universities and business schools. More than 90% of our Economics students receive offers from their first or second choice, so you’ll know you’re getting the very best support. Reach out to our postgraduate team to find out more.


English language requirements


If you are applying to study an Economics PhD at a UK university and have not previously studied in the English language, you will be required to take an English language test. The most common and widely preferred test is the IELTS (International English Language Testing System). The table below shows the minimum scores you will need to achieve in order to qualify for entry to some of the UK’s top universities.

UniversityIELTS Score
University of Cambridge7.5 overall and at least 7.0 in every individual element.
University of Oxford7.5 overall and at least 7.0 in every individual element.
Imperial College London7.0 overall and at least 6.5 in every individual element.
LSE7.0 overall and at least 6.5 in every individual element.
University of Warwick7.0 overall and at least 6.0 in every individual element.
University of Manchester7.0 overall and at least 6.5 in every individual element.

For more information about the IELTS, check out our IELTS resources or get in touch with our team of experienced IELTS tutors. Our experts can help you prepare for the test and reach the increasing minimum scores required by top universities.


Further resources


There are other requirements that you will need to meet in order to study a PhD in Economics in the UK. Most importantly, you must complete the application process for each of your chosen universities. This will typically include writing a statement of academic purpose or a research proposal on your chosen research area. You may also need to complete other elements of an application form, such as specific questions and references, and attend an interview with your chosen universities as part of the admissions process.

For more information on these stages of the PhD application process, see the resources below:

If you need help securing an excellent grade in your current degree, or any of the other entry requirements for top Economics PhD programmes, our team of experts can help. The Profs’ Economics tutors have many years of experience tutoring a wide range of topics at both Master’s and PhD levels.

In fact, more than 90% of our tutors have postgraduate qualifications and more than 40% have PhDs themselves, meaning you’ll be getting the best quality tuition to maximise your chance of receiving an offer. Get in touch today for a free discovery call with our team.




How long is a PhD in Economics?

Full-time PhDs usually last for three or four years, with most PhD students finishing their theses in their fourth year. If you study on a part-time basis, a PhD can take up to six or seven years.

Is a PhD in Economics worth it?

A PhD in Economics is one of the most sought-after postgraduate research degrees and can unlock many doors in your career. Many top companies, government organisations and think tanks recruit PhD Economics graduates for professional research roles due to their high-level research skills. Thus, if you’re looking to pursue a research-focused career, a PhD in Economics could be a great way to go.

However, it is often the case that studying for a PhD in Economics is not simply about the career path for students. Researching at a high level allows you to explore your passion for the subject and be at the forefront of important developments in your field. Thus, many PhD Economics students go on to become full-time academics and work as lecturers and tutors at universities.

What can you do with a PhD in Economics?

A PhD in Economics can lead to a variety of career paths. The most obvious career path to many is in academia, as a university lecturer, researcher and/or tutor. PhD Economics graduates can also train to become teachers at school-level and share their knowledge with the next generation.

Many Economics PhD graduates also pursue careers in research thanks to the high-level research skills a PhD provides. Government organisations, think tanks, NGOs and large companies often recruit PhD graduates for research and analytics-focused roles, as well as advisory and consulting roles.

What is a PhD Economics salary in the UK?

According to Payscale, the average annual salary of a PhD Economics graduate is £43,000. However, there are many roles recruiting PhD Economics graduates that offer higher salaries than this, such as the Bank of England (£57,000 pa). In addition, an INOMICS Salary Report in 2021 found that globally, Economists with a PhD earn 86% on average more than those with only a Master’s degree.