Doctoral

Entry into the PhD program is for the fall semester only. The PhD program is highly competitive and we receive hundreds of applications every year for approximately a dozen spots. Each admitted student will receive some type of fellowship from the University.

Applying to the PhD in Economics

All applicants must apply through the USC online application system located at www.usc.edu. PhD applications are due December 1 without exception. You can begin to apply to the program in May. We do not accept paper applications. The online application requires:

  • Statement of purpose. This is typically two pages in length, double spaced, and about your interest in Economics
  • GRE scores. We accept GRE scores that are no more than 5 years old. We like to see applicants with at least 450 on the verbal section and 650 on the quantitative section. We do not accept the GMAT. Our ETS department code is 1801 and USC (school code) is 4852.
  • Transcripts. USC must receive sealed and official transcripts from your respective university. They must be sent directly to USC Graduate Admissions, not to the Department of Economics. The address can be found when you begin the online application. If you are an international applicant, you must provide transcripts in English and original language.
  • TOEFL. All international students are required to submit a valid TOEFL exam (only 2 years old) unless you received an undergraduate degree from an English speaking school. International students can be exempt from taking language classes at USC if you have a combined score of 100 on the TOEFL with at least a score of 20 on each section. If you do not have a combined score of 100, or if you have below 20 on any section, you will have to take the ISE exam when you get to USC. The university does not accept the TSE exam or the IELTS exam.
  • Three Letters of Recommendation. (Can be uploaded on the online application system).

Requirements for PhD program

The PhD in Economics is a 70 unit program at USC. It consists of 60 units of course work, 6 units of economics seminars, and 4 units of dissertation course work.

Core Requirements

ECON 601 - Microeconomic Theory I

ECON 602 - Macroeconomic Theory I

ECON 609 - Econometric Methods

ECON 611 - Probability and Statistics for Economists

ECON 603 - Microeconomic Theory II

ECON 605 - Macroeconomic Theory II

After the end of the first year, all students will take the PhD CORE examination in June. If students to not pass the exam the first time, they are given a second chance to take the exam in August. If a student fails the exam a second time, they are allowed to stay and receive a master’s degree in economics.

In the second year, students take additional required course work while preparing their second year papers. Students will also begin to form a PhD Guidance Committee as well. In the third year, students will take courses of their choosing within their fields, allowing them to prepare for their third year paper. In addition, students in the third year (or in the seventh semester) should take their Qualifying Examinations and then form a PhD Dissertation Committee.

Once a student has passed their Qualifying Examination, has completed all course work and seminar units, he or she will begin taking dissertation courses.



  • University of Southern California
  • Department of Economics
  • Phone: (213) 740-8335
  • Department Chair: Geert Ridder (213) 740-7432