Economics Hidden

Section 1

Frequently Asked Questions

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Students walking Thank you for your interest in the PhD Program for Economics at the University of Illinois. If you are interested in the Master’s Program only (Master of Science in Policy Economics), please contact the MSPE office directly at The information given below is only for the PhD Program in Economics.


NOTE: Applications for the 2018 Fall term are now being accepted and will end January 10th, 2018 at 12:00 AM EST.

The deadline to apply to the Economics PhD Program is January 10th at 12:00 AM EST. We do not admit for the spring or summer.

Where should application materials be sent?

The application and the fee should be filled out and submitted on-line here. All required documents (see below for the list) must be scanned and submitted online. No hard copies are accepted. Please request of ETS to have your GRE, and TOEFL test scores sent to the University of Illinois. No supporting application materials should be sent to the Office of Admissions and Records.

Can I get a waiver of the admission fee?

Yes, if you are applicable. Check to see if you qualify for a fee waiver. Otherwise, the application fee is paid directly to the university and not to the department. The application fee is $70 for domestic students and $90 for international students. The Office of Admissions and Records will not process your application or send it to the Department of Economics for admissions consideration until the application fee is received. The application fee should be submitted online via credit card at the same time the application is completed. If you cannot pay by credit card, then the fee should be paid via check drawn on a U.S. bank account. The check should include the applicant’s name. THE DEPARTMENT DOES NOT HAVE ACCESS TO YOUR APPLICATION UNTIL THE FEE IS PAID AND THE APPLICATION IS SUBMITTED.  

What is the TOEFL and can it be waived?

All students whose native language is not English are required to have the Educational Testing Service (ETS) submit the results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) before they can be admitted to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A graduate applicant may be exempt from this testing if, within five years of the proposed term of enrollment, he or she has completed at least two academic years of full-time study as defined by the home institution, or completed a graduate degree, in a country where English is the primary language and in a school where English is the primary language of instruction. TOEFL waivers are rare and we encourage applicants to take the TOEFL at the same time they take GRE test.

How do I know if my GRE scores are high enough?

The Department of Economics PhD Program accepts the GRE General Test, which is composed of verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing sections. We accept the internet, computer and paper based tests. Admission decisions are made based on the contents of the entire application, but many ask if their scores are competitive with other candidates.

The GRE score is used in the admission process as one criterion among many. The quantitative portion of the GRE tests your ability to perform elementary mathematical operations correctly under time pressure. A certain ability level to do this is highly desirable, but clearly, a high GRE score does not by itself show that you have sufficient math background for a PhD in economics. In practice, most of our applicants have a quantitative score of 160 or higher.

Among those applicants who satisfy this criterion, we focus mostly on relevant courses taken, grades therein, and recommendation letters, while we don't think that the difference between, say, 163 and 167 is particularly informative for the purpose of judging an applicant's capability.

When you take the speaking test, TOEFL, and/or GRE test, you need to have your score sent directly to the Department of Economics at the University of Illinois. You should choose 1836 for the institution code and leave the department code blank. The GRE cannot be waived.

Is my Grade Point Average high enough? Have I taken enough math courses to qualify for the program?

There is no fixed GPA threshold because grading conventions differ a lot between different institutions. Also, while all graded courses you take count for your GPA, there are some that we are less interested in than other (e.g. dancing; history; Ayatollah-Khomeini or Mao-Zedong studies). It is fine to take these classes (often not a choice. . . ), but what matters for admission are only your grades in classes that are relevant for an economics PhD program

For students who studied economics at a U.S. undergraduate institution, we generally like to see strong performances in intermediate micro, macro and stats, as well as in technically-challenging undergraduate field courses (i.e. you get more credit from us for advanced econometrics or micro theory classes than for, say, development econ or history of economic thought). Furthermore, we like to see strong performance in advanced math classes; in particular, we strongly recommend taking a class in real analysis.

What are my chances of receiving financial aid?

Financial aid is offered to all domestic students and international students. In the first year, this aid comes in the form of a fellowship without work obligations. In years 2 to 5, aid is typically in the form of a teaching assistantship, which pays approximately $21,000 per year (in 2016/2017) plus a tuition and service fee waiver. Note that a TA ship for international students requires a score of 24 or higher on the speaking section of the TOEFL-iBT, or a score of 8 on the speaking portion of IELTS, or passing the EPI administered by our Center for Teaching Excellence.

Beyond year 5, funding is not guaranteed, but sixth year students typically receive a TA ship as well if needed.

Do I have to have a Master's degree to apply to the Economics Ph.D. Program?

No. Many of our students do have a Master’s degree when they apply to our program, but it is not a requirement. As long as you have a conferred bachelor’s degree or the equivalent by the start of the term for which you seek admission, you may apply to the program. We do admit students with only a bachelor’s.

Can I get a research assistantship?

Research assistantships are typically given to students in the second half of their graduate program. The individual faculty member who has research funds determines whom they would like to hire. New students to the program do not receive RA positions.

Is there funding in the summer?

The department generally employs around six Ph.D. students to teach in the summer. Teaching appointments are awarded to those students who have performed exceptionally well as TAs during the regular academic year. In addition, some fellowship support is available for strong students doing dissertation research to help defray summer expenses. Funding during the summer is competitive and cannot be guaranteed, but a substantial fraction of eligible students (approximately half) receive it.

If financial aid is requested do I still need to send the financial certification form?

Because our first year students are awarded a departmental fellowship which includes a tuition and fee waiver, it is not necessary to submit the Declaration and Certification of Finances form or bank statement. The exception to this is if the applicant has any dependents.

Do you give Qualifying Exam?

Yes. Doctoral students take qualifying exams in Econometrics, Macroeconomics, and Microeconomics in May of their first year. Students who do not pass one or more of these exams, can take them a second time in August. A final attempt (if needed) is allowed in the following May.

I would like to learn more about the faculty in the Economics Department. Where can I find out more information about them?

The faculty profiles can be found at the following website.

I am only interested in a Master’s Degree. Can I still apply?

You may apply to The Master of Science in Policy Economics program. If you wish to pursue only a Master’s degree without obtaining a Ph.D. , you should contact the Master’s Program directly at

How long does it take to complete the Ph.D. Program?

This depends mostly on yourself. The median length is approximately six years, but it can take more or less than that.

Admission Statistics for the past admissions cycles:

Over 300 applications are received each last year. Our financial aid is in the form of teaching assistantships which most students receive. International students must receive a passing score in the speaking portions of TOEFL-iBT or IELTS.

Check list for the application to the Ph.D. program

A complete application file for international students consists of the following items: the online application, $90 application processing fee, statement of purpose, 3 letters of reference, transcripts (both in the native language and in English) from all undergraduate and graduate studies showing all previous degrees and courses completed, certificates of degrees, the GRE test scores, the TOEFL test score - the International Student Verification form will be submitted ONLY after you have been accepted into the PhD Program. One copy of UNOFFICAL transcripts uploaded to the application is sufficient.

(Only upon acceptance into the PhD program will an offical transcript be requested)

For domestic students, the complete application file consists of the following items: The online application, $70 application processing fee, the statement of purpose, 3 letters of reference, transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate studies showing all previous degrees and completed courses, certificates of degrees and the GRE test scores. One copy of UNOFFICAL transcripts uploaded to the application is sufficient.

(Only upon acceptance into the PhD program will an offical transcript be requested)


Graduate applicants may be exempt from providing a TOEFL or IELTS score if one of the following criteria is met:

Completion of at least two years of post-secondary full-time study, as defined by the home institution, in a country where English is the primary language and at an institution where English is the primary medium of instruction, within five years of the proposed term of initial enrollment at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Completion of a graduate degree in a country where English is the primary language and at an institution where English is the primary language of instruction, within five years of the proposed term of initial enrollment.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this exemption is for admission purposes only. This may not necessarily provide an exemption for international teaching assistants. For more information, please see theEnglish Proficiency Requirement for International Teaching Assistants.

Pleaseclick herefor a list of countries that qualify for an exemption from the admissions requirement.