PhD in Economics Salary

PhD in Economics Salary


Having PhD in economics offers some of the highest starting salaries of any field in the United States. In fact, a PhD in economics has the best starting salary of any non-STEM field, comparable to computer science or engineering.

We took a closer look at PhD in economics salaries, and here’s what we found:

  • Early Career - $102,000 / year
  • Mid Career - $134,000 / year
  • Experienced - $150,000 / year

One problem is that PhD in economics salaries have high variance. Private industry jobs (e.g. economists working in data science) tend to have significantly higher wages than economists working in academia or the non-profit sector.

For example, PhDs in economics working in data science earn $114,000 / year on average, about 13% more than the annual average for all economics PhDs.

PhD in Economics: Salary by Job Title

Private sector jobs for economics PhDs have increased rapidly. Amazon, for example, has a Central Economics Team, which specifically hires economists to develop models to answer some of the business questions for the company.

Since most PhDs in economics tend to enter at mid- or senior-level positions, salaries tend to increase exponentially. Overall, the average yearly salary for senior economists in the U.S. is $150,000. FAANG companies tend to pay a premium for senior-level economists.

Salaries for senior economists at FAANG companies:

  • Google: Up to $219,000 / year
  • Amazon: Up to $171,000 / year + additional compensation of $140,000+

PhD in Economics Salary vs Other Fields

A PhD in economics salary equates to one of the top mid-career salaries in any field of study. It’s currently ranked #5, with an average mid-career salary of $134,000, behind only computer engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, and biomedical engineering:

Phd in Economics Salary vs Other Fields graph

Salaries for PhD in economics rank higher than computer science ($131,000) and physics ($130,000).

PhD in Economics for Data Science

A PhD in economics has many practical applications in data science, and it remains one of the top fields of study among data scientists. According to the Burtch Works 2021 Salary survey, 6% of surveyed data scientists held an advanced degree in economics:

Area of Study

Similarly, the majority of FAANG companies, fintech, and consulting firms hire PhDs. Therefore, if you want to pursue a career in tech, a PhD in economics offers a path into top companies.

Economics PhDs typically enter data science and earn mid- to senior-level data science salaries.

Is a PhD in Economics Worth It?

Ultimately, pursuing a PhD requires a lot of time, about 5-7 years on average. During this time, working as a teaching assistant may only net you up to $30,000 / year. As such, delayed earnings may outweigh any potential salary increases down the line.

However, if you have a passion for economics and research, you might consider a PhD in economics if you:

  • Have strong math skills and enjoy building models
  • Can study for 50-80 hours per week
  • Enjoy conducting research
  • Are a strong self-starter and can thrive in a self-directed environment

Starting a PhD program is all about commitment. If you have the time and resources to invest and want to spend 5-7 years researching, then a PhD in economics may be a good option for you.

If your goal is a career in data science, economics is a great subject area, but you might also consider a PhD in statistics or a PhD in data science (which is becoming increasingly common).

PhD in Economics: Advice

We talked with an economics PhD candidate to learn more about PhD programs, tips for students, and how to know if you should pursue a PhD in economics. If you want to know if a PhD in economics is worth it, ask yourself these questions:

Are you interested in research?

PhD candidates conduct research and gain valuable experience in experiment design. This is becoming an increasingly desired skill in private industry, as more and more tech companies seek to measure complex processes and user experiences. If economics research excites you, you should consider a PhD program.

If not, you might consider a master’s in economics. If you’re interested in a data science career, use your electives to focus on programming and statistics, in addition to core courses in micro and macroeconomics. An applied economics program is another great option for this path.

Not sure if you’re interested in research?

Economics PhD programs typically start with actual courses, followed by a research training component. Then, you’ll conduct your own research and write a dissertation, with this final research period lasting 1-3 years.


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