I have just completed an M.Sc. in Economics with a specialisation in Development Studies from a reputed university in India.

  • I am interested in eventually working in the development sector.
  • I have a reasonable level of interest in doing research in areas related to development economics.
  • I have an intermediate level of proficiency in mathematics and statistics.

However, I am unsure about doing a Ph.D in Economics. What are some things I must consider and know before deciding to do a Ph.D in economics?

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  • I don’t think “what factors should be considered” questions are based on individual factors. They are very generalizable.
    – Dawn
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 13:54
  • This has appeared in the reopen queue because it has been edited since it was closed. However, the edit was only to formatting.
    – Flyto
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 15:33

2 Answers 2


I would consider the following:

1) Do the jobs you want require a PhD? You may be able to have a satisfying career and a choice of many interesting and well-paid jobs (you define both of those terms for yourself) with a M.Sc. and on-the-ground experience.

2) Are you likely to succeed in a PhD? There is little point to pursuing a PhD if you fail out of the program. So, you need to assess your preparation and whether you are likely to be able to complete the PhD. If you are not sure, talk to some of your mentors who have PhDs.

3) Are you competitive for fully-funded PhD positions at respected universities? To make the time, effort, and opportunity costs involved in pursuing a PhD worthwhile, you should pursue programs that are fully-funded and that maximize the value of your degree post-gradation. These types of programs are more competitive, so you should assess (with mentor's help, if needed) your academic record and other factors to determine if you are a good candidate for such programs.


Dawn suggests great questions! You may want to pursue working in some aspect of development for a few years (especially if you could work as some sort of research assistant for government economists or economic researchers); this would give you grounds to know whether you need a Ph.D. to do what you want to.

Further, working with a reputable organization in the field may put you in a position to have great data for your Ph.D. research, perhaps including designing, running, and analyzing an experiment or carefully controlled intervention under their auspices.

You are probably well aware of the authors in Banerjee and Duflo's (pre-print version) Handbook of Field Experiments, but I want to particularly draw your attention to Glennerster's chapter on building partnerships for field experiments. You may be well-positioned with your M.Sc. to help make such research partnerships a success, while learning more about the field and whether you want to pursue a Ph.D.

Also, I've heard that a good applied microeconomics paper has (at least) two of the three things: good identification, good data, clearly important question. You don't need to be the best mathematician in your class to excel at those, as long as you have enough skills to complete the required classes.

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