i am a master of corporate finance student in Bocconi. i have a bachelor degree in economics and wanted to continue on it but decided to switch to finance due to some restraints (my scholarship from European Union only allows me to register in one year programs; and as you know msc in econ programs are 2 year)

i do not hate finance but i do not love it as much as economics. besides, i beleive that that business life is not suitable for me. i have a great interest in economics which -unfortunately- revealed in my last years in bachelor degree. therefore, i do not have a high gpa.

so i have some concerns about for pursuing a phd degree. i will be very happy if you can help me.

although i have taken some math courses (calculus, statistics, linear algebra, econometrics), i am not sure that it is sufficient for a phd in economics. plus, i do not have very shiny grades on math (because i was not studying at all, i mostly entered the exams mostly 1-2 hours of study and survived with my previous high school math knowledge. as i mentioned above, i was not a hardworking student in my first years do to my lack of interest in economics).

calculus101: c+ calculus102:c+ statistics1: c statistics2: c econometrics: c linear algebra: b+

so do you recommend me to get a phd? can i survive a phd program (especially the math part)?

thank you for your answers which will help me to shape next 50 years of my life


I'm in the same situation, so maybe I can help. The first thing many people don't realize is that many fields of advanced level economics are almost entirely math. Thus an undergraduate degree in econ may not be the best preparation for a doctorate if the degree is not very mathy. My university has a special doctoral prep program for econ majors for exactly this reason. You can see the degree requirements here to get a sense of how much math my economics department thinks you need to get a doctorate.


My personal opinion is that depending on the field of economics you want to study (and how much math is involved), as well as the rigor of the doctoral program, you may want to take more math classes. Also while those are great core courses which you have taken, if I was an admissions officer, I'd be concerned about the grades. Take some higher math and show you've improved.

To quote from one of my econ professors (a former central banker) "IF you come in with the math, graduate schools will have no problem teaching you the econ."

Courses you need:

  • Multivariate Calculus, Differential Equations, Real Analysis More Statistics, especially time series analysis.
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Boccini is a very respected university at the better U.S. institutions, and has several graduates that turned successful researchers - Marciano Siniscalchi comes to mind (my room-mate in grad school was also from Bocconi, and now is tenured there). If you check Marciano's CV, he, too, graduated with a degree in economics, not math or engineering, and now does research on the more obscure and mathematically high-end side of economics. There used to be a saying that in the 60s, disgruntled physicists would turn Nobel prize winning economists; and in the 70s, the same for mathematicians (it was apparently true for Debreu). That's no longer true. An economics degree alone is certainly fine, and Bocconi should train its students well.

However, you'll still need a lot of math, but you'll have two years of course work in which you would have to apply yourself. People often take classes in other departments such as math or statistics.

Where your problem might lie is in a low GPA, and the question whether any of your former professors has reason to write you a good letter. For this, the site has a good canonical answer. There is some indication that you might be a bit too modest (you are on a scholarship; and you passed your exams with almost no preparation); you could benefit from someone to help you see this more realistically. So you should talk to your former professors, for letters and general advice; in particular those who went to the better schools abroad as they might have broader experience with varied situations.

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