The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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Ph.D. program in Economics

grad funThank you for your interest in the Economics Ph.D. program at the University of Tennessee. Our program focuses on selecting top students and preparing them to be successful in careers in academia, government and industry. We have a collegial faculty with a diversity of interests that span most major fields of economics. The size of program is modest, with typically 30-35 Ph.D. students in residence, which allows for us to build strong mentoring relationships between faculty and students. Our faculty have recent publications in top general interest and field journals in economics, including the American Economic Review, American Economic Journal, Journal of Econometrics, Journal of Economic Theory, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Journal of International Economics, Journal of Public Economics, and RAND Journal of Economics. A partial list of recent papers published by graduate students (typically in collaboration with faculty) is available under the Graduate Student Publications link.

Links to course descriptions, current graduate students, our graduate handbook, frequently asked questions, and online admissions application are provided on the right. Applications should be completed as early as possible if you would like to be considered for financial support, but certainly no later than February 1. Know that the graduate school has a strict deadline of February 1 for international applicants, regardless of whether funding is requested. Domestic students can apply after the February 1 deadline, but are unlikely to receive full consideration for admissions and funding. Admission is granted for Fall semester only.


This is a four to five year, full-time, research-oriented program. Although some of our students enter the program with an MA or MS in economics or a related field, it is not required for admission. Students begin the Ph.D. program in early August of their first year, and complete coursework after the fifth or six semester of study. Summer is usually devoted to research. Among the various progression requirements are qualifying examinations in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory, a second-year research paper, and a dissertation.

Assistantships & Financial Support

Applicants indicate as part of the admissions application whether they wish to be considered for funding. There is no separate application form. We award approximately eight new assistantships each year on a competitive basis. Assistantships pay about $18,000 per academic year, and include a tuition waiver and health insurance for a potential total value of over $40,000 per year. As long as students make sufficient progress, funding is for five years. Typically those awarded assistantships serve as teaching assistants in their first and second years. More advanced students are either assigned to teach their own courses or are assigned to faculty or projects as research assistants.

A select number of scholarships are available for exceptional students, including the Chancellor’s Scholarship, Haslam Doctoral Scholarship, and the Howard Baker Doctoral Scholarship in Energy and the Environment. These scholarships provide financial support for up to five years.

Students on department assistantships do not have a summer work assignment. However, there are many opportunities to teach a summer course. Those electing to do so are provided additional compensation of approximately $4,750 per course.

The department provides, on a competitive basis, support for travel to professional meetings, and for research projects. The department offers a number of competitive awards for continuing students. The current fellowships and awards are:

Job Opportunities

Successful students obtain many opportunities upon the completion of the program. The quality of the department faculty and graduate program has improved in recent years, and this has led to additional opportunities. Some recent placements appear below. A more extensive list is available under the Job Placements link.


Students apply directly through the Graduate School. There is no separate department application process. Included in the application are targeted questions related to the Economics graduate program. The Graduate School application is an online application and requires a $60 fee. Reference letters, transcripts, and standardized test scores (to be submitted electronically) are required as part of the Graduate School application process. We prefer the GRE although the GMAT is also acceptable. The University of Tennessee’s score reporting code is 1843.

Note that the department can make admissions decisions based on unofficial transcripts uploaded in the online application as well as self-reported GRE or GMAT test scores. If admitted, applicants will need to provide official documentation prior to enrollment.

Deadlines: The UT Graduate School has a deadline for international students of February 1. Although there is no official deadline for domestic students, everyone is encouraged to apply by February 1 to receive full consideration. We begin evaluating applications in early February. Most admissions decisions are made by late February / early March, along with the first round of funding offers. Additional offers are made on an as-needed basis.

Admission Requirements

The department commonly receives over 100 applications each year and admits between 20 and 30 students. The GRE scores for accepted applicants are typically at the 70th and 85th percentile and above for the verbal and quantitative sections. Recommendation letters, and performance and completion of coursework in economics (intermediate microeconomics and macroeconomics), mathematics (two to three semester of calculus, one in linear algebra) and econometrics/statistics is also very important; therefore, we encourage applicants with GRE scores below these benchmarks. We are interested in attracting talented, motivated students. Strong writing, computer programming, and quantitative skills are highly desirable.

Most accepted applicants have undergraduate GPAs at or above 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, and (when applicable) GPAs at or above 3.7 on graduate work. The graduate school has the following GPA minimum requirements. US degree holders must have earned a minimum 2.7 out of a possible 4.0 GPA or a minimum of 3.0 during the senior year of undergraduate study. Applicants with previous graduate work must have a GPA of 3.0 or above on a 4.0 scale or equivalent on all graduate work. Individuals with degrees from international institutions must have earned a minimum of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale on all undergraduate work and a minimum of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale on all graduate work.

English Language Requirement

Applicants whose native language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The minimum requirements imposed by the Graduate School are 550 on the paper-based TOEFL, 80 on the TOEFL iBT or 6.5 on the IELTS. Applicants admitted to the program typically have higher scores than these minimums, and we typically do not admit applicants with a TOEFL iBT of less than 100. Official score reports are required as part of the online application. If you would like more information about TOEFL click here.

The University of Tennessee’s score reporting code for the TOEFL is 1843. The TOEFL or IELTS requirement is waived for students who have earned a degree from a US institution within two years prior to enrollment.

Special Information for Entering Students

Start of the Program
New students are required to take a three-credit course in mathematical economics (ECON 581), which begins approximately three weeks prior to the Fall semester for which you are accepted for enrollment (~August 1), and ends at the start of Fall semester. In conjunction with this, assistantships begin on August 1.

Oral Proficiency Exam
All students (including U.S. citizens and permanent residents) whose native language is not English are required to take the OPIc (Oral Proficiency Interview computer), which is a standardized, global assessment of functional speaking ability. This test is mandatory and is administered by the University. Incoming students take the test in August, prior to the Fall semester. It tests for the English skills that are required of teaching assistants and associates. Admission to the program does not depend upon the results of the OPIc. Test results will be used in advising, coursework determination and in making work assignments. Students are required to pass the OPIc at a level that allows unconditional teaching (score of AH “Advanced High”) by the end of the second semester of studies or funding from the department is jeopardized. Graduating from another U.S. institution does not satisfy this requirement.

Department of Economics ~ 507 Stokely Management Center ~ 916 Volunteer Boulevard ~ Knoxville, TN ~ 37996-0550
Phone: 865-974-3303 ~ Fax: 865-974-4601 ~ Email:

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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Big Orange. Big Ideas.

Knoxville, Tennessee 37996 | 865-974-1000
The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System