Top 3 Best Online Economics PhD Degree Programs (Doctorates)


We rank the best online PhD degree programs in economics.

Key Takeaways

  • The PhD in economics degree is a highly prestigious and advanced degree that leads to many professional opportunities.

  • Earning an economics doctorate can qualify you to become an economist with influence in public policy, post-secondary education, or research.

  • Only a select few accredited graduate schools offer an online economics PhD or related studies.

Featured Programs

The PhD in economics is a highly prestigious degree. However, only a select few schools offer the economics PhD online. Some graduate schools of business offer doctoral or business administration degrees with courses focused on economics.

The PhD in economics is a terminal degree. This means it is the highest degree you can earn in the economics field.

Graduates with an economics doctorate can become economists. Economists enjoy well-paying careers in areas like economics research, public policy consultation, economics education, finance, and corporate executive leadership.

PhD in Economics candidates are typically already working at a high level in their field. This means that students seeking their doctorate must balance existing work and personal responsibilities with a challenging course of education. For many graduate students, online courses and fully online programs provide a way to achieve this balance.

For a look at how these online doctoral programs stack up against traditional on campus programs, check out our look at the The Best Research Universities for Economics Degrees.

Or find out what your options are with a look at our full List of University Rankings.


Otherwise, read on and learn more about how you can earn an online PhD in economics.

Two economists comparing notes

About Accredited Online PhD in Economics Degree Programs

Quality and credibility are important when it comes to finding an online PhD. The best online doctorate programs will have proper accreditation:

  • Institutional Accreditation: Accreditation is vital for online doctoral programs. It signifies that the online PhD programs offered by the graduate school are in compliance with the standards of a Department of Education-approved accrediting body. A school must also be accredited in order to offer federal financial aid to its online doctorate candidates.
  • When looking for an online doctoral program, seek out options with accreditation from a colleges and schools commission in your region. This stamp of approval is critical for ensuring the quality and credibility of your online program.

  • Programmatic Accreditation: In addition to institutional accreditation, consider online doctorate degree programs with programmatic accreditation. In many cases, the preferred specialized accreditation for economics degrees will be the same as that preferred for business administration degrees.
  • Look for doctoral programs with accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). This is generally an indication of credibility to prospective employers.

  • Carnegie Classification: The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, or as it is more commonly known, the Carnegie Classification, is a framework for categorizing all accredited, degree-granting institutions in the United States. Originally formulated in 1970 by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and administered through the University of Indiana’s Center for Postsecondary Research since 2014, the Carnegie Classification is “the leading framework for recognizing and describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education.”
  • Under this classification, top research universities for doctoral degrees and PhD candidates are identified as either R2: Doctoral Universities for “high research activity” or R1: Doctoral Universities for “very high research activity.” Look for these classifications when considering options for your online Phd programs.

Key Point: The best online doctoral programs will have both institutional and programmatic accreditation.

Two economists working together

Admission Requirements

Schools that offer online doctorate programs have different admission requirements. However, most online doctoral programs will carry the same basic threshold for admission:

  • A completed online application
  • Official undergraduate college transcripts
  • A cumulative GPA of at least 3.0
  • GRE scores, MAT scores, or GMAT scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal interviews
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Plan of study

Key Point: In most cases, you’ll be eligible to enter a doctoral degree online after earning a bachelor’s degree. However, some specialized online PhD programs may require you to have earned a master’s degree as well.

Economists explaining to a team

Curriculum and Courses

As with other advanced degree and graduate programs, research is the central component of your online PhD in economics program. This is true for fully online doctorate degrees as well as hybrid degrees combining online education with traditional on-campus courses. Regardless of whether you complete a traditional, hybrid or online doctoral program, the typical time to completion is three to six years.

The typical components of your online PhD program may include:

Foundational Courses

Foundational courses will typically focus on introductory topics like economic theory, models of economic analysis, economic history, international business, financial economics, and more.

You will also take courses focused on practicing your critical thinking and research skills. You may be able to complete many of these requirements online through your distance learning program.

Examinations for PhD Candidacy

Many online doctoral students are required to complete certain examinations to enter into online PhD candidacy. This will typically occur after you’ve completed one to two years of foundational courses.


In most cases, the central component of your online economics PhD program will be your dissertation research. After gaining status as an online PhD candidate, you will typically work closely with a professorial advisor or mentor to develop an original research question.

This research question will form the basis of your dissertation—an ongoing project designed to address this question through applied research and the demonstration of advanced knowledge. While you will work closely with your advisor or mentor, much of your dissertation will be rooted in your ability to conduct research independently. This is especially true for students pursuing an online PhD.

Oral Defense

Upon completion of the written portion of your dissertation—which will typically present the findings from your original research project—you will be expected to defend your findings. This “oral defense” will typically be conducted by a commission of professors and experts in your field. PhD candidates in some online degree programs may be able to conduct this defense via teleconferencing.

Teaching Requirements

Some online PhD programs will also include a teaching component, which will require you to work as an adjunct professor or teacher’s assistant in an undergraduate or graduate school. It may be possible for students in the online doctoral degree program to also serve teaching requirements by instructing online students.

Key Point: The online doctor of economics degree program is a research-focused degree. Your dissertation will be a central part of earning your economics degree online.

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Careers for Students Who Earn Their Doctoral Degree in Economics Online

The PhD in economics is a terminal degree program. This means that students who complete credible online doctoral programs in economics are generally eligible for top positions and opportunities in their field.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top 10% of earners among economists earned more than $193,000 in 2021. Many of these top earners worked in fields like finance, insurance, federal governance, technical consulting services, and more.

PhDs in economics are also more likely to be sought out by prestigious international organizations for leadership and consultation opportunities.

These higher earnings reflect the high demand for qualified PhDs in economics in the following fields:

  • Finance
  • Insurance
  • Federal Government
  • Scientific and Technical Consulting Services
  • Management Consulting
  • Public Policy Consultation
  • Economic Theory Research
  • Post-Secondary Education
  • Corporate Executive Leadership

Key Points: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, students who complete the economics doctorate program will be eligible for top-paying roles in finance, insurance, public policy, and more.

Female economist doing a calculation
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What’s the difference between online doctoral programs and online PhD programs?

Technically, a PhD is a type of doctorate degree. This means that all online PhD candidates are doctoral students. By contrast, not all doctoral students are PhD candidates.

The primary distinction is that doctoral students are primarily focused on putting existing theories into practice. Depending on your chosen field, your online doctoral degree may require participation in an educational leadership program, engagement in clinical practice, work as a resident in a nursing program, and much more.

By contrast, online PhD students are focused on creating new knowledge in their area of study. This usually means that online PhD candidates are focused on introducing new theories, creating research projects around these theories, and presenting new findings that demonstrate a mastery of existing knowledge and the insight to introduce new ideas into the field.

Today, more working professionals than ever before are pursuing both online doctoral degrees and online Phd programs.

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The Best Online Economics Doctorates (PhDs)

The online PhD in economics programs identified here are ranked based on influence, with weighting for graduation rate and full-time online enrollment. Also included are online Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) degrees courses focused on economics and related topics.

  1. #1

    Hampton University

    Hampton , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees






    Student body


    Median SAT/ACT


    What do we love about Hampton University?

    Hampton University is a private HBCU based in Hampton, Virginia. Founded in 1868 by a joint commission of Black and White leaders, Hampton was established with the mission of educating freedmen in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. Civil War.

    Today, Hampton University is home to 16 leading research facilities, including the largest free-standing Proton Therapy Institute in the world.

    Among its numerous post-graduate programs, Hampton University offers an online Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration, which includes noteworthy courses in areas like Managerial Economics, Empirical Research Methods, and Advanced Topics in Research.

    • Hampton University is great for students who:

      Wish to attend an HBCU that consistently ranks among the top ten Historically Black institutions.

    • Hampton University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a college with a major athletics program.

  2. Two economists smiling
  3. #2

    Liberty University

    Lynchburg , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees






    Student body


    What do we love about Liberty University?

    Liberty University is one of the largest Christian universities in the world as well as one of the largest private non-profit universities in the U.S. Much of this size is based on its online enrollment.

    Liberty University enrolls roughly 15,000 residential students across its 17 colleges, and an additional 80,000 through its extensive online course and degree offerings.

    Liberty University is noted for the sheer volume of advanced degrees and online degrees earned by its student body. With more than 47,000 students pursuing advanced degrees, Liberty University offers an extremely wide range of online doctoral programs, including online PhD programs in many different disciplines.

    For instance, Liberty University offers an online Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy with a concentration in Economic Policy. Liberty University’s PhD program is structured to build upon your existing knowledge of economics and provide a deeper look at how the discipline of economics relates to public policy.

    • Liberty University is great for students who:

      Wish to attend the world’s largest seminary—Liberty University’s Rawlings School of Divinity.

    • Liberty University might not be the best fit for:

      Students who do not identify with Evangelical Christianity.

  4. #3

    Baker College

    Owosso , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees






    Student body


    What is Baker College known for?

    Baker College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    What do we love about Baker College?

    Baker College was founded in 1911, and established its first campus in Flint, Michigan. Beginning as a for-profit institution called the Baker Business College, Baker would evolve into a non-profit college in 1977.

    Today, Baker’s primary campus is located in Owosso, Michigan with another ten satellite campuses throughout the state’s Lower Peninsula region. Nearly 5000 undergraduate and postgraduate students are currently in pursuit of degrees at Baker.

    Baker College offers an online Doctor of Business Administration geared toward aspiring international business leaders, featuring courses such as Global Financial Economy, Leading 21st Century Organizations, and Introduction to Research Methods and Design.

    • Baker College is great for students who:

      Are looking for an accessible academic institution. More than 85% of applicants are accepted into Baker.

    • Baker College might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are looking to get involved in campus life. Students indicate that Baker has a limited offering of campus clubs and activities.

Other Options for Aspiring Economists

Students considering an online doctoral in economics should also check out the best on-campus options to compare features like cost, curriculum, acceptance rate, and more.

  1. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees






    Student body


    Career Outlook for Economics degree at University of California, Berkeley

    Cost of Degree: $14,476
    Expenses: $28,648
    Starting Salary: $105,937
    Salary after 4 years: $250,635
    Cost Recoup Time: 5 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
  2. #2

    New York University

    New York , NY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees






    Student body


    Median SAT/ACT


  3. #3

    University of Michigan

    Ann Arbor , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees






    Student body


    Median SAT/ACT


    Career Outlook for Economics degree at University of Michigan

    Cost of Degree: $26,226
    Expenses: $16,820
    Starting Salary: $105,937
    Salary after 4 years: $250,635
    Cost Recoup Time: 5 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
  4. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees






    Student body


    Career Outlook for Economics degree at University of California, Los Angeles

    Cost of Degree: $13,322
    Expenses: $23,579
    Starting Salary: $98,159
    Salary after 4 years: $232,234
    Cost Recoup Time: 4 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

Check out the full List of Online Programs.

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