Master of Arts


Mission and Goals

​​​The MA in Economics program seeks to provide students with the analytical and quantitative skills to succeed in careers as professional economists in the world of higher education, government service or private business. The primary focus is to prepare students for entry into the doctoral program of their choice.

Goals for the MA in Economics:

1. Develop the mathematical techniques commonly used in the economics profession. 

2. Develop the statistical techniques commonly used in the economics profession.

3. Develop analytical reasoning skills and evaluation methods used by professional economists.

4. Promote the communication skills and intellectual curiosity necessary for the successful completion of a faculty-directed research project.

5. Place students in doctoral programs of study.

The program specializes in preparing students to enter PhD programs in Economics and, typically, around two-thirds of our students view the program as a springboard toward this end.

We have achieved a very good placement record in this respect. In the past two decades, our MA students have entered PhD programs with financial aid at highly ranked schools such as Yale, Michigan, Indiana, Southern California, North Carolina, Purdue, Illinois, Vanderbilt, Michigan State, Emory, and Texas A&M, amongst others.

Specific placement data (all with financial aid) for the last five years follows:

  • Fall 2010: University of Iowa, Florida State University, University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Kentucky, West Virginia University.
  • Fall 2011: University of Kansas, University of California Santa Cruz, Georgia Tech, University of Concordia.
  • Fall 2012: Michigan State University, Indiana University, Notre Dame, Western Michigan University, University of Hawaii, Florida International University. 
  • Fall 2013:  Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and University of Oregon
  • Fall 2014: Indiana University, Iowa State University, SUNY-Buffalo, and University of Manitoba.
  • Fall 2015: Simon Fraser University, University of Alabama, Florida International University, and West Virginia University.
  • Fall 2016​: Universities of Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Oklahoma, Seattle Washington, Utah (law), and Florida International, Iowa State, Michigan State University (MQM), Oklahoma State, and Penn State (finance).

Because we are (1) a relatively large MA program with around 40 students, and (2) have so many students interested in using our program as preparation for PhD studies, we are often able to offer specific elective classes, such as Mathematical Microeconomic Theory and Dynamic Optimization - classes which are specifically geared toward preparing students to succeed in the micro and macro sequences in a PhD program.

The department views a research experience as crucial to student intellectual growth. Consequently, we encourage students and faculty to work closely on research projects.  Co-authorship between students and faculty on scholarly publications is encouraged. Furthermore, all students must complete a thesis or a substantive research paper. We strongly believe that the quality and extent of student-faculty interaction are strengths of our program.

Curriculum: The program consists of 30 credit hours, i.e. 10 courses.  All students will take the four required courses Mathematical Economics, Econometrics, Microeconomic Theory, and Macroeconomic Theory.  The other six elective courses can be chosen from a fairly large list which includes applied econometrics, advanced microeconomic theory, dynamic optimization, health economics, international economics, industrial organization and game theory, monetary economics, public finance, economic history, and the history of economic thought.  We also allow students to take up to 6 of the 30 credit hours toward the MA from other related disciplines—for example, many of our students take graduate level calculus (real analysis) and statistics to further bolster their quantitative background.

For valuable general information about graduate studies in economics, visit this link to the American Economics Association.


1. What are the minimum requirements for admission?  What are the suggested requirements?

Minimum Requirements: Because graduate economics courses are heavily mathematical, students must have at least one semester of calculus and one semester of statistics.  While these are bare minimum requirements for a student with an exemplary undergraduate record and/or strong GRE, we may also admit students conditionally on taking some of the courses described below.

Suggested background:  We strongly recommend students have intermediate (2nd level) microeconomics and at least two semesters of calculus. Econometrics, linear/matrix algebra, and intermediate macroeconomics would also be helpful preparation. 

Faculty will assume that incoming students are competent in elementary statistics, calculus operations such as taking first and second derivatives, integration, etc., and have literacy in concepts covered in intermediate level microeconomics such as indifference curves and budget lines and isoquants and isocosts. 

While we may accept outstanding students without formal credit in intermediate microeconomics, students without this course should study these concepts on their own [take a massive open on-line course (MOOC) or work through an intermediate level text on your own]. 

If it has been a while since you took calculus, or if you took business calculus (which we have not always found to be a good substitute for regular calculus) you will want to brush up on these concepts before arriving.  Reviewing the first couple of chapters of a book like Wainwright and Chaing's Fundamentals of Mathematical Economics before starting the program would be a good idea.

2. How long does the program take?

The MA is a 30 credit hour program. The program is designed to be completed in three or four semesters. Very few students finish in one calendar year by taking 12 credit hours during each semester and writing a thesis (6 credits) over the summer. While the majority of our students enter the program in the fall semester, we do allow students to enter the program in the spring.

3. How large is the program and what types of students does it attract?

We typically have around 35-40 students in the MA program. Around two-thirds of our students are international, coming from nations such as China, Romania, India, Nepal, Ghana, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. The remaining third of our students are from the United States, most coming from the state of Michigan.

4. What is the faculty like?

We have an active and scholarly faculty who publish in the fields they teach. We involve graduate students in the research process and all graduate students will work closely with faculty on at least one research project. Our faculty, in the past, have collaborated and published in reputable refereed journals with our students.

5. I am interested in pursuing a PhD at a North American university. Why should I choose CMU's MA program as my best preparation?

Many of the students who have enrolled in our program over the past several years did so because they did not receive offers of financial aid from any high-quality PhD programs prior to coming to CMU. These same students, upon completion of our program, were able to receive such offers (see our specific placement data above). More and more, an MA is being looked at as a requirement for admission into high quality PhD programs.

6. I'm not interested in a PhD program. What else can an MA in economics do for me?

About one-third of our students view the MA as a terminal degree, which will give them a leg up over students who simply have a Bachelor's degree. In particular, our program provides graduates important quantitative and data analysis skills, which are desirable in the workplace. CMU offers an excellent Data Mining Certificate Program (18 credit hours), and several of our students have doubled up and completed our MA and this certificate. A very ambitious student could possibly get both the MA in Economics the Data Mining Certificate in two calendar years by taking 12 credits per semester as well as a class or two over the two summers. Jobs in both the private and government sector look favorably at the skills acquired through our MA program. Our graduates have gone on to work for private sector firms as well as government agencies. 

7. Do you offer financial aid?

We offer financial aid on a competitive basis. All students who are admitted into the program will automatically be considered for financial aid. There is no separate application. We typically make aid decisions in March for fall admission (and in September for spring admission, if we have any aid left - typically we have a little) so you should be sure to get your application in by the end of February to give the College of Graduate studies time to process your application and get it to us before we make these decisions.

Note that the College of Graduate Studies offers Fellowships to truly outstanding students - we have typically had a couple of our best students win these fellowships each year. The deadline for this application is February 1. For more information go to the College of Graduate Studies Website and click on Applications and Forms.

​8. Do you require letters of recommendation?

We do not require letters explicitly, but almost all candidates do (and should generally) provide them. Letters can be emailed directly to the College of Graduate Studies at

9. Do you require the GRE for admission?

While we do not explicitly require students to have taken the GRE for admission, it is an important consideration in financial aid decisions.  We do not generally give GA's to students who have not taken the GRE. 

10. Is there a research/writing component to the MA?

Yes. Students can either choose to write a thesis (which accounts for 6 credit hours) or what is called a "Plan B" paper which is a shorter research paper (typically around 25 pages whereas a thesis may be 50-70 pages) written under the guidance of a faculty member.

11. Where do I sign up?

Go to the Graduate College web site for more information or Apply Online.​​​

If you have further questions contact the Graduate Coordinator: Dr. Samuel Raisanen,