Application and Admissions

Admission Information

Admissions decisions are made by the departmental Graduate Faculty Admissions Committee, which is chaired by the Director of Graduate Studies Dr. Richard Startz. Admission to the program is based on academic achievement, intellectual potential and scholarly promise, programmatic fit, and available space. A bachelor's degree is required, though not necessarily with a major in economics. The department expects that specific courses, particularly economic theory (Microeconomics and Macroeconomics), be passed with distinction. Most successful candidates also have a course in Econometrics.

Prospective students are advised to take as ​many statistics and mathematics courses as possible.  We expect applicants to have taken advanced courses in calculus, mathematical statistics, matrix and linear algebra, and highly recommend a proof-based course, usually in real analysis.

Admission and Diversity

Admission to the PhD program in Economics focuses on identifying students of outstanding promise. There is no single criterion for admission, but we emphasize previous academic success as indicated by coursework in economics and mathematics, excellent grades, strong scores on the GRE general exam (especially the quantitative section), and three letters of recommendation. Effective letters of recommendation are written by mentors who can speak directly to the candidate’s ability to excel in graduate school and to conduct independent research. As a practical matter, this usually means economics faculty or other economists active in research.

The UC Santa Barbara Department of Economics actively seeks to recruit a diverse set of graduate students. Our program is made up domestic and international students with a wide range of perspectives and experiences. We welcome students from colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. We strongly encourage applications from students who have excelled academically despite economic or social disadvantages.

While admission is competitive and based on merit alone, the University may provide extra fellowships to candidates who increase diversity. Criteria for diversity are varied, and applicants should read the information provided on the UC Santa Barbara Graduate Division website and include relevant elements in the personal statement.

Although the minimum undergraduate grade point average requirement for admission to graduate school at UC Santa Barbara is 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, the average for those admitted and starting the program is normally much higher. Meeting the minimum requirement does not guarantee admission.

The average undergraduate GPA for all applicants who were admitted for the last four years is noted in the table below, although GPA and GRE scores are only two elements considered in the admission decision. All applicants are required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and the GMAT is never accepted. Average GRE Verbal, Quantitative, and GRE Analytical Writing scores are noted below.

Additional information such as the size of the applicant pool, how many were admitted and how many started the program are listed in the table below. *

Applied (Admitted)
Started Program GPA GRE Verbal
GRE Quantitative
GRE Analytical Writing
Fall 2017
219 (46)
3.78 / 4.0
159 / 82%
167 / 93% 4 / 59%
Fall 2016
221 (72) 14 3.78 / 4.0
158 / 79% 166 / 92%
4 / 56%
 Fall 2015 187 (56)
13 3.75 / 4.0
160 / 84% 167 / 96% 4 / 56%
Fall 2014 183 (57) 15 3.75 / 4.0
160 / 84% 167 / 96% 4 / 54%

*Please note that meeting or exceeding the above listed number does not guarantee an applicant admission to our program.

International Student Applicants

Applicants whose native language is not English are required to take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. Requests for exceptions to this requirement will be considered for those students who have completed an undergraduate or graduate education at an institution whose primary language of instruction is English.

The department highly recommends the submission of a TOEFL score for all international students who wish to be considered for financial assistance.

The minimum acceptable TOEFL score is 600 (paper-based test) or 100 (internet-based test), but successful applicants typically score 106 or higher (internet-based test).

For those applicants choosing to take the IELTS, the minimum acceptable Overall Band score is 7 or higher. Foreign students should take the TOEFL/IELTS and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as early as possible to ensure scores arrive on or before the application deadline. TOEFL and IELTS scores must be no more than two years old at the time of application. GRE scores must be no more than five years old at the time of application.  Official scores for the GRE, TOEFL and/or IELTS must be ordered from the testing service to be sent to UCSB before they expire.

All incoming international graduate students and permanent residents whose first language is not English are required to take the English Language Placement Examination (ELPE) at the beginning of their first quarter of enrollment here at UC Santa Barbara.  For graduate students, the ELPE includes both a written and an oral examination. After the writing exam, students make individual appointments through the English for Multilingual Students (EMS) program to take the oral exam on a different day.

*It is important to note that International students whose first language is not English but were exempt from the TOEFL or IELTS requirement must still take the English Language Placement Exam (ELPE), if admitted and decide to attend UCSB.

How To Apply

Applicants must apply for admission to our Ph.D. graduate program electronically (online) at the UCSB Graduate Division website.

A downloadable checklist on how to apply to the Ph.D. graduate program in Economics can be found on the link provided as well as a document detailing "Important Information about Uploading Official Transcripts for your Graduate Program Application to the Department of Economics, can be found here.

In order to complete the online application process, applicants must submit the following materials directly into (upload into) the UCSB Online Graduate Application:

1) Statement of Purpose Essay

2) Personal Achievements/Contributions Essay

3) Resume or CV

For more information on the three above listed documents that you are required to submit, please visit the Graduate Division Statements and Supplemental Documents website.

Applicants must not combine the criteria of the Statement of Purpose essay and the Personal Achievements/Contributions Essay, into one combined essay. Separate essays are required. Suggested length of each essay should be between two and two and one-half pages long, and single spaced. Essays should be labeled with Name (Last, First) and Title of Essay in the top right hand corner of each document. Please note that the above three documents must be (are required to be) submitted online.

4) Letters of Recommendation

Three letters of recommendation are required as part of your application. Four is the maximum allowed. Letters of recommendation are submitted online via the online Graduate Application. You will be asked to supply the name, email address, and current institution of each recommender. Once that information is supplied, the online application will provide recommendation submission instructions to any of your recommenders via email. Recommenders may upload letters in PDF file format only. Letters of recommendation are most effective when they come from economics faculty.

5) Official Transcripts from all post-secondary educational institutions attended, including community colleges, summer sessions, and extension programs, must be carefully and neatly scanned and uploaded into the online application.

* Please see this document for more important information about transcripts.

* International applicants should additionally note that all uploaded official academic transcripts must include both the version in the native language along with authorized, complete, and exact, literal English translations by the school or an official agency. Unofficial copies made by the applicant or UC faculty and staff are unacceptable.

* Official transcripts for Fall term grades are required to be uploaded into Statement & Supplemental Documents" section of the online application as soon as they are available, but hopefully no later than January 8, 2018.

6) Non-refundable application fee of $​105.00 for domestic applicants and $​125.00 for international applicants (if not paid online with a credit card) by check, money order, bank draft, or international money order payable through a U.S. bank and made payable to "UC Regents".

* No application will be processed or released to the academic department until the application fee has been received.

Lastly, please have the following sent directly to the UCSB Graduate Division:

  1. Official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores forwarded directly from the testing institution. The ETS institution code for UCSB is 4835, and the Economics department code is 1801. GRE scores can be no more than five (5) years old at the time of application.
  2. Official Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam scores (international students only) forwarded directly from the testing institution. The ETS institution code for TOEFL scores for UCSB is 4835, and the Economics department code is 84. TOEFL or IELTS scores can be no more than two (2) years old at the time of application.


The deadline for the receipt of the paid online application and all supporting application materials for admissions consideration with priority financial support consideration for the incoming class in Fall ​2018 is Friday, December 1, 2017. The final deadline ​to apply for admission, but will be given a lower priority in funding to the Fall ​2018 quarter is Thursday, February ​1, 2018.

Whether you apply to the Ph.D. option or the Ph.D./M.A. option on the online application, you are applying in fact to the doctoral program in both circumstances. Choosing the Ph.D./M.A. option allows us to administratively award you an M.A. degree in Economics based on the successful completion of the first year doctoral program requirements, without any additional administrative steps. We highly recommend you apply to the Ph.D./M.A. option.

All application documents must be received/uploaded by the deadline, postmarks and or late uploads are not accepted. First-year Ph.D. courses are sequential; students must begin the program in the fall quarter.