Let’s first rephrase this question into two different questions. First, are mathematics courses necessary for economics PhD admission? Second, are mathematics courses necessary for success into an economics PhD program?

The answers to these two different questions are different too. For the former question the answer is no. It’s certainly good to have a number of mathematics courses for admission into economics PhD program. If you are pursuing PhD in economics you are going to use the applications of mathematics extensively in your thesis and coursework. However, for admission into economics PhD program you don’t absolutely need to have all those courses in mathematics. A few courses which actually show that you have necessary knowledge of mathematics such that you can apply them to your studies further; are sufficient for admission. Having these courses on your transcript show that you are having the knowledge of basic and essential mathematics concept which can be used to develop and learn advance mathematical techniques which would be taught during the program.

The answer to the latter question is, yes. For success to economics PhD program, one must have a mathematical aptitude. Courses like multivariate calculus, linear algebra, probability, vector spaces and topology are going to be proved very helpful and if you are not familiar with them you are going to learn it or having a tough time. There is no way that you an economics PhD student can skip mathematics.

The bottom line is it’s more important to be having a mathematical aptitude rather than having a number of mathematics courses in undergraduate for economics PhD. But you are of course, going to get an advantage in the admission process if you have a number of mathematics courses on your transcript since this makes the admission committee confident that you know mathematics. This is the reason that economics PhD requires on of the highest scores in the quantitative section of the GRE. Hence even if you don’t have many mathematics courses to show on your transcript, you can apply for Economics PhD.

P.S.- I came across a question of this type on a forum and I decide to tackle it here. So please do comment your concerns and questions such that I can make the information as relevant as possible.

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