Graduate SchoolAfter Gustavus

Gustavus prepares students to be successful in a myriad of different graduate programs. 

Some of the most frequently selected paths are Economics PhD and Masters programs as well as Masters of Business Administration programs (notes about MBA from Ryan Walters '00 can be found below).

What do you need to get into a good economics PhD program?

  1. A demonstrable interest in the field of economics (do you know why you want to get a PhD in economics? have you written an interesting paper for one of your classes? )
  2. Good grades (high GPA is important but even more important is what you get in your upper level economics and math classes)
  3. Math and statistics class on your transcript (linear algebra, multivariable calculus, econometrics are all a must, real analysis and ordinary differential equations will give you an advantage) Recommended math preparation
  4. three letter of recommendation - if you professors know people in the graduate program you’re applying too, don’t hesitate to ask them for a letter of recommendations. In economics, as everywhere else, it’s all about relationship building.

Want to study economics but not ready to commit to a PhD program? Masters programs might be the answer.

Here are two masters program that our faculty can tell you more about: Applied Economics (M.S.) - St. Cloud State University and MA in Economics - George Mason University Our students also had success in finance or in more narrolwy defined programs, e.g.: M.S. in Commerce at University of Virgina. 

What about an MBA?

The following notes about MBA programs have been complied by Ryan Walters' 00 - Major in Economics and Geography
MBA: Carlson School of Management (Univ. of MN) 2016 – Concentration in Finance. Students interested in learning more, should feel free to contact Ryan - you can find in Gustavus LinkedIn Alumni

Selecting a Program

  • Full Time or Part Time?
    • Comparative Advantages of Full Time
      • On-campus recruiters generally focus on Full Time students
      • Stronger summer internship opportunities
      • Complete in 2 years (versus an average 3.5 years for part time)
    • Comparative Advantage of Part Time
      • Can work while obtaining MBA, i.e. continue to earn income
      • Employer may provide partial or full tuition reimbursement
      • Classmates will likely have wider range of ages/work experiences
    • Program Ranking
      • Comparative Advantage of a national ranking e.g. Kellogg/Northwestern, Wharton/Penn, Carlson/Minnesota
        • National ranking / name recognition may be important, depending on:
          • Career goals – Larger national and international companies may focus recruiting at highly ranked schools
          • Location – especially if you plan to live outside Minnesota / Midwest
        • Summer internship opportunities may be better
      • Comparative advantage of a more local program e.g. St. Thomas, Hamline
        • Likely considerably lower tuition
        • Instructors may have wider range of backgrounds – may have more adjunct instructors with more “real world” experience
        • Classmates may have wider range of ages/work experiences

Getting into a Program

  • Most schools require a standardized test like a GMAT
    • GMAT score profiles may vary significantly from school to school, so spend some time researching
    • If you chose a competitive program, I recommend spending a few months studying for the test
  • Schools may require references and a short essay as well; reference will usually be from a current or previous professional employer, not an academic reference

When/Why to Pursue an MBA

  • An MBA provides a deeper dive into subjects that you either covered at a more basic level or don’t cover at all in undergraduate studies
  • Whether you choose a Full Time or Part Time program, work at least a couple years before starting program
    • Many programs require some work experience
    • Based on my experiences the more work experience you have the more you will get out of it
    • Online forums will generally say the “sweet spot” to start an MBA is mid-20s’ or mid-to-late-20’s. Based on my experiences, observations, and hindsight, I would extent that “sweet spot” from the mid-20’s to early-30’s, with the caveat in that it is NEVER too later to get an MBA.
  • Consider how other professional designations (CFA, CPA, etc.) may be a better option than and/or complement an MBA. For example, in some jobs (equity research, for example) a CFA may be more valuable than an MBA (though having both can be even more valuable)


  • If working while obtaining your MBA, check if your company has a tuition reimbursement program
    • Under IRS rules, employer-paid tuition reimbursement is non-taxable to recipients for up to $5,250 per year per; tuition reimbursement in excess of $5,250 is taxable to the recipient
    • Companies often base tuition reimbursement on length of service. The longer length of service = higher tuition reimbursement benefit
    • May be possible to negotiate with your manager/employer, especially if the company doesn’t already have a formal reimbursement program
  • Check if there are study abroad options for trip or a semester
    • Full Time programs may offer a full semester abroad
    • International trips (about 2 weeks or so) are often available for both Full Time and Part Time students
      • Trip – often the student pays for normal tuition + travel costs. If you are working, and your company has an office near the location of the MBA trip, you may be able to negotiate with manager/employer to pick up some of the travel costs in exchange to a visit to the foreign office.