MSc Economics and Philosophy
The LSE's MSc in Economics and Philosophy is taught jointly by the Department of Economics and by the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method. Both Departments are internationally recognised as among the world's very best in their respective disciplines.
The MSc offers a unique combination: rigorous training in core graduate-level economics combined with the opportunity to engage with moral, methodological and foundational questions. Graduates from this degree frequently progress to PhD programmes in both Economics and Philosophy, as well as to careers in government and business (especially financial institutions).
MSc Coordinator Alex Voorhoeve introduces the degree in the video on this page. You can find out more below, and email Alex with any questions.
The degree is distinctive in three ways. First, it is one of the few places where a rigorous graduate-level education in core economics courses can be combined with work in philosophy. Second, the philosophy offerings are resolutely interdisciplinary. We take philosophical analysis to be continuous with scientific approaches to political, social and economic problems, and all philosophy staff have a strong background in interdisciplinary work and in areas of social or natural science. Third, students have access to a rich research environment in economics and philosophy, which is reflected in:
The wealth of research seminars and conferences in the Philosophy of Economics, Rational and Social Choice, scientific evidence and policy-making, and the Philosophy of Public Policy. For a look at some past and future seminars and conferences, see CPNSS Events.
The Department of Philosophy, Logic, and Scientific Method is part-host of the journal Economics and Philosophy and the interdisciplinary Choice Group.
The MSc Economics and Philosophy will be of interest to students with a strong quantitative background who wish to combine rigorous (further) training in economics with philosophical inquiry. We recruit students from across the world to assemble a genuinely international group. Some of the questions concerning philosophy of economics that we study are:
What are the moral advantages and disadvantages of market institutions?
Can we make interpersonal comparisons of well-being, and if so, how should we do so?
How do models of economic phenomena relate to the actual social world?
What are the assumptions underlying the rational choice model in economics? Can they be normatively justified? Are they descriptively accurate?
The programme requires excellent analytical abilities, both in writing and in mathematics and statistics. The core MSc economics and econometrics courses assume a knowledge of constrained optimisation, matrix algebra and basic statistics. We expect students to have taken some essay-based subjects and to have covered micro- and macroeconomics and econometrics up to an intermediate level (exceptions can be made for students with strong quantitative training in. e.g. mathematics or physics; there is also the possibility of receiving an offer conditional on completing intermediate-level economics courses in the LSE Summer School).
The intake/applications ratio reflects the fact that many applicants are rejected because they do not have a sufficiently strong quantitative background to successfully participate in the Economics courses. Applicants are therefore invited to highlight their quantitative background on the application. Students with a strong background in economics or other quantitative disciplines and an interest in philosophical issues have an excellent chance of acceptance into the programme.
The degree prepares students for PhD work in philosophy or in economics, for careers in business and finance, as well as for policy-oriented careers in governmental, non-governmental, and inter-governmental organisations and think tanks.
This is a thirteen month, five-unit degree, one month longer and one unit larger than most LSE Master's degrees. Students study taught courses to the value of four units - two in Economics, two in Philosophy; the fifth unit is a dissertation written over the summer.
How to apply. To be considered for a place on the MSc, you must apply via Graduate Admissions.
Typical entry requirements. These are listed on the degree's graduate prospectus entry. Follow the links from this index of degrees.
Funding your studies. We consider all applications for the funding for which they are eligible. All applications are considered for the LSE Graduate Support Scheme. Typically, the earlier your application is completed, the better your chances of securing funding. You can also contact the LSE Financial Support Office for advice.
Degree structure. Current degree regulations are available from this index. We contact offer-holders over the summer with any updates.
Course summaries. You can find brief introductions to all Masters-level courses via this index. These courses and summaries are for the current academic year. Future years may differ.
Course materials. Most course materials are delivered via Moodle, but are not available to non-students. Nonetheless, you can log in as a guest and see what you can find. Again, future years may differ.
Videos. All Department videos are available here.
Alumni are invited to join the LinkedIn group here.
A recent export of the LinkedIn data can be found here (pdf).
Below are testimonials from former MSc Economics and Philosophy students.
I found the MSc Economics and Philosophy degree incredibly challenging, but I firmly believe it was the best choice of degree for me. I learned so much from balancing my quantitative skills with the depth of abstract thought involved in philosophical subjects. Most of all, I was proud of the process of writing my thesis, in which I really felt as though I could apply my knowledge in a way that coherently integrated economic and philosophical theories.
I really appreciated the flexibility of the degree. I know that the quality of education at LSE is excellent across faculties, but I felt that in order to justify the high cost of studying abroad, I wanted to develop skills in a way not offered at home (in South Africa). I do believe that my degree equipped me with unique capabilities.
I am currently working in the Research Department at the South African Reserve Bank, and, honestly, a pure economics degree (including a Macro course) would have been very useful for the work I do. However, I believe the inter-disciplinary nature of this degree prepared me better for a long-term career path, because the philosophy subjects taught me so much about how to think and to write. Those skills are invaluable and, I believe, are deeply underestimated until one begins producing outputs. Also, I think the degree exposed me to a broad range of topics outside the pure economics field, but which are useful in informing my research.
Finally, I consider the LSE environment itself a unique opportunity, in terms of the brilliant people (classmates, friends and lecturers) to which I was exposed, and the learning environment and support. It was a wonderful year that changed my life and character for the better.
The MSc in Economics and Philosophy changed the way I think about economics, making me a more rigorous and inquisitive researcher. Prior to attending LSE, I had thought of economics as a progressive science, where mathematical models can be used to accurately describe phenomena in the same way they are routinely used in physics or chemistry. I still think mathematical models in economics are useful. However, my LSE experience taught me that the models need to be understood in a philosophical and sociological context. For, at best economics is a very inexact science, and at worst it is still just another branch of moral philosophy – the latter being the way in which great philosophers like Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill saw the discipline centuries ago.
Not only was the subject material of the MSc in Economics and Philosophy fascinating, but so too was the opportunity to meet and get to know other philosophically minded people. The friends I made at LSE form a diverse group, within which we each had an immense opportunity to learn from one another. In short, the LSE website does not exaggerate in stressing the value of the school’s social experience.
Since completing my MSc, I have been working as a junior economist at Citibank. In this role, I have had many opportunities to apply the skills I acquired at LSE. For example, many of the research projects I have worked on require econometric analysis, which I’m comfortable doing after completing EC402. From my philosophy courses at LSE, I learned how to think and write more clearly, also a beneficial trait in my profession. And my current supervisor was once a professor at LSE, a fact that I’m sure helped me land the job in the first place!
So all in all, I would highly recommend LSE generally, and the MSc in Economics and Philosophy specifically, to prospective students. Both played a major role in getting me to where I am today.
Being an LSE student was both an exciting and challenging experience. The programme enabled me to improve my econometrics skills, to get to grips with difficult concepts in economics and to explore new branches of ethics and philosophy of economics. I appreciated the friendly atmosphere in the philosophy department and the support of the lecturers.
Most of all, the programme offered me the opportunity to meet intelligent people from different corners of the world, with whom I could engage in great debates from topics as diverse as philosophy to current affairs. Having such a close circle of friends was one of the most rewarding aspects of the LSE experience.
After graduating from the LSE I became a research assistant at an economics think tank in Brussels, called Bruegel. There I had the opportunity to apply the quantitative skills gained during the MSc to practical policy issues, such as the European debt crisis. After a year at Bruegel, I moved on to the European Parliament, where I am currently working as a policy adivsor and assistant on economic and monetary affairs. Being at the heart of EU policymaking is a very exciting opportunity and my stay at the LSE has certainly provided me with a rich toolkit, which I make use of on a daily basis. Despite the economics focus of my current job, philosophy still remains close to my heart and I enjoy stumbling across topics in which economics and philosophy overlap.
Blake Heller works as a research analyst at the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University. He writes: "The MSc Economics and Philosophy programme was pivotal in helping me develop the quantitative and analytical skill sets I needed to succeed as an applied researcher. In my current work, I use the econometric knowledge I gained at LSE daily. Even my training in game theory and rational choice has come in handy as I work with others to build models of strategic behaviour of students and teachers in response to our interventions. Not only did I learn a great deal, but I truly felt like I was a part of the community in the philosophy department. I met dozens of interesting, brilliant people among my peers and professors who helped me truly engage with the subject matter and get a great deal out of my brief time in London."
As an applicant, I had no trouble picking out the MSc in Economics and Philosophy program from LSE’s tome of a course catalogue. It seemed like the ideal balance of economic rigor combined with normative inquiry. I was finishing up three years in the private sector, and wanted an interdisciplinary academic environment without the full commitment of a Ph.D. The program certainly lived up to expectations. I spent half my time learning quantitative methods and theory from the economics department. At the same time I also relished the advantages of the philosophy department, which included more faculty interaction and opportunities for small class discussions. The courses were challenging, and there was plenty to learn. The surprising part was how much my peers contributed to that learning. My fellow students were among the most curious, clever and engaging people that I’ve met. Looking back I’m thankful for these friendships, and for an all-around rewarding year at the LSE.
My MSc year at the LSE was incredibly intense; it was both demanding and -- at least with the benefit of hindsight -- lots of fun. I worked hard, and it wasn't always easy to satisfyingly divide my time between the economics and the philosophy part of my degree. I'd nevertheless recommend this degree to anyone who is philosophically inclined, but has a strong background and is interested in economics as well. To me, what made the MSc effort worthwhile is not so much the fact that I've discovered that I am willing and able to perform under pressure, nor is it the fact that I've grown intellectually thanks to some first-rate teachers. What instead stands out most prominently is the fact that I've met fellow students whom I still call close friends today. For the first time in my life, I was amongst people who were interested in the same issues as I am, and who were similarly convinced that these issues are fascinating partly because they lack simple and clear-cut solutions. It is this fact that made me want to stay at the LSE, and pursue a PhD in philosophy here.
Prior to applying for a place in the Economics and Philosophy programme at the LSE a few questions kept on ringing in my head. One was whether taking up an interdisciplinary course was better than focusing on one subject. The other was whether the course would help my future career – be it in further academic research or not – as well as, say, a straight degree in economics. Looking back at it now I would have not made a different choice and highly recommend this course to anyone considering it.
Combining the study of two separate subjects is definitely a challenge, but the fruits are worth it. This programme is ideal for someone looking for a mix of mathematical approach to the study of economics and a philosophical analysis of the methodology of social sciences as well as a critical evaluation of the foundations and axioms on which economic theory rests.
The two seemingly distinct subjects complement each other very well. The philosophical part of the course analyses a number of interesting and important questions that are mentioned but not discussed in great detail as part of the microeconomics programme. Conversely, the mathematical side of economics helps greatly in tackling some of the more technical texts written by philosophers and decision theorists in this interdisciplinary field.
There is ample space, through selection of subjects, to gear this course in a number of different ways. In the case of my personal experience, it sparked my interest in and prepared me well for further study of decision and game theory from both economic and philosophical perspectives. Having graduated from this programme I spent two years working in the finance sector for a financial data and analytics software company FactSet across the Middle East, India and Africa. After this I enrolled in a PhD programme (at King's College London) for further research in philosophy with a focus on decision and game theory.
Andreas Pähler works now as a Quant Engineer at swissQuant Group, Zürich, Switzerland. He says this about the degree:
The Economics and Philosophy programme is a great choice if you are interested in economics (and know a bit about it) and if you are also interested in looking at and understanding economics (as a scientific activity or discipline) from the philosophy "observation deck".
If you know how to find a Nash equilibrium, but you also wonder about how a Nash equilibrium helps us to explain the world or how we can use it when deciding on public policy, then I think you have come to the right place.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the programme. It was a great combination of mathematical problem-solving in the economics courses and reading, thinking, and writing in the philosophy courses. I have also gotten to know some of the coolest and most interesting people I have met in my life. I would not trade in the experience for anything else.”
The MSc Economics and Philosophy programme provided me with an excellent training in Economics courses. I was planning to do a PhD in Economics after the MSc, so developing skills in the research methods for Economics was essential for me. At the same I was looking for an opportunity to look beyond pure techniques and to study the fundamentals of the economic science closely. Doing the course in Philosophy of Economics met my needs perfectly - it helped me to look at important issues in economic research from different perspectives, to see why some generally accepted concepts and theories not only need further elaboration, but also need justification and development of their foundations. In this way, the course was an indispensable help for my PhD studies in Economics (which I am now pursuing at Birkbeck College at the University of London), because it has given me a broader and innovative perspective on the questions I am considering in my research.
Mårten Lewander writes, 'I attended the MSc in Economics and Philosophy during 08/09. My goal when applying to LSE was to give myself a chance to really indulge in the philosophical issues surrounding economics, such as those relating to normative theories of distribution. I also wanted to sharpen my previous knowledge of economics without necessarily having to go the full distance of a Ph.D. programme. For this purpose, the MSc in Economics and Philosophy was perfect and I am happy to say that I reached my goals. Coming from a career as a strategy consultant, the step into the classrooms of LSE to study theoretical economics and philosophy was quite a contrast. My lasting memory from LSE as a school will be the strong dedication and commitment of the teachers and the constant stream of high-calibre academic events such as guest lectures, conferences and debates open to students. But most of all I will remember the wonderful friends I made among all my smart, witty and interested fellow students. Now, back in the business community from where I came, I sometimes find myself viewing a real life decision problem in the structure of an impossibility theorem and I can't help longing to be back where people would understand if I said it out loud.'
Tom Cunningham is pursuing a Ph.D. in Economics at LSE. He writes, 'I enjoyed the MSc economics & philosophy program a great deal. In the philosophy seminars we were able to chew and digest the material I learned in the economics courses. The other students taking the program have become close friends. It wasn't straight-forward to enter an economics PhD program after this degree, but I managed to, and I'm now very glad that I did take this Masters.'
Alexander Badinski is pursuing a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University. He writes: The M.Sc. in Economics and Philosophy is one of the greatest programs I ever heard about and I was so glad to have had the chance of attending it. I also enjoyed many of the offered seminar speaches, public lectures and conferences in the LSE across the Economics and Philosophy Departments.
Lucilla Bruni works for an economic consultancy in London. She writes: The MSc was very useful in finding a job in economic consulting because of: 1) the very rigorous approach of the Economics courses at the LSE was a guarantee for my employer of the quality of my training in Economics; 2) the Philosophical component of the course, in addition to being extremely enriching in terms of contents, also really helped in developing my analytical and writing skills, which are essential for writing reports/briefings/etc.
Chunxiao Liu is a management associate at Citibank Bejing.
Viara Bojkova works for the think tank Sea and Water. She writes: We try to influence governmental policy and represent the shipping industry. What I do is research and analysis on the trade between the UK and the EU, North Africa and ex-Soviet Republics. I also write theoretical and economic argumentats when we work on documents that are particularly oriented to changes in the governmental policies. We work on consultation papers of the European Commission as well. Very useful for me were the discussions about our dissertations. I still remember the hints that I learnt and use them now when I write long reports.
Isabell Kohten works at the Office for National Statistics in the UK Centre of the Measurement of Government Activity. She writes: The purpose of this Centre is to improve and develop further output and productivity measures for public services such as health or education, and my specific task is to establish the basic principles and methods and their economic foundations. That, in some sense, requires a lot of thinking about philosophy of economics, and more than once I have literature again that was covered in the PH413 course (rational choice, public choice, economic policy, the concepts of welfare and well-being, to name a few). Even though I don't expect this to be the case for most jobs I will go through in the future, I did value the PH413 course as a very valuable addition to the very technical economic courses that didn't look at underlying assumptions/views of the world any more but focussed fully on establishing and solving complex models.
Joshua Tan started out at as an investment banker at DBS, Singapore's largest bank, and is now at PhillipCapital. He writes: My employers hired me because they thought that I was interesting and different from the usual Accounting/Business/Finance grads that they hire. Thus they were willing to overlook the fact that I had no Finance background (but had enough Mathematics training from my Econs).