1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
Re: 2019 Profile Evaluation - Geographically Limited :/
It really is a shame that graduate school is such a difficult thing to do when you have geographic constraints. The bad news here is there really aren't many PhD econ programs in NC. Duke, UNC, and NC State are all I can see. It doesn't look to me like Wake Forest has one. There may be some unranked programs outside of those 3 if you keep looking and are willing to take a risk on that. If stretching into SC/Virginia truly isn't feasible, that seems to be it.
The other tough thing is that you're an unconventional candidate, coming from many years of private work and lacking the traditional indicators of a quantitative background (short on math and not many A's). You should really try to get a very strong GRE quantitative score and hint to your letter writers that vouching for your quantitative skills would be useful.
I'm just an applicant this year, so take this profile evaluation with a grain of salt. I'm going off of my years of reading this site and the handful of outcomes I've witnessed in person. But here's my best guess: Duke is very unlikely, UNC is somewhat unlikely, and NC State is probably an option, but not a guarantee.
With so few apps, I would say the cost is low enough that it's worth an attempt if this is something you're serious about doing. Factor in that admissions is incredibly random (you could be theoretically be getting offers from similarly ranked schools as NC State but get rejected from NC State, for example), and you can see the hurdle here. I do think Duke is out of your reach, but I sent plenty of apps to schools out of my reach, so don't feel bad about doing it.
As far as adding to your profile, if I could choose one area it would be classwork. A difficult math course (linear algebra is a must for many programs; real analysis would help) would be the best option in terms of feasibility and value-added. Letters are very important, and if you have some people who will very strongly recommend you and work to convince them you can handle the rigors of an econ PhD, admissions people may take a chance on an unconventional candidate.
The reality is it'll be quite difficult. Doesn't mean it's not worth a shot, though. But depending on what your career goals are, there may be other worthwhile programs outside of an econ PhD, which is a really, really big investment (not in terms of direct cost, but time/energy/opportunity cost in private work), and is even that much harder with the constraints you currently have. It's definitely worth thinking about.