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Preparing for a Future in Economics
Ph.D, Masters, or a Job? What can you do to be successful
One of the things I love about this community is getting to read your comments and answering your questions. Today I answer a question from YouTube comments.
Hi Dr. A! Econ major here. I am planning on getting my masters. I have a few video ideas for you that is super helpful for people in my position (I haven't seen these on your channel). I know that this is very job-specific, but it would be really cool if you could do a video on different credentials econ majors get to be more specialized. Additionally, I am kinda worried about letters of rec. Maybe you could talk about that a little bit too, but idk if there is much to talk about there. Thanks !!
This got me thinking about life after college and how I prepare my students for what to do next.
For my students there are usually three possible paths:
Ph.D program in economics
Master’s program in economics, business, or social sciences
Industry. Banking, research, policy, or data analysis are some recent fields that my graduates have gone into.
The most common approach is going to industry. However, my advice to them is the same regardless of which option they choose. Success is a function of many aspects. So today, I will let you in on the conversations I have with my students.
A conversation with my students:
Decide what you want to do, Ph.D, Masters, or Industry. If you can’t decide that is fine, and I would recommend avoiding making the decision too early in your academic career. Just know that you can go directly into a Ph.D in economics from undergrad. This is something I did not know. If graduate school is your path, I recommend applying to both, Master’s and Ph.D programs! Recommended: Don’t force yourself to pick early on in your academic career.
Develop a mentorship/advisor relationship: Economics and higher education have a hidden curriculum, you will need someone to help you open doors and gain experiences. You will also need someone that can write a strong letter of recommendation for you. It helps if your mentor has some recognition in the field. Connecting with faculty is easier at smaller institutions. Places like NKU, or liberal arts institutions do a good job with this. However, having a letter written by someone from a large public institution also has its value because of the institutions name recognition. Recommended: Having multiple mentors is highly recommended.
Take relevant undergraduate courses: It is important to have a strong foundation in economics. Make sure to take a range of microeconomics and macroeconomics courses, as well as calculus and statistics. Required courses in economics are intermediate microeconomics and intermediate macroeconomics. Data analysis skills are really important for individuals interested in applied research. Recommended: Take Econometrics and at NKU take Data Tools for Econ and Business.
Develop your research skills: Graduate school in economics involves a lot of independent research and data analysis, so it is important to develop these skills as an undergraduate. Consider taking courses that involve research projects, or try to get involved in research opportunities outside of the classroom. My students applying to industry jobs have told me that interviewers are also interested in learning more about their research, even when the job does not include research responsibilities. Working on research sends the signal that you are able to critically think about a question for a long period of time. Recommended: Present your research at a regional or national conference.
Familiarize yourself with the admissions and job search process: Research the admissions requirements for the graduate programs you are interested in, and make sure to meet all necessary deadlines. This may include taking the GRE or other exams, and writing a personal statement. For jobs, take a look at how job descriptions are written. What are some requirements listed that you need to develop? How do your qualifications match with the job expectations? Recommended: Check out people that have careers you are interested in and research their path. Feel free to connect with them and ask to meet.
Seek out opportunities to gain practical experience: Consider internships or part-time jobs in fields related to economics, as these can help you gain valuable skills and experience that will be useful in graduate school. Recommended: Join The Econ Games.
Build a strong foundation in mathematics: Economics graduate programs often require a strong foundation in math, including calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations. If you feel like you need to brush up on your math skills, consider taking additional math courses or working with a tutor. Recommended: Take as much math as you can.
Stay current with developments in economics: Keep up with current events and developments in the field of economics by reading relevant news articles and academic journals. This will help you develop a deeper understanding of the subject and stay engaged with current debates and controversies in the field. Recommended: Read the news, subscribe to newsletters like Economics with Dr. A.
Network: If you are interested in graduate school, attend conferences and reach out to faculty and students that share your interest. If you are interested in industry, get out to local business events. At HAILE College of Business we invite industry to our classes and clubs, meet our guests and build a line of communication. Recommended: Connect with people on LinkedIn and post about your journey. If you and I are not connected on LinkedIn, please do connect. Here is my profile. https://www.linkedin.com/in/draalbahrani/
Thinking about the future can be scary. I recognize that and I want to help. If there are other topics surrounding this that you would like to see, please leave a comment. Good luck with your next steps! If you are considering industry, here is how I would search for a job.