With registration for Spring classes just around the corner, the Economics Club hosted a graduate school information panel to discuss graduate study in economics and how best to plan ahead.
The College of William and Mary has a wonderful track record in placing students in top Ph.D. programs. An average of four graduates from the Economics Department continue their Economics career by pursuing a Ph.D. in Economics each year. In recent years, our graduates have attended Yale University, the University of California in San Diego (UCSD) UC Irvine, and Duke University among other excellent graduate programs.
The majority of W&M alums with Economics Ph.D.s are teaching and doing research at leading universities. Some have held senior research positions in key government agencies such as the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board. One has led the President’s Council of Economic Advisors. Our alums have also worked with international organizations like the World Bank. They have headed leading consulting firms. Several have taken research positions in prominent financial institutions.
Economics Professor Throckmorton, Professor Mukherjee, Professor Klepacz, Professor Qi, and Professor Han offered general advice on choosing and applying to graduate schools, then they answered questions from students regarding course selection, letters of recommendation, and the admissions process.
They highlighted the importance of choosing a graduate program that matches your job interests and career coals, whether that is in research and teaching, government, or the private sector. In this respect, looking at the job placement history of graduates from different schools is very helpful in matching students with an appropriate graduate program. Also, it is important to identify economics departments with at least two or three professors doing research in a field that you plan to specialize. Once you identify those professors, also check to their personal websites and C.V.s to see if they are actively advising students and where their advisees land jobs.
Graduate programs in economics also place a very strong emphasis on quantitative skills, meaning that a perfect (or very near perfect) score on the quantitative portion of the GRE, generally taken in the Spring or Summer before the start of the senior year, is important to making sure that you get into the best possible program. It also means that you can best take advantage of your experience here at William and Mary by complementing your Economics courses with courses in Mathematics and Computer Science. Both for the admissions process, but also for surviving your first year in graduate school, students should be extremely comfortable with calculus (Math 111, Math 112, and 213) and basic linear algebra (Math 211). Students, particularly those interested in Microeconomic Theory and Mathematical Economics, will also benefit from as many real analysis courses as are being offered; analysis is often the area in which first year graduate students tend to be the weakest and require the most time and effort to get up to speed.
Applications for Ph.D. programs in Economics typically need to be submitted in the Fall of your senior year. Admissions offices take a look at a lot of factors, which makes any weakness in a given area pretty surmountable. In addition to excelling in your course work, you can also stand out by working as a research assistant for faculty at the College and making sure that you earn a good letter of recommendation. Research assistants are particularly valuable when they have strong computational and quantitative skills including programming, particularly with Stata, but also in Python (CSCI 141), MATLAB, R and other statistical and mathematical software.
A Ph.D. program is a fairly big commitment that can provide great value, both personally and professionally. The programs take several years so make sure that you are in a place that you feel comfortable, in addition to the particular characteristics of the department and a location that you like.
For more information or if you are interested in joining the Economics Club mailing list to learn about future events please send an email to Prof. Pereira at firstname.lastname@example.org. Special thanks to Noah Kreutter for his assistance in writing this article.