I received some questions from econ folks regarding the below, my response in PhD Business regarding what school to target (OP had basic math like Calculus I and Intro Stats) or how to boost profile. I figured I could post it here and allow those more knowledgeable about econ to comment or fix the differences and hopefully that will answer some questions. I am also familiar with Econ programs so I believe most, if not all, of the below fits. The only big difference is salary, bigger deviations at the lower schools (Tier 2 and Tier 3).
I will start this off by stating, I am ONE person so take my opinion as just a data point; however, I have some experience with this, especially in B-School programs such as finance.
The beauty of graduate school, and life, not to get too deep, is there are a plethora of choices. In this regard, graduate programs; there are hundreds in the U.S. I would break them down, like most in three tiers (there are differing opinions on what school belongs where but that is not in question in this post).
Tier 1 = Top 15 (MIT, HBS, Chicago, Stanford, etc)
Tier 2 = Top 60 (Texas, USC, Duke, UNC, BC, UCONN, Penn State, Pitt, etc.)
Tier 3 = Everyone Else (Kansas, Kentucky, LSU, Florida, George Washington, etc.)
Using these buckets: Top Research Placement/Moderate Research Placement/Low Research Placement/Top Teaching Program/Other Teaching Program/Industry and Government
Tier 1ís Output (60/25/5/5/0/5)
Tier 2ís Output (15/40/20/15/5/5)
Tier 3ís Output (1/10/39/5/30/15)
The above allocations are of course not completely accurate, however, look at placements and you will see very similar allocations. There are HBS Business Economic PhDs that get placed in random industry jobs or Low Research Placement that you say, huh? And there are faculty at Tier 1 that went to schools you would not believe, more on this lately.
So the next point is what is the difference, this is a very important question. Fundamentally, each different bucket requires a different Ďtypeí of person or personality. I have come across Tier 1 graduates who would be horrible at a research school and others who couldnít teach even if it offered those graduates $1M. Also, a big difference is in responsibility and compensation.
Top Research Placement:
Compensation is about $200K + $40K for the summer with a light teaching load (1/2 for example). The classes you are teaching though are Ďimportantí. You are usually responsible for teaching narcissistic (kidding) MBAs who think they are smarter than you and try to become your best friend for a recommendation or better grade and teaching/mentoring annoying (kidding again) PhDs who think they need ALL of your time. Additionally, you will need to be producing top research and helping your colleagues do the same. It is not strange to walk onto a floor at a Tier 1 and see most of the AP there past 7:00PM. However, you also get great resources both in the form of RAs, colleagues, and others visiting your school for things such as seminars.
Moderate Research Placement:
Compensation is about $160 + $25K for the summer with a light teaching load (1/2 for example). This is very similar to a top program with fewer resources and less publication requirements (usually less in terms of quality of journal and not number of publications).
Low Research Placement:
Compensation is about $140 + $15K for the summer with a light teaching load (1/2 for example). This is very similar to a moderate program with fewer resources and less publication requirements (usually less in terms of quality of journal and not number of publications).
Top Teaching Program:
Compensation is about $130; usually summer money is on a case by case basis. The teaching load is heavier (3/3 for example). The research requirement is closer to a low research program, many of these professors are active contributors, but you will have to advise students and get involved administratively.
Other Teaching Program:
Compensation is about $100; usually very little summer money is available. The teaching load is heavier (4/3 for example). The research requirement is pretty casual. Usually there are a set number of publications most of which can be in low journals, though some schools do expect at least 1 B publication. All of the professors have to advise students and get heavily involved administratively.
Industry and Government:
This is a wild card; it depends on the sector and type of government. Someone working on the economic council of a state earns in the $80-$150K starting off while someone working at a hedge fund can be making $500K the year after graduating. There are opportunities that fit in between these as well. In exceptional cases if you have been interning and building models during your program tenure you can leave the program making in excess of $500K. The earning potential here is very high; where some hedge fund managers go on to make millions, and some billions.
In conclusion, every year there are graduates who are under and over placed, hence the 1% marker I left on Tier 3. There are A LOT of politics in the academic arena, like most jobs, however it is a meritocracy. For example, if you devise a model that helps value bonds with the same effect of Black-Scholes or change the way corporate financing is done I donít care if you are teaching at a community college, HBS or Bain Consulting will be calling you for a sit down, and you will be all set.
Now to answer the OP (and to others in a similar position):
The important thing is to know who you are, or try to figure it out sooner than later because nothing is worse than seeing a Tier 1 graduate have to settle or a Tier 3 graduate realize that he or she wonít be teaching at Stanford. Therefore, it is always best to position yourself best and apply broadly, no matter your background and see what happens. Great applicants get turned down at Tier 2 and solid applicants get accepted at Tier 1 sometimes, so who knows. Also, there is a risk of over-working in order to apply. If I were you, assuming you get a GMAT at 700+ (if not take it again while taking course), I would register at where you are or Florida, whichever is cheaper, though if it is close go to Florida since they are better known and have a PhD program, and take Calculus II, Calculus III, Econometrics, Probability and Stats, and Linear Algebra. This should only take 1 full year and you can apply in that year, not having all the grades does hurt but if you do well enough in the first semester and layout that you are taking courses in the spring I bet you can easily get a Tier 3 and some Tier 2. Wait for the grades and take a PhD course, and a few from this list: differential equations, advanced statistics, real analysis, or advanced econometrics and get a letter from that professor or one of the harder classes, or even the PhD courseís professor and you are a shoe in for Tier 2 with a solid shot at Tier 1. There is really no need for a masters unless you need structure. The only masters programs really worth something are overseas (i.e., LSE) so if you donít want to do that, nor do you have to if you follow the aforementioned plan there is no real need. The more classes you take the better you can do at moving from Tier 3 to Tier 2 to Tier 1, and within the respective Tiers. However, if you really want to teach or go into industry then feel confident at a Tier 3, plus the road there and through will be MUCH easier. Lastly, there are consulting opportunities at every level, you may not be the Chief Economist for Microsoft but maybe for a regional bank.
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