Sponsored Ad:
See the top rated post in this thread. Click here

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 12

Thread: Research Experience Prior to Grad School

  1. #1
    Trying to make mom and pop proud
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    United States
    Posts
    3
    Rep Power
    5


    Good post? Yes | No

    Research Experience Prior to Grad School

    Sponsored Ad:
    Hey guys,


    Today I consulted my economics professor regarding what kind of research experience he received prior to grad school. I have spent time reading what people have to say on here, and in other places, but I wanted to get a sense of the type of things I should be doing while I work towards my undergraduate degrees from someone who I knew was actually an economist.


    He said that RA work was not worthwhile to do prior to graduate school. He told me that I should finish my schooling as fast as I can so that I do not forget any of my math when I get into a phd program, and should definitely not take an RA position post graduation. When I inquired, he also said that RA work was not something I could do while in school and that people are not really ever ready to do research until they complete their phds. This response was very puzzling to me, as it seems that most people here have listed research experience in their graduate school applications. I realize that I won't be able to write publishable papers any time soon, but I figured an understanding of stata, SAS, R, and some statistics was all that most undergrads doing research had.


    He is a graduate from a good university (top 30), so perhaps there is more to understand about my endeavor to "get research experience" than I know.


    I am studying economics and applied math at my university. Given that I am employed full time, and that I am working towards two degrees, I understand that I will take longer to finish my program than most people. I personally do not find this problematic, given that my job is paying for my schooling and that I'm taking my time to do as much math and stats as I possibly can. Is he right that I should rush through school faster and that doing research work is not realistic for me? Maybe I'm misinterpreting him. Anyway, any words of advice would be wonderful.


    Thank you!

  2. #2
    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Posts
    1,896
    Rep Power
    17


    2 out of 3 members found this post helpful. Good post? Yes | No

    Re: Research Experience Prior to Grad School

    Almost every current grad student in the top 15 I've talked to has some research experience during undergrad or after college (before applications), and a significant minority had both.

    There are a lot of professors who are not necessarily familiar with the current admissions process. This is especially the case if your university does not regularly send students to PhD programs, which sounds like the case here.

  3. #3
    TestMagic Guru Moderator
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    2,842
    Rep Power
    24


    3 out of 3 members found this post helpful. Good post? Yes | No

    Re: Research Experience Prior to Grad School

    Seems like odd advice. RA experience is valuable for two reasons. One, it tells you if research is something you will find personally rewarding. You'll see how the sausage is made and get an idea if that's something you want to do. I imagine SOPs are vastly better when written by those with RA experience even after controlling for the selection bias. Second, it provides a great way to get an experienced researcher to write you a recommendation letter.

    Is RA experience going to make you a better researcher in the long run? Nope, no way. In fact, at the end of your PhD you'll chuckle when you think of the "research" you did back as an RA before grad school. However, it will get you off and running.

  4. #4
    Trying to make mom and pop proud repave's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Posts
    25
    Rep Power
    6


    Good post? Yes | No

    Re: Research Experience Prior to Grad School

    Since it wasn't mentioned here, all my theory professors told me to not do RA-ship and all my applied profs told me to pursue it. If you're likely to do theory, an advice I often hear is to finish up as fast as possible and then start churning out the results

  5. #5
    Finding a new home
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    1,154
    Rep Power
    17


    Good post? Yes | No

    Re: Research Experience Prior to Grad School

    Agree with reprave. It is unlikely that the normal undergraduate is ready to do theoretical research. The level is deeper and more intense than what you see in your studies.

  6. #6
    Within my grasp!
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Posts
    227
    Rep Power
    6


    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful. Good post? Yes | No

    Re: Research Experience Prior to Grad School

    To add another voice to the crowd, I agree with what has been said here. It sounds to me like your professor has been out of touch with the admissions process for quite some time. I ran into this too when I was applying and speaking to current and former professors. Some professors who had not been involved with admissions for years were completely out of the loop.

    I wouldn't be concerned about "forgetting" the math you'll need for the first two years of a PhD program. Every department knows its incoming students have varying backgrounds, and gives you a (usually) 2-4 week-long intensive math camp to shake the rust off. If you're really concerned, do a little self study each week to stay fresh and you won't have any issues.

    RA work is not strictly necessary to gain admissions to an economics PhD program; but, unless you have a stellar academic pedigree which allows you glowing recommendations from actively researching professors who will go to bat for you, it may be hard to compete without some substantive research experience. I don't see any reason to rush the process. Personally, I took my time to make sure I was a) prepared b) competitive and c) sure that economics research was what I wanted to do. In my case, this meant taking a full-time RA job. For you that may not be the case, but certainly ensure that you've checked off a-c that I listed above.

    Anecdotally, I believe only 2 students in my cohort of 17 (at a T20--just for reference) did not do post-undergrad research before matriculating. I think most people on here who are currently in a PhD program would report something similar.

  7. #7
    Eager!
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Posts
    38
    Rep Power
    5


    2 out of 2 members found this post helpful. Good post? Yes | No

    Re: Research Experience Prior to Grad School

    Contrary to common opinion in this discussion, many of the very best students apply and are accepted directly to graduate school. You can verify this by perusing the CVs of MIT's job market candidates: http://economics.mit.edu/files/9256 A large percent began their PhD studies immediately following a BA or MA, the latter often in a system of three-year BAs. Some do have full time RA or other work experience but many others do not.

    My own experience with the admissions process is that research experience is valuable in the admissions process IFF it helps a candidate present a compelling argument for her own research plans or secures a strong letter of recommendation that is better than those from the applicant's undergraduate instructors. Research experience is not the only path to signals of academic preparation or maturity. Every year we admit, and compete for, students with strong academic preparation and no postgraduate experience. Some of these students have undergraduate research experience but others do not. These very top candidates are overrepresented at highly ranked schools, and further down the ranks, it is more common for most of the entering cohort to have some postgraduate work experience.

    Students with a preference for studying economic theory are more likely to apply and be admitted without postgraduate research experience conditional upon very strong undergraduate coursework.

    Full time research experience can strengthen an applicant's profile but it is not necessary for all applicants and it is not as universal as this discussion suggests. My experience contradicts tm_member's in that I do find that my students who have worked as full time RAs before their graduate studies make more rapid progress and propose more tractable research questions than students without such experience. I do not wish to discourage bookworm from pursuing research experience. However the expected return in the admissions process is far less certain than many here believe.

  8. #8
    Within my grasp!
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Posts
    227
    Rep Power
    6


    Good post? Yes | No

    Re: Research Experience Prior to Grad School

    Quote Originally Posted by Prof View Post
    Contrary to common opinion in this discussion, many of the very best students apply and are accepted directly to graduate school. You can verify this by perusing the CVs of MIT's job market candidates: http://economics.mit.edu/files/9256 A large percent began their PhD studies immediately following a BA or MA, the latter often in a system of three-year BAs. Some do have full time RA or other work experience but many others do not.

    My own experience with the admissions process is that research experience is valuable in the admissions process IFF it helps a candidate present a compelling argument for her own research plans or secures a strong letter of recommendation that is better than those from the applicant's undergraduate instructors. Research experience is not the only path to signals of academic preparation or maturity. Every year we admit, and compete for, students with strong academic preparation and no postgraduate experience. Some of these students have undergraduate research experience but others do not. These very top candidates are overrepresented at highly ranked schools, and further down the ranks, it is more common for most of the entering cohort to have some postgraduate work experience.

    Students with a preference for studying economic theory are more likely to apply and be admitted without postgraduate research experience conditional upon very strong undergraduate coursework.

    Full time research experience can strengthen an applicant's profile but it is not necessary for all applicants and it is not as universal as this discussion suggests. My experience contradicts tm_member's in that I do find that my students who have worked as full time RAs before their graduate studies make more rapid progress and propose more tractable research questions than students without such experience. I do not wish to discourage bookworm from pursuing research experience. However the expected return in the admissions process is far less certain than many here believe.
    This is good perspective. I am aware that top students at top PhD programs are often prodigious enough that they may not need to present any research experience; however, personally, I was sort of calibrating my advice towards the 90% of aspiring PhD students on this forum who do not fit that bill. Outside of the T10, as you mention, it becomes far more common to have some work experience (often research-based) for beginning graduate studies.

  9. #9
    economist
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Posts
    770
    Rep Power
    12


    Good post? Yes | No

    Re: Research Experience Prior to Grad School

    It may be useful to make a distinction between American undergraduates and international students. American undergraduates applying to top programs typically do have RA experience either as an undergraduate or between college and grad school.

    I followed the MIT link that Prof helpfully provided. According to my (very quick) scan, 9 of 21 MIT PhDs on the job market this year have American undergraduate degrees. 7 of those 9 mention RA undergraduate or between school RA experience on their vita.

  10. #10
    Eager!
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Posts
    38
    Rep Power
    5


    Good post? Yes | No

    Re: Research Experience Prior to Grad School

    Quote Originally Posted by startz View Post
    It may be useful to make a distinction between American undergraduates and international students. American undergraduates applying to top programs typically do have RA experience either as an undergraduate or between college and grad school.

    I followed the MIT link that Prof helpfully provided. According to my (very quick) scan, 9 of 21 MIT PhDs on the job market this year have American undergraduate degrees. 7 of those 9 mention RA undergraduate or between school RA experience on their vita.
    By my count, four of the nine graduates of US universities matriculated in PhD programs without intermediate work experience. Five worked between their undergraduate and graduate degrees. I interpreted the original question and subsequent discussion as focusing on the value of postgraduate research experience, and merely intended to demonstrate it is not as ubiquitous as was suggested, at least for students with the strongest undergraduate credentials.

    Research experience can be a valuable signal when academic records alone are not sufficient for admission, and as previously discussed I believe it has a return in the production of the dissertation even when it is not necessary (or sufficient) for admission.

    Notably, the postgraduate research positions indicated by most of the MIT job market candidates are nearly as competitive as PhD admissions themselves. The students likely had extremely strong undergraduate records that were polished, rather than rescued by their RA positions.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Similar Threads

  1. Q re Prior Grad School (Law School in this case)
    By Curious exLawye in forum PhD in Economics
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 04-05-2012, 09:05 PM
  2. Replies: 8
    Last Post: 09-15-2011, 07:07 AM
  3. Teaching experience before grad.school
    By hazamin in forum Graduate Admissions
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 03-29-2010, 06:08 PM
  4. Grad school performance Vs Research Productivity
    By DismalScientist in forum PhD in Economics
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 04-14-2007, 03:00 AM
  5. Economic Research Jobs (before grad school)
    By Mr.Math in forum Graduate Admissions
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 12-23-2005, 05:30 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •