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Thread: Should I get an advanced degree in Econ if I want to learn how to develop?

  1. #31
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    Re: Should I get an advanced degree in Econ if I want to learn how to develop?

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    Quote Originally Posted by zshfryoh1 View Post
    I think you are confusing MA in Econ and PhD in Econ. Most US MA Econ programs (Europe is different) are basically cash cow MA's in applied economic analysis or applied econometrics and use Varian or Jehle and Reny or a similar text (not MWG) as the standard Micro text. As such most US MA programs only require 1-2 semesters of Calc and perhaps 1-2 semesters stats/econometrics as a pre-req. Any necessary math beyond that is taught in the program. A few prefer students enter with Multivariable Calc or Lin Alg but almost none require it. The coursework in microeconomics and econometrics at the better, more rigorous MPA or MPP programs will be similar to that.

    Even for PhD programs, while RA is necessary for most good programs it is possible (though it is getting increasingly harder) to get into a decent top 75 program without it and Prob Theory is useful but not absolutely necessary. Topology is not necessary unless perhaps you are interested theory and applying to a top program, though taking it and doing well will help on an application. If you take a look at profiles here of people who got into top 20 Econ PhD programs you will see that all will have RA, most will have either a Prob Theory class or a serious Econometrics class but less than half will have Topology.
    You're not wrong about the differences between MA in Econ and PhD in Econ. But I actually agree with fmill019's belief that even the best MPA programs are less rigorous than typical MA in econ. I think you're significantly overestimating the rigor of any MPA program. MPA programs tend to have only 1/4-1/2 of their coursework in quantitative areas, and even for those courses, the content is comparable to undergrad intro stats and economic field electives. That's true for Harvard as well. Apart from law and medicine, professional school programs are almost entirely cash cows, and MPA is one of the more notorious examples. It may be the optimal choice for a very small number of combinations of backgrounds + careers. But mostly a place like HKS is a degree mill for people who didn't get a useful degree as an undergrad. And they place well not because their program adds value, but because having a Harvard degree is just convenient for NGOs and development work. The average foreigner doesn't recognize names like UChicago or Caltech.

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    Re: Should I get an advanced degree in Econ if I want to learn how to develop?

    Quote Originally Posted by chateauheart View Post
    You're not wrong about the differences between MA in Econ and PhD in Econ. But I actually agree with fmill019's belief that even the best MPA programs are less rigorous than typical MA in econ. I think you're significantly overestimating the rigor of any MPA program. MPA programs tend to have only 1/4-1/2 of their coursework in quantitative areas, and even for those courses, the content is comparable to undergrad intro stats and economic field electives. That's true for Harvard as well. Apart from law and medicine, professional school programs are almost entirely cash cows, and MPA is one of the more notorious examples. It may be the optimal choice for a very small number of combinations of backgrounds + careers. But mostly a place like HKS is a degree mill for people who didn't get a useful degree as an undergrad. And they place well not because their program adds value, but because having a Harvard degree is just convenient for NGOs and development work. The average foreigner doesn't recognize names like UChicago or Caltech.
    The MPA/ID at Harvard (not the regular MPA) is an exception to the general rule about MPA programs. Their micro sequence uses MWG and their macro sequence uses Romer so it is more rigorous than most US MA Econ programs. Their metrics sequence is more application oriented and uses lecture notes supplemented by Baby Wooldridge and Stock and Watson, but a lot of MA Econ programs use similar material for their metrics sequences.

    There a number of other MPA/MPP programs that are more analysis oriented whose core courses are similar to typical MA Econ program, and while the electives in an MA econ program will be more quantitative/rigorous, for someone interested in the practical side of development like fmill019 is, the networking/job placement opportunities of the MPA/MPP are much better than those for MA Econ.

    Either way, as far as fmill019's original question, I think you would also agree that the PhD is not the best option for someone interested in practical development.

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