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Thread: advice for RA position

  1. #11
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    Re: advice for RA position

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    Re: advice for RA position

    Quote Originally Posted by jjrousseau View Post
    I'm currently an RA at a top institution and my undergrad GPA was 3.6 at a top 10 liberal arts. Econ major with 5 math classes during UG. I also spent two years at a Fed between UG and the current job, and took one more math class there.

    While Fed probably makes me a somewhat different applicant than you, it's worth emphasizing that (1) you don't need a perfect GPA to get these positions, and (2) as Kaysa is probably alluding to, these jobs care quite a bit about coding ability and quality.

    RA's are pretty involved in screening applicants, so I can also say we pass through a decent number of applicants with GPA's around 3.5/3.6 to the second round, which is a coding task. 3.4 or lower is iffy, but that also tends to be because transcripts show weak grades in important courses. Your previous RA work will also help you.

    So, yes, you can absolutely land an RA job at NBER, SIEPR, etc. You may need a tiny bit of luck to receive the coding task, but if you get it, make sure to give it a right go and really demonstrate your coding and writing ability. For us, at least, that ends up being the dominant signal.
    Hi! Thank you so much for your input, really helped a lot I had several questions if you didn't mind answering,:

    1. When during your undergrad did you apply for RA positions? And how many?

    2. How will B's in econometric courses look? I have A's in advanced math courses and good research experience that involves coding, but got B's in econometrics courses and was wondering how these will hurt me.

    Thanks so much for your help!

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    Re: advice for RA position

    Quote Originally Posted by jjrousseau View Post
    I'm currently an RA at a top institution and my undergrad GPA was 3.6 at a top 10 liberal arts. Econ major with 5 math classes during UG. I also spent two years at a Fed between UG and the current job, and took one more math class there.

    While Fed probably makes me a somewhat different applicant than you, it's worth emphasizing that (1) you don't need a perfect GPA to get these positions, and (2) as Kaysa is probably alluding to, these jobs care quite a bit about coding ability and quality.

    RA's are pretty involved in screening applicants, so I can also say we pass through a decent number of applicants with GPA's around 3.5/3.6 to the second round, which is a coding task. 3.4 or lower is iffy, but that also tends to be because transcripts show weak grades in important courses. Your previous RA work will also help you.

    So, yes, you can absolutely land an RA job at NBER, SIEPR, etc. You may need a tiny bit of luck to receive the coding task, but if you get it, make sure to give it a right go and really demonstrate your coding and writing ability. For us, at least, that ends up being the dominant signal.
    Thanks for your reply!

  4. #14
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    Re: advice for RA position

    Quote Originally Posted by jjrousseau View Post
    I'm currently an RA at a top institution and my undergrad GPA was 3.6 at a top 10 liberal arts. Econ major with 5 math classes during UG. I also spent two years at a Fed between UG and the current job, and took one more math class there.

    While Fed probably makes me a somewhat different applicant than you, it's worth emphasizing that (1) you don't need a perfect GPA to get these positions, and (2) as Kaysa is probably alluding to, these jobs care quite a bit about coding ability and quality.

    RA's are pretty involved in screening applicants, so I can also say we pass through a decent number of applicants with GPA's around 3.5/3.6 to the second round, which is a coding task. 3.4 or lower is iffy, but that also tends to be because transcripts show weak grades in important courses. Your previous RA work will also help you.

    So, yes, you can absolutely land an RA job at NBER, SIEPR, etc. You may need a tiny bit of luck to receive the coding task, but if you get it, make sure to give it a right go and really demonstrate your coding and writing ability. For us, at least, that ends up being the dominant signal.
    underg2121 - the above post is accurate, and probably the best evaluation we can give. You won't benefit from additional opinions from other posters.

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    Re: advice for RA position

    I fully endorse jjrousseau's advice.

    As an RA this past year, I've helped my PI review applications for next year's cohort. The vast majority of your duties as an RA will be coding-related, so that's what we focus on when reviewing applicants. Emphasize projects in which you've done a lot of data cleaning, and ask your references to emphasize your coding abilities.

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    Re: advice for RA position

    @appliedmicro92 @jjrousseau Regarding past research experience, does it matter whether the applicant did research in a subfield of economics unrelated to that of the project? For example, the applicant has only RA'd for an IO prof at her school and is doing a thesis on IO, but the project is about health or labor economics and the applicant is seeking more exposure to these applied micro fields. Would that be seen as a positive or a negative?

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    Re: advice for RA position

    Quote Originally Posted by pulsars View Post
    @appliedmicro92 @jjrousseau Regarding past research experience, does it matter whether the applicant did research in a subfield of economics unrelated to that of the project? For example, the applicant has only RA'd for an IO prof at her school and is doing a thesis on IO, but the project is about health or labor economics and the applicant is seeking more exposure to these applied micro fields. Would that be seen as a positive or a negative?
    I would say the field of prior research experience matters almost none for RA gigs. For one, few of your competitors are going to have research experience that matches the research in the position you're applying for terribly well, anyway. For another, it's less important that you know specific information coming in, which you can pick up later; it's more important that you're comfortable doing the things RA's do, and that you do it well.

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    Re: advice for RA position

    Quote Originally Posted by underg2121 View Post
    Yes, I have experience with that. Is that an important aspect of being a potential RA?
    Yes, it is the most important aspect other than a positive attitude and good time management skills.

    Everyone wants to use Python to obtain unique new data sets, so a good background will set you apart.

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    Re: advice for RA position

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaysa View Post
    Yes, it is the most important aspect other than a positive attitude and good time management skills.

    Everyone wants to use Python to obtain unique new data sets, so a good background will set you apart.
    I'm currently an RA at a top institution, and I know several other RAs here as well. While knowing how to use Python and scraping can set you apart, I think that you are overselling its importance. Only two minor things that I have done have involved scraping, and many of my colleagues/fellow RAs have never had to scrape anything.

    I wanted to add this in case anyone reading this is concerned that them not knowing how to scrape will be disadvantageous: it will not be. I have been helping with the screening process for applicants and not having scraping skills has never been a mark against anyone. That might be a characteristic of the field that the professor for whom I work is in, though (labor).

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    Re: advice for RA position

    Quote Originally Posted by kazooie View Post
    I'm currently an RA at a top institution, and I know several other RAs here as well. While knowing how to use Python and scraping can set you apart, I think that you are overselling its importance. Only two minor things that I have done have involved scraping, and many of my colleagues/fellow RAs have never had to scrape anything.

    I wanted to add this in case anyone reading this is concerned that them not knowing how to scrape will be disadvantageous: it will not be. I have been helping with the screening process for applicants and not having scraping skills has never been a mark against anyone. That might be a characteristic of the field that the professor for whom I work is in, though (labor).
    It might not be a mark against, but it sure can be a feather in your cap. Python skills indicate that a candidate has an applied empirical background, a mathematical mindset, and that they can probably solve problems independently. Furthermore, the people that I know that seek out this skill, are the people everyone wants to RA for.

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