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Thread: regarding RA position after undergrad

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    Re: regarding RA position after undergrad

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    Quote Originally Posted by noface123 View Post
    I'd take a paid position at the NBER or SIEPR over an unpaid position elsewhere. I guess if you think these professors are likely to write you much stronger letters and have good placement records, it could be worth it, but otherwise I'd be very wary of working unpaid. Like, it's probably better to do a great job for these professors who won't pay you than to be the worst RA at the NBER, but otherwise I think you should seek out a paid position with someone who has a strong placement record, even if they're not as high-profile. I think also that the network that you develop at the NBER/SIEPR can be a really nice perk. I haven't done one of those positions myself so I'm not sure I can speak to the exact benefits, but it always helps to start building your network (possible future coauthors/classmates/friends!) as early as possible.

    Also it doesn't seem like jjrousseau is saying don't work for Chetty or that Chetty doesn't satisfy the conditions--more that the value added by his fame isn't as great as the fact that he probably writes his RAs strong letters when they do good work.
    Thanks for your reply!
    Actually, I've known him before and contacted him individually if I can "learn" under him through assisting with research, etc., and he said yes to me. We actually didn't discuss about whether I'll be paid or not, but I just assumed that I won't be since I did not necessarily go through the formal application process. Do you still think I should set this as backup? (I've asked the same question to those who posted before you did just to hear more.)

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    Re: regarding RA position after undergrad

    Given that you are a junior, my recommendation would be to -- if it is at all possible -- leverage your connection with these two researchers you mention into an RA position this summer. Then you can try to get a paid position at NBER, SIEPR, etc. following your graduation using your connections as a spring board, with the full time unpaid job with these researchers as something to fall back on.

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    Re: regarding RA position after undergrad

    Quote Originally Posted by kazooie View Post
    Given that you are a junior, my recommendation would be to -- if it is at all possible -- leverage your connection with these two researchers you mention into an RA position this summer. Then you can try to get a paid position at NBER, SIEPR, etc. following your graduation using your connections as a spring board, with the full time unpaid job with these researchers as something to fall back on.
    I second this, as well as the previous mentions that you would probably prefer paid to unpaid in general.

    Also, I don't think an NBER/SIEPR/etc letter writer adds *no* value, just that some seniors on this forum with inside info have basically said it's not a huge difference against another good prof who has sent RA's to strong programs in the past. Not to mention, NBER/etc positions also come with a host of other benefits: working with new profs and learning from them; taking classes (depending on the particular institution's rules, though to my knowledge all NBER people are amenable to this); meeting a group of others in the same position as you who (1) could be future co-authors and (2) in my experience have been generally cool people.

    Curious about the point made about whether being unpaid signals anything you should be wary of, perhaps that the profs don't value your time and/or that they may not be personally invested in you and your grad school outcomes. I'm really not sure what to think here; you'll probably need to be the judge on whether it reflects something negative or if it's just a financial constraint for them, given that you have the inside info here.

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    Re: regarding RA position after undergrad

    Quote Originally Posted by jjrousseau View Post
    Curious about the point made about whether being unpaid signals anything you should be wary of, perhaps that the profs don't value your time and/or that they may not be personally invested in you and your grad school outcomes. I'm really not sure what to think here; you'll probably need to be the judge on whether it reflects something negative or if it's just a financial constraint for them, given that you have the inside info here.
    I could be wrong on this. But the reason I think this is that at my undergrad (usually ranked 20-30 in econ) every prof I know of in the department offers to pay RAs, even associate profs hiring undergrads part-time. And this is at a school that isn't as prestigious or as well-funded as the top 10 schools, where the profs OP is talking to probably work, given that they're so influential. It's possible that the econ department at my undergrad has an anomalous culture, but it strikes me as odd that profs who probably have more funding than the ones here are less willing to pay for work.

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    Re: regarding RA position after undergrad

    My pithy/glib response:

    Quote Originally Posted by underg2121 View Post
    but if I were to work with the former two, will it not be as impactful as I would be with working in the jobs posted in nber, siepr, etc.?
    It will not be.
    That is, as long as I gain research experience along with great letters from them, would it matter at the end, right?
    If they are unwilling to pay for your work, you are unlikely to work on a project of note to either other researchers or these senior faculty themselves.
    More detailed response: Kazooie is on the mark here. If you can get some unpaid work that is focused on a specific task over the summer, that's decent preliminary work experience. If you want to apply for a full-time RA, you will be competing with students from top undergrad schools who have done the same (and whose schools are wealthy enough to grant faculty money to pay for these specific tasks).

    Just because certain faculty are well-known doesn't mean they are active publishing still, or that they have an idea how the admissions game is done these days. One valuable fact I learned from Testmagic is that faculty will rarely straight up refuse an offer to help out an undergrad, though there are no guarantees they will help you in an impactful way.

    I assume you have already done this, but is there any idea you can get these faculty at your school to talk about their recent research projects? Instead of committing to a vague idea of collaboration with you, it's much better if you can express interest in one project and see if said faculty wants you to help out during the entire process.

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    Re: regarding RA position after undergrad

    Quote Originally Posted by DisraeliShrugg View Post
    My pithy/glib response:

    More detailed response: Kazooie is on the mark here. If you can get some unpaid work that is focused on a specific task over the summer, that's decent preliminary work experience. If you want to apply for a full-time RA, you will be competing with students from top undergrad schools who have done the same (and whose schools are wealthy enough to grant faculty money to pay for these specific tasks).
    To expand on this, when talking with the professor for whom I currently work they said that my reference from my summer internship was really good, and I inferred from that my summer experience was crucial in ultimately getting offered the RA position. I've helped with screening candidates for the next crop of RAs in my position, and a necessary condition to getting the job is demonstrated research experience. A summer position with well-known academic economists more than fulfills that criterion. If you are aiming for an NBER/SIEPR/etc RA job after graduation, then developing a good relationship this summer with some economists would be really helpful in achieving that.

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