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Thread: if i

  1. #1
    Trying to make mom and pop proud
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    if i

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    I have been applying to RA positions before grad school after taking a year off after graduation. I went to a good econ school for undergrad with a 3.9 GPA with A's in Real Analysis, Econometrics, Stats, Calc, Linear Algebra, Intermediate Econ, etc. I am recently less sure that an econ PhD is right for me and lack letters of recommendation and research experience.

    I've since received an offer at a Fed, and an offer at a top-5 school. In general, what are your thoughts on RA for a Fed versus a professor in preparation for grad school in econ or another social science? I am not interested in finance/business or monetary policy.
    Last edited by Abb8; 04-11-2018 at 12:20 AM.

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    Re: if i

    Maybe the most important thing you can do here in terms of assessing probable PhD application outcomes is simply to ask each position where their recent RA's have gone afterward. Try to get a sense for the whole distribution, not just one or two stars.

    I think it's very unfortunate that the uni position will not allow you to take classes. As an RA in a similar position, I've found this to be among the most rewarding aspects of the job, especially if you're in a position of being uncertain about grad school. But, likely your Fed offer is not different on this front anyway.

    Even without the classes, working directly with a research professor is, I think, still likely to add a decent chunk more value to your research background than the median experience at a Fed is. Your time will be 100% allocated to research work, rather than being split between research time and policy work time at a Fed. The research is also likely to be different in style: not only will the field be different, but your prof (especially being at a top 5 uni) is likely gearing all work toward top journals, whereas this is less ubiquitous at a Fed.

    The only main concern with the uni position is whether you'll get enough exposure to your prof that they can write a strong and informative letter of rec for you if/when you apply. You might want to ask more details on how often you'll communicate with your prof and how: will you have regularly set Skype meetings, or are you emailing infrequently?

    If you're really leaning against the PhD, the Fed also might be generally better in terms of quality of life and a broader set of opportunities afterward. As you point out, at the Fed you'll have more or less a cohort of RA's alongside you, and you're probably in a fun city. The work culture is probably 9-5 and people are collegial. You also probably get paid more. And, Fed is probably better if you decide to pivot toward consulting or tech type jobs.

    All in all, if you are giving serious consideration to a PhD, the top 5 position is very likely the better option. But, again, do ask about recent placements and expected interactions with the prof. And at the Fed, ask about recent placements and how much time you'll spend on research vs. policy work. Even within one Fed branch, individual sections vary pretty widely on that breakdown, as well as in their PhD placements. So the answer is not totally obvious until you consider some of these factors.

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