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Thread: Is there any point in doing this if I can't get into top 30?

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    Is there any point in doing this if I can't get into top 30?

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    What do you do if you love econ, are passionate about teaching and research, can't think of doing anything else with your life, but can't get into a good program? My undergrad GPA is average (3.5) and GRE is not stellar (163Q, 158V) . I start a one-year masters soon but I'm sure I'm not going to finish top of the class there as well. Also, I'm not an American citizen. I'm sure I can get good recos and probably manage to get somewhere in top 50-70. But is there a point? A lot of people tell me there isn't. Do these places produce any good research at all?
    Does someone from a college that's ranked 50 have any shot at getting a decent academic job? What about industry? Will I be screwed if I hold a PhD from a college not well known, considering that I won't be able to get a job as a professor easily and I'll be over-qualified for most jobs in industry? Will I at least be able work at a community college or something somewhere in the USA (keep in mind I'm not American)?

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    Re: Is there any point in doing this if I can't get into top 30?

    You won't be "over-qualified" for most jobs in industry. The whole over-qualification thing is mostly a myth, or euphemism for old age.

    The main concern of doing a low-ranked PhD and not getting into academia is that you'll end up placing at entry-level jobs in the private sector, as if you haven't done a PhD. But it's very rare that the PhD will actually count against being hired. In your case, the main barrier from being hired for something like entry-level consulting or banking would be your communication skills. That's something you can improve during a PhD program, so it may actually have some positive value.

    There isn't a category of research called "good research". All research is inadequate in some way. Your question should be whether the training in top 50-70 programs is similar to those in top 30 programs. The answer is generally yes, especially for empirical research skills and teaching skills. Those are what you need to survive at the relatively modest corners of academia. There's no fundamental reason why a graduate from a #50-#70 program would be particularly disadvantaged because of his pedigree.

    But you haven't really mentioned research experience, and if you don't have significant research experience, I'm actually skeptical of your chances of getting into #50-70 programs.

    Visa issues are impossible to predict because it depends heavily on the presidency and the legislature.

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    Re: Is there any point in doing this if I can't get into top 30?

    What are your goals, ranked? That might help us answer your question.

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    Re: Is there any point in doing this if I can't get into top 30?

    Quote Originally Posted by chateauheart View Post
    There's no fundamental reason why a graduate from a #50-#70 program would be particularly disadvantaged because of his pedigree.
    @chateauheart: Really?

    @OP: There’s no guarantee that being from a top 30 school will ensure a job or success in academia, and there’s no guarantee that you will be damned if you go to a top 50-70. I think what I’ve learned over the years is to connections are key to succeed in the field, and those connections can get you a job or help you succeed. There’s a reason people keep telling applicants to go the best school they get into. Now it also depends on what you wanna do in life. If your goal is just to teach, then I think with a PhD from a top 50-70 you can find a job at an LAC somewhere teaching 4-4, which is totally fine if that’s what you enjoy doing. On the other hand, I think it’s universally agreed that it’s very unlikely (but not impossible) for a person with a top 50-70 PhD to place at a research university.

    If your goal, however, is to teach at a community college, I don’t understand why you need a PhD. I’ve never gone to a CC, but my impression is most CC instructors only have master’s degrees. And not being an American is hard too because I dont know if CCs will sponsor your visa (they may not have the resources 4-yr colleges may have)

    These are my own opinions. Others may disagree, which is fine
    Last edited by applicant12; 05-29-2018 at 02:37 AM.

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    Re: Is there any point in doing this if I can't get into top 30?

    I suspect he currently considers being a professor (research or teaching) to be strictly better than industry jobs. That opinion will probably change when/if he goes into graduate school. Of all the professions in the world, teaching American undergrads probably isn't OP's area of comparative advantage.

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    Re: Is there any point in doing this if I can't get into top 30?

    Quote Originally Posted by chateauheart View Post
    You won't be "over-qualified" for most jobs in industry. The whole over-qualification thing is mostly a myth, or euphemism for old age.
    I don't 100% agree with this. I don't think a PhD will always hurt you, but based on my experience with industry and pay equity there might be an overqualified negative effect in some cases. Sometimes companies have pretty rigid education to pay brackets, and if you have a high level of education you cost more to hire. You might also be seen as a flight risk, or not a great fit for the position because your education surpasses that of your superior.

    I was once not given a student job in undergrad because someone thought I was "overqualified" and unlikely to be "intellectually stimulated" by the work. This could have been just a kind thing they said to me, but it was said to me.

    Bottom line is that I agree that the overqualified thing is not a huge issue, but in some cases it can hurt you.

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    Re: Is there any point in doing this if I can't get into top 30?

    Quote Originally Posted by chateauheart View Post
    Of all the professions in the world, teaching American undergrads probably isn't OP's area of comparative advantage.
    And why is that? The only reason I could think of is OP not being an American or native English speaker (don't know if this is true).

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    Re: Is there any point in doing this if I can't get into top 30?

    (1) Ask professors who know you and know PhD programs about where they think you are competitive.
    (2) Look at the recent job market placements for that range of programs. (This is super easy, as all programs make job market placements readily available online. Google "job market placement [school] econ phd".)
    (3) Look into what those jobs really entail.
    (4) Ask yourself: Will you be happy doing that work?

    A side note, think positively mate. No reason to call yourself "notgoodenough". No need to dwell on where you're not; focus on the positives of where you are

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    Re: Is there any point in doing this if I can't get into top 30?

    Quote Originally Posted by applicant12 View Post
    And why is that? The only reason I could think of is OP not being an American or native English speaker (don't know if this is true).
    Yes, they're both problems, independently. Language barrier is obvious; his/her written English is passable in the sense that I can't pinpoint which region in the world he comes from, but it's enough to tell (s)he came here after age 16 and doesn't speak a Germanic/Romance language. Such students are generally much worse in verbal communication than a native English speaker or West/North European L2 speaker. And enunciation can never really be fixed past the age of 16, even if you're willing to spend hundreds of hours learning the IPA and meticulously re-developing how your tongue moves. (that's what I tried, and I still have a noticeable accent)

    Not being an American also means he/she won't relate well with U.S. undergrads who came from a pre-tertiary education system that's qualitatively different from many other countries. Foreigners, even Brits, struggle with teaching American undergrads and MBAs. One of my acquaintances regularly received teaching awards (e.g. best evaluations out of the entire department) in his home country but had below-average ratings when he taught in a U.S. university.

    I'd even say that there's a subset of grad students for whom it's more difficult to get hired by a community college than by a research university. Community colleges don't technically need PhD-degree holders. They don't even need instructors with 3 digit IQs. They need good public speakers with an irrational passion for teaching 11th/12th-grade level economics.

    An equally major problem is that OP made it clear that he wanted to go to a program where "good research“ is being done. If he/she cares about the research environment in a 6 year program, I don't see how spending a lifetime teaching at a community college would be a sequentially rational choice.

    Frankly, much of what's contained in OP strikes me as inconsistent. It's not about "not good enough", it's not having a rudimentary idea of what the decision tree is. Spend a little more time on this and I think the answer is clear that OP should probably not plan for PhD applications and instead should find an internship during the master's program for a research-oriented job (e.g. program evaluation at an NGO) or consulting job. For the big NGOs/firms, this will also allow flexibility in terms of staying at the U.S. or returning to the home country.

    One can do useful research without being in academia, and in fact a typical undergrad's vision of "research" is probably closer to consulting or policy evaluation than writing the type of papers that's published in top journals.

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    Re: Is there any point in doing this if I can't get into top 30?

    Quote Originally Posted by chateauheart View Post
    Yes, they're both problems, independently. Language barrier is obvious; his/her written English is passable in the sense that I can't pinpoint which region in the world he comes from, but it's enough to tell (s)he came here after age 16 and doesn't speak a Germanic/Romance language. Such students are generally much worse in verbal communication than a native English speaker or West/North European L2 speaker. And enunciation can never really be fixed past the age of 16, even if you're willing to spend hundreds of hours learning the IPA and meticulously re-developing how your tongue moves. (that's what I tried, and I still have a noticeable accent)

    Not being an American also means he/she won't relate well with U.S. undergrads who came from a pre-tertiary education system that's qualitatively different from many other countries. Foreigners, even Brits, struggle with teaching American undergrads and MBAs. One of my acquaintances regularly received teaching awards (e.g. best evaluations out of the entire department) in his home country but had below-average ratings when he taught in a U.S. university.

    I'd even say that there's a subset of grad students for whom it's more difficult to get hired by a community college than by a research university. Community colleges don't technically need PhD-degree holders. They don't even need instructors with 3 digit IQs. They need good public speakers with an irrational passion for teaching 11th/12th-grade level economics.

    An equally major problem is that OP made it clear that he wanted to go to a program where "good research“ is being done. If he/she cares about the research environment in a 6 year program, I don't see how spending a lifetime teaching at a community college would be a sequentially rational choice.

    Frankly, much of what's contained in OP strikes me as inconsistent. It's not about "not good enough", it's not having a rudimentary idea of what the decision tree is. Spend a little more time on this and I think the answer is clear that OP should probably not plan for PhD applications and instead should find an internship during the master's program for a research-oriented job (e.g. program evaluation at an NGO) or consulting job. For the big NGOs/firms, this will also allow flexibility in terms of staying at the U.S. or returning to the home country.

    One can do useful research without being in academia, and in fact a typical undergrad's vision of "research" is probably closer to consulting or policy evaluation than writing the type of papers that's published in top journals.
    But a lot, and I mean A LOT, of college instructors in America are non-American and non-native English speakers, and not all of them speak good English. I see your points, and I think they're fair, but I honestly don't think not being an American or a native English speaker is that significant of a barrier. I personally think if OP did his undergrad in the US, relating to American students won't be that big of an issue (I'm speaking from personal experience. I'm not saying I'm the best instructor out there, but my evaluations weren't bad)

    I think OP knows what (s)he wanna do though. The original post clearly mentioned his/her concerns about getting a job as a professor first, then industry. CC only came in at the end. My guess is that OP's goal is to find a job and live in the US through some kind of work permit (H1B, etc.) like most academics do, hence the inquiry into a CC job. I think you're too harsh on OP.

    @OP: As I mentioned above, whether or not you should go to a top 50-70 program depends on what your ultimate goal is. Personally, I would not go, but my choice set and preferences may be very much different from yours. At the end of the day, you know what's best for yourself, and that may be going to a PhD program or applying for jobs at NGOs as chateauheart suggested, which I think is a good idea too. Good luck

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