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BostonU
04-10-2012, 09:46 PM
Hey guys, I was recently accepted into BU's MA in Economics program and was hoping for some insight, advice, or any other general information about the program. Thanks!

Sheldor
04-10-2012, 11:09 PM
Congrats BostonU. I just completed the program a year ago and really enjoyed it. What exactly are you interested in knowing? I can give you some insight into possible places to live, classes and teachers to take, etc. When you get there, you will have to take a math test which, if you score high enough, you can get out of the mathematics for economists (or whatever its called) class they have you take. I did this and it allowed me to take an extra elective, which you will want to do. You only get 8 classes, and 4 are the core (micro, macro, stats, metrics) that you can't change so adding the math class leaves only three elective. Where does your interest in economics lie and what do you want to do after graduating?

BostonU
04-11-2012, 12:32 AM
Just the person I was looking for! I enjoy the more quantitative aspects of economics (i.e Game Theory, Econometrics, and Microeconomics) Any tips on what to brush up on before the placement exam? What elective classes do you recommend taking? How would you say the job outlook is after completion? I'm not really sure what I want to do after graduation. I like working with data and solving problems. I don't know if the private sector or working for a government agency is best for me. What would you say are some possible job opportunities? I'm from Chicago and have never been to Boston so if you have any tips on living arrangements that would be great (apartment vs some sort of graduate dormitory). Also, I guess maybe some pros vs cons of the program and the city of Boston would be very helpful. Sorry for all the questions, but if you could answer any of them it would make a big difference. Thanks!

Sheldor
04-11-2012, 04:28 PM
oh wow. You are from Chicago. I have a lot of family from that area. I am guessing you will be prepared for a winter in Boston. Public transit is great in Boston. Everyone talks about the T (that's the rail system that runs throughout the city) but their bus system is often more useful. Pretty much all of the grad students I knew stayed in one of four areas: Allston, Brighton, Brookline, or the Fenway Park area (it's called Kenmore Square on some housing sites). There is a lot of housing available and at a wide range. I lived in Allston which was very convenient because there are two grocery stores within a ten to fifteen minute walk and you are very close to the edge of campus. Depending on how you want to live, there is housing available anywhere from 400 a month to over 1000 a month. The general rule is Allston and Brighton are cheaper than Brookline and Fenway and the more people in your house/apartment you can handle, the cheaper it will be. A lot of people found their places on craigslist (me included), but I had a difficult time being from out of town because I couldn't meet anyone or see the places. So that may be something you run into. A quick note about graduate housing: There is some available, but it is very expensive and not all that great. There is plenty of housing available right off campus.

As far as the program and placement exam go, there is linear algebra on the placement exam, but it is not complicated. I missed some of the stuff on there simply because I hadn't taken linear algebra before attending but I still passed. I think there are around 30 questions and the breakdown is anything less than 14 or so you pretty much have no choice. The head of the program will put you in the math class. Anywhere in the mid to late teens, its your choice. I scored a 19 or 20 on the test and he left the decision up to me. Given that I wanted to take another elective, I skipped out and it mattered very little. You don't need the course for what you will do, given that you have a reasonably strong calc background. So if you review your calc, particularly methods of differentiation, and linear algebra (mostly matrices), you will be fine.

I took labor economics, public economics, environmental economics, and a course in financial economics while I was at BU and enjoyed all of the courses. The class in labor economics was one of the main reasons why I applied to PhD programs. It is a data and econometrics heavy class and very applied (as are all of those classes). I never had an interest in game theory, but supposedly one of the people that teaches it is a pretty big name so people jumped on that. It is very important to know what classes you want and sign up as early as possible. Classes do fill and are often only offered once a year. Also, I don't know if this is still the case, but if there are two people teaching econometrics (Lucas and Dasgupta), go with Lucas. People learn a lot from Dasgupta, but his class is much more difficult and will occupy all your time. Given that your GPA does matter, it's not worth struggling through Dasgupta and getting Bs in your other classes, which is what happened to several people I know who took his class.

The job outlook is decent but not awe inspiring. Every year that the economy gets better, I am sure more jobs will be available. There are job fairs that are jointly hosted by Duke, Columbia, BU, and a couple other schools and it may be worth going to them (I never did because I had decided I wanted to go down the PhD route). The master's coordinator is very nice and helpful. She sends out regular emails with job opportunities to apply and there are many information sessions hosted by companies looking for BU grads throughout the year. The job thing is something you will want to get into right away. You only have a year and many of these places begin the hiring process in September or October, which means that your record at BU will not have much of an effect on the early job search.

Overall I am sure you will love the city. There is so much to see and do. There are a lot of young people, great sports bars, good food, and the public transit makes things very easy. In addition, there are always people out and about, so you feel very safe. Let me know if you have any other questions.

BostonU
04-11-2012, 08:36 PM
Great post. Thanks that was very helpful. What order do you recommend taking the core classes? (which ones at which semester) Also, how are the comprehensive exams?

Sheldor
04-11-2012, 11:00 PM
It is pretty rare that anyone takes the core classes out of order (in most cases, if you are, its because you failed/dropped out of one). Your first semester the grad director will pretty much sign you up for Micro and Stats. Second semester will be Macro and Econometrics. There is one comprehensive exam held about a week after your second semester finals. It will cover the four core classes and takes a couple hours. While pretty much everyone I know studied hard for it (you are in a bind if you don't pass), it is not terribly difficult. The grade you get on it doesn't matter, provided you pass (get a B-). I don't know of anyone that didn't pass.

One more little tidbit. I don't know anyone that felt unprepared for micro. It was difficult and some people bombed the first midterm, but a lot of the material you have probably seen before in some capacity. The macro class threw a lot of people for a loop. I had seen very little of it in my undergraduate macro class. So don't be freaked if you are lost the first few weeks. A lot of people will be.

rehsalt
04-30-2012, 06:12 PM
Thank you for this information. I was also just accepted into the MA program.

Is the program considered a good program? I am not so concerned with career opportunities since I may not be looking for an economics related job. I am more interested in the quality of the economics education offered. You mentioned that you are continuing into a Phd program, I assume at BU. Were you more eligible after finishing the MA? In other words, did you have the requisite math skills before you went into the MA?

How many students are typically in the MA program?

You mentioned that one can take only eight courses. Does that mean that a student cannot take electives in other departments?

Do you have recommendations about which electives or professors to take other than the professor you named?