View Full Version : Importance of Undergrad for Masters programs

11-04-2007, 04:13 PM
Hi all,

In a question somewhat related to a previous post of mine,
I want to pose this question for discussion: "How important is your undergraduate degree with regards to admissions to a Masters in Economics program?"

While I understand that a highly technical or relevant undergraduate major (i.e. economics, math, physics, sciences, etc) would make a lot of sense of a PhD applicant, but what about for Masters applicants? Do you think the relevance of your undergraduate major would be slightly more relaxed? As well, how important is one's university's reputation? I mean, say university XYZ's ranking and reputation in the economics community is quite good but I don't study at university XYZ's economics faculty. What will the treatment be like, in your opinion, by the adcoms in such situation?

The reason I ask is this is the following. At least in the Canadian education system that I'd experienced (and be forewarned, I could be HIGHLY BIASED on this), typically students who are interested in business / economics (i.e. the studies of "money", aka. the root of all evil) are usually given two choices: (i) Business program; (ii) Economics program. In my experience, the admission standards to enter the Business programs (at least in Canadian universities), are much higher than that of the Economics programs.

Furthermore, it could be argued that the quantitative aspect of a Business program (esp. ones who specialize in Finance or Operations Management) could be higher than that of a student from the Economics program. Why? I believe that some students can tailor their economics studies such that they can either: (i) take it the highly quantitative way; or (ii) take it the highly UN-quantitative way.

Having said all of the above, my point is: it seems that all of Masters program require students to have undergraduate degrees in "quantitative fields" such as economics, sciences, engineering, mathematics, etc. However, I reckon that some economics programs' math requirements are lower than their sciences counterparts and might even be lower than the business programs.

How, then, is economics at the undergraduate degree seen as a quasi-prerequisite to Masters programs? Is it more of a "signaling" effect that you're interested in pursuing studies in economics more than anything? I must be missing something here!


PS. I could be VERY WRONG on the above views. I would appreciate it if anybody could point out my faulty logic or incorrect facts!

11-04-2007, 04:33 PM
I'm not sure that your presumption about business vs. economics undergrad standards holds, even for Canadian universities. When I was at McGill, my impression was that the hardest of these majors was the Honors Econ degree. But it could be true that admissions standards may be harder for business, while economics is harder to excel in. This probably varies by university.

But the point is not your major so much as your general preparation. If you've taken the math you'll need, the introductory econ, and so on, you'll be prepared for an MA program in economics. Additional undergrad coursework in econ could be helpful, but most schools know this is pretty useless, anyway, since you'll be learning the material in a different way at the MA level. Excellent grades in these classes could be a good signal that you can do well in further economics coursework, but as far as preparing you for the graduate program, I think most people recognize that it's pretty useless.

And of course people with non-economics degrees enter econ masters programs. This includes lots of math undergrads, sure, but I, for example, had an undergrad degree in biology. Anyone who has taken (and done well in) the required undergrad coursework in math and econ who can demonstrate genuine interest in econ grad work should do fine in admissions and in the graduate program.

11-08-2007, 10:30 AM
Perhaps I should steer this discussion in a slightly different direction that I had originally intended (i.e. business degree vs. econ degree).

notacolour, by and large, I do agree with what you say. It seems that the math courses that you take at the undergrad level are much more important than the econ courses that you take. I believe it is not only suggested by yourself but also other members of this forum that many undergrad econ courses require no more than first year level calculus (and even then, a very confined part of the curriculum). This sort of leads me to conclude that econ courses are great for signaling that you have an interest in studying economics at the graduate level (esp masters), but what gets you in at the end is really your math courses.

Anybody else with different comments and opinions on this?

11-11-2007, 08:02 AM
They don't give a ****. Honestly. It's a master's program. You may or may not have to do a qualifying term. What is important is that you have the requisite mathematics (cal 1, cal 2, linear algebra, and one statistics class as a bare minimum). The more math and stats you have, the better. I know some people who got into good MA programs in Canada with undergrad degrees in Russian Literature, because they had good math grades. Econ is totally different at the grad level, so honestly, I would think that the adcoms would prefer people with math and stat degrees. If you want to get a graduate degree in economics, change your major to math, and take some high level econ courses as electives is the best advice I could give to anyone thinking of doing an MA or PhD in econ.

Reputation - it only matters for when you apply for the PhD, and even then it's nowhere near as important as the rest of your profile. Really, what matters far more are your grades, math classes taken, GRE Q and recommendations.

In terms of math requirements, I would say that econ and business require the same for the undergrad level courses. Econ at the undergrad level is a complete joke.

I really don't get where you thought you needed and undergrad econ degree to do grad econ. All you need is math and stats, and a few high level econ electives.