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Thread: Econ applicants.... why???

  1. #31
    Ankylosaurus Forum Admin Erin's Avatar
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    One of our teachers at TestMagic is in the dissertation stage of his PhD in economics. Since I know him fairly well, and we have talked a bit about his goals in the future, I know that he has an honest commitment to the field he's pursuing. I fully imagine that he will become an important person in policy at some point, as I know that he's already made important contacts in his field.

    I'll mention this thread to him when we get back from winter break.
    ☼ Waiting for Godot

  2. #32
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    Money: economists make good money. The median salary for a new financial economist is $112,000, and that is if they work inside the academia. Salaries for non-academic economists are usually much higher.
    Impact: to work at the most important economic institutions (FED, World Bank, IMF, other central banks, etc.), you need a PhD economics.
    Signal of intelligence: having a PhD shows that you are very intelligent. In fact, getting a PhD makes you smarter.
    Chance to be justifiably arrogant: every serious investor, whether he's an economist or not, must have read books like "A Random Walk Down Wall Street," "Security Analysis," or "The Intelligent Investor." The authors of these books don't seem to think highly of security analysts, investment bankers, or the like. In fact, the reason I liked "A Random Walk" was that Malkiel made fun of Wall Street people so often. Of course Wall Street people can hate economists if they want to, but they can't say that economists are stupid because they don't understand what economists do.

  3. #33
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    I like you arguments, and am glad you raised the tone a little.

    Another advantage that really gets to me but may not apply to others is the ability to manage your own time. Even though economists/phd students work enormous hours, they get to schedule their own day. This carries some of the advantages of owning your own business vs. working for a boss. Even though you will be extremely busy, you can take a few hours or part of a day when you need it.

    I definitely agree that prestige/fame seems like a big issue for people (whether this is reasonable or not is another question).

  4. #34
    Wow, I have a new power! Panda77's Avatar
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    Hi guys, first let me say I don’t understand why some of you got so mad about abababba’s question. The way I read it is simple curiosity and a desire to share our own motivations on pursuing a PhD in economics. I even liked the idea as I’m actually curious to see whether others have the same reasons I have for doing this. Now, I’m not sure this was the original purpose of the question, but if I’m right and that is the case this discussion got quite off track and I would like to see less generalizations and more personal reasons described here. I don’t really like generalizations, they don’t tell much. Personal experience and ideas are much more interesting.

    So here is why I want a PhD in econ …

    1. I’m truly fascinated by economics and I just desire to learn all I possibly can about it. I like to study and learning incredibly gratifies me so I look at the possibility of 5 challenging years of graduate study as a thrilling experience. I have a passion for understanding how things work, why they work the way they do, and under what circumstances their behavior changes. I’m the type of person that could have had a career in a pure science (actually I did once think about majoring in physics) but have found out that economics is even more interesting. So, you see, for me the payoff starts right the first day of classes!

    2. I want to become a professor. I had some (minor) experiences and I simply love to teach. I love being able to share my knowledge with others, make them see things from angles they have never even though existed. Also, I think I can be really good at it and that by doing so I can contribute to society. Education plays a critical role in our society and professors really can do so much more than simply teach some notions.
    I like the academic environment and feel I fit there much more than in the corporate world. I like the feeling of intellectual freedom that is (or at least should be) dominant of an academic setting, where ideas can be exchanged and issues debated freely. Ok, I know it kind of looks like a poetic vision and I realize it’s not always the case everywhere, but the point is that this is the way universities should be and the majority of people in academia would agree with me.
    Finally, I like the independence it goes with an academic post. You decide what to do, when to do it. Of course, there are some constraints (is real file not a dream) but all in all you make your own schedules and you pretty much decide what to work on. Yes, it can happen you end up doing a project here and there on topics you don’t really like for the money they pay, take as example profs who do consultancies for firms or government. There are trade offs like in any other profession, but a professor can more easily take things in his own hands.

    One last thing referring to one of abababba’s earlier comments, I think we all consider the opportunity costs of getting a PhD but in calculating it we all place different values on different things. For example, money for me isn’t a very important incentive and in my opportunity cost function doesn’t weight much (abababba, you seem to value it much more than I do). Also, the benefits you mentioned (such as nice dinners) to me are of absolutely no value and therefore do not enter in my opportunity cost function at all!
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  5. #35
    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage economicus's Avatar
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    Well said!!!

  6. #36
    ManBearPig ramlau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Panda77


    (snip, everything Panda wrote in his previous post)

    Panda, I think you just eloquently pointed out what *many* of us generally think by stating your personal reasons. We all appreciate economics; we all want to teach; we all don't see the need to get filthy rich; and we want to better the world one way or another, with economics. It's almost a quasi-religion. (And if I may, this cult has been doing quite well.)

    It's quite spooky how similar my SOP and your post sound like. I look forward to working with you as economists someday!

    Ram

  7. #37
    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
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    I realize that I'm coming to this thread a bit late, but I don't understand why the tone had to be so argumentative from the start.

    There are those who would argue that the purpose of university is to prepare students for careers. Such people would obviously discourage students from majoring in, say, art history or literature, and would probably suggest that the vast majority of those choosing such majors are either not acting rationally or don't have all possible information to consider.

    But then there's another option. Perhaps the art history major simply values, and obtains utility from, different things than the person who sees college as only career preparation.

    The same concept carries over to graduate school. If your goal is to make as much money as possible before you die (perhaps at an earlier age than you might otherwise), than maybe finance is for you. Or maybe B-school, or law school, or whatever. If money is all you value, then you should never, ever consider sequestering yourself for 5+ years in any graduate program, econ or otherwise.

    That said, there are plenty of other positives to having an econ PhD.

    Many economists have gigantic egos, and feel that the PhD is some sort of validation of this. But then, I'm sure that if they didn't have econ PhDs, they'd still have enormous egos.

    Some people actually find economics fascinating, and would love the chance to get paid to think about economics all day.

    Some people love teaching, and would love the chance to get paid to teach economics.

    Some people want to use their economic knowledge to make the world a better place. Perhaps you find altruism to be a toxic concept, but you can always think of it as another way to gain utility, if that helps you conceptualize it better.

    And of course, in the end it's a personal decision. Maybe it's worth it to you to spend all this time and forgo living the way you'd like to get a PhD; maybe it's not. But there's no need to be so confrontational about something that is ultimately a personal choice based on personal values and situations.

  8. #38
    ManBearPig ramlau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by notacolour
    Some people want to use their economic knowledge to make the world a better place. Perhaps you find altruism to be a toxic concept, but you can always think of it as another way to gain utility, if that helps you conceptualize it better.
    Heh, seeing Tikkun Olam as a toxic concept is a bit anti-semitic. (Please don't take it seriously.) Coming from the other side, I'd argue that the "me-ism" of the babyboom generation and the Reagan revolution is a lot more toxic. Many are mesmerized by the Bejamins even the man did it all but made himself a moneygrubber.

    I think abbabba made the point earlier that Rubin didn't have a PhD, so getting a PhD is not a necessary condition to greatness. Same can be said about many of my favorites - like John Corzine, Paul Sarbanes, and even Mike Bloomberg. In fact, I'm quite positive that not one US Senator has a PhD. Woodrow Wilson was the only US President who had a PhD. (And, without him, there'd be no Fed.)

    But then many others have mentioned that it's becoming more and more important to have it to be a respectable figure in policy, not just in academia. So, in short, we need to get it to do many things we want to do. And I believe the decision is neither impulsive nor irrational.

    Ram

  9. #39
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    I am still interested to see if anyone would adress the practical impact of academic vs. corporate work. It seems like you almost never get immediate satisfaction of knowing your work helped people or made a quantitative impact as an economist.

    In corporate work, you can measure the results as soon as your project is over (like a company going public in banking or a change in how the management of a company does something in consulting.

    Are you willing to wait decades for truly significant recognition of your work (with this happening for only the select group of economists who recieve this recognition)?

    And the policy argument only stretches so far. Although I have recognized its validity from the beginning, a reasonably small percentage of economists end up working for the fed etc. What about everyone not in macro or monetary policy? How do we measure their impact?

    As a side note, I think there is a major separation between making the world a better place a being one of the best economists of your generation. Neither implies the other.
    Last edited by abababba; 01-02-2006 at 12:13 AM. Reason: Automerged post

  10. #40
    ManBearPig ramlau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by abababba
    I am still interested to see if anyone would adress the practical impact of academic vs. corporate work. It seems like you almost never get immediate satisfaction of knowing your work helped people or made a quantitative impact as an economist.
    It's kinda like asking why wouldn't Jon Corzine stay at Goldman Sachs forever. Why would he spend tens of millions of dollars on his senatorial run and then again tens of millions on his gubernatorial run? Why is Bloomberg working his butt off everyday as the NYC mayor while sitting on some five billion dollars? (I just happened to have seen him choke at the end of his second inaugural address a bit earlier. It was a rare and very sincere speech by a man who loves his city much.) Why the Kennedys and the Roosevelts (and the Rockefellers to make it less partisan)? Why don't these wealthy people stay in the corporate world?

    And just what's the point of quantifying the impact?

    Quote Originally Posted by abababba
    In corporate work, you can measure the results as soon as your project is over (like a company going public in banking or a change in how the management of a company does something in consulting.
    What's the point of measuring the immediate results? And let's do some quantification here:

    The 2002 revenue of McKinsey & Company (where Chelsea Clinton works) is 3.3 billion USD.
    The 2005 revenue of Citigroup is about 82 billion USD.
    The 2005 tax revenue of New York City is about 50 billion USD.
    The 2005 tax revenue of the federal government is about 2 TRILLION USD.

    Nothing comes close to the federal government. But lots of money in both the public and private sectors as you see. Each entity serves very different purposes, however.

    Quote Originally Posted by abababba
    Are you willing to wait decades for truly significant recognition of your work (with this happening for only the select group of economists who recieve this recognition)?
    The answer is YES. I honestly don't give a damn about who gets the recognition. And here's one of my favorite quotes:

    "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." - Harry Truman

    Quote Originally Posted by abababba
    What about everyone not in macro or monetary policy? How do we measure their impact?
    Can it be other parameters in their utility functions? Why does it have to be just money or fame or legacy? Can it simply be because they are doing what they enjoy doing? Why is that so hard to understand? Perhaps they just don't think they can yield more utilities by being a CEO or a corporate lawyer?

    Quote Originally Posted by abababba
    As a side note, I think there is a major separation between making the world a better place a being one of the best economists of your generation. Neither implies the other.
    I agree. I still don't understand why it's so hard for you to understand we all have different goals in life. You can probably live a much happier life if you can sometimes fuhget about who makes the money and who takes the credit.

    Ram
    Last edited by ramlau; 01-02-2006 at 01:17 AM.

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