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Thread: Advise on pursuing PhD in Economics

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    Advise on pursuing PhD in Economics

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    i am 30 and have a work experience of 6.5 years in the manufacturing sector (i have been associated with a construction equipment manufacturer). I have been working with the Supply Chain Management department so far.
    Lately i have been feeling the urge to earn a PhD in Economics, especially welfare economics.
    I have a Mechanical Engineering degree at the undergraduate level and an MBA at the post graduate level with specialization in Finance.
    Could you please advise me as to how to go ahead to pursue this?
    How important is a GRE/ GMAT score? I have a special interest in Behavioural Economics.

    How easy/ tough is it a for a person having a family to pursue a PhD at foreign shores, economically and socially?
    It sometimes bothers me if i am on the right side of age (I am 30 already, so.......)

    Kindly also advise on the prospects of getting financial aid which can cover not only cost of academics but also cost of living (for a family).

    Is it already late for applications on 2014?

    I shall appreciate your responses on the above subject.

    Regards,
    Joy

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    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
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    Your work experience and previous degrees makes you a much more competitive candidate for PhDs in operations management, or perhaps industrial engineering.

    Unless you have a strong interest in a field of economics that does not significantly overlap with those programs (behavioral does), they are more suitable choices for you.

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    Doing an econ PhD at one of the top programs is kind of like joining the Jedi order...they want you to start young. Your age may be a disadvantage, at least at the top twenty schools. I echo chateuheart's opinion that operations research may be a nice compromise between economics and your background. I know top programs include Georgia Tech, Harvard, Northwestern.

    But, if you really want to give econ phd a go:

    1. It is too late for the 2014 cycle. Applications are generally due in December and January.

    2. GRE scores are important in that you essentially need to score above ~164 on the quantitative section to be competitive at the top programs and above ~158 to be competitive anywhere. If you are a native English speaker, you should have decent verbal scores (above, say, 150) but generally the verbal section does not matter too much. The analytical section is pretty new and I think some adcoms are using it as a criterion, but I'd say it's not all that important. GMATs are not useful; in fact, most programs do not accept GMAT scores.

    3. You have a family, which is both a plus and a minus. I'm not enrolled yet, but based on what I hear, your first year will involve a lot of coursework and you will have little time to spend with your family (let alone sleep) unless you are incredibly talented and can solve your problem sets with ease. This may be tough. At the same time, your family can support you through this very stressful year. Many first-year grad students do not have a spouse or significant other and have little time to make friends, which can make the year pretty depressing. It gets easier/less busy after the first year, though!

    4. I will add that it may be a strange financial situation. You're probably well-paid as an engineer; you're going to be getting a relatively measly stipend as a student, so it helps to have savings. This is another advantage you have over the fresh-out-of-college grad students who do not have much money.

    5. You need to clear up what your research interests are. "Welfare economics" is very vague and generally has little to do with behavioral economics (though one point of overlap I can think of between public/welfare econ and behavioral off the top of my head is Raj Chetty's work on tax salience). I'd recommend browsing the top journals (American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, Econometrica) to get a feel for what's on the cutting edge of economic research. This may help focus (and at the same time flesh out) your interests. Having a good idea of what you want to research can hopefully come through on your Statement of Purpose essay and give you a boost in the admissions process for programs where you're on the fence.

    6. You're going to need 2 (or likely 3) letters of recommendation. Generally, these letters come from Economics PhDs who work in academia and actively do research. This is going to be tricky for you, since you've been out of college for a while and it sounds like you didn't take many econ classes to begin with. I'm sort of at a loss for how you're going to overcome these hurdles, but maybe you or someone else could think of something.
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    I might be missing the mark here, but it seems like the first question (alongside Chateu's comments) is "Why do you want a Ph. D (that is, what type of work do you want to do?)"

    Thus far, your education seems to be based around the type of work you do (although it is entirely possible that you are basing your work around your degrees). It's very easy to romanticize how wonderful it would be to get a Ph. D. As 2Iron stated, it's hard work. Read this forum for very long and you'll discover just how hard it is, how much of a strain it will put on your relationship, and that the primary reason for earning a Ph. D in Economics is to go into Academia. If your motivation is not to enter Academia, i'm not sure it's worth pursuing a Ph.D in Economics. I'd strongly encourage you at least look into the types of programs that Chateu mentioned.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chateauheartI968786
    Your work experience and previous degrees makes you a much titive candidate for PhDs in operations management, or perhaps industrial engineering.

    Unless you have a strong interest in a field of economics that does not significantly overlap with those programs (behavioral does), they are more suitable choices for you.
    Sir,
    Thank you for your Inputs.
    Could you please elaborate on where I should look to know about how compatible my past credentials are with my aspirations of pursuing a PhD?
    Joy

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    [QUE=2Iron;96880]Doing an econ PhD at one of the top programs is kind of like joining the Jedi order...they want you to start young. Your age may be a disadvantage, at least at the top twenty schools. I echo chateuheart's opinion that operations research may be a nice compromise between economics and your background. I know top programs include Georgia Tech, Harvard, Northwestern.

    But, if you really want to give econ phd a go:

    1. It is too late for the 2014 cycle. Applications are generally due in December and January.

    2. GRE scores are important in that you essentially need to score above ~164 on the quantitative section to be competitive at the top programs and above ~158 to be competitive anywhere. If you are a native English speaker, you should have decent verbal scores (above, say, 150) but generally the verbal section does not matter too much. The analytical section is pretty new and I think some adcoms are using it as a criterion, but I'd say it's not all that important. GMATs are not useful; in fact, most programs do not accept GMAT scores.

    3. You have a family, which is both a plus and a minus. I'm not enrolled yet, but based on what I hear, your first year will involve a lot of coursework and you will have little time to spend with your family (let alone sleep) unless you are incredibly talented and can solve your problem sets with ease. This may be tough. At the same time, your family can support you through this very stressful year. Many first-year grad students do not have a spouse or significant other and have little time to make friends, which can make the year pretty depressing. It gets easier/less busy after the first year, though!

    4. I will add that it may be a strange financial situation. You're probably well-paid as an engineer; you're going to be getting a relatively measly stipend as a student, so it helps to have savings. This is another advantage you have over the fresh-out-of-college grad students who do not have much money.

    5. You need to clear up what your research interests are. "Welfare economics" is very vague and generally has little to do with behavioral economics (though one point of overlap I can think of between public/welfare econ and behavioral off the top of my head is Raj Chetty's work on tax salience). I'd recommend browsing the top journals (American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, Econometrica) to get a feel for what's on the cutting edge of economic research. This may help focus (and at the same time flesh out) your interests. Having a good idea of what you want to research can hopefully come through on your Statement of Purpose essay and give you a boost in the admissions process for programs where you're on the fence.

    6. You're going to need 2 (or likely 3) letters of recommendation. Generally, these letters come from Economics PhDs who work in academia and actively do research. This is going to be tricky for you, since you've been out of college for a while and it sounds like you didn't take many econ classes to begin with. I'm sort of at a loss for how you're going to overcome these hurdles, but maybe you or someone else could think of something.[/QUOTE]

    Thank you.
    How are fundings In Operation Research?
    Is there a forum where I can get to know more?
    Joy

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    Hmm...I don't know a ton about how well-funded operations research is, but I'd imagine it's not too bad. The programs in Kellogg (Northwestern) are generally well-funded and a couple of them have an OR-type vibe. But, they are very difficult to get into. Same goes for Princeton's Operations Research and Financial Engineering program.

    In terms of forums, The Grad Cafe has a forum for most different disciplines. OR is sort of weird and in between a lot of disciplines, so it may appear in the "applied mathematics", "financial engineering", "engineering", or even "business" forums. Peruse around a bit and you'll find something.
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    In general, PhD programs at business schools are very well funded (20k-30k, plus adjustments for living costs) and PhD programs at A&S (such as math/stats departments) or engineering schools less so. Operations research may be in any of these three divisions depending on the university. Operations management programs however are usually in business schools, if they exist.

    The latter is more suitable for Laik here because there's a greater emphasis on work experience in admissions, and in fact supply chain management is one of the core topics of this field. The methods used to analyze these topics come from applied math, economics and psychology.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chateauheart View Post
    In general, PhD programs at business schools are very well funded (20k-30k, plus adjustments for living costs) and PhD programs at A&S (such as math/stats departments) or engineering schools less so. Operations research may be in any of these three divisions depending on the university. Operations management programs however are usually in business schools, if they exist.

    The latter is more suitable for Laik here because there's a greater emphasis on work experience in admissions, and in fact supply chain management is one of the core topics of this field. The methods used to analyze these topics come from applied math, economics and psychology.
    Sir,

    can you please suggest a list of schools where it would suit my profile? Is it possible to correspond with these Universities and get responses.

    There is also something that i have been meaning to ask :
    Is it ok to take a break from employment to prepare for GRE, lets say a gap of 8 to 10 months before being enrolled.
    How would the scrutinizing committee view this gap from employment??
    Actually, i feel i would need complete focus to score well in the GRE exams and hence this idea has crossed my mind.
    I have some saving which will last for the said period.

    To put things in perspective, i strongly feel that i would do well being in the academic world. However, my present situation though not perfectly pleasant, has put me in a zone of comfort. To get over this inertia would be a big askance. This is the reason that i am trying make things as sure as possible.

    What i really want to know is given my profile, can you suggest universities who would be interested to take me as a PhD candidate? Also, it would be great if i could exchange mails with prospective faculty so that a degree of familiarity is generated.

    Hope i have been able to describe my position. Your advise will be most welcome.

    Thank you,
    Joy

    PS: Which exam should i be targetting to score well in, GRE or GMAT for programs in Operation Management, Supply Chain etc.?

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