I have been reading posts for a while but this is my first one so here it goes. I want to get an Econ PhD and am a current undergraduate student. I am struggling and a bit confused as to what the best timeline for getting a PhD would be. Is it better to shoot for a PhD program straight out of undergrad or should I work for a few years and then apply to programs? Do PhD programs consider real world work experience as a necessary qualification/skill during their admissions processes?
Profile. Attending: Toronto MA (Doctoral Stream)
Also, another thing to think about is how fresh you'll arrive for class. Taking a couple years off can either allow you some time to mentally refocus, or it can put you in a position where you've forgotten much of the prerequisite material (...maybe both!).
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One particular adcom at my school views working for several years as somewhat of a disadvantage, because he believes there are benefits from staying within the academic mindset and not falling out of the routine of homework and exams.
But I'll throw in my two cents. I say you should work hard to develop strong relationships with professors now and plan on applying to grad school during senior year. You know, take the GRE the summer before your senior year and whatnot. Then, if, once the time comes, you don't feel like you are as competitive as you could be, then you can delay applying to work on possible deficiencies.
I wanted to apply this upcoming cycle, but I know for a fact that my letters and overall profile will be stronger if I apply in 2015. So, work, for me, will be just a way of buying time until I enter a PhD program.
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I used to work for a few years before I apply to the doctorate program, and I would say that working experience with a bank is not that much related to future research, unless you are doing something like monetary economics and you have some sort of encounters with the Central Bank, etc. Well, even so, a class on monetary economics might be overly theoretical at the junior level, which is more like data crunching and writing reports. I used to work in a commercial bank before, and I had a personal experience of bank run (in which everyone rushed to withdraw money at the same time) that I had to work long hours to answer phone calls and keep the queue in shape. However, a model on bank run considers something like credit rationing, deposit reserve and back-up by the Central bank, etc., that is 'too much' for me as a junior guy to deal with. So, I am not sure how much of your work experience can be transferred to the PhD study, though it would give you some sort of personal experiences that may inspire your research, I don't know, but it can be the case in future
Another reason that I took two years off after my Master's program before I apply to Ph.D. is that I can buy time to self-study the math, say mathematical statistics, differential equations and real analysis, etc., during my free time. Also, I can save for my future studies. Even though I am paid as a graduate assistant, having some precautionary saving would nevertheless allow me to prepare for some extra spending, such as buying and maintaining a car. As a foreign student myself, I desperately need saving before I come to the US for graduate studies.
Lastly, I still find working in the industry for a couple of years (and no more than that) does help in refining my social skills and work attitude, which is universal but nonetheless applicable to my service as a graduate assistant here, for example, how to allocate time more efficaciously and how to take notes in a meeting and keep the schedule of work in check, etc..
After all, it's your decision for which you may talk to some other graduate students, in particular, those with work experiences, to see how they fit in graduate studies from day one.
Thanks and every best!
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