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Thread: Undergraduate Research: What's most useful?

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    Re: Undergraduate Research: What's most useful?

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    Quote Originally Posted by chateauheart View Post
    I think both are underpaid.

    Controlling for hours, undergrad RA work may pay $0-$30,000 per year, predoctoral RA work tends to pay $20,000-$50,000 per year. But with the same data/programming skills, a college-educated individual can likely find a job of $80,000+ per year in the industry. In fact, many applicants do work one year in Amazon, Google or another large form before applying to PhD economics.

    So why do some students still pick predoctoral RA jobs? The only possible explanations I can think of for a rational applicant: (1) they expect a significant gain in human capital during the process; 2. they expect a significant improvement in their letters of recommendation, and this improvement is independent of their actual "type". In other words, it's quid pro quo.

    So, judging from the fact that undergrad/predoctoral RA work remains underpaid...at least one of these factors is salient, possibly both.

    I can actually confirm the underpaid part from personal experience. I worked as a "research associate/associate economist" at an economic consulting firm for two years prior to starting my PhD. This is basically a glorified "industry RA." During my time there, I was making roughly 60-80k, and even more with bonuses. It sounds like from what I have heard from people working as Fed RAs and elsewhere, the pay is probably between 20-50k as chateau suggests. I think pre-doctoral RA-ships can pay less because they are offering the valuable but less tangible benefit of furthering your career towards an econ PhD program, where as my industry job probably did very little for my application.

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    Re: Undergraduate Research: What's most useful?

    Quote Originally Posted by laborsabre View Post
    I can actually confirm the underpaid part from personal experience. I worked as a "research associate/associate economist" at an economic consulting firm for two years prior to starting my PhD. This is basically a glorified "industry RA." During my time there, I was making roughly 60-80k, and even more with bonuses. It sounds like from what I have heard from people working as Fed RAs and elsewhere, the pay is probably between 20-50k as chateau suggests. I think pre-doctoral RA-ships can pay less because they are offering the valuable but less tangible benefit of furthering your career towards an econ PhD program, where as my industry job probably did very little for my application.
    I mean, I can only speak from my experience as a Fed RA, it was maybe slightly underpaid when I first started at about 55k but after a couple years I feel like it's very fairly compensated in a very nice work environment.

  3. #13


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    Re: Undergraduate Research: What's most useful?

    Quote Originally Posted by cdreier View Post
    I mean, I can only speak from my experience as a Fed RA, it was maybe slightly underpaid when I first started at about 55k but after a couple years I feel like it's very fairly compensated in a very nice work environment.
    Oh ok. That's not all that bad then. It's still a little low if the job is in a high cost of living area. But like I said it comes with the very nice benefit of furthering the pursuit of a PhD and it sounds like people enjoy the environment (as you said). So I think it's a great option and one I definitely wish I had pursued.

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