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Thread: RA at IMF - PhD placement

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    RA at IMF - PhD placement

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    Hi all,

    Does anyone know how good is a RA at IMF for those interested in getting into top PhD programs? (I know that being an RA at a top10 univ is a better option but it's not available for me at this time). I looked for the PhD placement of former IMF RAs but couldn't find anything.

    Thanks in advance!

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    Re: RA at IMF - PhD placement

    I don't, but if they've offered you a position you should be able to ask them. At that point they're trying to recruit you to come work for them, and I don't think it's rude or out of line at all to ask about outcomes for former RAs.

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    Re: RA at IMF - PhD placement

    If you are admitted to the RAP and don't have better RA options, then the IMF opportunity is a decent choice. It's a full time job, but hours are friendly. What you makes out of it can be path dependent. If you happen to impress the chief economist of the IMF and receive a strong LOR, then I would say you just punched your ticket to a top 10 PhD program. If you put in some extra work and get a couple of decent working papers under your belt during your time there, and by decent I mean R&R at decent journals, then you would be an impressive candidate even without that LOR from the chief economist. If you just allow the friendly hours to lure you into doing the work and not much more, then it wouldn't help your PhD ambition too much, nor will it help your bank account that much either.
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    Re: RA at IMF - PhD placement

    I think it's important to give people reasonable advice on how to measure success of an RA/predoc. Applying to PhD programs with publications or coauthored WPs is exceedingly rare. No RA is going to leave with "a couple of decent working papers" under their belt; PhD students don't even generally go on the market with that record. If you can produce a couple R&Rs in 1-2 years, that's an indicator you should be tenured. And forget about impressing the chief economist. (If you did do this, you'd probably get into a Top 1.)

    I agree with Wahasky; this is information they should have (the whole point of the predoc is to prepare people for doctoral programs), and it's very reasonable for you to ask. My gut would be that IMF is similar to one of the regional Feds in placement (i.e, a good gig), but that's just guessing. For what it's worth, I did a predoc at a uni that's probably "Top 30," and thought it helped enormously.

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    Re: RA at IMF - PhD placement

    Thanks for sharing. I agree that it is definitely uncommon for applicants to have publications in top journals and don't mean to imply otherwise. That said, it is not uncommon for RAs at the IMF to co-author on working papers in the IMF Working Paper Series. Granted, the quality variance of these working papers can be surprisingly high if one had the chance to read through some of them, but some of them (I would say around 10% to be conservative) would deserve at least some attention from mid-tier journals (and that is indeed "decent" if a RA happens to be a co-author on a paper of such quality, but clearly far from being tenured at a respectful program). But even such mediocrity from the perspective of those already with a PhD would be tremendously value-adding for someone who is about to prepare for one's PhD application.

    I also mentioned the RAP explicitly in my initial response, which is a program specifically targeting top-quality undergrad candidates (as opposed to typical RA positions at the IMF which generally require a MA degree in a relevant field). For those undergrads who are selected to the RAP (Research Analyst Program), the understanding is that this program would be a stepping stone to something else. The number selected is quite limited. Participants of the RAP often get the chance to work with senior ranking people who can be quite influential in academia. I know all of this as a former IMF economist who know people in the RAP. Hence, at least from my humble perspective, I am indeed giving very reasonable advice on how to compare RA/predoc work if the primary goal is to enhance one's competitiveness in the PhD application process.

    Best of luck and all the best.
    "Life neither starts nor ends with grad school"
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    Re: RA at IMF - PhD placement

    Thanks for elaborating. I think that extra context is helpful.

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