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Thread: British Columbia MA Program for PhD

  1. #11
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    Re: British Columbia MA Program for PhD

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    Excellent advice from tutonic and tbe.

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    Re: British Columbia MA Program for PhD

    Quote Originally Posted by tutonic View Post
    Yes, ideally, you'll want all 3 letter writers to be from Econ, since they can better assess your ability as a graduate student/researcher.

    Unless you're really set on a particular sub-field, try not to have tunnel vision when selecting schools. What I mean by this is that your interests might change when you get to graduate school. Therefore, as an example, if you're currently interested in the intersections of econometrics and machine learning, you shouldn't just apply to schools where there are people working in that specific sub-field. You should also apply to schools that have a decent econometrics department in general, since you might be interested in other sub-fields of econometrics when you actually reach Year 2/3. Furthermore, it could very well be the case that you end up doing something completely different (like IO or Labour) instead.

    The other thing to look at when deciding where to attend grad school is placement. If you're dead set on getting an academic placement, then you need to look more closely at both the number of academic positions that the graduates land each year, as well as which fields these people are in. It could very well be the case that the academic positions come from mostly the applied fields, and a school rarely places an econometrician into an academic position. If you're fine with an industry job, then it's a much easier choice since most schools can at least secure good industry jobs for their graduates.

    A good place to start is the USNEWS grad econ ranking. Use this as a starting point, and don't get hung up on the exact rankings of each school. Just look at it as tiers like Top 20 (schools from 11 to 20), Top 30 (schools from 21 to 30), etc since almost all the schools in each tier have comparable placements.

    Lastly, when looking at placements, try not to be swayed by the placement of that 1 person that lands a Top 5/10 academic job from a Top 20-30 school (for example). These are outliers. Look at the median placement in each school, since there's absolutely no guarantee that you'll be the star of your cohort.
    Thank you so much for the advice, I found it very helpful! One last question if you do not mind, how to determine if a school has a decent econometrics department? Is the one from AEA referring to econphd.net a good guidance? Seems like it was last updated in 2004.

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    Re: British Columbia MA Program for PhD

    Quote Originally Posted by tbe View Post
    Lots of good advice above. I'll add that, in my experience, letters from math/stats professors are not particularly useful. Math professors generally don't know students that well and their letters rarely convey much information that isn't on a transcript. Yes, there are exceptions and sometimes these letters are helpful.
    Thank you so much for the advice, I will definitely keep that in mind!

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    Re: British Columbia MA Program for PhD

    Quote Originally Posted by MetricsML View Post
    Thank you so much for the advice, I found it very helpful! One last question if you do not mind, how to determine if a school has a decent econometrics department? Is the one from AEA referring to econphd.net a good guidance? Seems like it was last updated in 2004.
    Begin with the USNEWS ranking of schools. Find a cutoff range of schools that you're okay with attending. Let's say hypothetically, it's Top 50. Then work your way up from the bottom (i.e. start looking from Syracuse, Georgetown and UC-Boulder and move upwards in the ranking). The reason for this is that higher ranked schools almost always have 1-2 people (at the minimum) working in all the major fields, but lower ranked schools might not. Therefore, you'll need to look more closely at faculty in lower ranked schools when deciding where to attend, if you have a specific area of interest in mind.

    When looking at the department, use the RePEc journal ranking as a guide. Since you're going to be focusing on the econometrics department, the Top-5 journal that's relevant to econometricians are Econometrica, AER and REStud, in that specific order, as well as the top field journals (which would be Journal of Econometrics, Journal of Business and Economic Statistics and Journal of the American Statistical Association). I almost surely would've missed one or two (since metrics isn't my field of interest, so others should chime in).
    Look at the senior faculty members and their publication history. Papers take years to publish, but it's not unreasonable to see a publication or two in those top field journals every 3-4 years or so. This points to the fact that the person is still research-active (and therefore, still open to the idea of advising grad students). Focus your search on senior faculty (Associate Professors and Professors) since it's no guarantee that any junior faculty will stay with the department once their tenure window ends. They might be asked to leave the department if they didn't make tenure or they might be offered tenure but a higher ranked department has made a better offer.
    Lastly, look at the current and past people on the job market, and see who their advisors are. Sometimes, it's the same few people, and that one specific person that you're eyeing in the department isn't really taking on students, so that's something to take note of as well.

    Yes, I know what you're thinking. This seems like a lot of work. That's because it is! You're deciding where to spend the next 5-6 years of your life. It's not something that you can hash out in a single sitting. Start an excel spreadsheet or something, and keep track of the schools that you've looked at, as you continue working up the USNEWS ranking. Once you get higher, the task becomes easier since higher ranked schools will almost always have more research-active people. However, it could very well be the case that a lower ranked school has better placements for a specific field since that's the school's area of focus.

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    Re: British Columbia MA Program for PhD

    Quote Originally Posted by tutonic View Post
    Begin with the USNEWS ranking of schools. Find a cutoff range of schools that you're okay with attending. Let's say hypothetically, it's Top 50. Then work your way up from the bottom (i.e. start looking from Syracuse, Georgetown and UC-Boulder and move upwards in the ranking). The reason for this is that higher ranked schools almost always have 1-2 people (at the minimum) working in all the major fields, but lower ranked schools might not. Therefore, you'll need to look more closely at faculty in lower ranked schools when deciding where to attend, if you have a specific area of interest in mind.

    When looking at the department, use the RePEc journal ranking as a guide. Since you're going to be focusing on the econometrics department, the Top-5 journal that's relevant to econometricians are Econometrica, AER and REStud, in that specific order, as well as the top field journals (which would be Journal of Econometrics, Journal of Business and Economic Statistics and Journal of the American Statistical Association). I almost surely would've missed one or two (since metrics isn't my field of interest, so others should chime in).
    Look at the senior faculty members and their publication history. Papers take years to publish, but it's not unreasonable to see a publication or two in those top field journals every 3-4 years or so. This points to the fact that the person is still research-active (and therefore, still open to the idea of advising grad students). Focus your search on senior faculty (Associate Professors and Professors) since it's no guarantee that any junior faculty will stay with the department once their tenure window ends. They might be asked to leave the department if they didn't make tenure or they might be offered tenure but a higher ranked department has made a better offer.
    Lastly, look at the current and past people on the job market, and see who their advisors are. Sometimes, it's the same few people, and that one specific person that you're eyeing in the department isn't really taking on students, so that's something to take note of as well.

    Yes, I know what you're thinking. This seems like a lot of work. That's because it is! You're deciding where to spend the next 5-6 years of your life. It's not something that you can hash out in a single sitting. Start an excel spreadsheet or something, and keep track of the schools that you've looked at, as you continue working up the USNEWS ranking. Once you get higher, the task becomes easier since higher ranked schools will almost always have more research-active people. However, it could very well be the case that a lower ranked school has better placements for a specific field since that's the school's area of focus.

    Thank you so much for sharing all these information, it would really help me on the next application cycle! I will start researching more for next application cycle.

    Also, thanks to everyone who responded to my post, I found them to be excellent advices and very helpful for me!

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    Re: British Columbia MA Program for PhD

    Quote Originally Posted by MetricsML View Post
    Hi everyone,

    I would like to get some advice regarding UBC (University of British Columbia) Masters program for a stepping stone for Economics PhD. How much would it help to get me into a good PhD program? I did apply to PhD programs this cycle but seem not to get any offers and applied to UBC Masters program as a recommendation from one of my professors for a backup plan.

    To help giving me advices and suggestions, here is my background:

    Profile:
    Type of Undergrad: Top 50 Public (Math Honors, Econ Honors, & Engineering)
    Undergrad GPA: 3.56
    Type of Grad: Top 20 Private (Applied Mathematics & Statistics)
    Grad GPA: 3.91
    GRE: 153 V, 170 Q, 3.5 W

    Math Courses: Calculus I/II/III (A,B+,A), Real Analysis I/II (B+,A-), Linear Algebra I/II (B+,A), Differential Equation (A-), Group Theory (B), Stochastic Analysis (A-,A), Bayesian Statistics (A-), Mathematical Finance (A), Stochastic Methods in Finance (A-), Analysis of Algorithm (A+), Probability & Statistics I/II (A,A), Statistical Methods in Data Analysis I/II (A,A), Graduate Level Statistical Modeling (A-), Graduate Level Probability (A), Graduate Level Linear Algebra (A), Graduate Level Statistical Inference (A), Graduate Level Data Mining (A), Graduate Level Machine Learning (A), Graduate Level Deep Learning (A)

    Econ Courses: Basic/Intermediate Micro (A+,A), Basic/Intermediate Macro (A+,A), Econometrics I/II (A+,A+), Corporate Finance (A), Investment (A), Risk & Uncertainty (A+), Statistical Methods in Economics (A+), Managerial Economics (A+), International Trade (A+), Asymmetric Information (A), Honor Thesis in Economics (A)

    Research Experience: 2 year of Mathematics & Statistics Research as undergraduate, 1 year of Econometrics Research & Honor Thesis as undergraduate, 1 year of Statistics and Machine Learning Research as graduate student.

    Will the Masters Program at UBC improve my chance getting into Economics PhD? I saw the program and seems to be mathematically rigorous + has a research requirement to graduate. I am aiming for any school in top 50 worldwide. Thank you very much before hand, I really appreciate any helps!
    My opinion is probably not and I am an alumni. UBC has a good masters program and its rigorous and a good preparation for an economics Ph.D. The course work is very much on par with Ph.D. level coursework at a lot of schools. However, my specific opinion is that masters programs usually don't increase your competitiveness that much, unless you have some deficiency they can fill. Like not having an economics background or not coming from a well known undergrad. In your case you have reasonably good grades and a strong math background. I don't think UBC's masters is going to do much for you, unless you don't have letters from economics Professors.

    The other thing is I would not be hung up about ranking as much and look for program fit. The reality is in economics is that entering cohort size is directly related to program ranking, where top programs have more students than bottom programs. Most students actually graduate from top 30 programs and the median student in any ranked school doesn't do that much better than schools ranked much below them. Instead, the criteria you should be is the program a good fit. Does it have people working in the areas you are interested in? Do the faculty in those areas put effort into advising graduate students? Etc.

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    Re: British Columbia MA Program for PhD

    Quote Originally Posted by songbirdaoe View Post
    My opinion is probably not and I am an alumni. UBC has a good masters program and its rigorous and a good preparation for an economics Ph.D. The course work is very much on par with Ph.D. level coursework at a lot of schools. However, my specific opinion is that masters programs usually don't increase your competitiveness that much, unless you have some deficiency they can fill. Like not having an economics background or not coming from a well known undergrad. In your case you have reasonably good grades and a strong math background. I don't think UBC's masters is going to do much for you, unless you don't have letters from economics Professors.

    The other thing is I would not be hung up about ranking as much and look for program fit. The reality is in economics is that entering cohort size is directly related to program ranking, where top programs have more students than bottom programs. Most students actually graduate from top 30 programs and the median student in any ranked school doesn't do that much better than schools ranked much below them. Instead, the criteria you should be is the program a good fit. Does it have people working in the areas you are interested in? Do the faculty in those areas put effort into advising graduate students? Etc.
    Thank you for your insight! I decided not to go to UBC, mainly because i got a last minute PhD offer from a program with a great fit and I figured it is not worth it for me at this stage (since I already have a Master’s degree) to spend 1 or 2 years at UBC MA program to boost my chance to get into a significantly better program (which is not guaranteed). Hopefully all these advices can be useful for people who are considering UBC MA program as a pathway to PhD in the future!

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