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Economics

Introduction

If you are looking for a top-notch degree, look no further than Economics which is considered one of the most prestigious fields of study in the social sciences. According to “The Wall Street Journal” Economics, considered one of the more difficult subjects for undergraduates to grasp, is the top major at Ivy-League universities like Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Stanford and the Universities of Pennsylvania and Chicago.

So how wise is your decision to study Economics? The good news is that economists are very much in demand in today’s workplace because of the important nature of their work.

Broadly speaking, Economics is the study of the ways in which “society allocates its resources to alternative uses and the consequences of these decisions.” The discipline is organized into various fields from agricultural economics to urban economics and includes topics germane to the economy such as international trade, domestic and international financial systems, labor-market analysis, and the study of less-developed economies.

“The goal of an economics program is to train students to think analytically about social issues, and as such provide a solid foundation for further study and careers in economics as well as for multiple other pursuits,” notes Columbia University.

Money Matters

Because of the importance of quantitative skills to economists, courses in mathematics, statistics, econometrics, sampling theory and survey design, and computer science are extremely helpful.

The increasingly competitive nature of the graduate job market means that deciding to get a degree abroad requires more than a simple love of the subject. An expensive degree from a college abroad is commonly seen as an investment. So how wise is your decision to study Economics? The good news is that economists are very much in demand in today’s workplace because of the important nature of their work.

Economists conduct research, collect and analyze data, monitor economic trends, and develop forecasts on a wide variety of issues, including energy costs, inflation, interest rates, exchange rates, business cycles, taxes, and employment levels.

The US Department of Labor’s “Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2010-2011,” estimated annual salary wages of economists at $83,590 in 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $59,390 and $113,590. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $44,050, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $149,110.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers also put the mean starting salary for economics majors at $52,926, compared to computer science at $56,921 and marketing at $43,459.

Economics graduates with good analytic skills find employment with consulting firms. They also work for large companies, government agencies and for international organizations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and United Nations.

“People who have a master's or Ph.D. degree in economics, who are skilled in quantitative techniques and their application to economic modeling and forecasting, and who also have good communications skills, should have the best job opportunities,” points out the latest “Occupational Outlook Handbook.”

Many people with an Economics background become teachers and professors. Like those in many other disciplines, competitions for tenured teaching positions remain keen. In most colleges, a Ph.D. is necessary for appointment as an instructor. A Ph.D. and publications in academic journals are required for a professorship, tenure, and promotion.

Timing the Economics Degree

Top US schools that don’t need the cash don’t offer a Masters program in Economics, but concentrate their resources on the Ph.D. Most American universities only accept Economics students for enrollment in the Ph.D. program which generally takes five to six years…

Admissions requirements for undergraduate Economics schools include a solid background in mathematics (algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus), with courses in English, social studies and humanities. Colleges have no explicit subject requirements for undergraduate admission, but applicants must present evidence that they are prepared for college work in math, the humanities and social sciences.

To be accepted at a Bachelor of Economics program in the US it is essential to have completed 10+2 years of schooling. In other words, you have to have completed the equivalent of a US secondary school education (approximately 12 years of formal education starting at age six).

Long haul to a B.A or B.S degree

Students who major in economics may pursue either a B.A or B.S degree. Both the programs in Economics are intended to equip students with the basic tools to understand the operation of a modern economy. Students often ask if there are any important differences in the B.A and B.S degrees, such as prestige or value to employers.

“In brief, the answer is no! What separates the two programs is that the B.S degree requires students to take two courses in accounting, one course in finance, and a course in international economics to provide the foundation for additional advanced course work in business,” says the Economic department of the University of North Carolina.

On the other hand, the B.A degree provides students with a more flexible liberal arts education. Undergraduate Economics majors can choose from a variety of courses, ranging from microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics to more philosophical courses, such as the history of economic thought. Because of the importance of quantitative skills to economists, courses in mathematics, statistics, econometrics, sampling theory and survey design, and computer science are extremely helpful.

A Bachelor of Economics degree is usually awarded at the end of a rigorous four-year program. Each year comprises of two semesters — the spring semester and the fall semester. The Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics typically requires 32 four-credit courses, which, with a normal load of four courses per semester, typically demands four academic years of study. 

The four years are divided into the following:

1.   Freshman year: This is the first year of college where all students are required to take nine core courses with grades of C or higher, three of which must be Economic Statistics, Intermediate Macroeconomic Analysis, and Intermediate Microeconomic Analysis. Columbia University says that if you are thinking of becoming an economics major or concentrator, then you should take Principles of Economics in your freshman year, but no later than the fall semester or your sophomore year.

2.   Sophomore year: Students who choose economics as their concentration are required to demonstrate a proficiency in calculus. By the end of the year, students should have analyzed and decided to change or stick with their major for the remaining two years of the program.

3.   Junior year: Students need to apply for summer internships by the end of the fall semester in junior year in order to have an internship for the following summer. Students who finish work in all four core areas which includeFoundations, the final quarter of Calculus, Math,Core Classes, Empirical Methods and Applications of Economics during their third year may want to consider an independent research project (including participating in a workshop their senior year as they write an honors B.A. thesis).

4.    Senior year: All Economics credits are required to be completed by the end of senior year in order to receive the bachelor’s degree. By senior year, a majority of the students have completed a huge chunk of their credits and only focus on their B.A thesis which is due at the end of the year.

Graduate Studies in Economics

The quantitative score matters most. You basically need to get an 800 to keep yourself in the game if you are looking at a top Economics school.

Admission to graduate study in Economics requires a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. This degree need not be in Economics, although some background in Economics is considered desirable by most schools. There are no formal course requirements for admission, but a strong background in math is crucial.

The University of Chicago says that at the Ph.D. level, the study of Economics requires an absolute minimum of one year of college calculus and a semester each of matrix algebra and mathematical statistics (that is, statistics using calculus, as distinct from introductory statistics for social science).

Top US schools that don’t need the cash don’t offer a Masters program in Economics, but concentrate their resources on the Ph.D. Most American universities only accept Economics students for enrollment in the Ph.D. program which generally takes five to six years, although a few wrap it up in four years.

“There are two years of coursework that you have to complete and pass comprehensive examinations in to move onto writing a thesis proposal. Typically, if you fail your exams, you get two chances. If you fail the second chance then you are a terminal Master,” said Arvind Panagariya, Professor of Economics and the Jagdish Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy in the School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA), at Columbia University.

“Getting a M.A from these universities is a negative signal that you probably didn’t make it to a Ph.D. Basically, that’s the end. At least in the US context, unless you are up to doing a full Ph.D. there is not much of a point in going into Economics graduate studies,” added Panagariya.

There are a few US schools which do offer MA programs in Economics like Johns Hopkins University which offers a master’s in Applied Economics. Princeton has a new Master's in Financial Economics program which is also excellent preparation for a Ph.D. program.The Masters in Economics program at Miami University is designed to prepare students to be economic analysts or to pursue a Ph.D. The University of North Carolina Greensboro also offers a MA Program in Applied Economics.

Most foreign students get financial aid when they are enrolled for a Ph.D. program in the US.

The Department of Economics at the University of Chicago does not admit students who intend to do only a Master’s degree. However, PhD students may apply for and receive a Masters degree after completion of a set of courses and examinations that they have taken as part of the Ph.D. program.

The prestigious London School London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) offers Masters degrees in Economics and Econometrics and Mathematical Economics. At the LSE, you can also take joint degrees which combine Economics with Management, Philosophy and Finance.It also offers the MPA Program which is an interdisciplinary degree which includes Economics courses.

Other good Economics Masters programs, all in Canada, are Queen's University, University of British Columbia, Univ. of Toronto, Univ. of Western Ontario, and McGill. 

Assembling your Application

You need to be careful about choosing your references because you won’t see the recommendation letter which is mailed directly to the school.

The application packet usually comprises the standardized test reports, a personal statement essay, short answer responses and letters of evaluation or recommendation written by teachers and professionals, academic transcripts and financial certification. Additionally, some universities may also seek your CV and work samples and a second essay from those students wishing to apply for scholarships.

Most American colleges have application deadlines in December and January but it is advisable not to wait until the end.

Standardized Tests

If you are applying for your Master’s degree or Ph.D. you are required to submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test. The quantitative score matters most. You basically need to get an 800 to keep yourself in the game if you are looking at a top Economics school. Anything less than a 780 on the quantitative section will make it tougher to get into a Top 20 Economics program.  The verbal section is also becoming more important in the admissions decisions of top schools.

Foreign applicants have to submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Recommendation Letter

You need to be careful about choosing your references because you won’t see the recommendation letter which is mailed directly to the school. The admissions office will have its antennae up if one of your referees says something that blows a hole in what you have been pitching in your essays. The facts have to add up.

It is fair to keep your reference writers in the loop about stuff you have highlighted in your application.

The goal of most Ph.D. program is to train students for careers of research and teaching in Economics so keep in mind that a recommendation letter is most effective when the recommender explicitly highlights your research potential. 

Documentation of Financial Support

If you are planning to come to the US, bank documents have to confirm that you have roughly $60,000 (the sum varies for different universities) for your first year of study.

To complete your application and receive the papers for obtaining a visa, foreign universities require that you complete a confidential statement for financing your studies. If you are planning to come to the US, bank documents have to confirm that you have roughly $60,000 (the sum varies for different universities) for your first year of study.

A sum of $60,000 or thereabouts would cover your tuition, university fees, medical insurance, a typical double room in a residence and a minimum meal plan, books, supplies and incidentals including transportation. Remember, a Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20) for a student visa will not be issued by a foreign university unless you have sent it all your financial documents to show proof of adequate funding.

Financial Aid for Ph.D. Students

Most foreign students get financial aid when they are enrolled for a Ph.D. program in the US. Most schools provide full tuition, a minimum of $20,000 annually in stipend or a combination of stipend and teaching salary. Ph.D. students get paid when they work as teaching assistants or participate in the instructional activities of the Economics department.

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