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Research Experience

  • Research experience can be very valuable before applying to PhD programs. It may also be helpful in deciding whether you would like to pursue a PhD.
  • Again, taking courses that will expose you to research, such as Econ 191A-B and Econ 199, are valuable for learning about the research process.
  • Faculty may have grants that allow them to hire undergraduates as Research Assistants (RA) and some years the department has funding to pay undergraduates to be RAs for our graduate students. An RA position with a professor or graduate student will help prepare you for graduate school and can help you gain letters of recommendation from professors or graduate students that will know you well by the end of your RA-ship. To apply, please submit your information here.  It is also possible to get an RA position with a professor at another institution and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) maintains a list of research assistant opportunities and we also post opportunities on our undergraduate blog.
  • It is becoming more common to work as a Research Assistant (RA), also referred to as Pre-doctoral research assistant (pre-doc) after graduating from undergraduate but before applying to graduate school. For example, many successful applicants first work as RAs at the Federal Reserve before applying to graduate school. Working as a RA will also help develop skills that will be extremely useful as you start your own independent research. Applying to RA jobs is similar to applying to graduate school. To be a strong candidate you need to have good grades in challenging math and economics courses and strong letters of recommendation.
  • A final way to get research experience is by earning a masters degree. Generally, these pre-doctoral masters programs are for two years, though sometimes they can be for a single year. The benefits are that you will likely learn useful skills and may be accepted to higher ranked graduate programs.  The downside is of course the time commitment and putting off your graduate studies for two years. Since many MA programs are relatively new, be sure to ask about the outcomes for recent graduates from these programs.