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Students graduating with their undergraduate degree in economics may continue on into many different graduate and professional programs. Below is information on some of the common programs, requirements or educational background, options, and financing information. The information provided is just a general guideline; students should research specific programs across various institutions to find the criteria for that particular institutions and program and the funding options. Most of this information was obtained from The Career Center and graduate programs at the U of I. Programs typically have detailed information about the program, current student population and demographics, requirements, funding, admission criteria, and much more.
Graduate School Resources
Why Graduate School?
There are a variety of reasons that people ultimately choose to pursue graduate education. Reasons that might motivate you to attend graduate school include:
• Your career goal requires an advanced degree
• Your advanced degree will provide additional career opportunities
• You are passionate about a subject and want to learn more
• You want to gain specific knowledge and skills
If you are not fully committed to graduate school, you might not be satisfied, under perform, or ultimately drop out of a program. Think carefully about your decision to pursue grad school, if your reasons include:
• You are not sure what else to do
• You are avoiding a job search
• You want to make your family, friends, or mentors happy by pushing through your education
These are some actions that you can take to clarify your interests & skills to pursue grad school:
• Explore the Occupational Outlook Handbook to read the training and qualifications needed for potential careers http://www.bls.gov/ooh/home.htm
• Get a job or internship to determine career goals and education requirements
• Talk to professionals in your dream job to get their advice regarding your education
• Weigh the pros and cons of going to graduate school directly out of undergrad, or waiting until you have worked for a number of years to secure your interest
Remember... you do not need to go to graduate school right after undergrad.
Sometimes it is best to work first to determine the type of degree you will need to pursue as your interests may change once you have experienced different areas in your field. Some programs have a better return on investment mid-career.
What Graduate Schools are Available?
Graduate school is a broad term that describes a number of educational opportunities beyond the Bachelor’s degree including:
• Master's degree (MS, MBA, MFA, MSW, etc.)
• Professional degree (MD, JD, DPT, PharmD, etc.)
• Doctoral degrees (PhD, EdD, etc.)
Government site that explains Master's and Doctoral degrees: http://www.educationusa.info
Council of Graduate Schools providing advantages of receiving a Master’s degree: http://www.kent.edu/graduatestudies/prospectivestudents/upload/cgs-why-should-i-get-a-master-s-degree.pdf
Graduate School Preparation
The first step in preparing for graduate school is to ensure you know the type of program you would like to pursue, what you expect as the outcome from the program, ensure the programs you are considering will allow you to explore your specific interest area, and you should know exactly what is needed for admission to that particular program. Many schools offer similar programs, but the admission requirements and the outcomes may be different. You may be interested in a Master’s in Economics, but you must consider if you would like the concentration to be more general or focused in a particular concentration area (such as policy).
It is important to recognize that undergraduate majors and graduate programs are not perfectly correlated. If you intend to continue pursuing your field of study in graduate school, try to identify a couple sub-areas that you may focus on in graduate school. If you are changing fields of study, try to prepare by taking relevant coursework and gaining extracurricular experience.
Grade Point Average admissions requirements differ among graduate programs, so be sure to check your specific programs of interest. Highly selective programs will often list a minimum GPA requirement while other programs may have a greater degree of leniency in the scores of an applicant ). It is also important to demonstrate your competency in your field through course selection and extracurricular experiences, so taking “easy” classes for the sake of maintaining a high GPA may not be as valuable as gaining knowledge and skills from more advanced coursework. It is important to note though that the GPA is only one measure of an applicant’s potential for success, and so admissions committees place great value on extracurricular activities, experiences, letters of evaluation, and other components of the application.
Extracurricular activities can include sports, clubs, volunteering, mentoring/tutoring, undergraduate teaching and/or anything else that you enjoy to do. These activities all help develop transferrable skills that graduate programs and eventually employers will value—initiative, teamwork, communication, leadership, responsibility, perseverance, etc. You will also likely reflect on these experiences during the preparation of your personal statement and interviews.
Here are some resources to help you get involved:
Directory of Registered Student Organizations: https://illinois.collegiatelink.net/organizations
Office of Volunteer Programs: http://union.illinois.edu/get-involved/office-of-volunteer-programs
Research is important especially if you are interested in applying to doctoral programs. Research may help you develop numerous skills such as critical-thinking, problem solving, quantitative analysis, and the scientific method. Being active in research may also help you get first-hand experience of what graduate school entails and perspectives of potential careers.
To get started, you can reflect on your coursework and try to determine which sub-areas of your major that you might enjoy researching. This can help you ensure that your research activities are generally aligned with your own interests. Identify faculty members of interest (browse department websites) and attend office hours, talk to professors after class, and build a relationship. Usually faculty want a student to take their course and be active.
Visit the Economics Undergraduate Research Page
Here are some resources to help you get involved:
• Network with academic advisors, faculty, teaching assistants, and others for opportunities
• McNair Scholars Program http://www.omsa.illinois.edu/gradprep/mcnair.html
• Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) http://www.grad.illinois.edu/srop
Part-time jobs and internships can have value beyond your paycheck—they can help you develop transferrable skills while gaining perspective on what employment in your field of study may entail. Because summer is a very popular time for student internships, be sure to check company websites of interest or internship databases for opportunities throughout the academic year. Career fairs are also valuable for learning about internship opportunities and companies of interest.
Here are some resources to help in your search:
• Virtual Job Board lists employment https://secure.admin.illinois.edu/osfa/vjb/
• I-Link is a database of employment/internship opportunities
Student memberships to professional organizations in a field of study often include subscriptions to the organization’s journal or newsletter, emails of important events or news in the profession, information on employment, and can give you a glimpse of what people really do in your profession of interest. To identify suitable organizations, try searching for associations in your field of study or asking faculty or graduate students for recommendations. These affiliations can also help ease the transition from undergraduate to graduate school, promote yourself to a higher level of thinking in your field, and gage whether graduate school and/or your career of interest is a good fit for you.
The U of I campus has many opportunities to attend seminars on various topics. Not only will these help you gain more perspectives, hear from global leaders in different fields, and network, but they show an interest in your field and may be added to your statements and/or resume if relevant. Showing an interest in research and academia is important for most graduate schools, and may be a large part of your graduate program. Attending these in undergrad may open your perspectives and peak your research interests.
Look on the University and Departmental websites for seminars and lectures open to the public: http://illinois.edu/calendar/list/7
Graduate Admissions Tests
All tests take a lot of studying, and graduate admissions tests are no different. The LSAT, GMAT, GRE, and others test different content and are scored differently. It is important that you learn about the test and study the material. Students may buy study guides, and also find many available through campus libraries. There are also many programs to help you prepare for tests.
It is recommended that students who plan to continue on to graduate school in the future, but are not moving on directly after undergrad, take the test while the material is still current (taking the test in your Senior year or just after graduation). Most tests scores are available up to five years after you take them. Some programs do not require graduate admission exams, so make sure you research the criteria.
Personal & Professional Statements
Most graduate schools will require a personal and/or professional statement. These may be very important to your admission as they show your desire to be in their program. It is important to start early and revise until you have a statement which represents your activities and future pursuits. It is very important to customize your statement to the particular program.
Make sure you read over the requirements of the statement before you begin, and check that your finished statement meets the criteria.
The Purdue Owl is a great resource: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/642/01/
Once written, get it reviewed by:
The Writer's Workshop
Career Counselors at The Career Center
Faculty and Academic Advisors
Letters of Recommendation
Most graduate applications will require letters of recommendation or evaluation. Faculty and professional contacts are the best people to approach for these letters as they are able to provide relevant information on your research, academic, and/or work expertise. For most PhD programs, the letters may make a very big difference in your application. Make sure you have a relationship with the person, you approach them in the correct manner and provide enough time, and you provide them with all the materials they need for a letter (information on the graduate school, your resume, personal/professional statements, academics, etc.). Make sure you have these submitted in the manner the school requests (online, mailed, etc.). It is generally preferred if you waive your right to see the recommendation.
Law schools are primarily interested in recommendations that come from professors who know the student and his/her academic work, as well as from employers who can write about the factors noted below. They are interested in summary estimates of the candidate's general promise as a student of law. The more the evaluation reflects real knowledge of the student and his/her performance, the more useful the letter is to the law school's admissions committee and thus to the student. Indicate how long you have known the applicant and in what capacity. It should address the following questions:
* Personal effectiveness: Is the applicant the kind of person you would choose to consult as a lawyer? Does the applicant enjoy the trust and respect of professors and fellow students?
* Intellectual qualifications: What is your assessment of the applicant's analytical skills and ability to grasp new ideas? Has the applicant's academic record been affected by any special circumstances such as work, social or academic background? What is the applicant's ability to deal with complex or abstract matters?
* Ability to communicate: Is the applicant an effective writer? Does the written work submitted demonstrate a mastery of the conventions of English? Is the written expression clear, well-organized and forceful? Is the applicant articulate in oral expression?
* Industry and self-discipline: To what extent does the applicant possess the traits of persistence, efficiency and motivation? Is there any reason to doubt the applicant's commitment to law study or the applicant's diligence as a student?
* Potential for the study of law: What is your prediction of the applicant's probable performance in the study of law? Would the applicant stand in the top quarter, near mid-class or simply make the grade in a rigorous program? Do you have any special familiarity with the process of legal education?
* Is there any other information about the applicant which you would like to share with admissions committees?
Most graduate schools will require that you submit a resume with the other application materials. It is important that you have varied experiences throughout college and these are properly and clearly displayed on your resume. Highlighting any relevant professional and research experiences are important, and these should be relevant to the particular program.
Applying to Graduate School
Once you have decided to pursue a graduate degree, you must apply to your programs of interest. Graduate programs are often highly selective and the application process can be time intensive. The application process and timeline will differ with each graduate program- be sure to carefully read the policies, procedures, and deadlines for each specific graduate program.
Graduate School Timeline http://www.careercenter.illinois.edu/sites/default/files/docs/grad_timeline.pdf
Applying to Graduate School: Tips, Timeline, and Tools of the Trade http://crl.iupui.edu/assets/documents/GradSchoolGuide.pdf
Graduate School Application Checklist http://www.careercenter.illinois.edu/sites/default/files/docs/Application%20Checklist.pdf
Many graduate schools require you to apply directly to your program of interest, and then after a positive review, the program will forward the application to the graduate college for final review. Others require separate applications for both the program and the graduate college—be sure to know each institution’s application policies and deadlines. Each school will have their application materials on their website, along with the costs for applying. Give yourself time to complete all of the applications necessary so your application is complete before the deadline.
Application fees may vary by institution. For applicants who may have financial difficulty, many programs may be willing to reduce costs or waive application fees, so don't be afraid to ask. There may be formal programs that will offer these types of reduced costs as well, such as FreeApp http://www.cic.net/students/freeapp/introduction
Ph.D. in Economics
Coursework to Prepare
For students wishing to take Econ PhD courses, the below process should be followed. Students will not be able to take MSPE courses (or the graduate student section of a 400-level course). The course(s) will be in addition to the student’s undergraduate degree in economics (it should not count towards any of the requirements, including the economics course, advanced hours, hours on campus, or overall hours). Depending on the student’s PhD program if they continue to graduate school, they may be able to petition for the course(s) to count towards the graduate program (UIUC has a graduate petition, but student must check with other universities).
• Student must meet with an Economics Academic Advisor (they may also be required to meet with someone in the Econ Graduate Studies Office, and or the Professor)
• PhD courses should be started in the Fall because Spring courses are a continuation from Fall semester
• Student must have taken all of the required ECON 300/400 courses for the undergraduate degree (PhD courses may not be used for undergraduate coursework)
• Must have received an A- average in Econ courses
• It is recommended that the student took ECON 471 (Econometrics)
• Student should have taken advanced Math courses, including Real Analysis (proofs) – MATH 444 or 447; and MATH 415 (linear algebra) with an A- or above
• Student must meet with an Academic Advisor in Economics to go over their academic history to check they have the required courses completed
• Econ Advisor should provide a letter for the student on Econ letter head, stating the coursework the student has completed and the competency in the courses (GPA), confirming that they would have our support to take a PhD course at the discretion of the professor
• Student should check that there is space available in the course (following the graduate student registration period) and contact the professor of the PhD course they wish to take, providing the letter of support from the undergraduate office to see if the professor believes the student would do well in the course given their past academic history and support their addition to the course
• The professor should email the undergraduate receptionist managing the overrides, and confirm the student would be able to take their course
• Undergraduate office will provide an override for the student to register
The grading scale for graduate courses are typically B- to A, and the undergraduate student will have the same expectations and should be graded based on the same scale as the graduate students in the course.
Personal Statement Tips for Ph.D. Economics at UIUC
By: Department Head Martin Perry
(1) Goals: The theme of your statement should be your career goals. You should have reasons for applying to a particular graduate program. You may not know exactly what your ultimate goals will be, but you should try to articulate the goals that you have now. You want the reader to conclude that you are goal-oriented and focused.
(2) Source of your Goals: Make your goals concrete by providing examples from your background that provide reasons why you have these goals. These reasons could be your family background, work experience, or university education. For example, some particular course or professor may have excited your interests in graduate programs. Provide support for both your background and your plans. For example, if you say something like “I want to learn about X”, then you must say why learning X will help you achieve your goals. For example, it you say something like “I have a job doing X”, you must also explain your important responsibilities in that job.
(3) Be Knowledgeable: Make sure you appear to know what you are talking about and what you plan to do with your education. You must know the details about the program to which you are applying and what type of jobs and careers their students obtain.
(4) Easy Reading: You want the reader to focus on the content of your statement and not your writing style. The reader will be reading your letter quickly so the reader should not be disrupted by awkward or flowery sentence structure. If the reader becomes distracted or slowed by your sentence structure, he will miss your points. Thus, you should adopt a business writing style with short sentences, clear nouns at the beginning of the sentence, and simple active verbs. Do not use gerund nouns or passive verbs because you want your sentences to be direct and forceful. Of course, there can be absolute no typos, so you must proofread the statement several times and have someone else proofread it carefully.
(5) Tight Writing: Every sentence must contribute to articulating your goals and the explanation for them. Do not make any obvious statements, either as a full sentence or as the parenthetical introduction to a sentence. For example, you should not flatter the reader or his/her program. They already know that their program is great.
(6) Controlled Enthusiasm and Passion