Is there value in an MA in economics?

From Tyler Cowen, it will help you climb the government or NGO bureaucracy, sends good signals to the job market, and you will actually learn something of value.

I agree that MAs in economics are under-provided relative to the UK and Canada. But I think there are some good reasons for this. I have a few points to add:

  • Any answer should consider the opportunity cost: what you could do with $100k (or more) and two years of your life.
  • “Trip around the world” could be a lifetime happiness-maximizing answer. Consider it and other non-school alternatives carefully: Peace Corps, working for a foreign corporation or government abroad, and other experiences that will enrich you and set you apart.
  • But if education and a career in the public service is on your mind, then my sense is that (in the US) a good policy school MA program can be better than one in economics for a few reasons:
    • My sense is that the core faculty in policy schools have more incentives to teach and advise MPAs than at a top research university, where they typically prioritize PhDs and undergrads before MAs.
    • You can still have core training in economics. But you will have to force yourself to take hard courses.
    • My sense is you will develop a better professional network in a policy school.

Other past advice of relevance;


29 thoughts on “Is there value in an MA in economics?

  1. I’d say MA econ is better for most public policy jobs than a public policy degree, because 1)MA econ is harder, teaches more technical skills, and provides a clearer signal, and 2)public policy degrees are much more common. Lots of public policy schools have dual programs that include an MA econ degree (usually micro/metrics only), but these don’t seem to be as good (at teaching econ skills) as real MA-only programs.

    Also, I’m surprised you didn’t say anything about private-sector finance, which in my experience is where the vast majority of econ MAs go.