Econ Grad School Prep

When you decide to attend grad school for economics, you should consider your options. The first option will be whether you apply to a master’s program or PhD program. The next option will be which math classes you take. The best place to start is with your own undergraduate career.

Preparatory Classes

Before you can even think of going to grad school for economics, you’re going to need certain classes in math. Here’s a short list of what you’ll need as a bare minimum:

  • Intermediate Microeconomics/Macroeconomics
  • Calculus I, II, (III if your school has a quarter system)
  • Multi-Variable Calculus
  • Elementary Linear Algebra
  • Statistics
  • Real Analysis (often not required, but highly recommended)

You should aim to do well in your math and economics classes. Don’t worry so much about work experience. Grad schools want to know that you’re able to understand the math behind what you’re doing more than the fact that you were at McDonalds or Target for three years. If you don’t do so well in your math classes, I have heard that a great GRE score can be helpful if you’ve done mostly well in your economics classes. If you haven’t taken these math classes and you’ve graduated, explore your options for taking these courses. For the best advice on this, contact your desired graduate program’s advisors.

If your college or university offers classes in advanced microeconomics and/or advanced macroeconomics, you should take advanced microeconomics as a minimum. This is because you’re going to get a small taste of what grad school would be like. At the University of Oregon, these two classes that are offered to undergraduates are actually master’s degree classes that have undergraduates in them. Same with a lot of the 400-level topics classes.

Helpful Economics Classes

There are a lot of classes you could take to help you in graduate school. First and foremost, you should take a look at the classes that can be counted as general eduation at your school. Once you’ve done this, think about what fields you would like to specialize in.  If your department doesn’t offer classes in your desired fields, it’s a good idea to strive to do better in the more general classes. If you’re minoring in economics, try to focus on doing well in upper-level economics classes, especially econometrics.

Math, Math, Math

If you absolutely hate math, you should learn to either love it or at least become a little interested in it. Someone once told me to think of math as a metaphorical toolbox for economics, your metaphorical house. Each math class you take adds tools to your toolbox, which helps you maintain your house better. Luckily, if you’re bad at math, math can be learned!

Either before or as you continue in your mathematical education, you should always brush up on previous topics. This helps you stay sharp as you progress. For example, if you’re about to take trigonometry, you should brush up on algebra. If you’re going to take calculus, brush up on trigonometry and algebra. A friend of mine that just earned his PhD in economics said he wished he would have taken real analysis beforehand. Mainly, it’s because the class give you practice writing proofs, something you will have to do in grad school.