Master of Arts in Economics
The Department of Economics offers a Master of Arts degree. The program specializes in preparing students to enter PhD programs in Economics and typically around two-thirds of our students view the program as a springboard toward this end.
We have achieved a very good placement record in this respect. In the past 10 years our MA students have entered PhD programs with financial aid at highly ranked schools such as Yale, Michigan, Indiana, Southern California, North Carolina, Purdue, Illinois, Vanderbilt, Michigan State, Emory, and Texas A&M, amongst others.
Specific placement data (all with financial aid) for the last three years follows:
- Fall 2007: University of Southern California, Purdue University, University of North Carolina, University of Illinois, Emory University.
- Fall 2008: West Virginia University, Purdue University, University of Alberta, Emory University.
- Fall 2009: University of Oregon, University of Connecticut, Georgia State University, Charles University (Prague), University of Georgia, SUNY-Albany.
Because we are (1) a relatively large MA program with around 30 students, and (2) have so many students interested in using our program as preparation for PhD studies, we are often able to offer specific elective classes, such as a second Microeconomic Theory class and a class on Dynamic Optimization - classes which are specifically geared toward preparing students to succeed in the micro and macro sequences in a PhD program. We also allow students to take up to 6 of the 30 credit hours toward the MA outside of economics and many of our students take graduate level calculus (real analysis) and statistics to further bolster their quantitative background.
The department views a research experience as crucial to student intellectual growth. Consequently we encourage students and faculty to work closely on research projects - co-authorship between students and faculty on scholarly publications is encouraged. Furthermore, all students must complete a thesis or a substantive research paper. We strongly believe that the quality and extent of student-faculty interaction are strengths of our program.
In addition to core courses in microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, mathematical economics, and econometrics, the department offers applied courses in various fields of economic analysis. These fields include international economics, growth and economic development, industrial organization and game theory, monetary economics, public finance, economic history, and the history of economic thought.
1. How long does the program take?
The MA is a 30 credit hour program. The program is designed to be able to be reasonably completed in three semesters. Some (very few) students finish in one year by taking 12 credit hours during each semester and writing a thesis (6 credits) over the summer. Many students, particularly those who arrive in our program in the fall with the intention of enrolling in a PhD program 24 months later, complete the program in 4 semesters while taking additional courses in mathematics or statistics. While the majority of our students enter the program in the fall semester, we do allow students to enter the program in the spring and have catered our course sequencing so that spring enrollees can still develop a sensible curriculum over their 3-4 semesters.
2. How large is the program and what types of students does it attract?
We typically have around 30 students in the MA program. Around two-thirds of our students are international, coming from nations such as China, Romania, India, Nepal, and Nigeria. The remaining third of our students are from the United States, most coming from the state of Michigan.
3. What is the faculty like?
We have an active and scholarly faculty who publish in the fields they teach. We involve graduate students in the research process and all graduate students will work closely with faculty on at least one research project. Our faculty, in the past, have collaborated and published in reputable refereed journals with our students.
4. What is the best preparation for success in the program?
One needs not have been an economics major to succeed in our program, but we hope that you will at least have taken through the second level (intermediate) microeconomics and macroeconomics. Because graduate economics courses are usually heavily mathematical, you must have at least some calculus and statistics. A course in linear algebra is also suggested. Our program can certainly be used to prepare a student who is missing some of the mathematics prerequisites for a PhD program as you will learn mathematical techniques and applications in our program and, as mentioned above, students may also take up to six hours of graduate courses outside of economics (e.g., mathematics or statistics) and have them count toward the 30 hours of the MA program.
5. I am interested in pursuing a PhD at a North American university. Why should I choose CMU's MA program as my best preparation?
Many of the students who have enrolled in our program over the past several years did so because they did not receive offers of financial aid from any high-quality PhD programs prior to coming to CMU. These same students, upon completion of our program, were able to receive such offers (see our specific placement data above). More and more, an MA is being looked at as a requirement for admission into highly-ranked PhD programs.
6. I'm not interested in a PhD program. What else can an MA in economics do for me?
About one-third of our students view the MA as a terminal degree which will give them a leg up over students who simply have a Bachelor's degree. In particular, our program provides graduates important quantitative and data analysis skills which are desirable in the workplace. CMU offers an excellent Data Mining Certificate Program (18 credit hours), and several of our students have doubled up and completed our MA and this certificate. A very ambitious student could possibly get both the MA in Economics the Data Mining Certificate in two calendar years by taking 12 credits per semester as well as a class or two over the two summers. Jobs in both the private and government sector look favorably at the skills acquired through our MA program.
7. Do you offer financial aid?
We offer financial aid on a competitive basis. All students who are admitted into the program will automatically be considered for financial aid. There is no separate application. We typically make aid decisions in March for fall admission (and in September for spring admission, if we have any aid left - typically we have a little) so you should be sure to get your application in by early February to give the College of Graduate studies time to process your application and get it to us before we make these decisions.
[Note that the College of Graduate Studies offers fellowships to truly outstanding students - we have typically had one or two of our best students win these fellowships each year. The deadline for this application is February 1.
8. Do you require letters of recommendation?
We do not require letters explicitly, but almost all candidates do (and should generally) provide them. Letters can be sent directly to the College of Graduate Studies or you can collect them from your references and have them sign their name across the back of the envelope and include them with your application packet.
9. Do you require the GRE for admission?
While we do not explicitly require students to have taken the GRE for admission, it is generally looked upon favorably when we make financial aid decisions.
10. Is there a research/writing component to the MA?
Yes. Students can either choose to write a thesis (which accounts for 6 credit hours) or what is called a "Plan B" paper which is a shorter research paper (typically around 25-30 pages whereas a thesis may be 50-70 pages) written under the guidance of a faculty member.
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