Hi everybody. I've been considering whether or not to do an Econ Phd for a while. To keep the option of doing one in the US I recently took the GRE. Unfortunately, I screwed up... I got a 700 in the quantitatve section and about 548 on the verbal. I know I could have done a lot better, I was pretty last minute in applying and so didn't have that much time to revise, indeed I have a module test on Thursday anyway. I also was pretty tired, I couldn't get much sleep before it, I think I was nervous. The maths was trivial compared to what I regularly do in my degree(I study theoretical physics) so I was pretty dissapointed.
Excuses aside I know this will severely limit my options in terms of applying for programmes. I'm studying in the UK so I can apply to universities here, and there are only 3 or 4 I would apply to here since I'm currently on a 2:1. Also, since I haven't done Economics undergraduate I would have to take the grad diploma, then Masters and then a Phd on a UK programme. Based on this I wanted to ask:
Do you think it would be worth pursuing a Phd?
Alternatively I could continue pursuing Economics purely as a vocation: I've already sent my first paper to the QJAE, and can forsee myself writing more in the near future regardless. I do have other reservations too, one being that I would be pretty much trapped in academia for the rest of my life assuming I can find employment, and have to undergo a Phd programme, where I'm pretty sure 90% of what I'm being taught is nonsense, as well as having to "publish or perish" writing inane papers including arbitrary maths and meaningless statistics for the sake of it (just to be clear, I'm not against maths for the sake of it, but I agree with the Austrians that its use requires proper epistemological justification just like in other sciences.)
Should I try again for the US universities? I know many have later admissions dates, and there's a small chance I could do a GRE before then. Or I could try after getting a grad diploma in Economics.
"When the King is far the people are happy." Chinese proverb
For Alexander Zinoviev and the free market there is a shared delight:
"Where there are problems there is life."
This post has been up for a while; does anyone have any advice to offer?
As usual in life and economics, it is not how you get the thing that matters but how you intend to use it. If you want to be in the academic and increasingly government world then you really must get a PHD to be in academia and will be helped immensely by a PHD when applying for and working at a govenrment job. As for the private sector there are consulting companies that like PHDs but having a PHD outside of a science or engineering degree does not give the same benefit as the two aforementioned career fields and in many cases hinders job hunting as quite a few employeers view PHDs as being over qualified and over specialized.
You can always take the GRE again? It is only money and the best score counts.
It sounds like you may not AT THIS TIME have the desire to invest the time and effort needed to get the PHD. I think you should look into getting a job and then investigate your aspirations and apply for graduate school later.
I would seriously recommend retaking the GRE. If you take it a second time and do much better on quantitative, ad coms will see it for the fluke that it is. Also, since you don't have an econ undergrad, you might want to consider taking the GRE Economics Subject test.
If you do not have time to take the tests, I would still apply to a few places. If you are doing physics, you've probably had plenty of advanced math courses to show your quant chops. So that will surely help you and may be enough to get you into a descent institution (I think top 30 would be out, but there are still plenty of quality programs below that).
What are your letters of recommendation look like? You said you did not do Econ Undergrad, but did you take econ courses that provided you with strong econ recommendations? That is also very important. If your recommendation letters are mostly from physicists, then that will also hurt your chances of getting into an econ program.
I don't know your entire situation, but based on what I'm seeing I would recommend going to an Econ Masters in the U.S. instead (if you can afford it because funding will likely be scarce). I think you would have a much better shot of getting into a mid-level masters program (GRE scores are typically lower for Masters programs and 700 is still low in that categorey, but I think a good GPA would help offset that) and that will give you the opportunity to get good recommendations, boost your GRE, and show your econ prowess.
Bottom Line: Econ PhD is still an option if you really want it. If you love it, do it, because you never work a day in your life if you love what you do. :) Good Luck!
Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine - Elvis Presley
abskebabs:Do you think it would be worth pursuing a Phd?
Do you want to do academic economics? If yes, yes; if no, no.
abskebabs:Alternatively I could continue pursuing Economics purely as a vocation: I've already sent my first paper to the QJAE, and can forsee myself writing more in the near future regardless.
The problem with this is that a writer without at least an undergraduate degree in economics is not likely to be taken seriously (please no one start a conversation on whether or not this is deserved).
abskebabs:I do have other reservations too, one being that I would be pretty much trapped in academia for the rest of my life assuming I can find employment
I do not see much of a point of pursuing a PhD if you have such an attitude about academia. Like it or not, that will be your environment for a good part of your life; perhaps you can retire in the style of William Vallicella, but that will not happen quickly, and if you look forward to such a retirement for you life, it is very likely that you are wasting precious years.
abskebabs:and have to undergo a Phd programme, where I'm pretty sure 90% of what I'm being taught is nonsense
If you want to pursue economics as a PhD, and as an academic career, no matter what is your opinions about the mainstream, you will have to learn it, and perhaps even give it lip-service. Furthermore, as a professional economist, you will need to be able to dialogue with the mainstream, otherwise you will be essentially an irrelevant economist, and the PhD education will give you the knowledge that is necessary for the dialogue. If you are walking into a PhD program under the pretense most of it is utter, incoherent nonsense, then you are also wasting an opportunity to learn, and, yes, mainstream economics does have a lot to offer.
abskebabs:as well as having to "publish or perish" writing inane papers including arbitrary maths and meaningless statistics for the sake of it (just to be clear, I'm not against maths for the sake of it, but I agree with the Austrians that its use requires proper epistemological justification just like in other sciences.)
You will find that more economists than the ones who fall under the orthodox Austrian fold will agree with you on this point.
abskebabs:Should I try again for the US universities? I know many have later admissions dates, and there's a small chance I could do a GRE before then. Or I could try after getting a grad diploma in Economics.
You need to pick the university you go to with care, especially if you are going to obdurately keep in your mind that 90% of what you are learning is incoherent nonsense. If you do not do the former, then I doubt you will be able to complete your PhD studies.
Abstract liberty, like other mere abstractions, is not to be found.
- Edmund Burke
I fear you may be right... such is the way of the world and the worship of the men with pointy hats and unioncards behind their names.
I probably am being more than a little arrogant and stupid in my attitude towards mainstream economics. I'm freely making my reservations clear right now, though if I do decide to pursue the degree I'm not stupid enough to do so with an obdurate attitude towards what I am being taught whatever my impressions were before doing so. It would be foolish to say my mind cannot change, and even if it doesn't, I realise clearly the application of a bad means toward acheiving my ends!
Indeed something I would like to do, and I see would be helped by a formal training is to write about the thermodynamic and mechanical analogies used in neoclassical economics and general equilibrium theory and to highlight inconsistencies. From my knowledge of both mechanics and classical themrodynamics I already know that a lot of the theoretical transplants are pretty flawed, especially even if they are trying to model their "science" along the standards of physics.I haven't written in detail about this subject yet, though it is a project I would like to engage in the future.
I know I do enjoy teaching and public speaking a lot, especially for subjects I have an infectious enthusiasm for. This I've found for Economics ever since I came across this site and started reading Human Action.
I agree with the sentiment being portrayed about others in this topic. PhD's are really only good for academia. Its the battlefield of ideas so if you are interested in making progress in such a battle then I think you should go for it. Realize though that you are not going to change the world by focusing solely on libertarian papers. The point is to pass the madness so you can graduate then write papers to help progress libertarianism.
'Men do not change, they unmask themselves' - Germaine de Stael