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Is a master in economics worth it?

I'm a sophomore in college. I am majoring in statistics and economics. My school's program allows me to pursue a master continuing my undergraduate study. I heard many people suggest economics graduates to pursue a more technical master such as data science to find better jobs, so I was wondering if a master in economics is worth it. Any tips will be appreciated. Thank you!

master masters-degree economics statistics JULY20


Hi Zoe, I am a junior and in essentially the same place as you. I have been speaking to professors, and they had mentioned that if you are looking to pursue a PhD in economics, a masters usually isn't necessary. If you are looking elsewhere on the job market, I imagine this isn't applicable for other masters programs you mentioned. It seems that the PhD in econ essentially has the same stuff as masters programs, but masters programs are typically paid for out-of-pocket while PhD programs can have fellowships, etc. I am not all that sure about this stuff myself, but I hope this helps! Lucas Lucas Geremia

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Dhairya’s Answer

Hi Zoe,
Great question! If you have opportunity to pursue a masters degree as part of your undergrad program, definitely do it. As to what you study, honestly it up to you and your interests. I've worked in two different data science teams that have had economists (one had a phd in economics and the other a bachelors). In both teams, the economists were great colleagues, had really interesting insights and were effective as Data Scientists.

Econ is quantitatively rigorous and you'll learn most of the theory and math to be successful as a data scientist if that's a path you want to go down.. You may need to pick a few side courses in CS and programming to bridge the gap for a DS position that requires coding skills. Most econ programs will use R as their go to programming language. R is a pretty popular language amongst social scientist and is seeing wide spread adoption in professional DS community. You may also want to pick up Python as well though to be more well rounded.

If you feel econ is too narrow, consider applied stats (also versatile and theoretically rigorous) or computer science with a DS specialization. I'm honestly not a big fan of standalone Data Science degrees. They tend to be haphazardly put together, overly broad, and lacking in depth. You can recreate Data science degree by essentially doing applied stats and adding in a couple of ds specific courses and a programming class.

Take what I said above with a grain of salt. Honestly, go with the masters degree you feel most excited about and you'll do well regardless.
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Andrew’s Answer

Hi Zoe

As somebody who did eventually pursue an economics master’s degree, I’ll start by saying, unsurprisingly, it’s about weighting the benefits and costs.

The benefits will depend on the career path you would ultimately like to take. In any event, you’ll want to confirm that the program is quantitatively rigorous to ensure that you’ll acquire concrete skills for both your resume and career.

If you intend to take a data science route in the private sector, economics can be a good option, although you will also cover topics which are more likely to be irrelevant to the industry you end up in than if you pursued a data science or analytics degree (like deriving a demand curve from a utility function subject to a budget constraint). If you do pursue a degree for use in the private sector, be sure that the primary programming language used is either R or Python as these are the most likely to be used in a corporate environment and will look best on your resume. In the public sector or in a think tank, the programming language is probably less of a concern, but if you have a particular post graduate dream job it’s worth looking into it.

As for the costs, if this degree is significantly less costly than a degree pursued down the line, it may be worthwhile to get it now. However, if this will require significant debt or you are still uncertain as to what career path you would like to take, it may be better to wait given that many employers will help with the costs of advanced degrees and you will have a much clearer idea of what you intend to gain from that degree once you’re a few years into your career.
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Austin’s Answer

I have a masters in economics, and it has served me very well, but i would say no. In the US the most common path for economics is undergrad into PHD. Most terminal masters programs are largely cash cows for the universities. I got my masters in europe before moving to the US so it cost me alot less and helped me tick the box for roles that required masters degrees. Ask yourself why you want to do a masters in economics specifically and not at PHD. if it is to stand out in the job market then consider a more 'applied' masters such as data analysis or statistics which will focus in on building up data skills in a way that an econ masters will only touch on.
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Leslie’s Answer

A masters degree, in my opinion, is always worth it. It'll help you stand out and it'll help you learn what part of economics is of most interest to you.

At one time, a college degree was not super common. It is now so a masters is GREAT to pop out when resumes are being screened.
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Mansi’s Answer

Keep in mind that a Master's in Economics can be worth it for many other reasons besides being one of the best-paying postgraduate degrees. ... So whether you value a degree for how much money you can make or how much good you can do in the world, the Master's in Economics fits the bill.
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Leslie’s Answer

A masters degree, in my opinion, is always worth it. It'll help you stand out and it'll help you learn what part of economics is of most interest to you.

At one time, a college degree was not super common. It is now so a masters is GREAT to pop out when resumes are being screened.
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Mansi’s Answer

Keep in mind that a Master's in Economics can be worth it for many other reasons besides being one of the best-paying postgraduate degrees. ... So whether you value a degree for how much money you can make or how much good you can do in the world, the Master's in Economics fits the bill.
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Ben’s Answer

Hi Zoe,
In my experience, a masters in Economics doesn't add a lot to your resume. Lots of jobs look for a BA in Econ or a PhD in Econ. Jobs that are looking for Masters in Econ are less common. In most schools, a masters in Econ is part of the PhD program, not a stand alone degree. You could do you own research on job sites to see what postings require. That said, there are other reasons to get a Masters in Econ: maybe you enjoy the classes.

My advice is to think about opportunity cost. If you can get a Masters in Econ with by taking one extra class or is completely covered by a scholarship, that might be an easy choice. If it takes another full year of school at full tuition, you need to think about what else you could be doing in that time.

When thinking about other masters degrees, it really depends what you want to do. There are lots of great jobs you can do with just a BA in econ. You could work for a few years and then get a masters. Dhairya gave a lot of good tips about data science in his answer.

Overall, you are thinking about the right things here. I also agree with Dhairya's point that you should follow what excites you.

Ben recommends the following next steps:

Review job sites to see what types of degrees are required or desired
Talk to alumni of your program to see what they did with their degree
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