Updated on Wednesday 27 February 2013
If you've graduated with a bachelor's degree but find that you still want to learn more about the issues concerning scarcity and choice, then a graduate degree in economics might be right for you. Not only will you get to focus on the subfields of economics that interest you, you will also have far more job opportunities after graduation. This article should be a good place for any international student who is still on the fence about pursuing a graduate degree in economics.
If you are an international student interested in exploring the field of economics with much more depth, a graduate degree in economics may be right for you. A graduate degree in economics requires several more years of school and is much harder to get than a bachelor's degree. However, if you have the interest, finances, and time you will be rewarded with greatly increased job opportunities and pay when you graduate.
International students who decide to apply for a graduate degree in economics should first determine whether or not to apply for a master's degree or a doctorate. Because it is more difficult being accepted in a doctorate program than a master's degree, international students should weigh the pros and cons. A masters degree is good for those of you who are unsure about a 5+ year commitment, or if you are worried about getting into the schools of your choice. Here is an overview of what to expected for each program:
One of the first things you will notice is that the classes are much more focused on math than they were as an undergraduate. International students who have a bachelor's degree in mathematics will likely find they are more prepared for some of the math that will be introduced. International students who studied economics shouldn't worry too much though, as many students will already be familiar with theory and only have to play a little bit of catch up on the math. This is also why it is important to take a lot of math classes as an economics undergraduate.
A master's degree takes between 1 and 3 years to complete for most people and some universities also require a thesis to be completed before a master's degree can be awarded. The thesis topic is typically chosen by the student, but must also be approved by a committee of professors. You will then be expected to defend the thesis before this committee before graduation. At some universities, however, students may be able to avoid the master's thesis by enrolling in particular classes or taking a test instead. Check with the schools you are interested in to see what requirements apply to you.
When it comes to the specific types of programs and classes, schools vary in the types of specialties offered, and the best way to learn about them is to visit their websites or speak with faculty or students at the university itself. Some schools will only offer the choice of a masters or PhD graduate degree, while others will offer masters degrees that are more career-focused. Some examples of career-focused master's degrees are a Master's in Developmental Economics or a Master's in International Economics. If you do not intend to get a PhD and know what you would like your career to be in, a more career-focused master's degree in economics may give you the specific skills you need to enter the workforce right away.
If you have already earned a masters degree, or feel like taking your economics education as far as it will go after getting your bachelor's, a PhD in economics is the next step. You will spend a large part of your time working on your doctoral thesis. The lengths of people's thesis vary, but expect it to be in or near the hundreds of pages by the time it is complete. If that sounds daunting, know that the topic of your thesis will be chosen by you, so it will likely be something that you are interested in. This topic will generally be something specific and narrow and in a field that interests you. When you finish your thesis, you will have to give a short speech on its content, as well as defend it for an hour or two from members of the college's faculty who have read it in advance and who have some prepared questions.
When all this is over and you graduate with a PhD, you will have a much higher chance of getting a job with great pay. The average salary of someone with the degree in the US is over $80,000 USD a year!