At some point in post-graduation life, many concentrators pursue an advanced degree. Here we discuss (1) graduate study in a variety of areas common among our concentrators and (2) economics Ph.D. programs.
Graduate Study: a variety of options
Economics concentrators pursue graduate programs in a variety of fields: Business School, Law School, Medical School, non-economics Ph.D. programs, and more. In terms of Masters programs, the possibilities are huge: public policy programs, international relations, elementary and secondary education, statistics, mathematical finance, just to name a few. Some concentrators also consider Masters programs in Europe; in particular, several universities in the United Kingdom have strong one-year Masters programs (as well as two-year programs).
Masters programs in Economics and economics-related fields are plentiful. While most top-tier US research universities do not offer Masters programs in their economics departments per se, you can find 'related' Masters programs. At Harvard, for example, the Economics Department does not offer a Masters degree, but the Kennedy School offers ec-related Masters level studies.
There is a lot of information online about all of these programs, and more. And, of course, you can always chat with your concentration advisor.
Economics Ph.D. Programs
Graduate study in economics (at the Ph.D. level) is very different from undergraduate coursework. It is not only a continuance and deepening of the undergraduate curriculum; it is also about research. In this sense, the honors thesis provides a closer look at the enterprise of graduate study. Although some doctoral students choose careers in nonacademic sectors such as government service or finance, most are accepted and trained with the objective of producing academic professionals whose research will advance the discipline.
Most admissions committees gauge the potential applicants in three ways: preparation, aptitude, and creativity. A scholar with all three could make important contributions to our understanding of economics.
Aptitude is assessed largely through one's undergraduate record and professor recommendations. To a smaller extent, scores such as the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) are also considered. Creativity is demonstrated primarily through work on the honors thesis and other research, the quality of which is relayed through professor recommendations. Preparation is particularly important and is demonstrated through coursework in mathematics, statistics and econometrics, and economic theory. First, candidates with a well-developed mathematical foundation will not struggle with the high level of abstraction of graduate work. Students interested in graduate school should take coursework in multivariable calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, and real analysis. Each area deserves a semester of study, though a year of real analysis is especially impressive. Second, the greater a student’s training in statistics and econometrics, the greater the scope and depth of empirical research they can understand and complete. Students should consider statistics and econometrics courses using stochastic calculus, such as the graduate sequence Ec 2110 and Ec 2120. Graduate schools also value theoretical courses, which prepare students for the demands of graduate coursework. At the intermediate theory level, students are encouraged to take the Ec 1011ab sequence. Beyond that, graduate schools are impressed with further coursework in microeconomics and macroeconomics, especially at the graduate level. They also look for coursework in particular areas of theory, such as game theory.
Graduate school represents an important and exciting decision in the academic careers of Harvard undergraduates. Starting to develop and demonstrate these three components will provide you with an impressive background for graduate study in economics.