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I'm a little curious - I've been told, many times, that many undergraduates (even those majoring in Economics!) graduate with only a dim idea of what economics at a higher level is 'like'. This didn't prove true in my experience, although I grant that I was warned and loaded up on as much math as I could take.

Do you get hordes and hordes of economics hopefuls who have clearly no idea what Master's or god forbid Doctoral Econ is like? Keynes-type literary enthusiasm could easily emerge from a should-have-majored-in-politics student, for instance. I hear they are more scholastic in those parts.

Thanks for this Frances. I agree with most of it--if not all.

I seem to get one or two emails a week from students who want me to 'sponsor' them into our graduate program. Perhaps that is how it works in other parts of the world, but in Canada or the US you apply through the regular university application procedure. I have no power over the decision unless I'm on the graduate admissions committee.

I don't think I'm unique in this--I suspect these students are spamming everyone.

Why all the Keynes hate?

I'm here to show some Keynes love.

No need to hate Keynes to reject scholasticism.

"A strong undergraduate background in mathematics or a similar discipline is very helpful."

Is that really needed? Don´t you have any "math for economist" course in your MA - and if you don´t, isn’t it enough to read e.g. Chiangs "Fundamental Methods of Mathematical Economics" (which you should master in a few weeks unless you forgotten all high school math)?

I certainly think it is enough for the micro book you are referring to, but I haven’t read the macro and econometrics book.

PS: Concerning:
"What will I learn in an MA in Economics?
Students don't ask this question as often as they should."

Does economist ask this question as often as they should? The only evaluations I have seen haven’t presented a very bright picture.

nemi: "Is that really needed"

In my experience enjoying math is highly correlated with enjoying graduate studies in economics. There is a math prep course in our MA program, but students who come in with a strong math background have an enormous advantage over those who don't.

There are many alternatives to taking an MA in economics. Someone who doesn't enjoy math would have a much more enjoyable experience, and much greater probability of success both during their degree and afterwards, taking a masters in public policy, public administration or international affairs.

Sina: "Why all the Keynes hate?"

A student who applies to a MA program in Economics because they want to read Keynes clearly has not done their background research. For example, I could only find two courses on the entire Carleton Economics department web site that even mention Keynes (doing a google search for Keynes site:www.carleton.ca/economics). A student who hopes to learn about Keynes in an MA program at Carleton or most other Canadian Universities (U of O excepted) will be sadly disappointed. That's I don't like to see it personal statements.

I don't hate students' families either. It's just that this information is not relevant to the admission decision. (Though a colleague and I used to joke that the best thing a student could say about his/her family is "my father is a very rich and corrupt party official" because that way at least we'd know the student had the money to pay their tuition fees and support themselves).

nemi "Does economist ask this question as often as they should?" No.

david: "Do you get hordes and hordes of economics hopefuls who have clearly no idea what Master's or god forbid Doctoral Econ is like?"

I don't know exactly how many, because the students who have no idea of what a Master's program is like are probably also the ones who don't speak great English, and aren't hanging about in my office gossiping. But I do sense that economics in places like China, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh (some of our main international student source countries) is less theory driven, more applied, and much more like business school education than in Canada, and our programs are less hands on and applied than international (or for that matter many domestic) students would like. I don't know though really.

Kevin - no, you're not unique, I get those too.

Money: My information is too out of date to answer this very well, but I would guess a lot of prospective students would like to know something about financial support: Teaching assistantships and scholarships. What is the probability of getting money, how much, and what work do you have to do for it?

Course-work vs thesis: I think that most Canadian economics MA programs are mostly coursework, and that this is different from many other countries.

MA vs PhD: In the US, students go from BA to the PhD program, right?. An MA is a consolation prize they give you if you drop out of the PhD after a year or two, right? In Canada the MA is a real degree. You go from BA to MA, then some students continue on to the PhD.

On the Keynes thing: in most/all MA programs, you will learn Keynesian ideas, as currently understood. But we don't call that "learning Keynes", because we don't usually bother tracing back the history of where all the ideas came from (except in history of thought courses). We don't spend much time on who put what ingredients into the pot. You will also learn Friedman's ideas, but you won't be "learning Friedman".

Nick, I've added something about money, and modified the bit about Keynes a little.

On the Keynes thing - there are a bunch of statements of interest/personal statements in circulation on the internet/used by agencies. I can infer their contents, to some extent, by what I see in the application files. I have no problem with people who've *read* Keynes, my concern is with people who cut-and-paste stuff about Keynes from a statement of interest that they've found on line.

What about Canadian students who wants to study overseas? Lets say UK? Any advice? I noticed you did your PhD at LSE, how did you feel it faired compared to the Canadian economic curriculum? More theory based?

Difei - studying the UK was a wonderful experience, particularly because I had an amazing PhD supervisor (Tony Atkinson). There is less course work in Europe than in Canada. Funding is harder to come by. Unless you are at a really top European university with an internationally known supervisor, it can be hard to break into the North American job market afterwards.

Basically, I wouldn't recommend studying in the UK unless you have substantial financial support from your parents and are a really top - A to A+ average - student. An MSc in Economics from the LSE will cost 21 thousand pounds *in tuition alone*, that's before you even take into account the cost of living in London. A student has to have an extremely high level of innate ability before that level of human capital investment will pay for itself. The less expensive universities, and the ones that will offer funding, don't have much credential value in the Canadian job market.


I am actually planning on getting an MA in econ and applying to Canadian programs. My plan is to study math through Multivariate Calculus and linear algebra. My understanding is that's all you need for MA, but for PHD they like Real Analysis.

Could you guys talk about what students do if they don't plan on getting a PHD? I have done some research and the general trend is that 1/3 go to PHD research, 1/3 go to public/non-profit institutions, and 1/3 to private industry.

One thing to consider is whether the school has a PhD stream. At Toronto, the MA program is split into a regular and a PhD stream, where PhD stream students take the PhD first-year level micro/macro/metrics by default. There are advantages if you think you'll be in academia for sure, but I'm not sure about the transferability of those credits to other schools.

More importantly, the department puts much more funding and aid to the PhD stream students. Going to Toronto for PhD stream would've been comparable to UBC for me, but regular MA would've been much more expensive.

I ended up going to my undergrad alma mater (UBC), as opposed to Toronto, in part because I didn't feel that their MA program would've pigeonholed me into a PhD later on while being strong enough to prepare for one if that's what I wanted (which, it turns out, wasn't).

JoeMac, I'll see if I can run some stats with the National Graduate Survey or the Census at some point.

One thing to remember - there's a lot of back and forth between private industry and government - historically Bay Street has recruited from the Department of Finance, so the best way to get a top private sector job is to start out at Finance or the Bank of Canada (see, e.g. Don Drummond).

Another thing - the past is not necessarily a good guide to the present. As the % of students going onto MAs explodes, the career paths MA students follow will change also.

Kelvin - do you have any other thoughts/advice/insights you can share? It's really valuable to hear a recent student's perspective on this.


Do you know what sort of jobs "economists" have in the private finance industry. I am assuming some sort of analyst.

JoeMac - I really don't know, these private sector types hang out at the Canadian Association of Business Economists https://www.cabe.ca/jmv2/index.php. If you search their job listing and their consultants directory it gives you some idea of what private sector economists do.

Helpful post Frances, I've circulated it to all our majors, who I guess technically aren't applying from overseas, but who mainly have arrived here from their fairly recently. I'm sure they'll find it edifying.

One thing to remember - there's a lot of back and forth between private industry and government - historically Bay Street has recruited from the Department of Finance, so the best way to get a top private sector job is to start out at Finance or the Bank of Canada (see, e.g. Don Drummond).

I have pursued various posts in the federal Public Service. If you wish to pursue a position in a federal Department, do yourself a big favour: learn French. I repeat, LEARN FRENCH!!!

No, it's not that hard. Ottawa is the centre of the universe for French as a Second Language instruction for English-speakers. There is a plethora of FSL academies in Ottawa. The Canada School of the Public Service, next door to the Mint publishes a curriculum and drill sets for instructors to follow.

When applying for any position of interest to anyone educated in the Public Service, BBB (medium level, A = low, C = high; reading/writing/speaking) is par for the course for any federal job ad. If it isn't required, it is usually an asset. If you show up with FSL training, it really helps, it is one of the easiest elimination criteria to use. Plus in all Federal job apps, you must prove your claims.

The Treasury Board has a policy that all positions in the National Capital Region are BBB by default. So if you wish to work at Finance, learn French.

If you wish to practice, there is lapresse.ca (free) and tou.tv, the official and fully legal download website for Radio-Canada. It's your public broadcaster, you paid for it.

Learning French and proving it with results in hand is more impressive than showing up in a suit and tie, in fact you might not get the chance to use that suit and tie if you don't make the effort in French.

To be totally clear, this a pro-French post.

ANd if you want to learn french, you can also go to telequebec.tv, also fully legal.
To La Presse ,add The Gazette. You all know what I think of them but they cover the same subject as LA Presse at the same language level. Another way of cross checking is to listen the the news on CBC-Newsworld and Radio-Canada-RDI. Onmce againi, similar subjects at the same level of subject depth and language level.

And to complicate matters, in Québec, both in English and French universities, BA is a real diploma, as the introduction and general culture courses are dealt with at the CEGEP level. Always better to go further, but with a BA, you are a professionnal, if somewhat minor, economist.

JoeMac, Frances - Most private sector economists do not practice economics as there is little profit in optimizing utility curves. You can find them anywhere and everywhere. Economists do tend to cluster around the corporate functions of finance, operations, and strategy.

On the value of preparation, the Public Service Commission runs the Second Language Evaluation tests for the Public Service as a whole. The Reading Test is easy, a little study will get you a B. The Writing Test, however, is a known Anglo-trap; they put known Anglicisms in there and other tricks known to trap, confuse or defeat Anglophones. You really need to prepare with a school for that one, money well spent. The Oral Interaction test, which I have never taken, is also one you need to prepare for professionally. Casual French won't cut it. I've seem prep materials for it.

If you live in a Really English part of Canada (i.e. not Quebec, Ottawa or New Brunswick), your spoken French skills are likely not good enough right now and you don't have anyone to practice with. You need professional preparation. Luckily there is a market full of service providers willing to serve you.

After taking my own advice, I get the kick of following Quebec politics in French. I've seem some howlers in La Presse to match what Jacques has seen in the Gazette. Or seeing the MP for my Really English Riding get mentioned in La Presse for a minor scandal he was involved in.

Jacques Rene - Then there's the one site that's vital for truly understanding Quebec language and culture: tetesaclaque http://www.tetesaclaques.tv/collection/par_vues,/a>.

Determinant: that's why I recommend to my students ( both french and english) wishing to be bilingual in the two languages to read both these newspapers, if only for the linguistic experience and the entertainment value, as life is a tragedy for those who feel and a comedy for those who think. They fit well together. As my granma would say: "Chaque guenille trouve son torchon". (Each old towel find its own rag...).

Note to foreigners: In Canada,usually being bilingual does not mean speaking two languages. It means speaking english and french,hence the expression "bilingual in both (official) languages. If you speak english and mandarin, you speak two languages, not THE two languages. It seems that Montréal is the city in North America with the most trilingual peoples ,as immigrants learn both french and english while keeping their native tongue. And of course, most people manage both F&E on a daily basis. Though Salt LAke City is highly language -proficient, as the Mormons return from their missionary work.

Anyone who enjoy tetesaclaques is my kind of people.
Canada is a very weird country.

I am always confused and some students may also confused about the course-based and thesis-based program. Is that just simply explained as a thesis based program is prepared for further education like pursuing for a PhD degree and course-based is prepared for the following career?

Jiahuan -

Great to see you on the blog!

Back in the day - 20, 30, 40 years ago - a lot of masters programs (the majority?) required a masters thesis or a masters essay. For example, when I did my MA at Queen's, every student had to write an essay or a thesis. That's just the way it was.

These essays and theses were a lot of work for everybody - students, faculty - and meant that students took a lot longer to finish their degrees.

So, over the past 20 or 30 years, many if not most masters programs have eliminated their essay requirements. I think University of Ottawa has one, and I think Universite Laval does too. I don't remember how many others *require* students to write an essay or thesis, as opposed to having it as an option.

It's not true that a thesis based program is generally considered to be better preparation for doing a PhD and a course-based program is better preparation for a career. Often employers place a lot of value on students being able to write an essay. I don't think - though others may disagree - that having written a masters essay or thesis is an advantage when you're applying to a PhD program. The PhD admission committee will look primarily at grades in the MA program and letters of reference.

Determinant: that's why I recommend to my students ( both french and english) wishing to be bilingual in the two languages to read both these newspapers, if only for the linguistic experience and the entertainment value, as life is a tragedy for those who feel and a comedy for those who think. They fit well together. As my granma would say: "Chaque guenille trouve son torchon". (Each old towel find its own rag...).

That's what I always think. On our best days, we bring out the best in each other. On the plus side, I see Sophie Cousineau has started to publish English-language articles in the Globe; she is a regular La Presse contributor. Chantal Hebert is the mainstay Francophone who publishes in the English-language media. Times must be getting a bit tough for Mme. Cousineau to be looking for work in English newspapers.

Canada is a very weird country.

Canada is a country that is impossible in theory but in practice works quite well. Just don't look at the theory, it's a dog's breakfast. Our guiding motto has been to never let the perfect stand in the way of the workable.

Since this thread seems to be about how to adapt to CDN universities and cultures: Cousineau is good in part because she restrict herself to business coverage, a totally different remit from economics. Times are not hard at La Presse. Unlike the rest of Nort America, the print press is still vialble in QC. La Presse is not a big moneymaker but sales are holding up. Having a column is more of an exchange of favors between leading media. Lysianne Gagnon long had a column in the G&M and some anglo commentators had space in La Presse.
Jay Brian, at The Gazette has the good sense of consulting wiser people (such as Stephen) before writing. Reguly at the G&M usually refrain from pontificating about things he know nothing about. One can learn things from those people. On the other hand, I know no one who caan write cogently about economics. They are pundits in the worst sense of the word, like those who, despite all the data, were stil predicting a close race between Obama and Romney.

Canada has always worked better when the humble practitionners were in charge. Notably , the three greatest prime ministers (Mackenzie King,St-Laurent and Pearson), to whom we owe one of the best managed, decent country available. And it is ,in the end, ungovernable when it is left in the hands of visionnary thinkers like Trudeau who mucked up the efficient compromises worked by his predecessors.

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