The Department of Economics offers a Master of Arts degree. The
program specializes in preparing students to enter PhD programs in
Economics and typically around two-thirds of our students view the
program as a springboard toward this end.
We have achieved a very good placement record in this respect. In the
past 10 years our MA students have entered PhD programs with financial
aid at highly ranked schools such as Yale, Michigan, Indiana, Southern
California, North Carolina, Purdue, Illinois, Vanderbilt, Michigan
State, Emory, and Texas A&M, amongst others.
Specific placement data (all with financial aid) for the last three years follows:
- Fall 2010: University of Iowa, Florida State University,
University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Kentucky, West Virginia
- Fall 2011: University of Kansas, University of California Santa Cruz, Georgia Tech, Univeristy of Concordia.
- Fall 2012: Michigan State, Indiana University, Notre Dame,
Western Michigan University, University of Hawaii, Florida International
Because we are (1) a relatively large MA program with around 30
students, and (2) have so many students interested in using our program
as preparation for PhD studies, we are often able to offer specific
elective classes, such as a second Microeconomic Theory class and a
class on Dynamic Optimization - classes which are specifically geared toward preparing students to succeed in the micro and macro sequences in a PhD program.
We also allow students to take up to 6 of the 30 credit hours toward
the MA outside of economics and many of our students take graduate level
calculus (real analysis) and statistics to further bolster their
The department views a research experience as crucial to student
intellectual growth. Consequently we encourage students and faculty to
work closely on research projects - co-authorship between students and
faculty on scholarly publications is encouraged. Furthermore, all
students must complete a thesis or a substantive research paper. We
strongly believe that the quality and extent of student-faculty
interaction are strengths of our program.
In addition to core courses in microeconomic theory, macroeconomic
theory, mathematical economics, and econometrics, the department offers
applied courses in various fields of economic analysis. These fields
include international economics, growth and economic development,
industrial organization and game theory, monetary economics, public
finance, economic history, and the history of economic thought. For
valuable general information about graduate studies in economics visit this link to the American Economics Association.
1. How long does the program take?
The MA is a 30 credit hour program. The program is designed to be
able to be reasonably completed in three semesters. Some (very few)
students finish in one year by taking 12 credit hours during each
semester and writing a thesis (6 credits) over the summer. Many
students, particularly those who arrive in our program in the fall with
the intention of enrolling in a PhD program 24 months later, complete
the program in 4 semesters while taking additional courses in
mathematics or statistics. While the majority of our students enter the
program in the fall semester, we do allow students to enter the program
in the spring and have catered our course sequencing so that spring
enrollees can still develop a sensible curriculum over their 3-4
2. How large is the program and what types of students does it attract?
We typically have around 30 students in the MA program. Around
two-thirds of our students are international, coming from nations such
as China, Romania, India, Nepal, and Nigeria. The remaining third of our
students are from the United States, most coming from the state of
3. What is the faculty like?
We have an active and scholarly faculty who publish in the fields
they teach. We involve graduate students in the research process and all
graduate students will work closely with faculty on at least one
research project. Our faculty, in the past, have collaborated and
published in reputable refereed journals with our students.
4. What is the best preparation for success in the program?
One needs not have been an economics major to succeed in our program,
but we hope that you will at least have taken through the second level
(intermediate) microeconomics and macroeconomics. Because graduate
economics courses are usually heavily mathematical, you must have at
least some calculus and statistics. A course in linear algebra is also
suggested. Our program can certainly be used to prepare a student who is
missing some of the mathematics prerequisites for a PhD program as you
will learn mathematical techniques and applications in our program and,
as mentioned above, students may also take up to six hours of graduate
courses outside of economics (e.g., mathematics or statistics) and have
them count toward the 30 hours of the MA program.
5. I am interested in pursuing a PhD at a North American
university. Why should I choose CMU's MA program as my best preparation?
Many of the students who have enrolled in our program over the past
several years did so because they did not receive offers of financial
aid from any high-quality PhD programs prior to coming to CMU. These
same students, upon completion of our program, were able to receive such
offers (see our specific placement data above). More and more, an MA is
being looked at as a requirement for admission into highly-ranked PhD
6. I'm not interested in a PhD program. What else can an MA in economics do for me?
About one-third of our students view the MA as a terminal degree
which will give them a leg up over students who simply have a Bachelor's
degree. In particular, our program provides graduates important
quantitative and data analysis skills which are desirable in the
workplace. CMU offers an excellent Data Mining Certificate Program (18
credit hours), and several of our students have doubled up and completed
our MA and this certificate. A very ambitious student could possibly
get both the MA in Economics the Data Mining Certificate in two calendar
years by taking 12 credits per semester as well as a class or two over
the two summers. Jobs in both the private and government sector look
favorably at the skills acquired through our MA program.
7. Do you offer financial aid?
We offer financial aid on a competitive basis. All students who are admitted into the program will automatically be considered for financial aid.
There is no separate application. We typically make aid decisions in
March for fall admission (and in September for spring admission, if we
have any aid left - typically we have a little) so you should be sure to
get your application in by the first Monday in February to give the College of Graduate studies time to process your application and get it to us before we make these decisions.
[Note that the College of Graduate Studies offers fellowships to
truly outstanding students - we have typically had one or two of our
best students win these fellowships each year. The deadline for this
application is February 1. For more information go to Fellowship Application.
8. Do you require letters of recommendation?
We do not require letters explicitly, but almost all candidates do
(and should generally) provide them. Letters can be sent directly to the
College of Graduate Studies or you can collect them from your
references and have them sign their name across the back of the envelope
and include them with your application packet.
9. Do you require the GRE for admission?
While we do not explicitly require students to have taken the GRE for
admission, it is generally looked upon favorably when we make financial
10. Is there a research/writing component to the MA?
Yes. Students can either choose to write a thesis (which accounts for
6 credit hours) or what is called a "Plan B" paper which is a shorter
research paper (typically around 25-30 pages whereas a thesis may be
50-70 pages) written under the guidance of a faculty member.
11. Where do I sign up?
Go to the Graduate College web site for more information or Apply Online.
If you have further questions contact the Graduate Coordinator: Dr. Jason Taylor, email@example.com.