Navigating a career in economics

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“A study conducted by the Brookings Institute found that only 23% of Ph.D. economics faculty in academia are women and only 21% are minorities.” Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels

The field of economics has been scrutinized for its lack of diversity, especially within academia. A study conducted by the Brookings Institute found that only 23% of Ph.D. economics faculty in academia are women and only 21% are minorities. These shockingly low statistics uncover disparities within the field that must be remedied to make it more representative of the general population. 

To confront this lack of diversity, the UConn Economics Society held their first event of the semester which was a panel discussion titled “Diversity in Economics: Perspective and Advice from Faculty.” The event offered students the opportunity to hear from UConn economics professors about their experience with research, building connections and finding a path that aligns with their interests. The panel discussion highlighted the experiences of minorities in the field of economics and provided insight into advanced degrees and the importance of getting involved in research.  

Panelists noted that one of the most important things to keep in mind when entering any career path is to be your authentic self and allow your research supervisors to get to know you and be better able to guide you on your future career goals. In terms of research, all panelists agreed that the earlier you seek out research opportunities the better! 

“Having research experience can really help you figure out what area of economics you like and also whether you like research or not,” Daniela Vidart, assistant professor of economics, said.  

Like most other research-heavy majors, economics research is an intense process that requires a keen interest in the topic at hand and a curiosity to learn. The professors stressed the importance of fostering connections with professors to find research opportunities and find people who can write you letters of recommendation when it comes time to apply for graduate school. 

Prakash pointed out how the admissions process for graduate studies in economics is becoming increasingly competitive and, if you want to be accepted into a top-ranked program, you must work very hard to obtain a high grade point average in addition to having research experience and involvement on campus to stand out from the crowd.  

“Think about the traits that admissions committees will be looking for and that’s the trait you want us to also observe,” Nishith Prakash, associate professor of economics, said.  

Prakash pointed out how the admissions process for graduate studies in economics is becoming increasingly competitive and, if you want to be accepted into a top-ranked program, you must work very hard to obtain a high grade point average in addition to having research experience and involvement on campus to stand out from the crowd.  

If you are early on in your undergraduate career and feel overwhelmed about the pressure of becoming involved in research, you are not alone! Many students do not know how to find opportunities or where to search for them. The panelists recommended that attending office hours is a great way to forge connections with your professors and inquire about research opportunities. Additionally, simple things like paying attention in class and asking quality questions can help you stand out to your professors.  

The field of economics is becoming increasingly competitive and it is important to set yourself apart from the competition by seeking out research opportunities that will also allow you to figure out what you are interested in studying.  

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