How can I get ready for a grad program in econcomics?
July 27, 2006 4:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm about to enter a graduate program in economics, but as an undergrad, I studied anthropology and sociology. I'm feeling really out of the loop. What do I need to do, learn, or get to be ready for econ at the graduate level?

I picked up a minor in economics in my last two years, so I have a general idea of what I'm getting into (and yes, I've taken steps to get comfortable with heavy math again). I'm feeling pretty good about being ready to keep up with the actual material in class. It's mostly the more peripheral things that have me worried. Stuff like software, standard writing formats, etc- is there some word processor or add-on I should have to be able to include formulas and whatnot in my work? What's the standard method of citation? Is it REALLY worth it to learn Tex, and do I really need to upgrade my student edition Office to Professional? Is there anything that pretty much everyone else will have been exposed to that I should get familiar with?

Are there any particular economists or theories people tend to drop into conversation, books I should be sure to keep around, websites to bookmark, or publications to keep on top of? Any general tips would be appreciated, too- advice on how to stay motivated and not drive myself insane would be great. I'm going straight from undergrad to a master's program in a subject I've only taken 6 courses in- I just want to minimize the disadvantage as much as humanly possible. And I'd maybe even like to be able to get people's jokes.
posted by laura763 to Education (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It really depends on what kind of graduate program you're doing. Is it a Ph.D.? MA? Straight up econ or something more specialized?

I'd say there are a few things you ought to do:

1. Learn Stata or something equivalent. You will need it for any empirical work you do.

2. Buy and read Mas-Colell (
It is the Micreconomics bible.

3. Though you did say you're ready for the heavy math, have a look at Chiang's Fundamental Methods of Mathematical Economics (

Best of luck!
posted by VillageLion at 4:36 PM on July 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Whoops, you said it's an MA. All of my advice still holds. I'd say understanding the content of the Chiang book is the most important.
posted by VillageLion at 4:37 PM on July 27, 2006

For publishing, everyone's going to LaTeX except for us biomedical luddites still kickin' it with Word(and lawyers, for whom WP is still the standard, strangely enough).

I wouldn't pay money to upgrade your copy of office, but it is useful to have. You can download all kinda data analysis add-ons for excel that should work in all versions, I believe.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 5:01 PM on July 27, 2006 has a bunch of information, some of which you might find helpful.

I second learning LaTeX, and certainly learn some programming in Stata/SAS/Matlab/RATS/whatever your department uses.
posted by thrako at 6:02 PM on July 27, 2006

We just went through this here on AskMeFi, about a month ago.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 6:32 PM on July 27, 2006

Make sure your quantitative skills are sharp. The quant methods courses in a typical econ program are more rigorous than in sociology. A good way to transition from thinking like a sociologist to thinking like an economist is to read the works of sociologists writing in the rational choice tradition. Michael Hechter and James Coleman come to mind. You can read all about the gulf between mainstream sociological thought and mainstream economic thought by checking out the article "Beyond Rational Choice Theory" in the 2003 Annual Review of Sociology. Good luck in graduate school. I personally think your sociological imagination will make you a better economist.
posted by Crotalus at 8:37 PM on July 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Second learning STATA. Odds are, if it (or SPSS, or whatever your program uses) is used by the program, you can get a good discount on it through either the bookstore or (as it is where I am) through a faculty member who acts as a point of contact. I'd recommend it heartily, as STATA is at least an arm and a leg to buy direct from the company.

FWIW, it's an exceptionally powerful package, and I found it easy to learn at least the basics. There are, unsurprisingly, tons of books on how to make STATA tick. Do a little recon--go to computer labs in the building where the Econ dept is housed and see what stats packages they have, then poke around with it.

On an unrelated note, I think Weber's probably not a bad way to start thinking about sociology in economic terms (I'm guessing you've read Weber ad nauseum).
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 9:53 PM on July 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

I know you have a major in anthro/soc, but I'm curious as to how you get into a master's program in economics having taken only a few courses?

I wonder because I'd like to do a master's program in psychology but they require six prerequisites.

It's strange to me.
posted by onepapertiger at 6:27 AM on July 28, 2006

Response by poster: I didn't have a lot of choices; since I didn't want to spend a year taking calculus classes locally after I graduated, I didn't meet the requirements for a lot of programs. I just applied to the few schoools that I was qualified for. With my particular situation, I think it helped that I was in anthro and soc rather than, say, comparative literature, because there is a ton of really relevant crossover and they could see from the courses I'd taken (a lot of development studies and even more on capitalism and labor) what my interests would be in studying economics.

the econ minor probably didn't hurt, either.

there is probably a program somewhere with prerequisites you could meet if not already, then after a summer of taking a few classes. it just won't be your dream program. for that, you're probably stuck with all the prerequisites.
posted by laura763 at 7:38 AM on July 28, 2006

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