(MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

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Texanbybirth
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(MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by Texanbybirth »

Happy Sunday everyone.

I’ve been accepted into Johns Hopkins University’s Masters in Applied Economics program for Fall 2020. I was originally excited to start this program, but as the deadline to back out approaches, I’m getting cold feet. If you’ve got anything to say to help me out, please feel free to be as brutally honest to an internet stranger as you’d like. :-)

Pros:
- it’s all online, which is nice because I don’t live anywhere near DC (also a con later)
- due to an inheritance the tuition could be almost completely covered so this will have little impact on my family’s finances. (See opportunity cost con below, though)
- I’m interested in Econ. I currently have my CPA, but I don’t like to read about accounting AT ALL outside of my work hours. My BS in Econ was supposed to be a stepping stone 10 years ago to a PhD (even took several extra math courses to beef up my apps), but I let some (internal and external) discouraging voices tell me to just go get a secure job (CPA) instead. (I won’t deny those voices might be influencing me again here.) I can listen to podcasts about Econ, and read articles (not so much books) about it for long periods of time without realizing it.
- I’ve got about 10 free hours a week in my current job that could be used for this program, so right now it wouldn’t affect my family life too much
- I work in the back office for a finance (stocks, trying to not be too specific) company now so I think this would make logical sense for a career move when I’m done with the program, especially in terms of network and possibly my resumè.
- my wife (SAHM) is totally onboard with this, even saying “just go for it for at least a semester and re-assess after.”

Cons:
- it’s online, so although it’s a somewhat prestigious university I have no fantasy that the name will mean as much as taking the degree in-person (maybe I can be a stellar networker, especially with the profs, to somewhat make up for this but I’m not the best networker)
- I’m mid-30s with a wife and three young children, with another on the way. It seems insane to commit to this - but remember the last “pro” above - and I could think of a dozen other things I could do with the ~$50k this program will cost.
- I’d use VERY little of this degree in my current role. My work wouldn’t pay for a dime (small finance company), the most I’d get upon graduating would be an “atta boy”. So unless this is just an ego stroke for me, I’d have to justify it by changing jobs/careers upon graduation. One friend went so far as to say he’d be hounding me in about a year and a half asking where I’ve applied so far.
- I could take some courses on LinkedIn Learning or coursera to satisfy my intellectual itch and see if this is really something I want to pursue, either now or in 10-15 years when life settles down.

So I hope the above gives a good overview of where I’m at and can help you provide any helpful comments/relay your own experiences.

Thank you in advance!

(ETA: just FYI, I have discussed this with many trusted friends as well, which has really helped me distill the above. I do appreciate the opinions/thoughts on this board to a degree, too.)
Last edited by Texanbybirth on Sun Aug 30, 2020 3:25 pm, edited 3 times in total.
“The strong cannot be brave. Only the weak can be brave; and yet again, in practice, only those who can be brave can be trusted, in time of doubt, to be strong.“ - GK Chesterton
brad.clarkston
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by brad.clarkston »

I don't see a real downside other than your having a early mid-life crises. Ether buy a new Tesla or do it :)

I would do it if I was you. Don't think about changing jobs until you need to, life is short.
Topic Author
Texanbybirth
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by Texanbybirth »

brad.clarkston wrote: Sun Aug 30, 2020 3:21 pm I don't see a real downside other than your having a early mid-life crises. Ether buy a new Tesla or do it :)

I would do it if I was you. Don't think about changing jobs until you need to, life is short.
“Early mid life crisis”, yes it feels that way. Reading my post now, it sounds that way, too. Lol!

Thank you.
“The strong cannot be brave. Only the weak can be brave; and yet again, in practice, only those who can be brave can be trusted, in time of doubt, to be strong.“ - GK Chesterton
mecht3ach
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by mecht3ach »

I think that it is useful to look at why someone might typically get this degree, and see if those reasons align with your goals and interests:

1) Their credentials aren't quite strong enough to get into a funded PhD program, and this is a way for the profs to get to know them and maybe transition to such a program;
2) Their employer requires a post-bacc degree for advancement in position, and will often contribute something financial to that degree, with the understanding that the employee then has a period of being locked into that company during the 'pay-back' time;
3) They want to transition to a new job, have a clear path in mind, and know that this degree is a necessary credential (or one of the necessary credentials);
4) They are interested in transitioning to a new job, and don't have a clear path in mind, but feel confident that the networking contacts (fellow students, profs, visiting industry speakers, etc.) they will make will open doors for them; and/or
5) They just really love the subject, and have the money to spend to indulge their interest.

From your description, it doesn't really sound like this is a perfect fit (#5 might be the best match). Also, you should be aware that there is a fairly substantial perceived gap between Economics and Applied Economics in terms of the intellectual rigor of the two fields (I think this is mainly baloney, but it is there). Since you are doing this on-line, the networking will be very difficult. Normally, if this is a degree that has both in-person and on-line students (I think that is usually the case, but I don't know what is happening due to Covid), the in-person students will suck up all of the oxygen in the room. If you are in a limited window where everyone is on-line, you might be able to overcome this, but with just 10 free hours/week, I imagine that this is going to stretch over a considerable amount of time, and *hopefully* things will be back to some sort of normal before you are close to finishing. (Fwiw, 10 hrs/week is about what you would need to take one 3- or 4-credit hour class, if you didn't already know that; generally, multiply by 2-4x the course hours for the actual workload for most graduate classes.)

Finally, you should be aware that there is a pretty substantial difference between on-line/remote learning and in-person learning, even with the programs that do it the best. You can take a great on-line class (or classes), but there is still an awkwardness there that makes it feel a bit less exciting than one in the classroom (I've been involved with remote classes, on and off, for over 20 years, starting back when we mailed out videocassettes). If you just want to absorb information, you can do that, but if you want the buzziness of a heated classroom discussion, where people are talking over each other in excitement, and the ideas are jumping around like grease on a grill, that is much, much harder to replicate.

Sorry to be such a downer, and good luck with whatever decision you make! I'm sure there are others on the board that can make a counterpoint.
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bottlecap
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by bottlecap »

What are you going to do with the degree you earn, or did I miss that?

If you don't have a plan, don't bother. You can learn far more about economics on the internet (or through books) than you can in a classroom. So if this is just an "interest" thing, do that. If this is a "I need a degree because I plan to do 'x' with it", then go for it.

I think economics can be fascinating, especially if you consider many of the various "schools" and their differences. Classes usually don't give you that breadth of knowledge. So in my opinion, a degree in it is worthless unless you need it as a prerequisite to a particular career move. And I have a degree in the subject from a prestigious school.

JT
student
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by student »

I don't quite understand. Is getting this degree part of your career goal or for personal growth? If it is for personal growth, I would save the money and read some textbooks yourself.
Normchad
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by Normchad »

Don’t do this.

Unless you just love learning, there is no tangible good reason to get a masters in economics.

If you really want one, get somebody else to pay for it. Apply for PhD programs, and just exit with a terminal masters, for example.

Masters degrees are cash cows for universities. I know Hopkins has a great reputation, but I bet they will let almost anybody into this program. And everybody knows that too, so the market value for the online Hopkins Econ MA degree is basically going to be zero.
JPM
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by JPM »

Rude of me to say but it sounds overly self-indulgent for a father of four unless it leads to a significant improvement in earning power.
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Texanbybirth
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by Texanbybirth »

mecht3ach wrote: Sun Aug 30, 2020 3:40 pm ...
Sorry to be such a downer, and good luck with whatever decision you make! I'm sure there are others on the board that can make a counterpoint.
Thank you. I appreciate your approach and your comments, and I think your list of 5 is very helpful for me to situate myself. No worries about being a downer; I opened myself up to that with this thread.
Normchad wrote: Sun Aug 30, 2020 8:13 pm Don’t do this.

Unless you just love learning, there is no tangible good reason to get a masters in economics.

If you really want one, get somebody else to pay for it. Apply for PhD programs, and just exit with a terminal masters, for example.

Masters degrees are cash cows for universities. I know Hopkins has a great reputation, but I bet they will let almost anybody into this program. And everybody knows that too, so the market value for the online Hopkins Econ MA degree is basically going to be zero.
Thank you. I remember reading about Masters being cash cows. I’m not so sure I’m cut out for a PhD at least.
JPM wrote: Sun Aug 30, 2020 9:16 pm Rude of me to say but it sounds overly self-indulgent for a father of four unless it leads to a significant improvement in earning power.
Not rude, don’t worry. Blunt and good to hear. I know it, too, on a certain level. I do not believe it would lead to a “significant improvement in earning power.” Thank you for taking the risk to be so direct.
“The strong cannot be brave. Only the weak can be brave; and yet again, in practice, only those who can be brave can be trusted, in time of doubt, to be strong.“ - GK Chesterton
GreendaleCC
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by GreendaleCC »

OP, I am worried for you. In my opinion, this is a terrible idea, and you SHOULD have cold feet.

I'm going to break this down into 4 areas of evaluation:
  • Career transition
  • Current job
  • Program curriculum
  • Family impact
Before I get started, I do want to share my support for your idea of a career-change into an economics-related job. However, based on what you've shared, you're not ready for it and this is not the way to do it. More on that later.

Career transition
I work in the back office for a finance (stocks, trying to not be too specific) company now so I think this would make logical sense for a career move when I’m done with the program, especially in terms of network and possibly my resumè.
So unless this is just an ego stroke for me, I’d have to justify it by changing jobs/careers upon graduation.
Stop right here.

What exactly is the "career move" that makes "logical sense"? To echo others, you have not shared a career move with us.

Please be explicit: "I want to be a [job title]" or "I want a job where I perform [specific types of tasks]."

What you've written is not the rationale of a serious career-changer. It doesn't sound like you know what economics-related work you're aspirating to move into. Have you identified the type of work that you want to do?

It's ok if you don't know, but this master's program is not the way to pursue this self-discovery process.
My BS in Econ was supposed to be a stepping stone 10 years ago to a PhD
I’m not so sure I’m cut out for a PhD at least.
Economists devise and execute economic research agendas. Do you want to do that professionally? If you're not sure you're cut out for a PhD, the answer is probably a strong "No." Realistically, it sounds like maybe you're shooting for some kind of "economist-lite" role, like a policy analyst or some type of data analyst. I don't mean this in a derogatory sense.

Your enthusiasm for economics as a hobby reminds me of the people who love playing video games, so they go get jobs as video game QA testers, and then come to hate video games once they become repetitive, mind-numbing work.

From what you've explained here so far, this is the sequence of events you're trying to sell us on:

(a) went to college for economics
(b) pressured to work in accounting-related roles for ~10 years in the financial sector
(c) get an MS in Applied Economics, and
(d) career-change into an undefined role that's economics-related because you enjoy reading about economics (except for books)

If someone told you this, what would you think? How would you make this more compelling for an interviewer?
One friend went so far as to say he’d be hounding me in about a year and a half asking where I’ve applied so far.
(maybe I can be a stellar networker, especially with the profs, to somewhat make up for this but I’m not the best networker)
As you seem to potentially recognize, making this type of career change is not going to be an "I added an MS in Applied Economics to my resume, now I will go apply to jobs online" type of scenario.

You need to be doing informational interviews. Leading up to your job search, you'll need to connect with people inside organizations you'd want to work for. This will be tough if you can't articulate what type of job you're looking for. You have not yet helped us - the internet strangers - understand what type of economics-related positions you think you'd want to pursue.

You work at a finance organization that presumably might have teams building models using the types of methodologies taught in this master's program (maybe?). Have you found these people? Have you talked to them? Have you identified anyone doing the type of economics-related work that captures your imagination?

What about your Econ classmates from college? Are any of them in a position to offer useful insights?

Based on what you've shared, it does not seem like you have any idea of what career change you're trying to make, other than this vague idea of "changing jobs/careers upon graduation."

Current job
I’ve got about 10 free hours a week in my current job that could be used for this program, so right now it wouldn’t affect my family life too much
This makes it sound like you could spend 10 hours each week at work on your schoolwork. Am I interpreting this correctly?

If so, do you have any concerns that you're currently working at 75% capacity, assuming a 40-hour week? How secure is your job? How will you be viewed as someone spending 2 hours each day on a degree that's irrelevant to his job? You get what I'm saying.

What if your position changes and you no longer have 10 hours of slack time each week? What if you get a new supervisor who doesn't think you should have 10 hours of slack time each week?

Program curriculum

I'm a curious guy, so I looked up this program's requirements:
Ten courses are required to complete the Master of Science in Applied Economics: four core courses, one advanced econometrics course, and five additional elective courses.
Core courses:
  • Microeconomic Theory
  • Macroeconomic Theory
  • Statistics
  • Econometrics
"Our students have undergraduate degrees in a range of fields," which means that these are going to be introductory courses for all your classmates who didn't study economics previously. You majored in economics in college. This 40% of the degree does not seem like a good use of your time. Do you really want to pay $4,724 for each of these refresher courses on the basics? You could literally take these courses anywhere.

-- Admins, feel free to remove this section if you feel it runs afoul of "personal relationship advice" --

Family impact
my wife (SAHM) is totally onboard with this, even saying “just go for it for at least a semester and re-assess after.”
I think there are two important words missing here: “just go for it for at least a semester and WE WILL re-assess after.”

When she's taking care of a baby and three little kids, and you're spending time on intro to economics courses you already took in college, what will that reassessment look like?

When she's taking care of a baby and three little kids, and you have no real plan to leverage this time and money into your idealized economics-related job ("I’d have to justify it by changing jobs/careers upon graduation"), what will that reassessment look like?

-----

Moving forward

Ok, here's what I think:
  • You have 10 hours of free time at work each week - is it possible you're feeling bored / underutilized or wishing for greater career progression (?)
  • You regret not attempting a career in economics earlier and want to see if you can play catch up
  • There is something you like about economics, but it's not clear whether you know how to translate that into a specific type of job
Here's my recommendation - once you identify the aspects of economics that compel you to change careers:
  • Figure out what "economics work" is done by people without PhDs
  • Figure out what "economics work" positions might view your current background as an asset/strength
  • Figure out who could tell you more about the work described in the previous two bullets
  • Spend your 10 free hours per week talking with these people and figuring out how to gain relevant experiences (outside of a classroom)
  • Do stuff to exercise and showcase the skills that are a match with the "economics work" you've identified
  • As you do all of this, make sure you're building a story that makes your proposed career change sound reasonable to anyone listening
I know, this is all easier said than done - and it might not even lead to success - but I think it'll save you a lot of time and money. And, as others have alluded, JHU Online Studies will always be there to accept your money at a future date.

Finally, this short article, What's Your Story?, might give you some good food for thought.
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Texanbybirth
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by Texanbybirth »

bottlecap wrote: Sun Aug 30, 2020 6:16 pm What are you going to do with the degree you earn, or did I miss that?

If you don't have a plan, don't bother. You can learn far more about economics on the internet (or through books) than you can in a classroom. So if this is just an "interest" thing, do that. If this is a "I need a degree because I plan to do 'x' with it", then go for it.

I think economics can be fascinating, especially if you consider many of the various "schools" and their differences. Classes usually don't give you that breadth of knowledge. So in my opinion, a degree in it is worthless unless you need it as a prerequisite to a particular career move. And I have a degree in the subject from a prestigious school.

JT
student wrote: Sun Aug 30, 2020 8:00 pm I don't quite understand. Is getting this degree part of your career goal or for personal growth? If it is for personal growth, I would save the money and read some textbooks yourself.
"What are you going to do with this degree?" is a question that keeps coming up. I appreciate that posters keep returning (me) to that question.

I don't know have a better idea than that I've looked at some (senior) quantitative analyst (manager/director) positions that involve work I'd find interesting (fact-finding across teams, building models, communicating findings to team members & decisions makers, etc.) at companies in my industry that I respect - DTCC, BNYM, some other big banks. These positions list quantitative degrees ("preferred" seems to be masters level) as qualifications. Thus, getting a masters.

What I'm hearing from others is that there may be many paths to such a career change, and some of those paths are almost certainly cheaper than a $50k degree.
“The strong cannot be brave. Only the weak can be brave; and yet again, in practice, only those who can be brave can be trusted, in time of doubt, to be strong.“ - GK Chesterton
bsteiner
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by bsteiner »

mecht3ach wrote: Sun Aug 30, 2020 3:40 pm ... you should be aware that there is a fairly substantial perceived gap between Economics and Applied Economics in terms of the intellectual rigor of the two fields ..t.
Would people generally be aware of this?

Someone I know got a master's in economics (I don't know whether regular or applied) and became a partner at Goldman Sachs.
GreendaleCC
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by GreendaleCC »

Texanbybirth wrote: Mon Aug 31, 2020 8:50 am I don't know have a better idea than that I've looked at some (senior) quantitative analyst (manager/director) positions that involve work I'd find interesting (fact-finding across teams, building models, communicating findings to team members & decisions makers, etc.) at companies in my industry that I respect - DTCC, BNYM, some other big banks. These positions list quantitative degrees ("preferred" seems to be masters level) as qualifications. Thus, getting a masters.

What I'm hearing from others is that there may be many paths to such a career change, and some of those paths are almost certainly cheaper than a $50k degree.
This is super helpful to know.

If "(fact-finding across teams, building models, communicating findings to team members & decisions makers, etc.)" is your goal, can you figure out a way to learn to build models, demonstrate in a tangible way that you can build models, and connect with folks who can recognize that the "preferred" quantitative master's degree is not necessary in your case?

And, if necessary, are there opportunities to do this in a less competitive (non-bank) organization, which might serve as a stepping stone back to banking?
mecht3ach
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by mecht3ach »

bsteiner wrote: Mon Aug 31, 2020 8:59 am
mecht3ach wrote: Sun Aug 30, 2020 3:40 pm ... you should be aware that there is a fairly substantial perceived gap between Economics and Applied Economics in terms of the intellectual rigor of the two fields ..t.
Would people generally be aware of this?

Someone I know got a master's in economics (I don't know whether regular or applied) and became a partner at Goldman Sachs.
For Goldman Sachs, or a similar firm, I would say that it doesn't matter nearly as much. Someone at a GS partner-level would probably be aware of the distinction, but the guts and grit in the field matter more than the credentials by the time you make it to that tier. It's more important if you want to go into a field related to economic policy, or continue with another degree later on (since OP mentioned originally being interested in a PhD when he was an undergrad).
rhe
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by rhe »

Texanbybirth wrote: Sun Aug 30, 2020 10:38 pm I’m not so sure I’m cut out for a PhD at least.
In any case, very few people get an econ PhD after having substantial work experience. My impression, though, is that business school PhD students (accounting, marketing, strategy, etc.) are often older. I'm not suggesting that this is an obviously good thing to do, but rather if you are having second thoughts about not having done the PhD, people with substantial work experience would likely be valued at a business school. The entry requirements also seem to be lower than straight econ. The MS in applied econ would likely not be helpful in this case.
Valuethinker
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by Valuethinker »

GreendaleCC wrote: Mon Aug 31, 2020 2:23 am OP, I am worried for you. In my opinion, this is a terrible idea, and you SHOULD have cold feet.

I'm going to break this down into 4 areas of evaluation:
  • Career transition
  • Current job
  • Program curriculum
  • Family impact
Before I get started, I do want to share my support for your idea of a career-change into an economics-related job. However, based on what you've shared, you're not ready for it and this is not the way to do it. More on that later.

Career transition
I work in the back office for a finance (stocks, trying to not be too specific) company now so I think this would make logical sense for a career move when I’m done with the program, especially in terms of network and possibly my resumè.
So unless this is just an ego stroke for me, I’d have to justify it by changing jobs/careers upon graduation.
Stop right here.

What exactly is the "career move" that makes "logical sense"? To echo others, you have not shared a career move with us.

Please be explicit: "I want to be a [job title]" or "I want a job where I perform [specific types of tasks]."

What you've written is not the rationale of a serious career-changer. It doesn't sound like you know what economics-related work you're aspirating to move into. Have you identified the type of work that you want to do?

It's ok if you don't know, but this master's program is not the way to pursue this self-discovery process.
My BS in Econ was supposed to be a stepping stone 10 years ago to a PhD
I’m not so sure I’m cut out for a PhD at least.
Economists devise and execute economic research agendas. Do you want to do that professionally? If you're not sure you're cut out for a PhD, the answer is probably a strong "No." Realistically, it sounds like maybe you're shooting for some kind of "economist-lite" role, like a policy analyst or some type of data analyst. I don't mean this in a derogatory sense.

Your enthusiasm for economics as a hobby reminds me of the people who love playing video games, so they go get jobs as video game QA testers, and then come to hate video games once they become repetitive, mind-numbing work.

From what you've explained here so far, this is the sequence of events you're trying to sell us on:

(a) went to college for economics
(b) pressured to work in accounting-related roles for ~10 years in the financial sector
(c) get an MS in Applied Economics, and
(d) career-change into an undefined role that's economics-related because you enjoy reading about economics (except for books)

If someone told you this, what would you think? How would you make this more compelling for an interviewer?
One friend went so far as to say he’d be hounding me in about a year and a half asking where I’ve applied so far.
(maybe I can be a stellar networker, especially with the profs, to somewhat make up for this but I’m not the best networker)
As you seem to potentially recognize, making this type of career change is not going to be an "I added an MS in Applied Economics to my resume, now I will go apply to jobs online" type of scenario.

You need to be doing informational interviews. Leading up to your job search, you'll need to connect with people inside organizations you'd want to work for. This will be tough if you can't articulate what type of job you're looking for. You have not yet helped us - the internet strangers - understand what type of economics-related positions you think you'd want to pursue.

You work at a finance organization that presumably might have teams building models using the types of methodologies taught in this master's program (maybe?). Have you found these people? Have you talked to them? Have you identified anyone doing the type of economics-related work that captures your imagination?

What about your Econ classmates from college? Are any of them in a position to offer useful insights?

Based on what you've shared, it does not seem like you have any idea of what career change you're trying to make, other than this vague idea of "changing jobs/careers upon graduation."

Current job
I’ve got about 10 free hours a week in my current job that could be used for this program, so right now it wouldn’t affect my family life too much
This makes it sound like you could spend 10 hours each week at work on your schoolwork. Am I interpreting this correctly?

If so, do you have any concerns that you're currently working at 75% capacity, assuming a 40-hour week? How secure is your job? How will you be viewed as someone spending 2 hours each day on a degree that's irrelevant to his job? You get what I'm saying.

What if your position changes and you no longer have 10 hours of slack time each week? What if you get a new supervisor who doesn't think you should have 10 hours of slack time each week?

Program curriculum

I'm a curious guy, so I looked up this program's requirements:
Ten courses are required to complete the Master of Science in Applied Economics: four core courses, one advanced econometrics course, and five additional elective courses.
Core courses:
  • Microeconomic Theory
  • Macroeconomic Theory
  • Statistics
  • Econometrics
"Our students have undergraduate degrees in a range of fields," which means that these are going to be introductory courses for all your classmates who didn't study economics previously. You majored in economics in college. This 40% of the degree does not seem like a good use of your time. Do you really want to pay $4,724 for each of these refresher courses on the basics? You could literally take these courses anywhere.

-- Admins, feel free to remove this section if you feel it runs afoul of "personal relationship advice" --

Family impact
my wife (SAHM) is totally onboard with this, even saying “just go for it for at least a semester and re-assess after.”
I think there are two important words missing here: “just go for it for at least a semester and WE WILL re-assess after.”

When she's taking care of a baby and three little kids, and you're spending time on intro to economics courses you already took in college, what will that reassessment look like?

When she's taking care of a baby and three little kids, and you have no real plan to leverage this time and money into your idealized economics-related job ("I’d have to justify it by changing jobs/careers upon graduation"), what will that reassessment look like?

-----

Moving forward

Ok, here's what I think:
  • You have 10 hours of free time at work each week - is it possible you're feeling bored / underutilized or wishing for greater career progression (?)
  • You regret not attempting a career in economics earlier and want to see if you can play catch up
  • There is something you like about economics, but it's not clear whether you know how to translate that into a specific type of job
Here's my recommendation - once you identify the aspects of economics that compel you to change careers:
  • Figure out what "economics work" is done by people without PhDs
  • Figure out what "economics work" positions might view your current background as an asset/strength
  • Figure out who could tell you more about the work described in the previous two bullets
  • Spend your 10 free hours per week talking with these people and figuring out how to gain relevant experiences (outside of a classroom)
  • Do stuff to exercise and showcase the skills that are a match with the "economics work" you've identified
  • As you do all of this, make sure you're building a story that makes your proposed career change sound reasonable to anyone listening
I know, this is all easier said than done - and it might not even lead to success - but I think it'll save you a lot of time and money. And, as others have alluded, JHU Online Studies will always be there to accept your money at a future date.

Finally, this short article, What's Your Story?, might give you some good food for thought.
I think the systematic approach outlined here is a very good one and this is very good advice.

I don't think this is a "terrible idea". At least in the UK, most government and regulatory economists do not have PhDs but Masters degree is typical. Same in consulting I think.

But it might not be the right answer and it probably needs the sort of systematic thought and research outlined here.
GreendaleCC
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by GreendaleCC »

GreendaleCC wrote: Mon Aug 31, 2020 2:23 am OP, I am worried for you. In my opinion, this is a terrible idea, and you SHOULD have cold feet.
Valuethinker wrote: Tue Sep 01, 2020 4:36 am I don't think this is a "terrible idea". At least in the UK, most government and regulatory economists do not have PhDs but Masters degree is typical. Same in consulting I think.
Personally, I think this program looks cool, especially the quantitative methods electives. It seems like this could be a nice choice as a credential to demonstrate some economics knowledge and quantitative skills for career enhancement purposes.

For a dramatic career-change, I think the activities happening outside the classroom in full-time programs (or outside one's normal position at work) are the critical stuff.

I will qualify my earlier "terrible idea" comment by saying that I think this might not do very much for a would-be career-changer in the OP's situation.

Thank you for your kind words about my post, Valuethinker!
Valuethinker
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by Valuethinker »

rhe wrote: Tue Sep 01, 2020 12:09 am
Texanbybirth wrote: Sun Aug 30, 2020 10:38 pm I’m not so sure I’m cut out for a PhD at least.
In any case, very few people get an econ PhD after having substantial work experience. My impression, though, is that business school PhD students (accounting, marketing, strategy, etc.) are often older. I'm not suggesting that this is an obviously good thing to do, but rather if you are having second thoughts about not having done the PhD, people with substantial work experience would likely be valued at a business school. The entry requirements also seem to be lower than straight econ. The MS in applied econ would likely not be helpful in this case.
Actually, not.

I.e. top business school academics almost all come directly from academic phd programmes in their chosen field. Organisational behaviour. Strategy. Finance. Accounting. That would be true of any of the top 50 business schools if not top 100.

They may have some experience in consulting and they may have worked for a couple of years pre PhD, but that is it. What the schools want us to raise their research ranking & that requires young newly minted PhDs.

You do get some schools that have adjuncts who had long business careers but adjuncts are often very poorly treated.
brnm219
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by brnm219 »

I graduated from a very similar program offered by the University of Maryland (in-person classes in DC, right down the street from the JHU program I believe). Everyone's points of caution here are valid, but it ended up being a great decision for me, for somewhat specific reasons. I'll lay them out below and you can decide how much they apply to you.

-I'd majored in economics a decade ago in undergrad, but took minimal econometrics classes. I ended up in an IT role that had nothing to do with economics, but like you I've always been very interested in the subject. I took as many econometrics classes as I could in my masters, and doing so allowed me to confidently apply for DC area econ and policy jobs and eventually switch careers into a more fulfilling area.

-In DC, a ton of interesting job opportunities want a masters of some sort, even if it's only slightly related to the job. I think this is silly and I'm sure someone skilled enough could get past these requirements without an advanced degree, but the reality is having a masters makes the job search much easier.

-Most of my fellow students ended up in government, policy research or non-profit roles. Here's a link to my program's upcoming career fair participants: https://umd-csm.symplicity.com/events/s ... ONfall2020 . If you're interested in jobs like this, I think an MS in Applied Econ is a pretty ideal choice.

-A few people in this thread have recommended an econ PhD instead, but the math required to get into a PhD program is miles beyond what a masters like this requires. I think of this program as a more quantitative and useful masters of public policy program,

-I ended up in a risk management role as a financial institution, where most of my contemporaries have MBAs that cost double or triple what I paid. I doubled my old salary and make low six figures, with lots of room for advancement, so financially it worked out great for me.

Anyway, that's my story, and the particulars may or may not apply to you. If you want to switch to a policy/econ type role, or you want to work in DC, I think it could be the right decision. One thing to note though, is that if you end up at the World Bank or Federal Reserve (two of the cooler places other students went to work in my opinion), it seems like your advancement is going to be limited by not having a PhD. I think this applies to a lot of other econ policy organizations too, not so much financial services though. Not sure about government.
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JPH
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by JPH »

I don't know the answer, but if you have been accepted, why decide before you have tried it? You might love it or you might hate it. At that point your decision is easy.
While the moments do summersaults into eternity | Cling to their coattails and beg them to stay - Townes Van Zandt
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patrick013
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Re: (MS Applied Economics?) Help a Random Internet Stranger Decide

Post by patrick013 »

oh boy, MS in Applied Econ. Not an MBA-Econ with a
pragmatic approach. Algebraic tricks, algorithms,
pre-PHd statistics etc. leading to academic research
or whatever.

I suppose it's applicable to some employment but so
is geography and civil engineering.

Compare it to an MBA-Econ but if your future employer
wants all that extra math so be it. But I wouldn't go
over a Master's in any case. For all their "research"
and data smoothing only a few get published or even
make sense. The masters program should lead to
greater economic discernment anyway.

IMHO
age in bonds, buy-and-hold, 10 year business cycle
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