A Guide and Advice for Economists on the U.S. Junior Academic Job Market

That is a new paper (pdf) by John Cawley, here is the abstract:

This guide, updated for the 2014-15 job market season, describes the academic market for new Ph.D. economists and offers advice on conducting an academic job search. It reports findings from published papers, describes practical details, and provides links to internet resources. Topics addressed include: preparing to go on the market, applying for academic jobs, the AEA’s new electronic clearinghouse for the job market, signaling, interviewing at the ASSA meetings, campus visits, the secondary market scramble, offers and negotiating, diversity, and dual job searches.

Here is some of the good news from the paper itself:

National Science Foundation data indicate that Ph.D. economists have the lowest unemployment rate (0.9%) of any doctoral field,
as well as one of the highest median salaries of any doctoral field. Finally, the vast majority of people are happy with the outcome of their search. Of the new Ph.D. economists in 2001-02, 94% reported that they liked their jobs very much or fairly well (Siegfried and Stock, 2004).

For the pointer I thank Bruce Bartlett.

Comments

How do B.S. and M.S. economics compare? I think PhD econ has breadth and depth advantages over engineering for example but practical sTEm may have an advantage in applied jobs.

We need immigrants to do STEM work, current STEM workers are too expensive for such lowskilled work.

Maybe, but maybe we could start by doing less harm if what we are subsidizing reduces supply of sTEm. Also, since I spent some of a previous life offshoring plants it might not be the upper sTEm that is too expensive if many of the offshore plants get their technical services from the US parent.

The BS and MS in econ are computer science-lite with a generous side of statistics. Hopefully you come out with good skills in R or SAS or some other mainstream statistical programming package. Hopefully you come out with real project experience either through internships or work with a professor, in which you dealt with complex data and a real problem. Do that and you are very employable by a wide assortment of firms. If you are smart enough, you can probably just double in compsci and stats or compsci and business.

The advantage the PhD is going to have over the undergrad in econ comes from the much greater depth of their statistical knowledge, and (hopefully) much larger experience in working with data. However, for their age they usually lack business experience and managerial experience. It's risky to put a new PhD in a leadership position. But, in theory, they understand how to approach difficult problems.

When I was on the PhD-econ job market in 2006-2007, I got offers from at least one academic department, think tank, and government agency. The guide in the post applies well to all of them. Research/analytical and communication skills are widely prized, regardless of who 'pays.'

Oops ... mine was a response to a (now) deleted comment, apologies for the random remark. I do think this is a great guide ... could add a section on what a blast it is to do the cross-country job search in the winter. Good luck job market candidates.

The way I see it, the 'hard work' is done by STEM immigrants, who can't communicate well, while the Americans who speak good English and are smart, like Claudia, become economists or teachers, a softer discipline. Such is the modern economy. You cannot credibly have an economist on staff who speaks pidgin English, unless that person is a superstar in their country or has done original path-breaking work. Economics is to a degree more art than science, akin to fortune-telling. And for that you have to look and play the part. I bet that in Japan or Italy for example the 'superstar' economists speak good Japanese or Italian, but, if economics was a hard science, that would not necessarily be the case (think about it: economic truth is invariant of language is it not? So why should language matter? Since it does, ergo econ truth is not invariant and depends on other factors).

I am not sure if I agree... STEM people have a much higher rate of people with severe communication issues than economics...and is independent of their origin

Ray, if we are going to play data points ... I have a brother who is an engineer at a bio-tech start up. (I admit he does work hard too.) Also I consider math a form of communication for economists. There are a lot of non-native English speakers who study and work successfully in the US as economists. It's not really a soft-skill discipline, though some soft skills can be helpful.

What do you think of this? It is hard skills applied to soft problems? I have tweaked Finite Element Analysis and chemical process simulation and now I work in Biology and guess which I think is "harder."

@Andrew' - well, if you are like the physicist Leo Szilard, probably biology is harder than physics, at least that's what he purportedly said. He was a colorful character, read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le%C3%B3_Szil%C3%A1rd

Damn, Ray. I can't thank you enough for breaking down finance/econ/systems work into the same front of the house/ back of the house dichotomy you see in the hospitality industry.

This despite my father telling me in the 80's that you had to cut your teeth doing 'back office' work. Literally never thought of a house and an office as being analogous and the roles the same. Economists are paid for their 'face'. You just blew my mind.

Yes, quite right. Just finished a book (Dark Pools, Scott Patterson) on HFT traders and indeed while the backend can be profitable (HFT deals with trade execution, or back end), usually the front end, as you say, is more profitable (selling stocks/buying stocks, deal making, etc). Also, even in the backend, the "nerd hero" of the book, a certain Joshua Levine (reportedly never photographed, who designed from scratch the first HFT system, parts of which became Island and later sold to Instinet/Nasdaq), got much less money than the bosses of the same (the front end to the back end if you will), even though they depended on him almost entirely, namely his bosses Maschler and Citron; I understood implicitly that Levine much have felt conflicted since his bosses must have owned the copyrights to the code, and Levine did not feel like reinventing / clean rooming the code somewhere else (see what happened to Sergey Aleynikov, who did not have such scruples, and who luckily got off from a lengthy prison sentence on a technicality).

In short, it pays to be a bull-sitter, as any DC wonk/pundit/talking head can tell you. Pretty much that's the modern trend too. Wait for somebody else to be the pioneer (the hard work, the back end), steal or borrow or ingratiate yourself and take their innovation, and profit from it (the front end). The front end > back end and 'appearances are reality'. Madison Avenue / Mad Men win again.

Every analyst just became a hostess in my mind and I like it.

Is this incredibly centralized, structured system unique to economics? I'm really curious how it came about...

There's absolutely nothing at all comparable in computer science and engineering (and I don't think there's anything similar in other branches of science and engineering either).

Marketing and management have similar structured systems, but a larger secondary market for those who don't match the first time.

I'm still really curious how it happened. Is it a recent (Internet-era) practice? Or did it evolve from a snail-mail and phone system?

It seems like there must be some strong contingency here, Pretty much all university departments have roughly the same hiring problem - matching recent PhD's to open faculty positions. Why is the econ/business/marketing solution so....different?

The basics of (1) jobs are posted, (2) application materials are sent, (3) short list (of 30 or so candidates) is created and interviewed at the AEA meetings in December/January, and then (4) even shorter list (3-4 candidates) is flown out to a campus interview in the spring semester has been around for a long time. I don't know how long - I'm pretty sure it goes back at least until the 1970s (because I know people who took jobs in the 1970s), and I'm guessing it might have started before then based on stories I've heard. I've also heard that other meetings (particularly the Southern Economic Association annual meetings in November) used to have a larger presence in the hiring process (I think there are still some interviews conducted at the SEAs). I went through this process in the mid-2000s. As mentioned in the paper, the centralized application submission process that the AEA has is brand new.

There are certainly exceptions. People do get preemptive offers (and it's not always the Ivies or top 10-25 schools making those offers). Sometimes jobs get posted late and the person hired doesn't go through all of those steps with the hiring university.

All of that sounds really easy, but keep in mind that initial stage of reviewing applications involves getting a list of 30 or so candidates from a pool of somewhere between 200-500 applications, depending upon the focus of the search (~350 is the most I've seen so far, but I haven't gone through an "Any Field" search, in which case I imagine we would get 500+ applications, though they are certainly not all freshly minted PhDs). So it's a bit of a chore to whittle down the list, but the problem of coordinating a time and location for everyone to be at is solved by just having the initial 30-60 minute interviews at the AEA meetings. I'm not sure how that became the focal point, but my guess is that many people were going to the meetings anyways, and they would have informal interviews with candidates, and then other schools realized that many candidates were going to be there so they could talk to multiple candidates at once ... and then the process that exists now developed.

"Of the new Ph.D. economists in 2001-02, 94% reported that they liked their jobs very much or fairly well."

Since they'll never have to pick up anything heavier than a ballpoint and live in a world even more subjective than that of musicians, they probably do like their jobs.

Celebrate manual labor! Denigrate the arts!

1905 called, they want their ethos back.

ouch

Koch University.

That is the best way for a young econ grad to get a job.

This is a story about how the Koch Brothers sought, and got, the right to approve econ faculty hires at Florida State University:
A conservative billionaire who opposes government meddling in business has bought a rare commodity: the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly funded university.

"A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University's economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting "political economy and free enterprise."

Here is the link: http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/billionaires-role-in-hiring-decisions-at-florida-state-university-raises/1168680

You mean, exactly like George Soros and whoever is paying Krugman to chair the inequality desk? Or are those different because they are liberal?

Or that when it is the Ford foundation or The Fed, or the government doing the ideological screening those are different because they are unbiased?

Andrew, Point out how any of those other institutions sought to approve faculty appointments.

For positions they paid for? I bet a lot of those kinds do.

So, what you are trying to say, is that Koch's $1.5 Million has way more influence than Soros $400 Million because Koch gets to veto professors appointed with his money?

(as if you don't believe Soros wouldn't veto professors, and if he doesn't get that hands on it is either because he wouldn't have the first clue how to, or because he vetoes whole departments)

Hah, I was half kidding about blatantly vetoing whole departments. Turns out it isn't even that subtle.

"Bard is also the home to a department created by Soros’s now ex-wife for her to run. The Bard College Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture was created by Susan Weber (formerly Susan Weber Soros) after she was turned down for another job. As the New York Times described, “Mrs. Soros was turned down for the job of director of graduate education at the Cooper-Hewitt/Parsons School of Design. So with $20 million of her husband’s money, she started her own school.”"

Excep this doesn't count since this is a graduate program in furniture. Soros would never do similar things with his hundreds of times more funding to universities in important schools.

Note there is nothing ideological in my words.

It is just that I can recognize that the first one who comes to mind is way worse than the only one on the libertarian side.

And the fact that it is not even an even playing field and Soros is kind of an idiot because academia already does what he pays for for free.

If you want to endow a chair within academia to counterbalance statism, you would be a fool not to verify.

We have the concrete example of Central European University in Budapest, a first class graduate studies and research institution largely founded with Soros's largesse, and decidedly independent throughout its history of Soros's own preferences in hiring.

Be nice now Bill, this Blog would not be here without the generousity of the Kochs!

By all means, be mean here, be a total dick, just don't be a stupid fuck.

Like PA who made some comment about economists who are donor-funded policy advocates.

Oh wait, except that all economists are donor-funded policy advocates.

Ever had an economist knock on your door trying to sell you a chair? No.

See the Department head's synopsis of what is likely a very typical negotiation process between donors and departments.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/did-fsu-let-billionaire-buy-professorships/2011/05/15/AFwzdR4G_blog.html

The initial proposal by the CGK was that it be allowed to participate as part of the search committee. The economics department rejected this proposal and instead demanded that the department go through its standard search process first, after which the advisory board would review the department’s shortened list and indicate which candidates CGK found attractive. The Koch Foundation did not give the Department of Economics a list of names; in fact, it was the other way around — the department gave such a list to the foundation.

Furthermore, Florida State University was well represented on the advisory board. The committee was made up of three members. One is still a faculty member in the economics department who is a widely respected scholar (both inside and outside the department and the university) and is the holder of an Eminent Scholar Chair at FSU. Another advisory board member was also a faculty member of the economics department, also highly regarded within his field, and also the holder of an Eminent Chair. (This faculty member has since left the university but remains on the committee.) The third advisory board member was an employee of the CGK who is a Ph.D. economist.
******
I asked Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, former president of George Washington University, about how much control donors should get over hires. He said they shouldn’t have any -- but.

“I once got a gift from Kuwait, and they wanted to dictate who got the [endowed] chair,” Trachtenberg said. “And I said, ‘Guys, a gift is a gift. This is not a transaction. If you give me the money I’m going to use it to hire the best person I can. I’ll be happy to give you advance notice and if you really have objections, I’ll take them under consideration. And if I think it is really offensive to Kuwait, I will respect that. But even I am not going to unilaterally hire a faculty member. This is done through a process in which faculty play a big role. And no, you cannot have veto power. Those are the terms.”

Almost identical. But thanks for trying. Will the next fuckwit please step up.

In Bill's article, the arrangement is "shocking, shocking! And totally unheard of."

Except the Kochs themselves have at least two other such arrangements.

And of course there are likely many similar arrangements, probably just as formally laid out, but definitely informally. Except liberals only find them where they look for them. Do you think they find George Soros withdrawing support from a disappointing department if they don't feverishly look for it?

No. They look for what the Kochs do that is basically the same as what others do except on a MUCH smaller and underrepresented scale.

"Bruce Benson, chairman of FSU's economics department, said that of his staff of 30, six, including himself, would fall into Koch's free-market camp."

Why all the anger Andrew? Is it really necessary to insult everyone? We're discussing economics, not having a fist fight.

Feel free to read this:

http://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/topic/excellence_in_philanthropy/summa_cum_philanthropy

or this

http://capitalresearch.org/2002/11/giving-to-college-endowments-how-colleges-violate-donor-intent-what-donors-can-do-about-it/

I read way more of this than I care to admit. It all looks like pretty standard stuff.
https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1292464-kochcostsbenefits.html

Pay particulare attention to pages 3-6. Looks pretty reasonable. Basically, Benson contends that if they can accept some hires, and the Kochs can accept those hires, FSU gets the money and hires and Koch gets to give them the money. So far, there is just no There There.

Sure, flush top-tier universities can afford to tell donors who would like their wishes honored to piss off. That doesn't actually mean anything. Why do we think that endowed chairs are structured with the university holding the permanent gift? Think about it. It isn't that hard. Your donor's wishes are very important to them. Please stay on the line to talk to a very concerned representative.

Some of the policies I've scanned in the last 15 minutes don't actually say one way or the other. In all likelihood this means that it is subject to negotiation. Likely these negotiations involving Keynesianism and statism don't get looked into and "exposed," and likely don't even need to be delineated in the first place because the university is already biased towards statism. But if you know the academy is biased against your wishes than you either need to pass on a donation or demand some form of assurance.

The reason donors want to have their wishes honored is obvious. They are their wishes. The reason they might take measures to make it happen is because universities are shameless mercenaries who grab the money rather than saying, "no thanks, we'd rather not have to fulfill this promise to endow a chair in classical liberalism, we'd rather do whatever we want, and we don't want to appear to compromise because people mistakenly believe we have academic integrity when what we really have is adequate endowment" No, they take the money and THEN try to do whatever they want. This is all such common sense. Why exactly Koch has the huge set to try to make it happen and why people find this shocking are open for discussion. They don't truly find it shocking, of course. They just know universities doing whatever the hell they want has a statist bias and they call this academic freedom (except when their guys do it).

If one simply must impugn someone, it has to be Florida State. Except that doesn't even work either if FSU is simply making a good-faith effort to improve their department, which it appears they are. How it actually went down appears to be that the Kochs asked for the moon and Florida State offered a rejoinder. And it was basically that Florida State created a large list (~400) of acceptable candidates, Koch ixnayed something around half (initially 60% but that was whittled down), and then Florida State ultimately hired people that Koch had neither rejected nor approved from the initial list. It really just isn't that hard to find someone acceptable to people who want classical liberal economics, and it shouldn't be that surprising. They apparently just don't want those people replaced with professors who are aggressively pursuing an agenda, just not theirs, or professors not pursuing anything other than a cush gig. Again, it makes perfect sense.

Yeah, Yeah, Yale, you are ethically pure and beyond reproach with your billion dollar fungible endowments that you use to feather your nests instead of honor the wishes of the donors. Call me when you break down the metal detectors of a PS#_ and kidnap a bunch of inner city school kids and boost their human capital. Until then, shut up. You have nothing to say to me.

From my perspective, the greatest flaw in the paper to which Tyler linked is this: "...the guide is primarily targeted to applicants to research universities..." This is a flaw because by far the majority of university positions are not at research institutions. For job-seekers to follow this advice without taking into account (a) where the jobs are and (b) where they are likely to be positioned among candidates means that many of the candidates will make very bad decisions in the job search process.

People who don't teach at research universities are not producing the next generation of professors and Beltway types, and so can be safely ignored for the rest of their careers. They are the court eunuchs of the republic of science.

The "next generation" of professors has to go to college before it can go to grad school. And while research universities provide the undergraduate education to a big chunk of those future grad students, liberal arts colleges produce more than their share (per capita) of future PhDs.

Please explain how the quoted employment figures sit with Table 10: where postgraduation plans of new PhDs in 2012 are described, 9.2% are looking for employment. How is this consistent with 99% employment?

Simple. The 0.9% unemployed number refers to all doctored economists, not just one not-yet-graduated cohort. And the 9.2% listed in that table is people who made definite plans to undertake further study. The last block, seeking either employment or further study is 18.3%.

p.29: "One former job candidate who ended up being ten minutes late to an interview because a cab driver couldn’t make change for a $20 bill ..." So here we have a brilliant young economist who traded LESS than $20 against the valuable time of several professional economists (how much was the opportunity cost of 10 minutes for each of the interviewers?) at an event that could affect the candidate's permanent income and lifetime utility. Wouldn't everybody have been better-off if the taxi-driver had kept that change? Talk about penny wise and dollar foolish. Even a starving, liquidity-constrained graduate student should be a bit more forward looking in those circumstances. Life is an economics test.

The advice about combining two interviews in a single trip is sound and provides obvious airfare and time savings. But don't take it too far; in a single trip I did three on-campus interviews with no off-days between them. That was exhausting. Three interviews in one trip would've been okay but I should've had a rest day in there somewhere.

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