Why should I choose UT-Austin over other master’s programs in Economics?
Our program offers the perfect combination of rigorous preparation, flexible curriculum, and personalized advising. We have a proven track record of placing over 140 students into PhD programs, including those at the very top-ranked institutions. Students who are interested in making a more direct impact in the non-academic sector can pursue a wide-range of job opportunities by tailoring their coursework to focus on specific economic subfields or on recent advancements in data science and analytics. And to help you determine which path is best for you, our program faculty and staff meet regularly with students in one-on-one settings to develop those personal mentoring relationships. You also get to live in Austin, TX, one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. with big employers like Amazon, Google, Meta and a thriving start-up ecosystem. See for yourself what our students and alumni have to say about our program in these testimonials.
My goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in Economics. How does the M.A. program compare to a pre-doctoral fellowship or full-time position as a research assistant?
There are many great “pre-doc” opportunities out there. If you already have solid academic preparation for PhD studies and have also built up some strong research skills, then you might benefit from conducting research full-time with a faculty member in a “pre-doc”. These opportunities can confirm for you whether you are interested in pursuing an academic research career, and the letters of recommendation from your faculty supervisor can certainly help your application to a PhD program. In contrast, our program is designed to teach you new skills across a variety of economic subfields. These skills – real analysis; formal mathematical models used in microeconomics and macroeconomics; advanced techniques in econometrics, causal inference, machine learning; programming in Python and R – will prepare you to thrive in a PhD program or as a researcher/modeler/analyst in the private sector. Here, you have the opportunity to interact with a range of distinguished faculty and to network with a cohort of peers with similar strengths and interests.
We’ve even had some students do both! A handful of students have completed our accelerated 10-month track before working as pre-doc fellows at MIT or the University of Chicago. Likewise, we’ve had students that worked in research positions before determining that they needed additional preparation in formal math and economics in order to survive the demands of the first year of a rigorous PhD program. Each person’s situation and preparation is unique, so we want you to find what works best for you!
My goal is to pursue a career in the private sector. How will the M.A. program prepare me for this?
Yes! Our flexible curriculum will allow you to tailor your degree to the types of positions you are most interested in. See our placements for the wide range of industries that our alumni call home: banking and finance, management consulting, economic litigation consulting, public policy, and the tech sector. Given the increased industry demand for quantitative skills in data analysis, we offer a number of practical courses to train you in coding (python, R, and STATA), machine learning, causal inference, and time series analysis and forecasting. Starting Fall 2023, students will have the opportunity to participate in a capstone practicum experience, doing completing projects for real-world clients.
Can I learn more by attending an information session or visiting the department?
Yes! We host multiple virtual information sessions each year and would love to introduce you to our faculty, staff, and students. Click here to register. If none of the listed times work for you, please contact us for more information.
If you are in Austin, you can arrange a campus tour through UT’s admissions office. They also offer a virtual tour online. If you’d like to visit the Economics department or arrange to sit in on a master’s class, please contact us. Please note: Visiting the department prior to being admitted does not increase your likelihood of admission.
Can I apply without an undergraduate degree in Economics?
Yes. Applicants are expected to have strong quantitative skills and some exposure to undergraduate economics courses, but we have had students with degrees in a wide variety of fields (Mathematics, Computer Science, Engineering, etc.) succeed in our M.A. program.
Can you tell me whether I’m likely to be admitted before I apply?
No. We can only evaluate complete applications. Please do not email us your GPA and GRE scores and ask if you’re likely to be admitted. We advise applicants to target a quantitative GRE score of 160-170, but we review applications holistically and do not impose score or GPA cutoffs or place undue weight on any single aspect of an application.
Can I apply to the Ph.D. program and the M.A. program simultaneously?
To avoid complications, please do not apply to both the Ph.D. program and the M.A. program at the same time. Applicants who apply to both programs simultaneously will be billed two separate application fees by the Graduate and International Admissions Center (GIAC), but will not receive a refund for the secondary application fee if applying to the M.A. program after being denied admission to the Ph.D. program.
If I have been denied admission to the Ph.D. program, can I subsequently apply to the M.A. program?
Yes. You will not be required to pay another application fee, but you will need to submit another application through GIAC. After you have officially been denied admission to the PhD program, contact our applicant hotline for application instructions.
Does the M.A. Economics program qualify as a STEM Designated Degree?
Yes! As of July 2018, the M.A. curriculum is classified as a STEM designated degree program. Under the STEM OPT Extension, international M.A. Economics program graduates are eligible for an additional 2 years of STEM OPT (Optional Practical Training) beyond the standard 1-year OPT authorization already available. Detailed information about the 3-year STEM OPT designation, and STEM OPT eligibility requirements, is available on UT Austin’s International Student and Scholar Services website.
How long does it take to complete the program and earn my degree?
Students have the flexibility to complete their degree in as little as 10 months or as long as two years. All students begin their coursework in July, during the second half of UT-Austin’s summer semester. About half of our students will follow an accelerated timeline and earn their master’s degree by May of the following year. Other students may make fewer courses each semester or take part in internships, completing their degrees in 18-24 months. The choice is yours.
Does the M.A. degree require a thesis or special report?
Though there are opportunities for independent study, we do not offer nor require a thesis or report option. M.A. degree requirements consist of completion of 30 credit hours of approved coursework. Several of the elective courses do require research papers, however, and these papers often become writing samples suitable for submission as part of PhD applications. For students interested in careers in data science, elective classes provide opportunities to build a portfolio of project-based work, and starting in Fall 2023, interested students may also enroll in a Data Science Practicum to engage in consulting projects for real-world clients.
Can M.A. students take other courses at UT-Austin?
M.A. students are permitted to take 2 “cross-listed” elective classes (of the 10 total classes required for the degree) outside of the M.A. Economics curriculum. Classes outside the standard M.A. curriculum include pre-approved Econ PhD classes, select advanced undergrad Econ classes, and graduate-level classes offered in other academic units, such as the Business School, the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the School of Engineering, the Law School, and the Math and Computer Science departments. We coordinate with other departments/units to offer a few of these on an ongoing basis, but many are arranged for upon request by individual students through advising consultation with our Program Director (e.g., many cross-listed elective offerings reflect individual student interests). We don’t list cross-listed elective courses on our website because they are not part of the standard M.A. curriculum and they are subject to availability (which varies each semester), as well as instructor/department approval.
Will the M.A. program prepare me for Ph.D. study?
Yes. The program is designed to be a pathway to PhD study for those students wishing to continue their graduate studies. Moreover, you will have grades in six M.A. courses prior to most PhD application deadlines (for the following year). Students from our program have been successful in receiving admissions offers from the very top-ranked doctoral programs and have been successful in passing first-year qualifying exams at those institutions.
Can M.A. students transfer directly into the Ph.D. program at UT-Austin?
No. An M.A. student must submit a separate application for admission to the Ph.D. program. Outstanding students will be encouraged to do so, and each year the department’s PhD admissions committee accepts a handful of students who have performed very well during their master’s studies.
Tuition and financial aid
Are M.A. students eligible for financial aid?
All students are evaluated for potential merit-based tuition reductions, but students are not eligible for University financial aid (grants or scholarships). Many students will finance their degree through personal savings, students loans (federal financial aid or private bank loans), or external fellowships/funding. Click the Tuition link for additional information.
Can I receive a TA or RA position with admission?
No. Assistantship (TA or RA) positions are not available for M.A. students. Students may engage in research with faculty on an unpaid basis, for course credit, or may be employed on campus in “non-academic” employment positions, e.g. conducting data analysis for institutes on campus or administrative divisions of the University. These positions are not assigned upon admission; students can apply for them once on campus.