Preparing for Graduate School

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The requirements for the ACE degrees should be viewed by students as minimum standards. For students who might be interested in applying to graduate schools, the guidelines below suggest additional classes and activities that will position you well to apply.

In the guidelines below, classes marked with a * are available online from UIUC through NetMath.

Students may also want to visit the University of Illinois Graduate School website for more information on being a graduate student at U of I in general.

For all kinds of graduate programs:

1) Do a serious independent research project.

Rationale: Graduate school is different from undergraduate programs in that students must show much stronger independent academic motivation, and be able to work independently on research projects. The best way to demonstrate motivation and the capacity for independent work is to do an independent research project that is significant enough to yield a paper that looks like a journal article.

For MS programs in economics or agricultural/applied economics:

1) Calculus through Calc III (*MATH 241)

Rationale: You need this for microeconomic theory at the Master’s level. This is truly necessary if you want to do grad school in some form of economics.

2) Take ECON 202/203 instead of ACE 261

Rationale: The two semester sequence provides a better foundation for graduate statistics than the one semester class. This is truly necessary if you want to do grad school in some form of economics.

3)  Take more probability and statistics: examples are *MATH 461, STAT 400/410, ECON 471

Rationale: Economics is a highly quantitative field. Doing well in these classes shows you can handle quantitative material, and taking them will make statistics and economics in grad school much easier.

4)  Take ECON 302 early in your program and work to do well in it.

Rationale: Intermediate micro is a bread and butter class for applied economics; if your grade is low in this, graduate programs will wonder if you can handle graduate classes in the same field. As an aside, if you want to do a Master’s degree in economics, you might want to take intermediate macro as well even though that isn’t required for the ACE degree.

For a PhD in Agricultural and Applied Economics:

Do everything listed above plus the following:

1) Linear Algebra *MATH 415 - this is more important than the other two

Rationale: Graduate econometrics makes heavy use of linear algebra. This class is absolutely necessary to do a Ph.D. in applied economics.

2) Real Analysis   MATH 444

Rationale: This class provides math skills that are used in some parts of microeconomic theory at the Ph.D. level.

3) Set Theory.       MATH 432

Rationale: This class provides math skills that are used in some parts of microeconomic theory at the Ph.D. level.

Note: That ends up being a lot of math. You might consider getting a Minor in Mathematics while you’re at it!