25 Nov 2008

Grad School Bleg

I got this email:
I was wondering if you had any opinions about applied natural resource economics programs, I'm in the middle of applying to PhD programs... and thought you might be in the know about some programs.

I'm currently planning on applying to Minnesota, Colorado State, Oregon State, Berkeley, Davis... and a few others but would appreciate any suggestions.
Opinion? You want opinions?!?

Well, my first opinion is that you check who does ERE at any of these schools. Make sure there are enough people in your field. (Also remember that plans change; I went as a development economist and came out a resource economist.) Talk to them. If they do not return emails or phone calls, be prepared for the same treatment when you are trying to get your dissertation done. Also look at how many students are in each field. It helps A LOT to have peers.

Second, look where graduates go. If they all go into academic positions, it's probably not too applied.

Third, remember that you can move, but that's a pain. Most programs teach similar things and your experience is likely to be unique. My opinion is that it's hard to know the best place ex-ante and that most places turn out ok ex-post. (Also remember that optimizing life events is often a frustrating waste of time!)

Fourth -- read the comments that others leave here.


  1. These are all great tips; some that I wish I had thought about before choosing a school (although my experience ended up being very positive).

    I would add:

    - Talk to current students. Departments that want good students will go out of their way to set up these meetings.
    - Look for places with an active faculty. If they are researching and publishing on the frontier of their field, you will be too.

  2. I am currently at the department of Ag. and Consumer Economics at Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) for an M.S. in environmental economics. If I were considering a PhD, I would be pretty likely to stick around. Funding is good and professors are helpful (although that carries the usual variance). The departmental culture tends toward cooperation rather than competition. We've got a good deal of environmental folks working on water and ethanol, but the rest of the department does a lot of trade, commodities, and ag. related research.

  3. Thanks for the post, advice, and insider perspective David, Anon, and Luiz!

  4. Hey that's great advice, I'm applying to schools soon too. Is anyone else in a resource econ, ag. econ, or related department that has some opinion on their department to share?

  5. If you are interested in discussing graduate study at CSU, just give me or any of our other faculty a call or drop me a line. Cheers,
    Andy Seidl
    Graduate Coordinator
    Department of Ag and Resource Econ
    Colorado State University
    skype: afseidl

  6. I agree with everything that's been posted thus far, and would like to add:

    1. Visit in person if possible, and even if you can't, don't be afraid to ask any questions that might concern you. As David said, a non-answer has information content, too!

    2. Fit, in terms of your research interests and the manner in which you like to learn (relatively competitive vs. more cooperative), is more important than assistanship money. Don't make a decision based on dollars (you will not get rich going to grad school!) Make the decision based on people.

    Craig Bond
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Ag and Resource Econ
    Colorado State University

  7. I am a graduate student at Colorado State University. It is a good place to be. I have been trained well (I think) and I would recommend it to anyone. Funding is good, the mountains are great, and the people are better.


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