Research Opportunities

 

Opportunities for Current Students

Academic Year

During the academic year, students who work with a faculty member may register for either ECON GU4996 Research Credit or ECON GU4995 Research Credit. Students registered for GU4996 will receive either 1 or 2 college credits and be charged for 1 – 2 credits (which is relevant only to students who pay by the credit). To participate in a faculty research project at no cost, GS students have the option of registering for GU4995 for 1 credit for which they will not be billed. In both cases, students will receive a letter grade on their transcript indicating that they worked as an RA. However, in the case of GU 4995, the 1 credit may not be used to fulfill the minimum credit limit of a Columbia degree.  Research positions typically entail 5-7 hours of work per week. Research credit may not be used as a substitute for elective or seminar requirements in the major. 

Finding a Position

At the beginning of the semester, the department sends out on the major listserv the names of faculty members who are looking for undergraduate research assistants. If you are not on the listserv then you may view these positions on the department wiki space Econ Info for Students. Note to access the wiki space, you must log in with your UNI and password.

Alternatively, if you have established a relationship with a professor (generally, in one of your classes) and he or she has already agreed to hire you as an assistant, then write to the DUS, Susan Elmes, and cc the faculty member on the email.

Skills

All faculty value RAs that work independently, pay attention to detail and are timely in their responses to faculty requests.  The skills needed to be a successful RA for a particular project will vary with the needs of the project. Some will require language skills and others, library or web search skills. However, the most common needs are for students with statistical and programming capabilities (Excel, R, Python, Matlab and STATA are the most popular languages). You will develop some of these skills in your economics coursework (especially in econometrics and the junior seminars). You can also develop these skills on your own (Columbia Libraries has resources for you to do so) or in coursework in the Computer Science and Statistics departments. 

Summer

Parker Summer Prize

The Parker Prize for Summer Research provides financial support for CC students who take unpaid summer internships that focus on research. A summer research internship can provide the foundation for an honors thesis or develop an interest in pursuing a graduate degree.  We award up to five prizes to underclassmen (juniors preferred but it is open to all economics students).  Preference is given to students working with Columbia faculty, but open to students who work as RAs at other institutions as well. All economics major, financial economics major or joint major in CC are eligible for this prize.  Students who are working with a faculty member during the academic year, should speak with that person about the possibility of continuing work over the summer. On occasion, there are summer only positions that become available in March and April. Those positions are distributed on the listserv and posted on the wiki page.

Business School

The Business School has a number of RA programs. One of these is a summer intern program. You can find information about all of their programs here.

Federal Reserve Banks and Board

All of the Federal Reserve Banks and the Board of Governors have summer research internship programs. To find out about these programs, you should visit the website of the individual bank or the Board of Governors.

Other

On occasion the department receives information about RA positions in other units at Columbia (e.g. the Law School) or outside of Columbia. We post these positions on the department wiki page.  You may also use the search tips for full-time opportunities below.  Many organizations, including most US government agencies, that hire full-time RAs will also have summer internship positions. 

Full-Time Opportunities for Graduates

Outside of a few large organizations (such as the Federal Reserve Bank of NY), there are very few recruiting events for full-time RA positions. Finding a position will require some research on your part.

Online Resources

 

         NBER posts links to job listings both at the NBER and outside of the NBER. These are listings for positions primarily at academic institutions.

         Resources for Economists is a website maintained by the AEA. On this page, there are multiple links to lists of organizations that frequently hire RAs. If you cannot easily find the job postings on the website for an organization, look under the “About” tab. Many companies put their employment opportunities and information under that tab. The primary links of interest would be:

  •              Forecasting and Consulting –you can find both US and International based organizations in this list. Some of the firms linked to on this page are:
    •          Conference Board
    •          Moody’s Analytics
    •          Macroeconomic Advisors
    •          Charles River Associates
    •          NERA
    •          Cornerstone
  •              Jobs, Grants, Grad School and Advice – most of these job listings are for post-doctoral positions. However, some of the websites listed under Job Openings also post positions for BAs. 
  •              Organizations and Associations – both academic and non-academic research organizations are listed here. Most are in the US but there are international listings as well. Non-academic research organizations include:
    •          American Enterprise Institute
    •          Brookings Institute
    •          Mathematica
    •          Rand
    •          Urban institute 

·         EDIRC maintains a database of over 13000 economics departments, institutes and research centers worldwide. You can search by country or by areas, field and function. The latter allows you to search within functional of field subcategories:              

 

  •                Functional
  •                      Think Tanks    
  •                      International Organizations
  •                      Government Ministries
  •                      Regulatory Agencies

     

  •              Fields (a sample)
  •                      Economic Development,
  •                      Financial economics, Risk and Insurance
  •                      Industrial Economics, Regulation
  •                      Public Policy
  •                      Regional and Urban Economics, Real Estate

 

·         J-PAL (Jameel Poverty Action Lab) hires research assistants to work in academic settings in the US as well as in the field overseeing ongoing research projects.

·         Indeed is a comprehensive job search website. Searching on “Economics Research Assistant” will yield many positions. Not all of these positions are applicable. However, many are, and may not be readily available through the listings above.

·         All of the Federal Reserve Banks, IMF, World Bank, UN and most US cabinet departments and government agencies hire research assistants. For US government agencies USAJOBS is a search portal.  However, even in the case of US government agencies it is often easier to visit the website of the particular agency or cabinet department to find available jobs. You can find links to most of these agencies and departments on the EDIRC page.

·         Columbia Business School has full time RA positons. You can find information about all of their RA programs here.

·         Econ Info for Students , the department wiki page, has a section titled “full-time opportunities”.  When the department receives ads for RA positions, we post them here. 

Skills

Most if not all full-time RA positions will require statistical and programming skills. Large organizations that hire multiple RAs every year will be looking for students with basic to advanced expertise and a demonstrated ability to learn. These organizations are able to invest in helping you to improve your capabilities. Small organizations and academic positions generally require RAs to come with advanced programming skills in one or more languages (Excel, R, Python, Matlab and STATA are the most popular languages).

Many academic positions require students to pass a “data test” as part of the application process. These tests are designed to determine your data handling skills. While you are an undergraduate, you should take every opportunity to improve your data skills. One way would be to take classes that feature empirical projects such as a junior seminar, a senior seminar with a data analysis component, or an applied statistics class. Another is to work as an RA for a faculty member. You can learn programming skills on your own (see the resources at the  Columbia Libraries or on the Computing and Data Resources page on the department website ) or in courses in the Computer Science departments.  On occasion during the academic year, the department will hold programming tutorials that focus on some of the most common tasks included in the data tests administered by academic positions.