Pre-Doc Advice and Resources

Smarter people have already said a lot of what I think needs to be said. I’ve included a ton of links + some original advice below.

  • EconRA Guide: Covers all steps of the pre-doc process. Highly recommend reading through.

  • Alvin Christian’s Advice: Advice from a recent predoc.

  • Women in Econ and Policy Pre-Doc Advice Compilation

  • You might’ve heard of this. I used it mostly to look for jobs. They host coding and other kinds of workshops that can be helpful.

  • Predoc survey: Useful statistics.

  • The predoc discourse part 1, 2, 3, 4, anon predoc, 6 (these are only some tweets that I found looking back)

    • Periodically on Twitter, economics professors and former pre-docs talk about the pros and cons of predocs. These perspectives are really valuable and often not captured in the websites above.

    • I went into the process aware of this and it prompted me to be very thorough about the actual work environment of the places I was considering.

  • Talk to previous pre-docs of the person who you want to work for and ask about work hours, expectations, stress, & general environment.

    • How many hours a week did they work on average?

    • How reasonable did they feel like the deadlines were?

    • How often did they meet with their PI to talk about their own research ideas, professional growth etc.?

    • How collaborative was their pre-doc cohort?

    • What is their physical office like? Are there windows? How often are they expected to work in person versus remote?

    • How is the salary / stipend structured? Were they paid on time? How much of their stipend did they spend on rent?

    • What is health insurance like? Do they have to cover the premium?

    • What opportunities do they have to take graduate-level classes during their pre-doc? Do they have to cover the cost? Is it for a grade or can they only audit?

    • What are the norms around co-authorship with pre-docs? How will your work be recognized?

      • The norms within econ don’t match up with other fields. In some fields, it is the norm for RAs who contribute a significant amount of time to a project to become co-authors. In econ, this view is often discounted in favor of pre-docs remaining in the acknowledgements. Here are some interesting discussions of this phenomenon: 1, 2
    • Ask if any of their friends have had a particularly good experience with certain professors.

Finding Jobs

Bridge to PhD Programs

Granted this is a domain I’m a little less familiar with, bridge programs emphasize research, mentoring, and academic work in equal parts. Like pre-docs, they are usually two years long. Here are a couple:

My experience

A little info on my timeline: I started applying to pre-docs in mid-September. I talked to current and former pre-docs through the end of September. I did my first coding task at the end of September, and I made my decision during the first half of October.

Hopefully, once I start, I’ll post more about my actual experience (maybe do one of those day in the life videos?). I’ll also try to be transparent about costs of living etc. since that is usually a part of pre-docs that I haven’t seen talked about that much.

At SIEPR my benefits are as follows. Granted I have not actually started, this is my understanding of the benefits when I accepted the job offer.

  • Stipend > 52k

    • For context, my housing costs will likely be between 1-2.5k per month for me living with my partner within biking distance of campus which we will then split. Off-campus co-ops, some on-campus housing, living further away from campus, and sharing a house with many roommates lowers the costs. I plan on using a bike as a main method of transit.
  • Health insurance with SIEPR covering the premium.

  • One grad course per quarter covered by SIEPR (excluding summer) taken for a grade.

  • Laptop

  • Access to on campus housing (besides the first summer if you are coming straight from undergrad)

  • Access to on campus amenities like libraries, gym etc.

  • Mentoring

  • Pre-doc programming (unsure what this will look like)

  • Ability to switch mentors if it’s not working out.

  • 20 leave days and 10 holidays. Leave days are not guaranteed but negotiated with professor.

  • J-1 visa sponsorship / OPT eligible (I am not international, so I know less about how this works in practice)

Undergrad Advice

I am afraid that anything I say will look utterly naive as someone who is just finishing undergrad myself. The only useful resource I have here is the graduate school advice I looked at to get a sense of what classes I should take now.

  • Susan Athey’s Advice

  • Alvin Christian’s Advice

  • For more grad school specific advice look here.

  • The most helpful places will be looking at the university that you are interested in and seeing if they have information about ‘ideal’ candidates in their application sections. Some are more explicit than others with respect to expected classes etc.

  • Alex Albright’s Thesis Advice

My Setup

Coding & Data Visualization

This doesn’t cover any basic stata/R tutorials; these are just some tools I’ve used in the past.

  • Datawrapper is a really cool no-code tool. I generally like to use R to make visualizations but this automatically creates good-looking graphs that are especially useful in presenting summary data.

  • Easily make Tikz Diagrams

  • Stata2R Learning R if you know Stata.

  • Quant Econ Python and Julia for Econ.

  • I used Quarto and Netlify to build this website.

Historic Work

To be added! Generally advice on OCR technology, its limits, frontiers etc.

Wellesley Specific

Also to be added! Wellesley specific