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Advice for Grad Students

May 29, 2014 in Economics

By Walter Block


At Loyola University, my colleagues and I have been very successful in sending off numerous of our graduating economics majors to graduate school, to get a phd in economics. Here is some advice I offer them, which might be helpful to others as well:

Advice for grad students (some of this advice is personal to me; take what makes sense to you and ignore the rest):

1.Your goal is to get that phd, asap. Don’t let anything interfere with that, if at all possible. If you need money, take out loans, don’t work and let that interfere with your studies.

2.Don’t take any part time jobs; don’t be anyone’s research assistant. Don’t be a teaching assistant. Don’t teach any courses. Just study to pass your courses with the best marks possible, and pass your oral or comprehensive exams.

3.Don’t argue with your professors, certainly not on basic issues. Your job is not to convert them to laissez faire capitalism, to Austrianism, to libertarianism or anything else. It is only to get that phd, asap.

4.Pick a relatively non controversial dissertation topic. Pick a professor to guide you who has prestige within the department (if your committee rejects your dissertation, it is a slap at your advisor too; so pick one who will not likely get slapped).

5.I found the most difficult part of getting my phd was writing the dissertation (although the oral exam was tough). I was accustomed to classes, but never to a long protracted period of research and writing. Grit your teeth and write that material! After a while, I found working on that dissertation to be boring (it was mostly gathering of statistics, and running econometric studies). So, to perk myself up, I gave myself a reward system. If I did thus and such on my dissertation, I would reward myself with a day or two when I could do anything I wanted. On these days off, I would write things in defense of the pimp, or blackmail, or counterfeiting counterfeit money. By the time I finished my phd I had about 30 of these essays, which I later published as Defending I.

6.Make sure you “pack” your dissertation committee to the best of your ability. At Columbia, where I got my phd, Gary Becker was my dissertation advisor, my topic was rent control, certainly not controversial within the econ dept; when Gary left for Chicago, Bill Landes took over this role. …read more


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