Preparation for Masters Program

Preparation for Masters Program

As has been the experience for many of our majors, the Economics major, supplemented by some additional statistics courses and in some cases mathematics courses, provides an excellent entry path to a wide range of Masters programs in Finance, Business, Economics, Public Policy and Data Analysis.

Applications for Masters' programs are due early, some even in Fall of the year preceding admission. You should apply to a number and range of programs to hedge your bets and because a certain element of chance is involved.

Key information for admission includes:

  • Overall GPA
  • Letters of recommendation. This component is important. A letter that says only that you have a good overall GPA is not helpful because it adds nothing to what is already in the transcript. A constructive letter says that the professor has known you for some time, and thinks you are a mature and smart person capable of independent research.
  • Major GPA
  • Performance on the GMAT, LSAT or GRE if required. Take the test before Fall. If advisors know your score, then they can give you a better idea of how high to shoot. And if you don't like your score, you have time for a retake.
  • Post-graduation work experience if required or highly desired.
  • Any research experience or substantive essays in coursework.

To obtain the most useful recommendation letter, you need to develop a relationship with the professor writing the letter. Ways to do this include working (as a reader or TA), attending office hours often, interaction in class, taking more than one class from the same professor, and writing a term paper or honors thesis. Tell the professor about the range of schools in which you are interested. Information to give the professor typically includes: transcript (most professors will accept a photocopy, but ask first); statement of purpose; other personal information relevant to explaining your goals and parts of your past that you would like to be highlighted (or downplayed); and written work from the class, such as essays or exams that can give more information than just the recorded score. Try to give the recommendation forms to be completed by the professor in a packet rather than one school at a time.

Some Masters programs desire post-graduation work experience. If you plan to work before entering graduate school then be sure to line up potential letters of recommendation with professors before graduation from U.C. Davis.

For most Masters programs, such as those in Public Policy, Health Policy, Public Policy, an economics major provides a more than adequate background in mathematics and statistics. 

For Masters programs in Finance, Business Data Analysis or Economics there is more emphasis on mathematics, econometrics and statistics.

  • Preparation for Masters in Economics: A minimum preparation is lower division calculus (such as MAT 16A-C or the more advanced MAT 21A-21D), probability and statistics (STA 130A-B or the more advanced STA 131A-B), and econometrics (ECN 140). To be fully prepared for a top program, you also should take linear algebra (MAT 22A/L or the more advanced MAT 67). 
  • Preparation for Business Data Analytics: A minimum preparation is lower division calculus (such as MAT 16A-C or the more advanced MAT 21A-21D), probability and statistics (STA 130A-B or the more advanced STA 131A-B), and econometrics (ECN 140), and linear algebra (MAT 22A/L or the more advanced MAT 67). To be fully prepared for business data analytics you should take additional upper division courses in econometrics (ECN 141, 142) and statistics, and some basic programming such as ECS 32A, 32B.
  • Preparation for Finance / Financial Engineering: The preparation is similar to that for business data analytics, except that there is more emphasis on mathematics and less on statistics. You may additionally need to take Partial Differential Equations (MAT 118A). And within the Economics major you should take courses in economic and financial forecasting (ECN 141), financial economics (ECN 134) and in money and banking (ECN 135).

For those interested especially in data analysis, an overview of undergraduate courses at U.C. Davis in Economics, Statistics, Computer Science, and Communications is provided here.