Thursday, January 17, 2008

Looking for a Summer Job

An ec 10 student emails me a question:

Dear Professor Mankiw,

I am interested in doing some economics-related research this summer. It seems difficult for a freshman with only a semester of Ec-10 to get an internship in this area, but I wanted to see if you had an ideas or knew of any places I should look

Thanks for your time,
[name withheld]

Yes, it is hard for a freshman to land a good research-related job. But it is not impossible. When I was a freshman, I managed to get a summer job as a research assistant to Princeton professor Harvey Rosen mainly because, I suspect, I knew enough Fortran programming to be useful in his research project. Harvey is a great economist and an all-round terrific human being, and I learned a lot working for him.

The main difficulty for freshmen is that you are competing with more advanced students for research assistant jobs. Given the work that I do, I tend not to hire a lot of student assistants, and when I do, they are usually grad students.

Other professors have different styles and larger demands. Sometimes job postings can be found at the undergraduate office in the economics department, but the only way to know for sure if professors are hiring is to email them or knock on their doors to ask. As you are searching, don't forget that you can find good economists not only in the economics department but also at other parts of the university such as the business school and the Kennedy school of government.

In addition, for students interested in economic policy, there are internship programs at policy organizations such as the CEA, CBO, Fed, and NY Fed, and policy think tanks such as AEI, Brookings, Cato, and Heritage. This is the time of year when students should start applying.