Finding a Job or Internship in Econ or Public Policy Research

This page offers information on how to find employment involving economic and/or public policy research. There are many other types of jobs for which the study of economics provides good preparation; for advice on how to find those other kinds of jobs, please see Williams’ ’68 Center for Career Exploration.

One option for summers is to work as a research assistant for a Williams economics professor. This page had additional information on working as a research assistant in the department. .

Many economic and policy research organizations offer summer internships and post-graduation research assistant jobs. These employers typically look for students with good academic records and evidence of economic research skills. Strong academic backgrounds in economics, statistics, and econometrics are often viewed as particularly useful qualifications. Some experience with computer programming can also be quite helpful. Appropriately, finding these kinds of jobs requires you to do a bit of research, and this web site can help you get started on that. These kinds of places most frequently post job opening and internship announcements on their web sites and begin accepting applications some time around January, and then often respond and/or conduct interviews during late winter or early spring, although increasingly these kinds of employers are starting to advertise positions and start the interview process in the fall.

Economic and policy research organizations come in many varieties, differing in terms of political orientation and in the kinds of things they do. For example, some places are more academic in orientation, engaging in impartial research on questions where they do not necessarily already know the answers. Other organizations are more oriented towards “advocacy” — they tend to assume they already know the answers, and spend most of their efforts constructing arguments for their side of the debate. Still other places are somewhere in between.  You can learn more about what particular policy research organizations do by checking out their web sites, and also perusing some third-party web sites that provide directories and summary information about these various institutions. Links to some of these directories, as well as links to numerous examples of major economic and policy research institutions that hire interns and/or research assistants, are included below:

Harvard Kennedy School search engine and directory of think tanks

NIRA world directory of think tanks

SourceWatch. Provides information on the funding sources of various think tanks and policy research organizations; can be helpful for understanding where they are coming from politically.

In some cases, summer internships are unpaid. In these cases, the college offers a limited amount of funding, on a competitive basis. The Kershaw Public Policy Summer Internship Program makes funds available to Williams College students to work at unpaid summer internships related to public policy. The Williams Office of Career Counseling web page on Williams Alumni Sponsored Internships provides information on many other programs like this at Williams, including information on how to apply.

Economists at top research universities are increasingly apt to hire students graduating with a B.A. in economics to do research assistant work for a couple of years, which is great preparation for graduate school in economics.

The PREDOC (Pathway to Research and Doctoral Careers) is a consortium of universities and research institutions that provide helpful advice to applying to research assistant jobs and also maintain a comprehensive list of available positions that can be found here.

The ECON RA Guide also provides a short list of position and important factors to consider when applying. Their list and suggestions for finding and evaluating internships can be found here.

The Poverty Action Lab at MIT, which is involved in randomized control trial research on public policy interventions in developing countries, provides a guide to research assistant positions in economics and advice on how to prepare for such positions here.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) maintains a list of research assistant job opportunities at NBER here, and research assistant job opportunities elsewhere here.

Here’s a link to an interview with Bob O’Loughlin, class of 2007, about his job at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

Click on the menu below to see examples of policy research institutions that frequently hire research assistants or interns.