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Posts posted by MaxwellAlum

  1. 1 hour ago, Bodhicaryavatara said:

    Are the UN internships paid?

    Not when I was there 6 years ago.  At that time a lot of people were pushing for them to start paying interns.  There were definitely cases of interns being homeless due to the high cost of living in New York and Geneva.  Not sure if any progress has been made on that.

  2. Prestige can help, but who you know matters more.  Probably the best thing to do is to intern at one of the organizations where you want to work.  A word of warning - a lot of UN agencies are increasingly relying on consultant contracts, which basically means you don't get any job security or benefits, and while it can perhaps be a foot in the door, there's really no guarantee.  

    If you pass the YPP exam (doing an internship and studying the history of the UN can help), you're likely to get offered a (non consultant) position in the Secretariat.  The problem there is you don't get a choice of which position (it wouldn't be in any of the specialized agencies/funds you mentioned), and it's basically take it or leave it, or at least it was 6 years ago. 

  3. 5 hours ago, chocolatte_ said:

    That all makes sense. I'm not interested in a stats focus but I did wonder if it would be useful to have - sounds like I can keep to my original plan of a budgeting/finance focus (there's stuff at work that I could benefit from knowing how to do, for sure).

    Definitely - MPAs and MPPs are perfect for going into budgeting and finance related jobs.  Might be worth arranging informational interviews with people in a local/state/federal budget office.  I know several people who enjoying that career path and doing interesting work, but it's not for everybody.

  4. On 7/20/2018 at 3:05 PM, chocolatte_ said:

    What's your take on MPA programs with a stats or quant focus? I've heard people say things to the effect that MPAs with these focuses are in demand because of the skill set they give, but it sounds as though you're saying their skill set either wouldn't be sufficient, or that they won't land jobs where this kind of work would be necessary as it's going to fall to an academic instead.

    (I'm not particularly interested in a stats focus myself, I'm just curious about whether this might be a new trend to try to make the MPA more appealing or relevant).

    I'm not against more quant in MPA programs nor do I think it is useless.  The more quant you have the better consumer of research you can be.  That's important for any policy job. To what extent you can use the skills you learn in those programs to conduct rigorous impact evaluations or design surveys I don't know.  All I can say is that in my experience MPAs and MPPs are not research focused degrees and if hard research is your goal, a PhD will get you much farther skills-wise and in terms of credibility on the job market IMO.

  5. I agree with ExponentialDecay.  I have an MPA and work in a research/policy analysis job in government, but the type of research I do is really different from that which a PhD in an academic position might do.  I don't conduct or analyze the results of robust, random sample surveys and am not qualified to do so.  I don't run regressions because, while my MPA gave me enough stats to know how to run a regression, it certainly wasn't at the level you see in academic papers.  Mostly my work involves interviewing government officials, describing government programs and budgets, and analyzing data but at a very descriptive level, which is not always uncomplicated but is certainly quite different from what an academic would do.  I feel lucky to be able to do this type of work without having spent years and years in grad school or writing a dissertation ::shudder:: but I don't consider the work I do to be equivalent to the type of work academics do.  Some of my colleagues do have PhDs, which while not a requirement definitely confer a good amount of credibility in this field.

    I'm not saying this to knock MPAs/ MPPs, but to say that they don't really prepare you to do hard research, and I don't think they help much if the ultimate goal is a PhD.

    I know a couple of people who went to grad school straight out of undergrad and are doing great.  But an equal number ended up making career changes that involved getting another grad degree.  It's so much better to go into grad school knowing what you want.  For me, the best way to figure that out was to get full time and paid work experience.




  6. This isn't on your list, but Syracuse offers significant aid in the form of graduate assistantships.  Some of these are awarded as part of the initial offer, but I remember a handful being available for students to apply for when they arrived in July (Syracuse's MPA is a 12-month program starting in the summer).  

  7. 17 hours ago, Nico Corr said:

    How many people make anything that even comes close to the $70K-$100K range? As someone who not too long ago thought nothing of spending $100K on one of these degrees, I've had major doubts about spending even half of that. I'm not too great at anything quantitative, but I'm thinking about sucking it up and just getting an MBA or something else technical and going that route. 

    Not specific to IR (lots of people with IR degrees don't go into IR jobs), but in my experience, several of my peers who went into local or federal government in the DC area were making $70k+ two years out of grad school.  Most of us are over in the $90-$110k range now that we are 5-6 years out (GS-13 level in the federal government).  Salaries won't increase as fast from here on out (a lot of the increase comes from noncompetitive promotions, which stop at a certain point), but assuming reasonable cost of living increases (more likely at the local level than federal at this point, unfortunately), it's not a terrible place to be.  Some friends who work in nonprofits/NGOs/USAID contractors have not had the same level of salary progression.  I believe they are in the $60-$70k range at this point.

    If you go into a government job with the ability to get noncompetitive promotions your salary can increase pretty fast in just a few years.

  8. 12 hours ago, MPA/MPP Applicant said:

    I'm in this predicament as well. Even with $20k funding from Heinz (MSPPM), Harris (MPP), and GWU (MPA), the programs are still $52k, $70k, and $44k per year, respectively, after including tuition and living expenses. As a recent graduate with little savings, I anticipate taking the full amount in loans. How do students expect to manage this much debt? (I expect many students still choose to attend despite receiving little to no aid.)

    As a student coming from a low-income background, this decision is hard to grapple with. I am currently based in NorCal (living at home) and the related jobs are limited here compared to DC and NYC. I have also found it hard to find an "entry-level" job in even non-profit work without a master's degree. I wonder if it is worth it to re-apply next year with the hope that I will receive more funding. This is also dependent on me finding some relevant entry-level job in the bay area (since I do not have the funds to move to the East Coast).

    If anyone has advice on this, I would be grateful! (though I expect it may be similar to previous posts)

    We use income-based repayment plans.  Although I was fortunate to graduate with less than $50k in debt, my spouse has over $100k.  Now that we've been in the workforce for five years, our salaries are each in the $90-$100k ranges.  We pay a combined $1,000 a month on our loans on an income-based plan.  It's a lot to pay (it'd be really nice to have that money freed up), but we're still able to save a lot for retirement and for a down payment in a relatively high cost region.  

    The problem with taking out so much debt for a public policy/IR degree is that return on the investment is hard to pin down.  It's really just a foot in the door, and it's not the only way to get there.  With the right work experience/internship, nobody is going to care where (or often if) you got your masters.  

    Have you considered looking into local or state government jobs?  I live in the DC area, but I work in local government.  There are definitely interesting jobs at the local level, and you are closer to the action in terms of your impact on people.  It could also put you in a better position to get scholarships for a public policy degree in the future.

  9. I think these rankings are useful mainly for identifying programs to apply to that you wouldn't have otherwise thought of.  As an alum of the Maxwell School at Syracuse, I have no illusions that my MPA is somehow seen as more prestigious than a degree from HKS or Princeton - it's definitely not.  But it wouldn't have occurred to me to look into applying if it wasn't for the US News rankings.  

    No employer will care about your school's public affairs program ranking in US News.  They're not going to look up the most recent ranking when deciding who to interview.  Many (particularly private) will care about the brand name of the university, particularly if it's an Ivy.  Other than that, it's really about the network, and the rankings can give you a sense of how well-established a program is.  More established programs are likely to have better networks. 

    My advice is use this list to identify programs to research and apply to the ones that best fit your interests and preferences.

  10. With the major caveat that any amount of debt is too much if you can get the same result by spending less, I would say that $30k is definitely manageable.  You can pay that off in 10 years with monthly payments under $350.  It's still a significant amount of money to fork over every month, but assuming you're looking at jobs that pay $50k out of grad school, it's reasonably affordable and is not that much higher than what you'd be paying on an income based plan.  And if you're really motivated and don't have a lot of other expenses, it wouldn't be totally impossible to pay it off faster by making larger payments.

    $70k is a lot.  Under a 10-year repayment plan, you're looking at monthly payments of about $800 a month.  That is going to be difficult to afford on $50k in a high cost region.  That's going to get in the way of your financial goals even when your income goes up, unless you're willing to live quite frugally for a long time (I'm talking about roommates and long commutes).  Income-based repayment will probably be the way to go with this amount of debt, so basically you need to be prepared to be paying back your loans for a very long time.  It's not impossible, you won't be destitute (unless Congress eliminates income-based repayment entirely, which is unlikely), but it will impact you for a very long time. 

    My sense is that $50k is the very upper limit for student loan debt in terms of what you can reasonably pay back in 10 years on a public service salary (monthly payments under $600), assuming no forgiveness and assuming good financial health otherwise and no major existing expenses.  $600 is a lot of money to pay per month, but you can potentially get that amount down to $500 by making extra payments when you graduate if you're willing to be extra frugal for a little while.  Income-based repayment might still be desirable at this level, but the interest isn't so much that your balance will balloon during your first few years out of grad school. 

    Higher amounts are not impossible to manage, but they mean committing a good portion of your income to your student loans for a really long time, so you're going to want to make absolutely certain you're spending it on something worthwhile.   


  11. On 3/13/2018 at 9:22 AM, lackey said:

    Thank you! This is quite useful. The IO thing shocks me, but my heart's always been with US organizations anyway :).

    Glad to be of help!  I do just want to echo some of the points gelatinskeleton made.  When you are this early in your career, so much can change.  Of my cohort that did a dual MPA/IR degree several years ago, about half are working in something related to IR, and the other half are working on domestic and local policy.  A surprising number of us are in local government.  At least in my case, I made a choice to work in local government, despite having an offer to work in an international organization, because I realized I didn't want to live abroad again.  I think a lot of people who study IR realize later on that other sectors are a better fit for them, or they happen to find interesting positions in other sectors that pay better.   Of those working in IR, it's a mix of people working for USAID/State/Defense contractors (for profit and nonprofit), international orgs (World Bank, IADB), and US government (State, Treasury).  Some worked for a couple of years in IR-related jobs with the Feds, disliked their jobs, and left for non-IR related jobs in the private sector.  I believe a lot of those in the Federal government went into the master's program with a scholarship that required them to work with the Feds after graduation (and thus got support in securing a position).  Many people I know who wanted to work in the Federal government were very frustrated with USAJobs, and many were not able to get in.  Personally, I don't think you should count on getting a US government job in IR.  It may be other schools are better than Syracuse at placing folks, but my experience is that folks with a very narrow focus in their job search are likely to be frustrated.

  12. Re: PSLF  As someone who is cautiously hoping to receive forgiveness and been submitting my certification forms, I will say it is an awesome deal.  Paying 10% of your income over 10 years is significant (after 5 years of raises my husband and I are paying a combined $1,000 each month, and boy would we love to be able to do other things with that money), but the forgiveness is a massive benefit and fortunately tax free.  Laugh if you like, but my understanding is that there are people who have received forgiveness, just not many because of the intricacies of the repayment plans available in 2007 (if you think I'm being foolish, bear in mind the money I'd otherwise spend paying off my loans faster is going straight into my 401k, which is a much better bet than throwing money into loans that might be forgiven).  If you're starting now, the rules are pretty clear for someone working in government (nonprofits is a bit dicier), and if you pay close attention (don't rely on your servicer, know which repayment plans qualify and make sure you are on one of them), I don't think there's a huge risk of being denied.

    For people considering grad school now, there is a very real possibility the program will be eliminated soon for new borrowers.  That being said, if you start grad school in the fall of 2018, you might still qualify.  The proposed House bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (the PROSPER Act) effectively eliminates the program for people who take out their first loans in July 2019, but if you start borrowing before then, you can keep taking out qualifying loans until 2024. (see https://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/student-loan-ranger/articles/2017-12-13/potential-effects-of-prosper-act-on-student-loans )

    There are definitely still risks that they will turn around and eliminate the program for everyone or otherwise change the terms I've described above.  But another major risk is that you'll finish grad school and realize you really want to work in the private sector, or for another non-qualifying organization like the UN, the World Bank or the IMF (surprisingly employment at international organizations does not qualify for PSLF).  That's why I would not recommend going into grad school counting on PSLF - grad school should open up career options, not limit them.

  13. Over a decade ago when I was in high school looking at colleges, most of my peers were planning on taking out loans to be able to afford elite private universities.  My parents strongly discouraged that, and I ended up graduating debt free from undergrad (I chose a school that offered me significant scholarship money over a slightly higher ranked school that offered me basically nothing).  I'm so glad that I did that, especially since I ended up studying English literature and was never super motivated to seek out high powered private sector jobs.  I did take out some loans for grad school, but they are pretty manageable.

    Student loans are not the worst type of debt, but it is still real debt.  $100k in loans, at current interest rates, will accrue $500-$580 in interest every single month.  That's what you have to pay before you even start to make a dent in the balance.  And then factor in you'll also want to be saving for retirement, saving for a home, and at some point graduating from living with roommates.  

    Income-based repayment plans are awesome and I think they would be the way to go in this situation, but you need to be aware that you'll likely be paying back your loans for 25 years (Public Service Loan Forgiveness might be a possibility, but Congress is likely to get rid of it soon, and many IR jobs don't qualify anyway).  That's basically committing to setting aside 10-15% of your income (over poverty level) for the majority of your working life towards your student loans.  

    And yes, that is for an investment towards your future.  But IR degrees are pretty generalist - you're not going there to get specific skills or a certification that is absolutely required to get a job in the field.  There isn't any rule that says you HAVE to get an IR masters to get a job in the field.  So an alternative is to think carefully about what you want to do in IR (nonprofit?  State Department?  International finance?) and map out all possible ways to achieve your career goals.  If taking out $100k in loans for a generalist IR degree is still the best way, then go for it.  But it may be that a more specific degree (finance?), applying to the Foreign Service, taking the UN exam, or signing up for the Peace Corps are more cost effective ways to achieve your goals.

  14. 23 hours ago, The Vitruvian said:

    Here I am two years later with no job and colossal debt, writing to you from an internet cafe in Argentina where I am currently hiding out from creditors in the states so I don't have to pay my debt. There's a lot of us on the run from our school debts in South America. They call us "debt dodgers". All my loans were private, so I'm relatively safe from debt collectors. I've made a living for myself down here teaching English and "Historia Norteamericana" to private school twits for a pittance. I've also managed to do some free-lance consulting with some banks as well. Someone I know at an NGO has promised me once the Maduro government is toppled in Venezuela, I can go to Caracas to maybe get a fulltime gig. 

    Your story sounds quite far-fetched and is not consistent with the experiences of friends with IR degrees, many of whom did not attend prestigious schools or have "flawless" GPAs.  Not saying they all have perfect careers, but as far as I know none are hiding from debt collectors in Latin America hoping for regime change in Venezuela to get a full-time job.

    Were you not eligible for federal loans when you attended grad school?  Fellow GradCafe readers, do not to take out private loans for grad school if you are eligible for federal loans.  With federal loans you have access to income-based repayment, which means if you don't have an income, your payments will be $0.  No need to hide out abroad unless you really want to.

  15. When I was doing my MPA at Syracuse, there were a couple of students who came straight out of undergrad, but the vast majority of the class had full time work experience coming in.  Those that did come straight out of undergrad were very focused, extremely smart and very high achievers.  6 years out of grad school, they are doing very well.  People do MPAs/MPPs straight out of undergrad and do well, but it's certainly not the right/feasible choice for everyone.

  16. On 11/10/2017 at 12:22 PM, Mr. Government said:

    This month marks the first period of eligibility for PSFL and it's looking like a disaster. 

    "October 2017 was supposed to represent the first glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel. This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, one of the few avenues for wiping out student debt. The idea, launched by George W. Bush, was pretty simple: Students could pledge to work 10 years for the government or a nonprofit and have their debt forgiven. In order to qualify, borrowers had to make payments for 10 years using a complex formula. This month, then, was to start the first mass wipeouts of debt in the history of American student lending. But more than half of the 700,000 enrollees have already been expunged from the program for, among other things, failing to certify their incomes on time, one of many bureaucratic tricks employed to limit forgiveness eligibility. To date, fewer than 500 participants are scheduled to receive loan forgiveness in this first round."


    That's weird.  PSLF doesn't have income requirements.  The reason most people have to certify their income is to continue to qualify for income-based repayment (IBR), which is a qualifying repayment plan for PSLF.  If you don't recertify, you should be placed on a standard 10-year plan, which is also a qualifying repayment plan, but if you are on it for 10 years there will be nothing left to forgive. It sounds like Taibbi is confusing PSFL with IBR perhaps?

  17. 1 hour ago, Nico Corr said:

    A job with the foreign or civil service of State, analyst positions with a four letter agency or the private sector are what would interest me. I have tons of experience working with foreign nationals at my job, and people whose primary language isn't english. Haven't really had the time, opportunity or $ to live or work abroad. Peace Corps would be great, but I don't have the luxury of spending two years doing it. Maxwell is actually one of the schools I am looking at. 

    I can't speak too specifically to getting jobs at State, but one thing I recommend you look into is placement of a program's graduates into the PMF program, which is one of the best ways to get into the federal government.  The PMF website should have lists of who was a finalist from each school.; I love Maxwell and had an awesome experience there, but I know a bunch of people were disappointed by how few of us got into PMF.

  18. 2 hours ago, _kita said:

    No on the contracting piece either. For a lot of these details check here

    I’m employed full-time by a company that is doing work for a qualifying PSLF employer under a contract. However, the company that I work for is not a qualifying PSLF employer. Does this employment qualify for PSLF?
    No. You must be employed full-time by a qualifying employer. This means that many government contractors won’t qualify for PSLF.

    My understanding is if you are an independent contractor (e.g. not a Deloitte employee working in DHS facility) you can still qualify for PSLF.  You need to work at least 30 hours per week to be considered full-time, and if you had two jobs that add up to full-time, then that counts as well.  With World Bank STCs, the problem is the World Bank does not qualify as a public service employer.


  19. Unfortunately, I don't think the World Bank qualifies as an employer for PSLF.  The text below is from the studentaid.ed.gov website.  I recommend anyone thinking about PSLF read their materials on PSLF carefully.

    "Does employment by a foreign government or international, intergovernmental organization (such as the United Nations, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Organization of American States, North Atlantic Treaty Organization) qualify for PSLF?
    No. Only U.S. federal, state, local, and tribal government organizations, agencies, or entities are qualifying employers for purposes of PSLF. However, if you work for a U.S. delegation to an international, intergovernmental organization, such as the U.S. mission to the United Nations, your employment qualifies because your employer is the U.S. government."

  20. What do you want to do for the CDC/HUD/etc?  Do you want to do policy analysis?  Manage programs?  Be a budget analyst?  Have you thought about applying to jobs in state or local government health departments?  Doing so might give you a better sense of what you want to do with your career, and you might find you don't need another degree to get to where you want to be.  

  21. MPAs don't really teach you many hard skills that you can't learn on the job or by taking evening or online classes.  Jobs in public policy or public administration are different from jobs in areas like social work of law, where you absolutely need the degree to be allowed to practice in the profession.  As you have observed, there aren't too many jobs that actually require MPAs.

    However, if you want a career in public policy, and you are having trouble breaking into the field, an MPA can give you that leg up.  For me, it was helpful for shifting my career trajectory to doing more analytical work, as I was previously stuck in an administrative role.  I also met some great people and did learn a lot.  I would not, however, go into six-figure debt for such a degree.  As suggested above, probably the best way to go is to first try to get an entry-level job in government and work your way up. After a couple of years, if you see that a master's degree can help you advance, try to get it as cheaply as possible.

  22. 44 minutes ago, Nonprofitguy said:

    Ehh if you attend an elite business school, it is worth it. Median starting salary is around $150,000 for the top-15 or so schools. You don't attend business school to really learn content - you're paying for the access to job opportunities (great for career switchers) & access to extended network. It's the most versatile degree out there.

    If you're in the truly elite category, you will get lot of $$$ to pay for tuition. HBS has around $34 million for scholarships and the average fellowship award (for 2 years) is $69,000. Roughly half of HBS students receive fellowships. Stanford GSB is similar.

    I totally agree that an individual degree can be worth it.  My post was referring specifically to dual degrees.  Are you saying that doing a degree in IR and an MBA is better than doing an MBA alone? 

  23. As someone who did a dual degree (MPA and MA in IR), I recommend extreme caution.  Having an extra degree did not, in and of itself, help me in the job market.  Mostly it meant I graduated later and with more debt.  Remember that the classroom is not the only place you can learn and it's a fairly expensive one.  Don't discount the fact that the extra year(s) you'll spend in school means you'll forgo time learning (and earning) on the job.  Unless there is a specific, marketable skill you'll get from the extra time in school, I would not recommend it.

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