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Do you need a PhD in Economics to become a researcher at a think tank?

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As a disaffected law student who recently graduated with a JD/MBA degree, I had a moment of clarity 6 months ago when I realized, after some intense soul-searching and self-introspection, that I do not want to pursue a career in law anymore.  Through this intense soul searching and much research/discussion with friends, family members, counselors and past professors, I discovered my real passion has always been public policy, specifically economic public policy.  In fact, much of my free time in law school was spent reading lots of econ policy blogs as well as books on economics.  So I decided I wanted to be a researcher at a public policy think tank.

In my research about what degree requirements are necessary for a career in this area, I learned that my degrees may not be sufficient.  I read from various sources that my JD/MBA may be adequate for a starting research position at a think tank, but that if I wanted to move up into a senior researcher role or direct any sort of research, I would need to get a PhD.  An investigation of various senior research job listings bore this out, with many of the requirements listed as having at least an MA in economics, but with a strong preference for a PhD.

I have very minimal math and econ training.  I took a Micro/Macro class, a law and economics class, and an intro to stats class when I got my MBA, but that is the extent of my exposure to math and econ.  I know that most graduate schools are looking for candidates who have taken classes such as linear algebra, advanced stats, multivariate calculus, and real analysis.  So my question is, do I need to get a PhD in economics for me to move up as a researcher in the think tank world, or would a masters in econ be sufficient?  And if it is strongly recommended I get a PhD, would it be wise for me to get a terminal masters degree in economics to make up for my deficiency in math and econ classes?

Edited by Cristian Reyes
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It depends on the think tank. A few specialized Economic think tanks may require PhDs. But most think tanks require only MA plus relevant work experience. If you look at large think tanks such as Brookings, most researchers have MA. Heads of departments tend to have PhDs.

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