An introduction to HEC Masters: Master in Political Economy

The end of the spring semester approaching, hundreds of HEC Bachelor students are left wondering what their next step will be. In this series, HEConomist aims at assisting students in choosing their master’s program. In this first volume, we will go over program often considered intimidating: the MScE or Master’s in Political Economy.

Largrangians, Bellman equations and endogeneity issues do not scare you? You can recite the Gauss-Markov assumptions by heart? You enjoy pulling your hairs over that Stata command that, for some reason, will not run until you try it in front of the professor, bringing shame and embarrassment on you and your family for the next three generations? Then the MScE might be the right program for you.

The program is divided into three parts, represented by semesters 1, 2-3 and 4. During the first semesters, students all enroll in a common core of Microeconomics, Macroeconomics and Econometrics. The last course can be chosen among three:

  • Economic Policy seminar, in which students will participate in presentations by guest speakers and conduct a policy brief on one of 30+ topics: minimum wage, climate change, cash transfers, Brexit, and so on. The course is also accompanied by a small math course that serves more as a reminder of 3rd year Bachelor courses than anything else. This specialization is ideal for students interested in applied micro topics, such as Labour or Development Economics.
  • Economics for Maths and Finance, where students firstly review core math concepts then go on to tackle more advanced mathematics. This specialization is ideal for students interested in macro or theoretical micro or econometrics topics such as forecasting, industrial organization or behavioral economics and game theory.
  • Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution shares is a shared program with the master’s in management and the master’s in Behaviour, Ecology and Conservation from the Faculty of Biology. In this course, students will learn how human behaviour and economic decisions are shaped by an evolutionary process and how that process shapes decisions and preferences. This mention is ideal for students who seek a more interdisciplinary approach to political economy and theories of decision-making. It is also a solid choice for students interested in industrial organization and behavioral economics.

Students can choose one of the three courses. Choosing the BEE courses allows you to obtain a special mention at the end of the program. But, choosing the BEE mention prevents students from picking (during the second part of the program) one or two of the four mentions available to regular MScE students. It is however possible to choose the BEE course in the first semester and then select among the four regular mentions. In that case, students will not obtain the BEE mention.

But what even is a “mention”? Well thanks for asking, I was just about to explain. Once students start their first semester, they are free to choose among some 30 different courses covering a multitude of topics: public economics, business cycles, game theory, macroeconomic policy, institutional economics, development economics, forecasting methods, health economics, economic growth and many, many others. It is also possible to choose courses outside of the MScE program, but that requires prior approval by the Program Director. Each course contributes to at least (typically 2-3) mentions:

  • Microeconomic Policy
  • Macroeconomic Policy
  • Quantitative Economics
  • Business Economics

By obtaining 30 credits in courses contributing to a mention, students obtain that mention and the title is added to their master’s diploma. Obtaining two mentions is easier than it seems! For example, the course macroeconometrics contribute to both the macroeconomics and the quantitative mention. With careful planning, students can easily obtain two mentions, the maximum amount allowed.

In the fourth and final semester, students take on their dreaded master thesis, either in the form of an academic thesis supervised by a professor from the program, or find an internship outside of the university, whether in the public sector, at the Swiss cantonal or federal administrations, or in an international organization. Similarly to the second and third semesters, students have tremendous freedom when it comes to choosing a topic or and organization. This flexibility, that runs through the entire program encourages students to craft a study plan tailor-made for them, such that no two students will finish the program having lived the same experiences.

Overall, the program puts a significant emphasis on quantitative skills, not only mathematics, but also data analysis using softwares such as Stata or R, among others. Those are the types of skills that are highly valued for any individual intending to work in economics, either in the private sector or doing research in international organizations or in academia. The program is ranked worldwide in the top 12% of master’s program in economics and enjoys a solid reputation in Europe and abroad. The program is also a great preparation for anyone willing to enroll in a PhD program.

This concludes the first episode in our series on the multiple master’s available at HEC, stay on the lookout for the next episodes!

Michaël Wegmüller
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