I currently have Bachelors in Economics and Math, and I'm doing full-time research in Economics right now.

My initial plan was to do PhD in Economics and work in academia, but after doing research, I realized that I'm not very interested in doing research in Economics, but rather I'm interested in teaching Economics at a post-secondary level.

However, I do know that professors in major universities are usually very researched-driven, so I was considering teaching in community college level (or PUIs, as commented by @NMJD). However, even to teach at community college level, at least Master in Economics is required, if not PhD.

While I'm open to the idea of doing Master in Economics, I feel that it doesn't have much value, other than the certificate of graduation itself, because Masters in Applied Economics is very similar to advanced undergrad Economics that I've taken (at least when I looked at their courses). I've already taken multiple PhD courses as undergraduate, and doing research in Economics in my workplace is generally considered equivalent to completing Masters. Financial burden of enrolling in Masters program is undesirable as well.

My question is: Should I pursue Masters in Economics, knowing that I'll repeat many courses that I've taken as undergraduate while putting myself in a debt? Or should I go to PhD, even though I understand that PhD is a very research-intensive degree?

NOTE: I've read similar article Can you teach at a community college with a master's degree?.

Although it is similar, it doesn't not quite answer my question, as my question is Economics-specific, and I'm comparing the option of doing Masters or PhD to teach in community college.

  • 1
    Just wanted to throw out that in the United States, there are lots of primarily-undergraduate institutions (PUIs) such as small teaching-focused, liberal arts schools, where research expectations are mild if any. This is another option in addition to community colleges.
    – NMJD
    Feb 10, 2017 at 17:43
  • Thanks for the information @NMJD! Never heard of the term PUIs before, but teaching in those institutions were something that I had in mind! I did a quick search, but it seems like graduate degree is most likely to be required, at least in the US though.
    – user69180
    Feb 10, 2017 at 19:07
  • Often, but it can depend on the school. Top-tier PUIs will generally require a terminal degree. Second or mid-tier PUIs can vary on this requirement; especially if you have experience doing distance or online teaching. The thing with small PUIs is that there are so many of them, it can be hard to find ones well aligned with your priorities, who want your skills. Often, the mid-tier ones are in tiny towns and they are hard to find. They're great though!
    – NMJD
    Feb 10, 2017 at 19:16
  • It should also be noted that many institutions who will hire someone with a masters still have requirements about tenure and promotion based on the degree. In some places you can be hired with a masters but you can't actually receive tenure without a PhD. Some allow you to attain tenure, but will not promote to full professor ever without a terminal degree, etc. So there's going to be a difference (often by institution) on being hired, being hired full-time tenure track, receiving tenure, and ultimately receiving "final" promotion, and opportunity to go an admin route (chair, dean, etc).
    – BrianH
    Feb 10, 2017 at 19:58
  • 1
    @Hosea, to elaborate on BrianDHall's comment, some community colleges offer tenure, some do not. Also, teaching and research overlap a lot more than you seem to realize. Explaining things to people is a very important part of research. Maybe even the most important part. Feb 11, 2017 at 3:34

2 Answers 2


A large portion of the community college workforce is part-time. When there are full time job openings, they are quite competitive. I will assume you are looking for full time work. I have observed that many community college job advertisements say that a PhD is desirable, and I think that the applicant pool will typically contain many PhDs. So I would suggest getting a PhD.

Be sure that during your PhD, you demonstrate that you know how to teach. You can find quite a bit of information about how to obtain a job at a community college in columns on Inside Higher Ed. If you earn a masters in the course of earning your PhD, teaching part-time at a community college during your PhD could be a good strategy.

  • Thank you for your answer! Although I feel that going through rigorous process of PhD is an over-kill if my goal is just to teach basic Economics, I guess that's just the way how the system works here. It'd be interesting to write my SOP when I do apply for PhD next time haha
    – user69180
    Feb 11, 2017 at 4:09

If the master's program you are contemplating enrolling in has nothing to offer, then look for a different master's program.

Some ideas for what you might look for:

  • a program with a specialty in something challenging and/or intriguing, something different from what you've already done

  • a program that would allow you to be a teaching assistant, with a stipend and tuition deferment

  • some other area that can help you with your employability, for example education (pedagogy), business or public administration

You can of course start applying for jobs with your Bachelor's under your belt and see how it goes.

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