The wide range of academic disciplines represented by PREDOC make it difficult to provide one-size-fits-all recommendations for coursework. Fundamental coursework for a behavioral scientist may not be necessary for a statistician, and vice versa. That said, breadth in academic experience is an asset to research, and can help you define your own research interests, so be sure to explore the following areas broadly:
- Mathematics: An analytical background is important to carry out rigorous research in economics, business, and the social sciences generally. Make sure to take math courses early on as they will be the building blocks of your future studies and your future career anywhere you go. In Economics, a quality grade in a proofs-based course like Real Analysis (which often has multiple pre-requisites like Calculus and Linear Algebra) is often a requirement. Mathematics is language and is everywhere.
- Experimental Research Models and Statistics: We live in a world with massive amounts of data, which need to be collected, organized, elaborated, and understood. When a dataset does not yet exist, researchers may need to create data by designing and executing experiments. When the data do exist, statistics (including econometrics) provide the tools and the methodologies to analyze those data. These tools will be critically important in numerous jobs besides research, as the analysis of big data sets is becoming the "new normal" in any business.
- Computer programming: The collection and analysis of data often requires the knowledge of computer programs. The larger datasets get, the more exciting possibilities are created by rigorous computer analysis. R, STATA, and Python are the three major languages used by social scientists; it's typically sufficient to have proficiency in any one of these to apply for research positions. You can utilize our free asynchronous coding course here!
From designing surveys to analyzing data, basic knowledge of computer programming is extremely useful in social science research.
The best way to get advice particular to your areas of research interest is to ask a faculty member in that area. This is a great way to start to form a mentoring relationship with faculty, and can eventually lead to course recommendations, RA opportunities, and strong letters of reference. If you are just getting started and need some advice, though, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'd be happy to get you started.