SAIS or SIPA?

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Sorry if this is in the wrong place!

I'm considering grad school and the more I think about it, the more I think its the right path for me.

I was looking at top schools like SAIS JHU and SIPA at Columbia for their International Economics programs, along with their international relations programs.

I was wondering what people thought about these schools and the prospects of landing a top tier consulting job out of these schools.

I'm not considering an MBA as I dont think I'll get into one of the top schools and besides that my background correlates with IR much more. In the immediate future, I'll be looking at consulting (i.e. McKinsey, Bain) and then hopefully transition into the World Bank/IMF positions.

Is this feasible? Does anyone know anyone at these schools or has graduated into a similar track like I'm envisioning?

I did just get laid off but I should have super recommendations from my job.

I would really appreciate any guidance!!

Thank you :) :)

Comments (40)

 
Oct 23, 2012 - 5:17pm

What makes you so sure that you have no shot at a top mba program? Are your gpa/gmat/work experience really bad?

Regarding your question, getting MBB straight out of a policy program is very tough although i hear that Harvard Kennedy has done reasonably well with MBB in recent years. If consulting is what you want, any top 15, maybe even top 20 MBA is better than policy.

For world bank/IMF and other DC policy jobs, as well as finance, SAIS is much more highly regarded than SIPA, which to be honest has a poor reputation due to its large class size, disorganized career services, and subpar student body.

 
Oct 24, 2012 - 10:39am

MBA-policy:
What makes you so sure that you have no shot at a top mba program? Are your gpa/gmat/work experience really bad?

Perhaps work experience. GPA is 3.9 so not worried about that and I havent taken the GMAT because I didnt intend to apply for b-school. From what I read here, its very unlikely, as a Liberal Arts grad and white female, that I would be very competitive. I guess I think it would be a waste of time to apply considering I dont have that compelling a story. In addition, I've always been attracted to International Relations, having minored in it. I really think SAIS is a terrific school.

MBA-policy:
Regarding your question, getting MBB straight out of a policy program is very tough although i hear that Harvard Kennedy has done reasonably well with MBB in recent years. If consulting is what you want, any top 15, maybe even top 20 MBA is better than policy.

For world bank/IMF and other DC policy jobs, as well as finance, SAIS is much more highly regarded than SIPA, which to be honest has a poor reputation due to its large class size, disorganized career services, and subpar student body.

Really? I've heard terrific things about both SIPA and SAIS, but SAIS more so. And from what I gather they have a terrific track record of placing students into MBB out of their Economics track.

I understand that any top school in business would be good but I think the later transition into World Bank/IMF would be trickier..?

 
Oct 24, 2012 - 12:48pm

SpanishBuzz:
MBA-policy:
What makes you so sure that you have no shot at a top mba program? Are your gpa/gmat/work experience really bad?

Perhaps work experience. GPA is 3.9 so not worried about that and I havent taken the GMAT because I didnt intend to apply for b-school. From what I read here, its very unlikely, as a Liberal Arts grad and white female, that I would be very competitive. I guess I think it would be a waste of time to apply considering I dont have that compelling a story. In addition, I've always been attracted to International Relations, having minored in it. I really think SAIS is a terrific school.

MBA-policy:
Regarding your question, getting MBB straight out of a policy program is very tough although i hear that Harvard Kennedy has done reasonably well with MBB in recent years. If consulting is what you want, any top 15, maybe even top 20 MBA is better than policy.

For world bank/IMF and other DC policy jobs, as well as finance, SAIS is much more highly regarded than SIPA, which to be honest has a poor reputation due to its large class size, disorganized career services, and subpar student body.

Really? I've heard terrific things about both SIPA and SAIS, but SAIS more so. And from what I gather they have a terrific track record of placing students into MBB out of their Economics track.

I understand that any top school in business would be good but I think the later transition into World Bank/IMF would be trickier..?

You have an awesome gpa. Try to get a few years of decent work experience under your belt. If you can get a job in government, nonprofit, think tank, etc., do that and then apply to top b-schools and policy programs. Since you're a white female with strong grades and the fact that b-schools love non-finance/consulting types, you would be a strong candidate anywhere provided you get a 700+ gmat score along with a compelling narrative (and of course get the work experience i outlined above).

SAIS is good for world bank/IMF/Fed and finance jobs in general due to its DC location and its strong emphasis on international economics. However, its career service isn't that great, and there's not too much formal on-campus recruiting, so you're on your own in terms of the job search. SIPA is worse because it's much larger, and its reputation isn't that great.

 
Oct 23, 2012 - 5:24pm

get an MBA instead. I know for a fact that SAIS has a strong reputation at places like IMF, World Bank, Treasury, the Fed, and other financial policy areas. However, I would imagine an MBA would be better positioned for consulting. My personal views on these programs is that they produce policy graduates with a strong economic background, but not necessarily economics graduates with a policy background.

I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.
 
Oct 24, 2012 - 10:41am

HoldenC:
get an MBA instead. I know for a fact that SAIS has a strong reputation at places like IMF, World Bank, Treasury, the Fed, and other financial policy areas. However, I would imagine an MBA would be better positioned for consulting. My personal views on these programs is that they produce policy graduates with a strong economic background, but not necessarily economics graduates with a policy background.

Policy graduate with strong grounding in economics is not necessarily a bad thing in the field I intend to head for I guess. Isn't SAIS somewhat comparable to places like Tuck, Wharton, Haas, etc? It has a very strong rep.

 
Oct 24, 2012 - 12:50pm

SpanishBuzz:
HoldenC:
get an MBA instead. I know for a fact that SAIS has a strong reputation at places like IMF, World Bank, Treasury, the Fed, and other financial policy areas. However, I would imagine an MBA would be better positioned for consulting. My personal views on these programs is that they produce policy graduates with a strong economic background, but not necessarily economics graduates with a policy background.

Policy graduate with strong grounding in economics is not necessarily a bad thing in the field I intend to head for I guess. Isn't SAIS somewhat comparable to places like Tuck, Wharton, Haas, etc? It has a very strong rep.

NO policy program is on par with a top 15 MBA program when it comes to private sector jobs. Even for world bank/Fed, i know that they recruit actively at top finance programs such as wharton, booth, and columbia. If you're absolutely certain about public sector/NGO type work, then policy is fine. But if you also have private sector interests-which it looks like you certainly do-a top 15 MBA always wins out. If you can do a joint degree, that would be even better. HBS-Kennedy, MIT-Kennedy, Tuck-Kennedy, Tuck-SAIS, Wharton-Kennedy, Wharton-SAIS, Columbia-SIPA, are some of the formal mba-policy joint degrees offered.

 
Oct 25, 2012 - 10:44pm

Well at SAIS, even though most people probably go there looking for a career in policy/government - 40% of them end up in the private sector (class of 2012) with the majority going to consulting and finance. So I think its safe to say that there's probably a decent OCR presence to account for these numbers.

 
Oct 26, 2012 - 9:37am

ReadLine:
Well at SAIS, even though most people probably go there looking for a career in policy/government - 40% of them end up in the private sector (class of 2012) with the majority going to consulting and finance. So I think its safe to say that there's probably a decent OCR presence to account for these numbers.

That was my point. I think a major number head into the private sector and are successful with MBB or even banking if thats their inclination.

 
Oct 26, 2012 - 1:42pm

SpanishBuzz:
ReadLine:
Well at SAIS, even though most people probably go there looking for a career in policy/government - 40% of them end up in the private sector (class of 2012) with the majority going to consulting and finance. So I think its safe to say that there's probably a decent OCR presence to account for these numbers.

That was my point. I think a major number head into the private sector and are successful with MBB or even banking if thats their inclination.

Any idea if these firms actually come to SAIS to recruit, or are these students getting the jobs through off-campus networking? A recent SAIS alum I talked to who is doing commodities research at a major bulge bracket bank told me that the career services center was not very helpful and that he had to do things on his own.

 
Nov 21, 2012 - 8:53pm

Bumping this. I spoke to a current student and apparently they do recruit on campus from time to time. More recently anyway. Although, he warns coming to SAIS for a private career would be a waste of time. I obviously disagree, especially when over 40% go into the private sector. Anyone with thoughts?

 
  • Anonymous Monkey's picture
  • Anonymous Monkey
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Nov 28, 2012 - 5:01pm

Current SIPA student here. I landed an MBB gig after extensive outside networking and work. This school sucks. They have sacrificed quality for money, and it really shows. Don't waste your time with SIPA, or, frankly, any policy school.

 
Apr 10, 2013 - 3:58pm

I am VERY curious to know what are some of the reasons that some think "SIPA is pretty bad"?! Are you a sudent/alumni of SIPA or an employer? do you have a close friend that attended and didn't have a good experience? or is this just personal perception? I recently visited the school as i'm considering attending and every student/alumni i talked to had nothing but praise for the program. I'm very interested to know what your source of info is.

 
Feb 10, 2014 - 12:01am

I know someone who graduated from SIPA around 2005. He got a position in a BB investment bank via SIPA career placement, without which he would not have been able to get that position despite his solid credentials. A few acquaintances from around 2004 who were SIPA graduates and who also got positions in good private sector firms said that it was through SIPA career placement. Have heard from many people-in-the-know that generally Columbia University is known to be very good at offering career placement for its students, including SIPA, which is one of the best IR schools for career prospects, though don't know if any of that has changed after the recession or what it is like in 2014. SIPA does publicly publish on its web site where its graduates from the last graduating class are employed, and most importantly, it doesn't just give percentages or broad industry categories (which can be misleading depending on how they are computed), but gives actual numbers of its students and specific names of employers, with a detailed breakdown of exactly how many of its graduates are employed by a specific company. I can't think of a more honest and good faith way for a school to reveal the success of its graduates in obtaining employment.

 
Feb 10, 2014 - 10:23am

Let me clear up some myths here. Pre recession SIPA did place a lot of people through OCR into BB/MBB jobs, though the skew has always been to more macro/EM research type roles vs. corp fine or strategy. Post recession it does not get significant OCR at all from the major players.
- OCR: Career services is abysmal- does not reach out to firms, posts firms as hosting OCR but in fact these are business school events that SIPA students are invited to but unwelcome, and posts misleading statistics regarding placement (firms/salary etc)- so much so that some Professors have taken issue with it.
- Students: It is not entirely career services fault because the quality of the students has deteriorated substantially- many american student have downright clownish work experience (a dancer for example), many of the foreign students are massive frauds that have terrible english skills and turn to cheating at the first sign of difficulty, and the students are downright unprofessional and lack a sense of urgency.
- Coursework: it is first class and you have world leaders in terms of professors, so it is a shame the program has deteriorated. That said it is very unstructured so unless you know what you want to get out of it you will get lost.
Financial aid: massive fellowships (like a years tuition) granted to the top students for being teaching assistants, but very hard and political to get. SIPA overstates the ease and amount of financial aid

Are there success stories from SIPA? Of course, but most were highly motivated, had great work experience and/or substantial connections. You can think of their success as in spite rather than because of SIPA. Just look at the alumni's relationship with the school, most try to distance themselves from it. I would not look for this program to be your launching pad into the private sector as it really only works for unique candidates.

Array
 
Jul 6, 2014 - 12:16am

There is no silver bullet but if you are just "trying to get into the private sector" then you are already behind the curve BC you will be competing against kids that know they want to do latam macro research or healthcare consulting for example (and are well prepared for it). To get something decent out of there you need to hone in on something you are interested in/can add value in and craft your story to that. You then reach out to pertinent alumni (and not like only 10), take the relevant classes, work part time internships during school, and then don't have an attitude about any firm or geographic location being beneath you. You take the few breaks you'll get and you close. After that it's a case of putting your nose to the grindstone and kicking ass.

Array
 
Feb 10, 2014 - 12:37pm

I'm at WB/IMF, and can say first hand that the vast majority of hires (at least, at the economist level) are PhD Economists, with the occasional MA in Econ/Stats from well known schools with strong and relevant work experience (Ministries of Finance, Central Banks, etc). I am not sure how well SAIS places at either WB/IMF. I actually am looking at the opposite path as you, thinking of transitioning to consulting. Currently doing the MSc Applied Econ program at JHU (part time, nights) to build more quantitative analysis skills and hopefully make the move. Also, IMF/WB/IDB/IFC all send to top B-Schools every year (HSW, rest of the top 10+), so exit opps are fairly strong. These schools all come and give presentations/networking opportunities for a "soft" recruit.

 
Feb 10, 2014 - 1:01pm

What happened to going to school just to learn? Too many people these days are concerned about recruiting. I actually attended SIPA/SAIS because I was actually interested in policy. It's a good place to learn something different and it makes you a more well rounded person, especially if you majored in finance in undergrad and if you have a CFA/FRM already.
However, if you are only interested in recruiting, avoid at all costs.

 
Feb 10, 2014 - 2:09pm

@noob123 What happened was a massive financial crisis and as a result, a significantly less fertile recruiting landscape. Going to school just to learn and better yourself is wonderful, until you realize you have $100k of debt and jobs that pay you $40k a year. Ten years ago, it was quite feasible to go to school just to learn, and then still stumble your way into a decent and well paid job. That world no longer exists, and if you aren't focused on recruiting, then you'll be the person I mentioned above.

 
Feb 10, 2014 - 4:39pm

@BGP2587 Entirely agree with your post. Most people don't have the luxury to attend school "just to learn." Pragmatic considerations such as being employed in a suitable position proportionate to the degree obtained, are equally if not more important. Incurring the high costs of a graduate program (any program) with little return on investment in terms of employment prospects or launching a career, is not a viable option for those who do not have unlimited time or unlimited financial resources. Doesn’t make sense to invest time and finances in a degree, after graduating from which, the jobs you can get are the kinds of jobs you could have gotten without that degree, which in this post-recession time has become the reality for graduates of many universities.

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