Thursday, August 14, 2008

Should Economists be certified?

The Wall Street Journal had yesterday an op-ed on the fact that a college degree often does not constitute proof of competency. As I have argued before, many students have no business being in college, but the latter graduate them anyway. This waters down the quality signal of a college degree. The response to this situation by various trades has been to certify themselves the competences of prospective tradespeople. Examples are the bar exam, CPA, CFA, actuarial exams, etc. Should the same apply to Economics?

In most US colleges, an Economics major has only two years of study in that field, hardly worth claiming to be an economist. To make matters worse, many Economics programs feed on the rejects fom business schools, who typically failed out because of low grades in basic Mathematics and Statistics. Hardly the best clientele for an Economics degree. While Economics programs typically dismiss more students than most other programs, they still graduate many that do not have required competences.

A test like the GRE subject test would have been a good start, but this has been cancelled in 2001. The American Economic Association has been thinking about devising some criteria to be voluntarily applied to college curricula, but I think something much more drastic would be needed.

5 comments:

Vilfredo said...

One nice side effect of certification is that a lot of the so-called economists on TV could not call themselves economists anymore.

james said...

Wow, an economist who has never read Milton Friedman! I'd count you as unqualified.

Russ said...

Tests/licensure are no measure of comptency either, other thanthe comptency of giving the answers the tester/licensor is looking for. No one will watch the new watchdogs either, so licensure is basically nothing more than a new name for the exact same process.

Everyone's looking for an easy way out of doing due diligence. There isn't one.

Vilfredo said...

Russ: Certification has the advantage of forcing college to graduate competent people. Right now, they can tolerate whatever they chose to.

JP said...

I wouldn't call anyone with just a bachelor's degree an economist. Generally a Ph.D. is expected. I've seen some people with MBA's claim to be economists, but they're not.

Also, I have to echo what James said. You obviously haven't read Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman.