Time Spent on MA Economics

I tracked my working hours throughout my 8-month master’s program to better understand my study habits and the allocation of time across course components. The full results are shown in the pdf link. I spent nearly 1,600 hours across math camp and the two terms. I spent on average 180 hours per course and approximately 7.3 hours per day. The time was allocated approximately 15% to lecture, 50% to assignments and 34% to review/studying. The term paper was the largest single component of any course, accounting for 30% of total time.

The program began in August with 3 weeks of math preparation (“math camp”) followed by two 16-week terms with four courses in each. The program included core courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics plus 5 electives. The set of electives that I chose were of low to moderate difficulty relative to those chosen by other students. I noticed early on that the amount of time spent trying to study was not equal to the amount of time that was actually spent studying. In 60 minutes of trying to study, I would only spend about 50 minutes on productive studying. The remainder was spent on email, social media, taking small breaks, or other distractions. I opted to record only my productive studying (not counting time spent on distractions).

There are several considerations that may make these observations different than that for the typical student. Firstly, this program was completed exclusively online during the covid-19 pandemic. I suspect that this led me to study more than I would have under normal circumstances. Secondly, I was in an ideal position to dedicate nearly all my productive time to studying. I spent only approximately 0.5 hours per day on productive tasks not related to school (primarily working for a professor, networking, and PhD applications). I had no other significant time constraints such as caring for dependents or other employment, and I was fortunate enough to avoid being sick, injured or otherwise forced to take time off. Importantly, I did not work as a teaching assistant which typically consumes 140 hours per term or 1.5 hours per day. Thirdly, I worked harder on assignments and term papers than was necessary to get top marks. I spent extra time on term papers due to personal interest and I completed most assignments without collaboration.

Raymond Chiasson
Raymond Chiasson
PhD student in Economics

PhD student in economics at the University of Toronto.