Students and Recent Graduates
Research Assistant FAQs

Research Assistants work with economists on timely analysis of economic data as well as long-term academic research. Learn more about what to expect and how to apply.

What skills and knowledge can I expect to gain while working as an RA?

  • Economics: RAs are exposed to the frontier of economic research on an ongoing basis through daily work on long-term research projects and policy-related forecasting, attending seminars, and taking classes at local universities, such as the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.
  • Programming: RAs acquire a wide range of specialized and general programming skills in the course of their tenure. While Stata and R are the two most commonly used tools, Matlab and Python (among others) are also being utilized regularly. RAs have the unique opportunity to learn parallel computing techniques and work with very large data sets.
  • The Policymaking Process: The key goal of the Research Department to provide high-quality timely input for monetary policymaking. The RAs play an important role in attaining this goal. In the process, they learn about the modeling and empirical tools for formulating policy-relevant forecasts.
  • Analysis of High Frequency Data: RAs learn about a variety of data sources, gauge their relative usefulness in answering time-critical questions, and design ways to access this information quickly and reliably.
  • Writing for Diverse Audiences: RAs are tasked with working on projects for very different target audiences. Some of the projects are very technical and specialized in nature and are geared toward academics. Other projects summarize ongoing economic trends and/or research findings and need to be written for the interested layperson.
  • The Lifecycle of Academic Research: RAs are exposed to multiple stages of academic research from formulation of the initial idea to subsequent implementation and documentation of the analysis, presentation of the results, submission of the paper for peer review, ensuing revisions, and so on to the beginning of the next project.

What is the work environment like?

Economic Research has a collegial and academic environment that emphasizes learning and teaching at all stages of careers. Members of the Research department collaborate to serve the public good and to challenge and support one another on their assumptions, thinking, and conclusions.

How is the Research department organized?

The department consists of the following teams: finance, macroeconomics, microeconomics, regional analysis, policy studies, and policy communications. Each of these teams has a distinct focus and a broad research agenda. Economists collaborate widely across teams, both on policy and research. Learn more about the economists and their research.

RAs are assigned to a particular team, depending on existing needs and qualifications. An RA typically provides primary research support for one or two economists and is engaged in a number of policy analysis projects that may include economists from different teams.

What are the typical career paths pursued by RAs?

Many former RAs pursue graduate degrees in fields such as economics, law, business administration, or public policy. Recent RAs have attended top-rated graduate programs at universities such as the University of Chicago, UC-Berkeley, Yale, NYU-Stern, Northwestern, Duke, the University of Wisconsin, and Princeton. Several Chicago Fed RAs have been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship.

Former RAs have also accepted challenging and competitive positions elsewhere in the Chicago Fed, the Federal Reserve System and in the private sector.

How flexible are work hours?

The department of Research, Policy, & Public Engagement has shifted to a hybrid model post the height of COVID. Tuesday through Thursday is in-person, while Monday and Fridays are work from home – although most RAs come in person daily! The schedule can also be modified to accommodate any class attendance.

What benefits does the Chicago Fed Offer?

Health, dental and vision insurance, commuter and health club benefits, and a 401(k) savings plan.

I have a master’s degree. Should I apply?

Absolutely. Candidates with a master’s degree are able to further develop their skills for future doctoral studies or to prepare for a transition to other career tracks.

Are there other opportunities for undergraduates?

The Chicago Fed offers a Summer Intern program. The Research Department program emphasizes advanced assignments—with opportunities for summer interns to enhance their skills through critical financial analysis, research and writing, and formal presentations—making it ideal for students, especially rising seniors, interested in applying for the Research Assistant position. More information is available at the Research Summer Internship page.

What are the U.S. Residency requirements for this position?

Bank policy specifies that candidates must be:

  • U.S. citizens
  • U.S. nationals or
  • U.S.permanent residents who intend to apply for naturalization within six months of being eligible to do so.

RAs are not eligible for sponsorship.

What if I want to be a Research Assistant in a different location?

Research Assistants are needed in programs throughout the Federal Reserve System. Please check out the System RA page to apply.

When and how do I apply?

The yearly application cycle begins in early September. Sign up to be notified when applications open.

Having trouble accessing something on this page? Please send us an email and we will get back to you as quickly as we can.

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, 230 South LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois 60604-1413, USA. Tel. (312) 322-5322

Copyright © 2024. All rights reserved.

Please review our Privacy Policy | Legal Notices