Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What Jobs do Economics Majors Get?

The important thing to understand about finding a job with an economics degree is that employers are less interested in whether you have a specific skill, like being able to find the intersection of the supply and demand curve, than they are in the package of skills that people with economics degrees have. Secret: most of the skills which people use on the job they learn on the job.
An undergraduate degree in economics trains you to "think critically" about a variety of complicated situations. For example: in intermediate micro you learn(ed) about elasticity of demand. This theory illustrates how price setting for firms is more complicated than just "raise price to increase profits" - sometimes this strategy will lower profits. Learning about elasticity is not only useful because it is an important business concept, but also because it teaches problem solving skills. Economics students also learn(ed) how to figure out what the right questions to ask are about business situations, solve problems, work with numbers, and a variety of other skills.
What this means is that employers know that, if they want someone who is a good thinker and who is going to be able to learn the specific job skills which they need, then they should hire an economics major. This is why statistics show that average starting salaries for students with economics majors are even higher than those with business majors.
Jobs for econ majors generally fall into two categories: business and government

1. Business Opportunities
Many jobs in business do not require students to have a business degree or a major in a specific field like "accounting."
Employers are happy to hire students with undergraduate degrees in Economics. They are often looking for good mathematics skills, good writing skills, ability to use a word processing program such as Word and a spreadsheet program such as Excel. Some jobs require skill in using a statistics program - these are appropriate for people who did well in or liked ECON 3254. Computer programming skills are definitely a plus. Almost any programming language will appeal to most employers, although some have a preference for "C" and "Visual Basic."
Job titles in business include any kind of "analyst" or "consultant" title, "economist", "research assistant", and others. Economics majors can also apply for entry level positions in business as long as there isn't a specific requirement to know marketing or some other skill which an econ major might not learn. Students with degrees from both Arts and Sciences and the Business Schools are eligible to apply for business jobs.
These days a lot of economics majors are finding jobs in the banking and financial services sector of the economy. Click
here and then go to the banking and financial services pages to learn more about what kinds of jobs are available and what the industry does.

2. Government Opportunities
A number of government agencies and government-related organization (for example, the FTC , the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Federal Reserve Banks) like to hire students with economics degrees to do many types of work. These jobs often involve doing research on programs which either are in place to find out how well they are working or evaluating different options for a new program being considered. In many cases, people with undergraduate degrees in economics will be a part of a team of researchers, some of who have graduate degrees.
Job titles in government include "economist", "research assistant", and others. Employers will be looking for skills which are similar to those needed for business. Again, students with degrees from both skills are eligible to apply for government jobs.