For economics majors, the job market presents a wide spectrum of career options, and not all of those jobs require being an actual economist. The skills they pick up are transferable to a variety of settings while the concepts, practices, and applications they learned touch on the operations of industries like business, finance, marketing, and data analytics.
This article explores the in-demand skills of economics graduates and the careers that they could enter based on their abilities. It also discusses some of the industries that would highly benefit from their expertise and the average salary for the economics degree jobs covered. In this article, students will be familiarized with their career options while recruitment officers will recognize the true abilities and capabilities of economics majors, which extend beyond the connotation of the “economist” label.
When one thinks of the term “economics,” the notion is that it is a study on how organizations and nations accumulate wealth. That is true, but there is more nuance to the term than simply recommending monetary policies and forecasting GDPs (Conerly, 2015). Economics is a social science that centers on the production, distribution, promotion, sale, and consumption of the world’s resources.
Bell (2008, cited in Mehta et al., 2011) says that a key reason why people study economics is because of its usefulness when pursuing a future career. Likewise, the author found that students tend to gain interest in and study economics because they were influenced by their parents’ jobs, such as, for example, if they have key managerial positions.
Through an economics course, students learn how wealth is accumulated and distributed among individuals, organizations, and nations, as well as the theories and strategies involved to maximize output (Chappelow, 2019). The lessons revolve around economics’ two main branches: microeconomics, which deals with the relationships and behaviors of consumers and producers, and macroeconomics, which covers the resource allocation and distribution in regions, nations, and the world. A lot of high-level math is involved in major subjects.
To understand the relationships of individuals, organizations, and nations with their resources, students are immersed in all economic theories, from the money-centric monetarist theory to the activist-fueled Keynesian theory (Chappelow, 2019). In addition, computations on finance and statistics are taught, as well as how to map out the demand and supply in markets of various scales. Research and its different methods are also involved in many of the course’s procedures, with the students preparing formal papers on economies.
Economics is a broad and diverse subject, which is why it comes with a series of modules, covering fields like business management, finance, business law, and marketing (Target Careers, n.d.). This compounded approach widens the skillsets of learners and opens doors to various industries when they graduate. In fact, as economist Bill Conerly admitted on his Forbes article Career Advice for Economics Majors, “People with [an] economics major work in all industries.”
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Largest Employers of Economists
Largest Employers of Economists Federal government: 22
Largest Employers of Economists Scientific research and development: 19
Scientific research and development
Largest Employers of Economists Management, scientific, and technical consulting: 13
Management, scientific, and technical consulting
Largest Employers of Economists State government: 9
Largest Employers of Economists Finance and Insurance: 6
Finance and Insurance
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020
Special Skills of Economics Majors
Economics majors hold an edge over some of the graduates of other courses in regard to the breadth of competencies they possess and their ability to analyze data in a wide variety of fields. It is an accepted notion that economics is an excellent major for those interested to become business leaders. Flynn and Quinn (2010) even conducted a study to validate this popular view and found that, indeed, economics is a good choice for those seeking to be CEOs.
Bouyed by these, the 2018 – 2028 job outlook growth for economists in the United States is at 8%, higher than the national average of 5% (BLS, 2020b). Schools ensure that students gain a mastery of several transferable skills that can be leveraged in various economics jobs.
Problem-solving. Economics majors are well versed in finding a plethora of solutions to organizational, financial, and economic problems. They can easily extract information from use cases, map out solutions, and then offer sound recommendations based on their findings (AGCAS Editors, 2020).
Data analysis. Analyzing data is commonplace in economics. Students are adept at running information through statistical methods and mathematical models to arrive at sound conclusions. They are also skilled in using the software needed for such operations (Career Planner, n.d.).
Drilling down cases. For economics majors, organizational, financial, or economic performance is composed of several factors influencing its outcome. For instance, an upswing in sales of restaurants can be theorized as either an increase in customers or the diners availing of more items (Conerly, 2015).
An evidence-based approach to problems. Besides analysis, economics majors are wired to find reliable sources of data and are inclined to verify a dataset’s validity before including them in any study. The solutions that they generate are based on facts and data-backed presumptions (AGCAS Editors, 2020).
Research using various methods. Versed in a lot of research methods, economics majors can analyze which techniques work best for a given scenario (University of Nebraska-Omaha, n.d.).
Understanding relationships. Economics majors know which factors influence sales, financial trends, GDPs, and how those factors relate to one another (Conerly, 2015). The relationships they often tackle include price and quantities, trade and exchange rates, revenues and elasticity, and education and wages (University of Houston, n.d.), among many others.
Communication. Economics majors, in working with complex scenarios, have the ability to articulate their findings, analyses, solutions, and recommendations in a manner that is easy to grasp. Aside from effective oral and written communication, they use charts, graphs, tables to present data. This reduces or eliminates the guesswork involved (Conerly, 2015).
Monitoring new trends. Since economics majors often do research, the data they leverage should always be relevant. They are wired to look for new or updated solutions, such as new industry trends or the latest innovations (Conerly, 2015). This line of thinking can also be used when looking for the best types of software to perform their jobs with.
Concept integration. Economic concepts branch out to other disciplines like psychology, sociology, business, finance, and political science, just to name a few (University of Nebraska-Omaha, n.d.). As such, economics majors can relate what they have learned to whichever industry and line of work they opt to enter.
According to Jüttler and Schumann (2019), economic competencies collectively encompass the capability to function as knowledgeable citizens of contemporary societies by having the competency to appreciate and evaluate economic concerns. And aside from the given special skills, economics majors also get to hone their ability to manage time while in school (AGCAS Editors, 2020). They work around time constraints of classes by mapping out complex tasks in advance. When applied to the professional realm, they can use this method to generate accurate production forecasts when dealing with lengthy projects.
Possible Careers of Economics Graduates
Jobs for economics majors are in abundance given their broad knowledge base and transferable skillsets. A lot of sectors have openings that they can apply for, and those are not limited to the jobs offered to economists. In fact, contemporary advancements in technology have further expanded their list of options, as fields like big data analytics and data science would benefit from the competencies of economics majors (Wharton, n.d.).
Being a professional economist remains a highly coveted option, with the median pay in 2019 amounting to $105,020 a year and $50.49 per hour (BLS, 2020b). However, there are equally promising options in the job market that could lead to lengthy and fulfilling careers (Profita, 2020), even if the job titles do not necessarily have the word “economist” in them.
The work of professional economists is reflective of the theories, practices, and exercises learned in economics courses, thus the transition to the professional realm should be smooth for economics majors. However, the competition is stiff, which is why obtaining a master’s degree or a Ph.D. places one in a better position for success (Brendan, 2018).
Professional economists primarily deal with the research and analysis of economic data. Trends are identified, from which opportunities and threats to a given economy are underscored (Tucker, 2019). They provide data-driven forecasts, reports, and insights into their clientele or employer. In turn, their outputs serve as a basis for strategies or new company policies.
Similar to economics majors, professional economists are hired by a long list of organizations coming from various sectors, which include the government, financial institutions, accountancy firms, large enterprises, and think-tanks (Tucker, 2019). They can also do consultancy work and accommodate multiple clients concurrently.
On average, professional economists receive $105,020 a year and $50.49 per hour (BLS, 2020b). Their job outlook from 2018 to 2028 is at 8%.
Market Research Analyst
Market research analysts are tasked to gather info and see how a set of goods would fare in a given economy through research and analytics. This mirrors some of the exercises performed by economics majors in school, with research, drill-downs, and data analysis as part of their core competencies (Profita, 2020). Economics graduates can analyze consumer behavior, the strategies of competitors, and the demand and supply of goods and services, among others.
Of course, there is a learning curve to entering the market research field, but economics majors already have a grasp of its fundamentals even before they graduate. They can pick up the other job skills needed through training or on the job itself.
As for compensation, market research analysts receive $63,790 a year or $30.67 per hour on average (BLS, 2020e). Meanwhile, their job outlook from 2018 to 2028 is at an impressive 20% (BLS, 2020e), which means more openings will appear in the foreseeable future.
Data science has grown in popularity ever since the advent of big data in the industrial setting. With more and more companies relying on data analytics, data scientists have become critical to steering companies towards their financial goals. After all, their job is to collect, analyze, and report on data regarding markets, products, and the effectiveness of company strategies (Wharton, n.d.).
Economics majors fit right in with this occupation given their research skills, critical thinking, and ability to analyze data. They can extract information from different scenarios and extrapolate insights from them. Moreover, the applications leveraged in data science grant them direct access to the facts and figures needed to identify trends and compare datasets, speeding up their analysis in the process.
Data scientists are currently in-demand and will remain so in the next several years, lending to their high salaries, amounting to $117,000 a year on average (Wharton, n.d.). That is higher than the average annual salary of economists ($105,020). In addition, the growth rate of jobs in data science is at a remarkable 28% (Wharton, n.d.), making them ideal landing spots for tech-savvy economics majors.
Actuaries deal with risk and its consequences for a host of industries. They identify and then analyze each risk factor through mathematics, statistics, and graphic representations (Profita, 2020). Often working with health-related organizations, actuarial analysts present their findings to medical facilities, insurance companies, and pension directors, which will be the bases for strategies. They can likewise analyze financial risks and provide reports to financial institutions (AGCAS Editors, 2020).
Mathematics, statistics, and research are right up the alley of economics majors. In fact, they are knowledgeable in several research methodologies that could further drill down into the causation and progression of risks. They can also provide data-driven recommendations and insights, which will make the lives of their employers or clients easier.
On average, actuaries receive an annual salary of $108,350 and an hourly rate of $52.09 (BLS, 2020a), on par with the sum professional economists receive. The industry also has a growth rate of 20% (BLS, 2020a) over the next 10 years, higher than that of economist jobs (8%).
Financial analysts are responsible for monitoring the flow of money in organizations, with a particular interest in how money is being spent (Study.com, 2020). Additionally, they keep track of market trends and consumer behavior and provide detailed reports on the matter. Their financial projections typically hold much influence in the decision-making process of company executives.
The job of financial analysts is a foremost example of microeconomics at work, and economics majors are highly proficient in that regard. Many of the economics courses offered in universities devote at least one year to microeconomics subjects, with the succeeding modules dedicated to finance and trade (Target Careers, n.d.). Moreover, a master’s degree in economics furthers the students’ knowledge of solving and analyzing financial problems (Study.com, 2020). Economics graduates are likely to perform well in this job.
Financial analysts, on average, receive $85,660 per year or $41.81 per hour (BLS, 2020c). In 2018, there were 329,500 jobs of this nature, and that figure would stand to increase by 6% in the next few years (BLS, 2020c).
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020
Lawyers with economics backgrounds hold distinct advantages over their strictly legal counterparts as they combine their knowledge of the law with a micro- or macroeconomic approach to scenarios (Profita, 2020). They can gather evidence, draw up parallel scenarios, analyze probable causes, and drill down into the assertions of the opposition until weak links are unearthed. Also, they can produce detailed reports that highlight the veracity of witness accounts and items entered as evidence.
The drawback of entering law as an economics major is the time spent studying. They have to take up law after completing their economics course, and then pass the bar exams before they can get employed as a lawyer. However, when they do graduate, they are set to receive a large sum of money. They can also offer consultations to supplement their income if there are no cases present.
Lawyers receive around $122,960 a year or $59.11 per hour (BLS, 2020d), a lot higher than what professional economists receive. The legal areas that economics majors typically enter include corporate law, tax law, and antitrust law (Profita, 2020).
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020
With economics closely tied to research and statistics, it makes sense for economics majors to pursue a career in statistics. Statisticians record, analyze, interpret, and report data for documentation purposes or to solve problems through quantitative information (AGCAS Editors, 2018). Many of society’s sectors are in need of their services, and those include the government, science, medicine, finance, healthcare, marketing, sports, and law enforcement, among many others.
Besides shared competencies with statisticians, economics majors use critical thinking to discover solutions to presented concerns. They can also map out experiments to be conducted or recommended to their employers or clientele.
In regard to compensation, statisticians are, on average, given $73,184 yearly and $29.66 per hour (PayScale, n.d.). Some of their most utilized skills are statistical analysis, data analysis, and data modeling (PayScale, n.d.).
The skills learned by economics majors prove to be useful in other fields, and accountancy is one of the disciplines that would benefit much from individuals with a background in economics. Aside from bookkeeping, economics majors are wired to look through the data for problem areas, offer insights, and expedite solutions (TopUniversities, n.d.). They can increase the overall profitability of organizations and find ways to decrease expenditures.
Before graduates can enter any of the economics jobs in accountancy, they have to know every element surrounding a company’s finances, the fundamentals of bookkeeping, and the types of financial statements needed by companies. They should also familiarize themselves with the software used by accountants to streamline the process.
The average take-home pay of accountants is $51,162 per year and $20.29 per hour (PayScale, n.d.). Meanwhile, general ledger accounting, financial reporting, and bookkeeping are some of the skills looked for by potential employers (PayScale, n.d.).
Compensation managers are responsible for building a company’s pay and benefits structure, track industry-standard compensation packages, and monitor how salaries and benefits are distributed (BLS, 2020f). Economics majors are ideal for this job since they can analyze which compensation plans work best for a company’s departments. They can also check the salaries and benefits of competitors, and then build packages that are more competitive (Profita, 2020).
Another reason why being a compensation manager is a recommended career for economics majors is the take-home pay. On average, these professionals receive $122,270 annually and $58.80 hourly (BLS, 2020f), putting them on par with lawyers. They are also hired by mid-sized corporations and large enterprises across all major industries, so options are aplenty.
A probable career for economics majors is literally staring them in the face while attending classes. Economics professors, before they get hired by top tier universities, must display mastery of economic theories, practices, and applications (Wharton, n.d.), as well as excel in the field of research. Aspirants are advised to pick up industry experience and take up a postgraduate economics degree should they want to scale the ranks of the academe. A good reason for doing so is the massive jump in salary.
While the average annual pay of economics professors is at an already impressive $118,687, it can increase to around $205,504 if they earn a high position in a prestigious university (Salary.com, 2020).
Compliance analysts ensure that a company’s operations are working within the bounds of the law, accounting for national and local laws as well as internal rules and regulations. Economics graduates have the potential to succeed in this field since they are trained to analyze issues in various sectors, including finance, healthcare, and corporate law (Profita, 2020).
Their competency in fact-finding, combined with their understanding of the relationships of economic factors, help businesses navigate the land’s legal system while finding ways to reduce costs (Profita, 2020). If an economics major has a background in political economy, they can even simplify legalese, making sure that their employers do not fall prey to the jargon-based tactics of lawyers.
As for the pay, compliance analysts receive $59,312 annually and $20.57 hourly (PayScale, n.d.). Policy analysis, research analysis, and data analysis are some of the skills expected by potential employers (PayScale, n.d.).
The stock trade is a game of trends and predicting outcomes. Armed with market knowledge, stockbrokers can foretell which stocks will exponentially increase and decrease in value over a given period (AGCAS Editors, 2018). Their predictions can turn people into instant millionaires. Furthermore, the volatility of stock prices keeps the brokers on their toes, making stock trading one of the more exciting economics jobs available.
Economics majors will have to leverage a large chunk of their knowledge base, from researching the influx of stock prices to identifying which stocks will rise in value, to outdo other stockbrokers. They should also learn the nature of various markets to quantify the influxes and trends. A lot of practice and observations are required to excel at this job, and fortunately, economics majors are inclined to do both.
Stockbrokers, on average, earn $56,078 yearly and $23.41 per hour (PayScale, n.d.). That might be a modest sum compared to the other entries on this list, but that is not their only revenue stream. They receive $20,000 worth of commissions each year (PayScale, n.d.) on top of the bonuses they collect should their clients score big in their investments.
Plenty of Job Options for the Economics Major
While attending classes, economics majors gain knowledge of how entities of various scales utilize their resources (Chappelow, 2019). To quantify their findings, they engage in various research methods and hone a set of skills that help them identify problems and posit solutions for a wide range of scenarios. Those skills happen to be transferable to a plethora of economics jobs spanning different industries, which is why aspirants have an abundance of possible careers (Conerly, 2015).
Typically, economics majors are competent in problem-solving, data analysis, research, monitoring new trends, contextualizing the relationships of datasets, and reporting their findings in a manner that’s easy to understand (Conerly, 2015; AGCAS Editors, 2020; Career Planner, n.d.; University of Houston, n.d.; University of Nebraska-Omaha, n.d.). Using these skills effectively will help any aspirant not only gain a career but also excel in whichever field they enter.
In essence, there are jobs for someone with an economic background in any given industry (Conerly, 2015), but some lines of work have a more immediate need for what economics majors bring to the table. Being a professional economist comes as the foremost option since the job mirrors what graduates have learned in school. However, it is far from being the only viable occupation available. These include being a market research analyst, data scientist, lawyer, and an actuary, among others (Profita, 2020; Wharton, n.d.; AGCAS Editors, 2020).
Some economics jobs offer higher salaries than the average take-home pay of professional economists. And the list includes economics professors, lawyers, and compensation managers (BLS, 2020; Salary.com, 2020). Other career paths may also open up as an economics major picks up a wealth of professional experience, coupled with a postgraduate degree. Besides the academe, they can get into politics as local leaders are in charge of running and managing economies. After all, the term “economy” is at the heart of an economics major’s expansive skillset.
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