People working as professional economists often hold advanced graduate degrees, but students graduating with only a Bachelor's degree find a wide variety of employment opportunities. While searching for that first job can sometimes be a challenge, economics majors are very successful and earn salaries well-above those graduating in most other majors.
Most of the specific skills that people use on the job they learn on the job. Employers often care less about the specific pieces of information you know than about the package of more general skills you possess. And economics majors can bring an impressive package to the employment table.
Economics courses are full of graphs and charts that display information and explain relationships. As a result, students majoring in economics learn to analyze data and to think strategically about decision-making. They learn to think critically about a variety of complicated situations, to ask the right questions, to work with numbers, and to solve problems. Because of their broad analytical skills, quantitative background, and clarity and precision of expression, students majoring in economics are highly sought after in many occupations. Employers know that, if they want someone who can think and who is able to learn the specific job skills they need, they should hire an economics major.
Opportunities with a Bachelor's Degree in Economics
Most career opportunities fall into the following categories:
- Banking and Finance. These are perfect for a major in economics. Banks, brokerage firms, insurance companies and investment houses are but a few of the options in this broad area. Knowledge of the economy is indispensable for these institutions and your background in economics will make you a valuable recruit.
- Management and Marketing. Many economics majors filter into management and marketing positions with both commercial and non-profit firms. Economics provides an understanding of the market system and the broader social context within which these firms operate. Managing scarce resources is right up an economist's alley.
- Government Service. Next to business, some form of government service is the most common employment for those with a B.A. in economics. Almost every state and federal government agency needs people with training in economics. The Department of Labor, the Department of Treasury, the Department of State and the Department of Commerce hire thousands of economists. State and federal regulatory commissions, the Federal Reserve System, and the CIA also are major employers.
- Data Analysis. Numbers are the life-blood of every firm and government agency. Decisions must be based on solid analysis, and analysis requires data. Firms need data on prices, data on output, data on costs, data on customers, and data on their competitors. Government agencies need data on all aspects of the U.S. and world economies. Because economics majors are trained to collect, analyze and interpret data, they are in demand.
- Economic Journalism. Economists who can write for the general reader are scarce. If you enjoy current events, you might consider work as a business writer or editor for a daily newspaper, a free-lance writer for magazines or trade publications, a television journalist specializing in economic affairs, or even a career in the growing field of business journalism on the Internet.
Specific job titles for which students majoring in economics might be hired include:
- Market Analyst
- Budget Analyst
- Marketing Administrator
- Credit Analyst
- Pricing Analyst
- Economic Analyst
- Product Manager
- Environmental Planner
- Purchasing Analyst
- Financial Analyst
- Real Estate Appraiser
- Import/Export Agent
- Insurance Agent
- Research Analyst
- Loan Officer
- Sales Analyst
- Loan Review Analyst
- Stock Broker
- Management Consultant
Specific Occupations of Students with a Bachelor's Degree in Economics
A sampling of actual entry-level positions obtained by recent graduates with only an undergraduate degree includes:
- Bank examiner, U.S. Comptroller of the Currency
- Research Associate, University of Tennessee Center for Business and Economic Research
- Financial analyst, Vanguard
- Contract Specialist, U.S. Army
- Research associate, U.S. Bureau of the Census
- Sales director, Midland Rockhounds (Minor league baseball team)
- Annuities specialist, Prudential
- Financial Analyst, PepsiAmericas
- International database manager, Haver Analytics
- Reports Analyst, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
- Reconciliation specialist, Wachovia
- Credit systems analyst, First Commonwealth Bank
- Inside sales representative, Truck-Lite Company, Inc.
- Manager, Bruster's Ice Cream (yum)
- Human Resource Specialist, GEICO
- Financial advisor, American Express
- Economist, Internal Revenue Service
- Pension specialist, Employee Benefit Data Systems
- Management Trainee, Springs Global
- Financial planner, GE Capital Corporation
- Sales coordinator, Regency Office Supplies
- Global cash trust officer, Mellon Corporation
- Purchasing agent, Gulf South Medical Supply
- Price analyst, Airline Tariffs
- Manager, Marriott
- Insurance underwriter, Fireman's Fund Insurance
- Venture capital assistant, Castle Group
- Legislative assistant, U.S. House of Representatives
- Database specialist, Management Science Associates
- Marketing researcher, National Food Brokers Association
- Consultant, Quinn Consulting
The American Economics Association has excellent Web pages describing careers opportunities for students with a baccalaureate degree in economics.