Career Options for Economics Majors
Economics is one of the most versatile and useful majors because it hones students' analytic and critical thinking abilities. Arguably the most practical of the liberal arts, economics enables students to logically structure problems of choice in order to understand how the relevant financial, legal, or social constraints affect those choices. The resulting understanding of the interactions of laws and government policies with personal and business decisions provides a solid foundation for either finding a job or graduate study. For those interested in graduate study, an economics degree is well-respected by top graduate programs in economics, business, law, public policy, and medicine.
- Getting a Job after Graduation
- Graduate School in Economics
- Business School
- Law School
- Graduate Programs in Public and International Affairs
Economics is one of the best preparations for a career which can be entered with a Bachelor's degree. In addition to economic consulting work in both the private and public sectors, employment prospects in government, journalism, administration, sales, finance, investment banking, and venture capital are enhanced with an Economics degree. Work in these fields requires good analytical ability, so one's employment prospects will be further improved by supplementing study in economics with skills in statistics, mathematics, and computer science.
Graduate study in economics generally consists of the following components: (1) intense training in macroeconomics, microeconomics and econometrics, (2) qualifying written and/or oral examinations, (3) courses in the student's chosen areas of specialty, (4) research seminars, during which students write and present research papers, (5) teaching and/or research assistant duties, and (6) a dissertation. The dissertation process is overseen by a committee of three or more professors chosen by the student. These advisors guide the student and ultimately decide if the dissertation is sufficient at a final oral defense. Normally, it takes five years to complete a Ph.D. program.
An undergraduate economics major supplemented with additional math courses is excellent preparation for graduate school. Graduate programs in economics are mathematically rigorous, so students considering graduate school need at a minimum: multivariate calculus (MATH 213), linear algebra (MATH 224), a course in econometrics (ECON 375), and mathematical probability and statistics (MATH 336, 436). Students will find it helpful to take additional courses in mathematics such as foundations (MATH 222), differential equations (MATH 333), and real analysis (MATH 341). Faculty members can assist you in choosing undergraduate courses that will best prepare you for graduate study in economics. Most graduate programs require GRE scores for admission, with an emphasis on the math and analytic portions of the test. Other important considerations for admission include letters of recommendation, undergraduate course work, and grades as an undergraduate.
A Ph.D. in economics prepares you to teach economics at the college level and to do research in economics. Most PhD.s in economics find employment within academia or doing economic research at government agencies or private research firms. Students who do not think that they want to teach and who are mostly interested in doing non-technical policy analysis using the tools of economics might want to consider a Masters in Public Policy.
Business schools have increasingly emphasized both work experience and a broad, well-rounded liberal arts undergraduate education in their admissions decisions. An undergraduate economics major provides a solid analytical background for business school. Most of our graduates who choose to pursue an MBA work for a couple of years before beginning business school.
Students who eventually attend business school can seek concentrations in several different fields: accounting, corporate finance, business economics, international business, industrial and labor relations, management information systems, management, marketing, and operations research. A student's interests should influence the type of courses taken as an undergraduate, as well as the type of employment sought upon graduation. Well-chosen internships and summer positions during one's college education can provide valuable exposure to potential careers in these fields.
While there is no single best course of undergraduate study to prepare for law school, economics has proven to be a very effective preparation for a career in the law. It has a solid analytical base that usually provides excellent preparation for taking the LSAT, the law school entrance exam, and the analytical methods used in economic analysis develop the critical thinking skills necessary for success in a law career. In addition, many law schools are now regularly teaching economics courses because they are finding that current legal doctrine is increasingly incorporating economic analysis. For example, antitrust law requires familiarity with economic models of imperfect competition.
For students who want to become involved in public policy and international affairs, there are many Master's and Ph.D. programs in public policy, international relations, and government. The range of employment opportunities open to graduates of such programs includes: policy-making at the federal and state level; strategic planning for multi-national corporations; and consulting for international agencies.
Most Master's and Ph.D. programs of this type encourage prospective enrollees to work for a couple of years in government, public service, or for an agency involved with public programs before applying to a graduate program. Work experience provides exposure to the actual work one will be doing after receiving the graduate degree. It also allows the graduate program to do a more effective job of training the student, and demonstrates one's commitment to pursuing a career in this area. Students are strongly encouraged to complement their academic training with summer internships and field work in their chosen area of public policy.