Economics is the study of how people use material, services and financial resources. It looks at such different processes as how governments define interest rates to control inflation, where consumers invest their savings or what factors affect the sales of children’s clothes. Although several types of jobs partially use the field, economists make this social science their career.
Students of economics can parlay their knowledge into several careers and industries. As credit analysts in finance and banking, they examine whether clients, ranging from consumers to businesses, are worthy of loans and what interest rates to charge them. As actuaries or risk managers in insurance, they develop compensation plans that protect clients and yet provide profit for their organizations. And in sales, they price goods and develop payment terms that are affordable to customers. Positions are also available as teachers who explain the intricacies of the subject in secondary schools and colleges.
Economists study the production, distribution and payment of goods and services. They research issues using government reports and computer databases, and apply mathematical models and statistical analysis to develop conclusions. They can then use their knowledge to forecast market trends, buying preferences and potential revenue for private and government organizations. Many communicate information through articles on websites, newsletter or academic journals. They can specialize in fields such as labor, to study workers and employers; finance, to analyze markets, investments and risk; or microeconomics, to study how individuals and companies make monetary decisions.
People with bachelor’s degrees in economics can find some entry-level jobs. However, most positions demand at least a master’s degree, with some management jobs also requiring many years of experience. A Ph.D. is necessary for research or college teaching posts. An internship can provide students with hands-on experience in collecting data, conducting surveys and writing reports. Math and computer skills are required, because many economists rely on computers to create formulas for processing data. Strong speaking and writing skills are also necessary for explaining findings and writing documents.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects jobs for economists to increase by about 6 percent from 2010 to 2020, which compares to the predicted average growth of 14 percent for all other U.S. occupations. More businesses and organizations are relying on economic data to forecast and plans sales and profit, which produces opportunities. However, the biggest employer of economists is the federal government, where jobs are expected to decline. The best positions will go to people with a master’s degree or Ph.D. Many of the openings will be in consulting services, as organizations contract out their economics needs, rather than add economists to the internal payroll.
- Burke/Triolo Productions/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images