Whether you're interested in public or private sector work, earning an economics degree opens the door to many career paths.
Economists analyze financial information to forecast trends and understand consumer behavior. In addition to careers as economists, individuals with economics degrees pursue employment as financial analysts, market researchers, and management consultants.
This guide answers the question, "what can you do with an economics degree?" by exploring career paths in economics and the earning potential for different economics degrees. It also examines professional certifications that can help economics professionals increase their earning potential and advance their careers.
Careers in Economics
Economics graduates can find careers in banking, investing, insurance, finance, and consulting. In these roles, professionals analyze economic data, forecast business trends, and recommend investing strategies.
This section explores available career paths in economics, including their median salary data, recommended education, and job growth projections. In addition to opportunities as researchers, analysts, and economists, these majors can also find employment in other fields.
Associate or Bachelor's Degree Required
|Median Salary: $63,270||Projected Job Growth: ↑|
Loan officers review loan applications to determine whether borrowers meet the necessary lending requirements. This process usually involves researching individuals and organizations that apply for loans and making recommendations about whether their employer should approve the loan.
Market Research Analysts
|Median Salary: $63,790||Projected Job Growth: ↑↑↑|
Market research analysts evaluate consumer demand and pricing strategies to help organizations sell their products and services. They estimate sales, identify target customers, and research competitors.
Accountants and Auditors
|Median Salary: $71,550||Projected Job Growth: ↑|
Accountants and auditors prepare and review financial documents. They create tax documents, assess financial records for accuracy, and evaluate an organization's financial operations. These professionals can specialize in specialty areas, like managerial, forensic, or public accounting.
|Median Salary: $74,750||Projected Job Growth: ↑|
Logisticians, also called supply chain managers, oversee supply chains to help organizations deliver products and services to customers. They manage the acquisition, storage, and transportation processes to improve efficiency.
|Median Salary: $76,540||Projected Job Growth: ↑|
Budget analysts examine proposed budgets and balance sheets to help organizations manage their finances. This usually includes creating budget reports to decrease costs and manage spending. These analysts work for private organizations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations.
|Median Salary: $81,090||Projected Job Growth: ↑↑|
Financial examiners examine loans, balance sheets, and financial documents to ensure that financial institutions follow laws and regulations. They may specialize in an area like risk assessment or consumer compliance.
|Median Salary: $81,590||Projected Job Growth: ↑↑|
Financial analysts evaluate investment options for individuals and businesses. They research past performance for stocks and bonds to forecast future economic trends and recommend investment strategies.
|Median Salary: $85,260||Projected Job Growth: ↑↑↑|
Management consultants, also known as management analysts, evaluate organizations to recommend improvements in their policies and structures. They analyze data and recommend changes to increase profitability and decrease costs.
Personal Financial Advisors
|Median Salary: $87,850||Projected Job Growth: ↑|
Personal financial advisors recommend investment and savings strategies for their clients. They advise individuals on portfolio management, college savings plans, retirement savings, and other investment choices.
|Median Salary: $108,350||Projected Job Growth: ↑↑↑|
Actuaries evaluate data to estimate the potential cost of events. They often work for insurance companies, helping to set prices for insurance policies based on risk analyses.
Compensation and Benefits Managers
|Median Salary: $122,270||Projected Job Growth: ↑|
Compensation and benefits managers oversee pay and employee benefits for organizations and companies. This includes researching market conditions to set compensation rates and analyzing information on wages and benefits. These managers also design pay structures and create incentive programs.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Master's or Doctoral Degree Required
|Median Salary: $105,020||Projected Job Growth: ↑↑↑|
Economists collect and analyze data to create economic forecasts and projections. They also research the distribution of goods and resources. Job responsibilities can include designing surveys, applying statistical techniques to data, and interpreting economic information to write reports.
Postsecondary Economics Teachers
|Median Salary: $104,370||Projected Job Growth: ↑↑↑|
Postsecondary economics teachers, also known as economics professors, teach classes in economics at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In addition to giving lectures and assessing student learning, these professors conduct research and publish their findings.
|Median Salary: $122,220||Projected Job Growth: ↑↑|
Political scientists research political systems, public opinion, and political-economic theory. They analyze data, including surveys and economic information, to understand political trends. Most political scientists hold master's or doctoral degrees.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Kinds of Economics Degrees Are There?
Economics is the study of production and consumption. During an economics degree, students learn about international trade, individual decision-making, and economic policy. There are a variety of specialties available for economics degrees, preparing graduates for different career paths. For example, many management-level roles require graduate degrees, while an analyst typically needs a bachelor's degree.
Associate Degree in Economics
An associate degree introduces students to the field of economics. They take foundational courses in economic theory, the financial system, and applied economics. Associate programs also include general education courses in the humanities, social sciences, and math.
Full-time students can complete associate degrees in two years. After earning their degrees, graduates can pursue roles as financial clerks, insurance account managers, and customer service representatives. Graduates can also transfer into bachelor's programs to advance their education and increase their career opportunities.
Bachelor of Economics Degree
Economics majors study supply and demand, financial markets, and consumer behavior. They also learn about economic policy and international trade. In addition to economics courses, undergrads take classes in statistics, business, and social science. Some online bachelor's programs in economics include internships to help economics majors build their professional networks.
Earning a bachelor's degree generally takes four years for full-time students. Degree-seekers with prior college credit or associate degrees can earn bachelor's degrees in less time. Bachelor's degree-holders can find employment as economic researchers, risk analysts, forecasters, and economic analysts.
What's the Difference Between a BA and a BS in Economics?
Bachelor of arts (BA) and bachelor of science (BS) degrees in economics both deliver a rigorous education in economic theory, forecasting, and economic policy. However, the degrees come with different general education and coursework requirements. A BA typically requires more humanities, social science, and foreign language courses, while a BS often features more math and statistics courses.
Both degrees prepare graduates for careers in economics, though research-heavy graduate programs may prefer candidates with a BS.
Master's Degree in Economics
A master's degree in economics provides advanced training in microeconomic theory, macroeconomics, and econometrics. Learners also strengthen their research and analytical skills. Depending on the program, graduate students can specialize in political economy, econometrics, or financial economics. Many programs incorporate internships and capstone projects to help enrollees build practical experience.
Earning an online master's in economics typically takes two years. This degree leads to opportunities at the management and supervisory levels. Financial managers and management consultants often hold graduate degrees. Similarly, most economists need master's degrees.
What's the Difference Between a Master's Degree in Economics and an MBA in Economics?
At the master's level, graduate students can choose between a master's degree in economics and an MBA with a concentration in economics. The two degrees prepare graduates for different career paths.
A master's degree in economics emphasizes theory and research, preparing graduates for doctoral research and academic careers. Graduates can also work in research-heavy fields as economists and analysts. By contrast, an MBA in economics emphasizes practical business skills and trains students for management-level roles.
Doctoral Degree in Economics
Doctorates in economics prepares graduates to work as economics professors or researchers. Working economists often hold a Ph.D. While earning an online doctoral degree in economics, graduate students take specialized courses and pass comprehensive exams. Doctoral candidates must also write and defend dissertations to earn their degrees.
Completing a doctorate requires a substantial time commitment. A Ph.D. typically takes 4-6 years, on top of the time it takes to earn a bachelor's and a master's degree.
Accreditation for Economics Programs
Prospective economics students should research accreditation before applying to programs. Accredited colleges and universities meet the highest standard for educating students. For social science programs like economics, applicants should look for regionally accredited schools.
In addition to regional accreditation, economics degrees may hold programmatic accreditation from specialized agencies. For example, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business offers accreditation for economics programs.
Certification and Licensure
Professional certifications and licenses help economics professionals demonstrate their experience and specialized skills. It's common for economic developers and economists to pursue voluntary certifications to help them stand out in the job market. In addition to the following certifications in economics, graduates should also consider finance certifications.
Economic Development Finance Professional
The economic development finance professional credential recognizes experts in economic development, including financial analysts, credit managers, and loan specialists. This certification program requires previous training in business credit, real estate financial analysis, and deal structuring. Candidates take four courses and must pass an exam for each class to receive the credential. Certified professionals must renew their credentials every three years.
ChE™ Chartered Economist
The Global Academy of Finance and Management certifies chartered economists who meet educational requirements. Candidates need an economics degree or concentration from an accredited school and professional experience. ChE™-chartered economists must meet continuing education requirements to maintain their credentials. Candidates can also pursue certification as economic policy analysts.
Certified Economic Developer
The International Economic Development Council offers the certified economic developer credential for experienced economic developers. Applicants must demonstrate four years of full-time, professional experience in economic development to take the certification exam. The credential also requires professional development activity through training courses. The three-part exam includes multiple-choice, essay, and interview portions.
Economics Professional Organizations
- National Association for Business Economics This professional association advocates for business economists by holding conferences, publishing industry research and news, and providing career development resources. NABE also conducts industry surveys to collect data for economists. Members can join different groups based on their focus areas and pursue certified business economist credentials.
- American Economic Foundation Dating back to 1885, AEA supports economics research, publishes journals, holds an annual meeting with networking opportunities, and provides career-enhancing resources for economics. Its online resources include economic data, teaching tools, and graduate school advice. The association welcomes student members and provides career support.
- National Economic Association Founded in 1969, NEA promotes economists who come from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. The association focuses on economic issues affecting people of color, including immigrant communities. NEA hosts an annual meeting, publishes a scholarly journal, and provides resources about graduate school. It also connects job-seekers with opportunities through its jobs bulletin.
- International Association for Feminist Economics IAFFE represents women and other underrepresented groups working in economics. The association promotes a feminist approach to economic issues and opportunities for women in the field. IAFFE hosts conferences, publishes news to keep members current in the field, and grants awards and prizes. Members can also join groups in their specialty areas.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Economics a Good Degree?
An economics degree prepares graduates for in-demand careers as financial analysts, research analysts, and financial managers. Many economics careers pay above-average salaries.
Are Economics Majors in Demand?
Yes. Many careers that require economics degrees report strong job growth. For example, the BLS projects 14% growth for economists from 2019-2029, which is much faster than the average for all professions.
Is Economics a Lot of Math?
Economics majors use math and statistics to analyze data and forecast economic trends. Most economics programs require several statistics and math courses.
Is Economics Easier Than Accounting?
Economics and accounting draw on similar skills, including analytical and mathematics abilities. Because it is a social science, economics requires a stronger theoretical foundation, while accounting focuses more on practical skills.
How Many Economists Are Women?
According to the New York Times, 35% of economists are women, which matches the percentage of women enrolled in undergraduate economics programs.
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