Building a career in the economy: from the choice of study to the labor market in the field of economics

Chiara Yates Professor of Economics Southern New Hampshire Universityoffers advice to aspiring economists navigating academically and in the early stages of their careers. The following article first appeared in the INOMICS Handbook 2022.

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Economists work in a variety of industries, including business, healthcare, government, and education, and their role is primarily related to research and providing reports and recommendations based on the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data. In the United States, local and federal government agencies are the largest employers of economics graduates. It is very important that students plan their education depending on where they are interested in employment. While it is possible to get an entry-level position with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s or Ph.D. degree is usually required to work as an economist in government or academia.

In a competitive job market in economics, it is important for economics students to think ahead about their career choices.

1. Choice of concentration

When pursuing a degree in economics, students can choose from a variety of fields: business economics, corporate finance, quantitative economics, and econometrics, to name but a few.

Students who graduated from concentration in finance can find work in large banks and government organizations as a consultant, financial, credit, risk or valuation analyst; or database administrator, trader and more.

Concentration in business economicson the other hand, offers versatility which means a wide range of employment opportunities such as entrepreneurship or marketing in any sector such as finance, manufacturing, services and government.

Concentrations in Quantitative Economics and Econometrics can lead to work that requires expertise in economic modeling, forecasting, and valuation. Students who choose this major usually go on to study and find employment in academia or as data scientists, risk model analysts, market researchers, consultants, or investment bankers. The ability of economists to analyze data using mathematical and statistical methods is in high demand and in short supply, giving economists with strong analytical and quantitative skills an edge when looking for work.

Regardless of the chosen concentration and degree level, students can take some steps to lay the foundation for a successful career in economics.

2. Skills for undergraduates

Undergraduate students should focus on developing and demonstrating technical and interpersonal skills such as the ability to communicate effectively. A good analyst should also be able to explain his work.

Solid skills, including quantitative analysis, are also very important. Any economist would recommend that undergraduate students take at least one econometrics course to demonstrate quantitative and data skills. It is also a good idea to combine economics courses with some computer or data science courses to get a comprehensive training. Learning about your preferred industry or role and tailoring your academic path to your goal will also increase your attractiveness when looking for a job.

Networking is critical as it allows you to gain real knowledge of the required skills and job opportunities available in your career by meeting professionals who work in the industry you are interested in. Many recent generations of college graduates are already fluent in technology and social media and can put that experience into practice using platforms like LinkedIn to streamline the job search and application process.

3. Skills for graduate students

While graduate students must hone their technical and interpersonal skills, they must be more careful about demonstrating strong solid skills through their research work, especially quantitative skills, which are in high demand in both the private and public sectors, as well as in academia. circles.

Economics graduates should look for internship opportunities, study abroad if possible, and identify study opportunities in the service sector. Internships and corporate events
partnerships offer students a real insight into the professional world and can consolidate and enrich their graduate research work. As interns, graduate students should focus on developing leadership and communication skills and seek mentorship from more experienced peers.

Professional networking can really jump-start a career in both the professional world and academia. Joining professional organizations such as the American Economic Association (AEA) in the United States or the European Economic Association (EEA) in Europe can provide the opportunity to meet with fellow economists to read, write, and review research papers, and to connect with professionals in a certain career area or even exploring available vacancies. Professional networking associations and academic institutions often host conferences, meetings and seminars which provide excellent opportunities for informal networking. Services such as INOMICS are a great place to find similar conferences and events.

4. Find out about job opportunities

Opportunities that can benefit undergraduate and graduate students are available through their universities, such as corporate partnerships and college fairs. A corporate partnership is a partnership between a university and a private or public company that allows students to gain hands-on experience in specific areas and roles. Job fairs allow companies looking for new employees to meet with graduates of economic universities in one place. Students can often make a first impression on company representatives in a more informative setting than an interview.

Informational interviews are another way to connect with professionals who work in a particular career area or company. The purpose of an informational interview is to have an informal conversation and learn more about a company or career without actively looking for a job. This takes preparation and some research, and can lead you to learn more about career paths you may not have known about, as well as what it’s like to work for a particular company. The first step is to identify a professional to interview; help in this process can come from family, friends, university alumni, or even LinkedIn, and then make the first contact and request a meeting. Pre-meeting preparation is fundamental to the success of an informational interview, as it is a unique opportunity to prepare and ask questions about the career and company, as well as get advice, submit a resume, and make a good first impression. An informational interview may stay that way and end with gratitude, or it may become the basis for building a professional relationship with the interviewee, which may lead to job opportunities (Knight, 2016).

5. Research the job market in the economy

There are several places where you can find jobs in economics. INOMICS is a great place to start, with worldwide opportunities offered at all career levels, from PhD and industry entry level to tenured professorial positions. The daily updated INOMICS database is a prime example of the real-time labor market in the economy.

The European Economic Society (EEA), together with the Royal Economic Society (RES) and the Spanish Economic Society (SEA), created the European Job Market (EJME) to recruit up-and-coming economists from European research institutes and universities. The AEA also hosts academic job listings for economists, as well as an annual job market struggle for recent PhDs. Successful job seekers in economics and every other field are ultimately active people who do their homework. They are enterprising people who explore the industry and career positions. First of all, they are looking for opportunities to build a strong network of professional contacts that can provide insider knowledge about the industry and positions of interest, as well as generate leads or job offers in the future.

The good news is that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated a projected 13% job growth in economics over the next decade (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021), making economics one of the most promising areas of study. So look for a job that you could work in, think about what courses will help you get these skills, and don’t worry. You are on the right track.

The above article first appeared in the INOMICS Handbook 2022.

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Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Economists at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/economists.htm.