If you like to crunch numbers, analyze information and write, consider majoring in economics. It’s more than just studying stocks, bonds, interest rates, inflation or unemployment. You’ll apply what you study to deal with societal problems, like world poverty. Majoring in economics prepares you for all sorts of careers and can help you become a well-rounded lawyer or a policy maker.
What you’ll be doing
As an economics major, you’ll learn how to apply data and research concerning societal problems and apply it to real world situations. While most majors focus on math and science or writing and arts, economics marries math and writing. After graduation, you’ll know how to analyze data, think critically about economic trends and patterns and report on those trends. You’ll take basic macroeconomic and microeconomic classes, but you can also learn how public health relates to economics or game theory. In short, economics studies how people use resources to meet human needs.
The classes you’ll take
After you take your beginning and intermediate level macroeconomic and microeconomic courses, at most schools you’ll choose from a variety of economics electives. One class will teach you about game theory, AKA the theory that people act based on how they expect others to act. This theory applies to auctions, firm competition and voting, and can be used to study potential conflict. You can also take political economics, where you’ll learn about theories and applications of political economies like Marxian economics, feminist economics and Institutionalism economics. If you hate sales taxes, you can learn about taxation, public expenditure and fiscal policy in a public economics class. You can compare fiscal institutions of different countries and study the way that governments approach income redistribution and poverty. A class on international economics will focus on international trade and finance and open economy macroeconomics, so you can understand what your high school history teacher meant when he talked about the U.S.’s open door policy. You’ll also discuss trade policies and exchange rates. If you like history, try economics history, which will relate all the best moments of history to economics, like the founding of the United States and the economic conditions that led to the Civil War. Economics history will also look at economic development and apply economic theory that led to the modern service economy.
Internships for the Econ Major
As an economics major, you can intern at a variety of places to get that all important experience. For instance, you could work as a bank teller, where you can gain knowledge about mortgages and loans and experience with numbers. If you’re interested in policy, an internship with a lobbyist group like the CATO Institute will provide you with an idea of what it’s like to lobby for economic policy. At the Federal Reserve, you can spend time working in economic policy, economic law or financial analysis for the U.S. Government. If you’d rather keep the government accountable, an internship for The Economist might lead to you analyzing economies or help a business journalist write a piece. If you’re more interested in credit rating, a place like Moody’s Investors Services or Fitch Ratings might be the place for you. After your experience at a bank, you might try investment banking at a place like Goldman Sachs. You can also find experience in policy and working with the government at secondary mortgage marketers like the Federal National Mortgage Association or the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporations, both sponsored by the government.
This job might to require a master’s degree or a Ph.D., but you’ll analyze how people create goods and services with limited resources. You’ll collect and analyze data, find and predict trends for the market and evaluate economic issues. Economists might get a bad rep since they justify why things like wage discrimination exists, but they also figure out the policies to stop that.
An analyst is similar to an economist, but you’ll focus on specific parts of the economy. A financial analyst will direct individuals and businesses to investment decisions and assess the performance of these investments. A market research analyst will study the trends of sales and explain that to companies. Budget analysts organize finances for individuals and businesses. For example, a budget analyst working for a big company will review budget proposals from different departments and create an overall company budget. Last, operations research analysts investigate the status of a specific economy and attempt to solve problems related to that economy for an organization. Only a few people know how to properly manage their money, so imagine how smart and successful you’ll feel telling big businesses what to do with their money.
As a student, you know that professors mainly teach, but an economics professor can teach economic theory and do their own research. They can research anything, such as behavioral economics, the Great Depression or wage discrimination. In fact, many economists eventually become professors so that they can do more of their own research.
Although it sounds weird, more and more economists actually go into the law after their undergraduate degree. Economics majors boast the highest LSAT average of any major (155.3 out of 180) and a 79 percent acceptance rate to law school, according to LSAC. An economic degree will let you become the next Annalise Keating who has a way with numbers.
5. Business Journalist
Because of the writing skills you’ll pick up while studying economics, you might end up a business journalism. As a business journalist, you’ll track, record, analyze and interpret economic trends and changes in society. Then, you’ll translate all of the complicated economic trends into basic terms for the general population.
1. “The analytical mindset you develop as an economist is applicable in a broad range of vocational applications. One thing I feel like some students don’t realize is that almost all government agencies employ economists to assist in regulatory work that goes on. While the internship in the investment firm may be flashy, doing regulatory work as an economics student can propel you into a stable government career, a major employer of economics majors.” –Luke Mendelsohn, University of Mary WashingtonClass of 2014
2. “The economics major offered me the opportunity to pursue my passion to better understand and address various challenges faced around the world including poverty, inequality, and environmental justice, while applying and strengthening my mathematical skills.” –Gezime Christian, University of Tampa Class of 2013
3. “Economics is one of the most flexible majors because the “economic way of thinking” is useful for understanding a wide range of behaviors. You can take the insights of economics to work anywhere. Advanced statistics, combined with the “way of thinking,” let economists turn data into useful information.” –Mary Hansen, Associate Economics Professor at American University