What Can I Do With a Degree in Economics?
When you see the term “economist” you may think of someone spending all day in an office with their nose buried in charts and statistics. Delving into numbers, making graphs, and analyzing data is a big part of an economist’s day, but so is researching hot-button issues, conducting surveys, forecasting trends, advising business and government leaders, working with the media, and writing for business or academic publications. In short, having training or a degree in economics opens doors to a diversity of jobs in many career fields.
“Any student with a degree in economics, or the solid foundation in economics that we provide with our Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree, is a good prospect for finding a job in corporate, government, and also internationally working for places like the United Nations (UN),” says Dr. Wali I. Mondal, professor and lead faculty of economics in the Department of Finance and Economics at National University. According to Dr. Mondal, learning about economics can take you places.
Economics as a Career Springboard
“An economist fits everywhere,” says Mondal. In terms of the workplace, that certainly holds true. Economists are employed in a variety of career environments where they often play key roles in the success of an organization. Think tanks and government are two obvious employment options, but economists also work in health care, education, the environment, businesses, media, financial institutions, and nonprofits — anywhere that analytical, critical thinking, and excellent communications skills are in high demand. In the corporate world, for instance, an economist can play a central role in deciding the strategy for a company or helping make decisions about what products or services to offer. In government, the work of economists is vital in crafting effective public policy that can affect people locally or on a global scale.
Moreover, Mondal believes economists have an edge over other types of job candidates. “Government will look at someone with a degree in economics favorably,” he says. “It’s not the same for a sociologist or top administrator. An economist can do the job of a sociologist and a top administrator, but the sociologist and top administrator cannot necessarily do the job of an economist.”
The most powerful leadership positions also require a thorough understanding of economics, says Mondal, giving the example of Jerome Power, the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Power’s degrees are in political science and public administration, but he picked up the fundamentals of economics in banking, according to Mondal.
“You have to know economics to be successful in the business world,” Mondal emphasizes. “From the top to the bottom, you have to have an understanding of economics.”
What Specific Tasks Does an Economist Perform?
According to the American Economic Association, “Economics affects everyone’s lives. Learning about economic concepts can help you to understand the news, make financial decisions, shape public policy, and see the world in a new way.”
Economics is a broad subject matter, ranging from the study of scarcity and how people use resources and respond to incentives to understanding the process of decision-making based on data analysis.
While economics covers topics like wealth and finance, the subject encompasses much more than just money. Economists study historical trends, interpret current event headlines, and forecast projections for the future.
There are also two levels of economics, from the very small to the very large. The study of individual decisions is called microeconomics. The study of the economy as a whole is called macroeconomics.
Economists use theoretical models or empirical data to:
- Evaluate programs
- Study human behavior
- Explain social phenomena
They also perform other duties, which according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, include:
- Researching economic issues
- Conducting surveys and collecting data
- Analyzing data using mathematical models, statistical techniques, and software
- Presenting research results in reports, tables, and charts
- Interpreting and forecasting market trends
- Advising businesses, governments, and individuals on economic topics
- Recommending solutions to economic problems
- Writing articles for academic journals and other media
An economist’s daily tasks are varied and interesting, employing training, skills, and techniques that are applicable across many career fields.
Real-world Expertise: The Distinguishing Feature of National University
Helping students understand economics is at the core of the Finance and Economics Department at National University. The real-world experience of Professor Mondal and his teaching colleagues, all of whom have served as business, government and international leaders, informs the course development and content of the program at National University.
“We focus on continuous improvement,” Mondal notes. “We meet with faculty to ensure our syllabus is up-to-date and that what we develop is consistent with what the university offers in platforms for learning online and on campus. Our goal is for our students to take what they learn out into the real world.”
Other Advantages of Applied and Online Learning
In planning the classes, Mondal and his colleagues carefully consider the diversity of ways a degree in economics, or a thorough understanding of the subject, will impact students’ lives and careers.
“Our approach is unique,” Mondal elaborates. “What differentiates us is that we teach applied versus theoretical economics. Our syllabus emphasizes real-world applications.” As a university well-known for its strong online programs, using information technology is an important feature in every class. “Our students learn economics in many cases online so that they can apply their online learning when they go to work,” says Mondal.
Becoming comfortable in an online learning environment also holds an additional benefit, according to Mondal. “Here’s an example: One of our students enters the corporate world and becomes an executive who communicates with different offices throughout the world — China, India, etc. Because that student already knows how to communicate online, he or she will be at ease communicating with these offices.”
National University was among the trendsetters in higher education when it began offering online classes in 1996. Today, priding itself on providing one of the most flexible ways to earn a degree, the University offers more than 70 online degrees.
Mondal shares another example of the real-world application of economics in the National program: teaching “profit maximization,” or what is known as an oligopoly in big business. (An oligopoly is a market or industry is dominated by a small number of major players, for instance, the big three big automobile companies.)
“We share case studies of oligopoly, like when AT&T tried to merge with Team Mobile, and the merger was denied,” he said. “Instead of going to theory, we go in-depth into all the issues — why they were not allowed to merge, the ratio of compensation between the CEO and general employee, and what does that all mean? The student learns the intricate issues. We train our students to be well educated. Without economics, you won’t know profit maximization in all kinds of markets.”
As a result, National University students enter their finance careers or economist jobs trained to be managers in business, and to work in collaboration as corporate world executives, and to go into government with a solid understanding of economics.
National University believes so strongly in the significance of understanding economics that economics is a required subject for every student aspiring to get a bachelor’s degree, whether in sociology, public administration, finance or another area of study. Students must take either a macro or microeconomics class. Students pursuing business-related degrees like a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) must take both economics classes.
National University’s Department of Finance and Economics stresses that to be successful in finance and economics careers, a student must have a solid foundation in principles and practices, as well as their applications. National University offers a plethora of classes and programs for learning about economics, ranging from an Associate of Science degree to undergraduate degrees with a minor in economics to a Master of Business Administration.
The Master of Business Administration Degree
National University’s Master of Business Administration degree is based on the fundamentals of economics and builds on that to give students a thorough grounding to understand accounting, financial management, human resources, marketing, and communications, and organizational leadership.
“Most of our MBA students will find a job in the private sector, where the overall emphasis is on the bottom line — what you have to do to maximize the net worth of the company and maximize shareholder equity,” he explains. “By preparing students in economics, they can apply that knowledge in a cumulative way, with the end result that many students go on to careers in banking, insurance and at big corporations. Our school of business has a good reputation for graduating well-trained, well-educated students.”
For those interested in economist jobs, accounting and finance majors are big areas within the University’s undergraduate program, as is the minor in economics. Training in finance equips students with the expertise to ascertain an organization’s financial health and make accurate recommendations for maximizing value. Economics teaches students to make rational choices and understand the nature of wealth production in the economy.
“Economics is the mother discipline of all business classes,” Mondal stresses. “Any student who gets a degree in any business area, like the BBA, with a concentration in accounting, general business or finance, is not complete without an understanding of economics.”
What Can You Do With an Economics Degree or Training?
There are many job options for those with training or a degree in economics or related majors. Monster.com, which gathered career background information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, came up with a list of 10 jobs for economics majors, that pay between $37,000 and $111,430 per year depending upon education and experience. They include:
- Budget Analyst
- Compensation and Benefits Manager
- Credit Analyst
- Financial Analyst
- Management Analyst
- Market Research Analyst
In addition to these jobs, TheBalanceCareers.com, includes these job titles:
- Economic Consultant
- Policy Analyst
- Management Consultant
- Business Reporter
The American Economic Association(AEA) notes that economics intersects many disciplines and professional environments, with applications in health, gender, the environment, education and immigration. Economists’ contributions inform a wide range of issues from public policy all the way down to household financial decisions.
The Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for economists will grow six percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Those with a master’s degree or Ph.D., strong analytical skills, and experience using statistical analysis software are among the best candidates for employment. In May of 2017, the Bureau reported the median annual wage nationally for economists was $102,490, and $122,960 in California. According to the Bureau’sjob outlook of employment of economists by region, California has the second highest level of employment of economists, after Washington, D.C.
Besides strong analytical aptitude, economist jobs require training and skills in communication, critical thinking, math, and writing, as well as an aptitude for detailed work. Leadership capabilities, teamwork, and language skills are also highly valued in the profession.
The skill sets acquired in securing a degree in economics can be applied to many other professions. For example, a key component of studying economics is learning how to take into account all the factors and processes in decision-making. For instance, a software engineer trained in economics principles and skills can apply that knowledge to explore multiple options to build and market software. In fact, designing the architecture behind software requires balancing trade-offs, forecasting future usage of the software, having discussions about its applications, constructing business models and forecasts and ultimately, making data-driven decisions about the optimal way to proceed.
The American Economic Association (AEA) notes that economics intersects many disciplines, with applications in health, gender, the environment, education, and immigration. Economists’ contributions inform a wide range of issues from public policy to household decisions.
Is National the Right Choice for You?
The comprehensive education in finance, business, and economics that students get in National’s programs pays high dividends. Many of National University’s graduates now hold jobs in the corporate world, in government agencies, or in leadership positions with international organizations.
Students in the National University Department of Finance and Economics are a diverse and committed group, including:
- Adult learners, many of whom have already gone through college and are now returning as working adults.
- Active military, ranging from servicemembers in battlefields like Afghanistan to those located on military bases in Saudi Arabia or Texas, and veterans.
- Younger students, many of them international, and coming from all over the world from places like China, Vietnam, and India.
While the students themselves are diverse, they all share a need for the flexibility and quality that are built into National’s offerings, for instance, the shorter, one-year time frame to complete a Master of Business Administration. Many other universities require 18 months to two years to complete this advanced degree.
National’s strong online tradition and more than 20 onsite locations within California and Nevada make it possible for students to get the career skills they need, wherever they are and whatever life responsibilities they are juggling at the same time.
But perhaps the biggest motivator for these students is the comprehensive, practical approach inherent in National’s finance and economics courses. Taught by some of the best-qualified faculty from the corporate world, government and international organizations, National University’s students learn from experts who have been actively working in the field, holding jobs that these students may one day aspire to reach.
Professor Mondal is just one example of the faculty’s commitment to economics education – economics is in his blood. As early as age 14, living in Bangladesh, Mondal knew he wanted to be an economist. His family and friends all worked in the field, and some of the economist jobs they held include as ambassadors and international leaders.
For Mondal, being an economist fueled a passion for teaching. He has held economist jobs and consulting positions for many national and international organizations including the United Nations Development Program, the World Bank, the State of Ohio and Duke Energy. He taught for more than 35 years at a number of universities in the United States, Bangladesh, and New Zealand, including the last 13 years at National University, where he is now lead faculty of the economics program.
“I’ve been an economist all my life before I became dedicated to teaching after I got my Ph.D.,” Mondal explains. “I love interacting with the students the most and have kept track of many of my students. The job with World Bank was prestigious and paid well, but in teaching, I get to interact with a lot of young people, and advise them.”
At National University, the program offerings in economics and finance allow students to choose the level of expertise they want to attain — enabling them to secure jobs ranging from entry-level positions to becoming leaders of business and international organizations.
“Economists are like spices,” says Mondal. “They mix with every cuisine!”
For more information about National University’s offerings in economics, business, and finance, please visit our program page for the Department of Finance and Economics. You can also find additional information about the minor in economics on our website.