Alfred Marshall defined economics as "…a study of mankind in the ordinary business of life."
John Maynard Keynes said that "the theory of economics does not furnish a body of settled conclusions immediately applicable to policy. It is a method rather than a doctrine, an apparatus of the mind, a technique which helps its possessor to draw correct conclusions."
These quotes help to explain why economics majors are found in a wide variety of careers after graduation. Economics is an approach to decision making that is valuable throughout "the ordinary business of life." Individuals, employers and graduate schools find the techniques used in economics "to draw correct conclusions" very useful. For these reasons economics majors are found pursuing all sorts of careers after graduation, and very often they are not in positions titled "economist."
The information below was collected at one liberal arts college (Mary Washington College) over many years. The data show that there is no single type of employer that tends to hire economics majors upon graduation. The large percent (9.8) found in the "other" category also highlights the inability to limit what you can do with an education in economics!
Type of Employer
% of Graduates
Types of Economists
Economists are familiar with most general principles. The knowledge gained are seen in fields like agriculture, medicine, education, law, energy, and environmental protection.
The 3 General Types of Economists
There are three general categories of economists: business economists, government economists and academic economists. Each type of economist applies the economic approach to decision making in a different setting.
Business economists work in manufacturing, mining, transportation, communications, banking, insurance, retailing, investment, and other types of organizations. They also work in trade associations and consulting organizations.
For more information on business economists, see the web site for the National Association of Business Economists (NABE) at http://www.nabe.com/careers/index or Econ-Jobs at http://www.econ-jobs.com
Many economists are hired by Federal, State and Local governments. They serve in a wide variety of positions involving analysis and policy making.
For more information about positions for economists in government, go to the federal government job web page, look under "current job openings" and type in "economist." You can also go to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors web site and look for economist positions. From the Board of Governors web site you can also go to each of the 12 Federal Reserve Bank home pages and check their job listings.
Some economics majors graduate and go on to post-graduate studies in economics. If you are interested in seeing the types of jobs available in academics, check out the "Job Openings for Economists" web site. This site also contains jobs outside academics, for those with graduate education in economics.
Women and minorities make up a small, but growing percentage of economists. Visit the web sites of the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession (CSWEP) and the National Economics Association (NEA - formerly the Caucus of Black Economists)
While there may be fewer women economics majors and fewer female economists, there is evidence that women do well in economics when it comes to salaries. A Washington Post article titled "Majoring in Money," (Sunday, March 24, 1996) listed the Annual Earnings by College Undergraduate Major for Women aged 35-44 for the top five majors - and economics was #1! The article described an economics degree for women as "golden."
|Annual Earnings by College
Undergraduate Major, Women Aged 35-44 (top 5)
The median annual wage for economists was $91,860 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than the amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $51,410, and the top 10 percent earned more than $155,490. * Note source of information from Bureau of Labor Statistics
A 2002 survey by the National Association of Business Economists found that the median annual base salary of business economists was $94,000 (Source: Careers in Business Economics, Washington: National Association of Business Economists, p. 55, 2004). This survey also indicated that the salary of business economists varied substantially with the level of education, experience and occupation.
A degree in economics prepares you not only for graduate study in economics, but also for graduate study in a variety of related fields. Economics majors do very well getting into and out of law school. Economics is excellent preparation for a Masters in Business Administration. Economics majors also go on to different types of graduate programs in public policy or international affairs. Economics is also excellent preparation for many interdisciplinary majors such as urban studies or environmental policy.
To see a listing of economics departments, institutes, and research centers around the world, go to the EDIRC web site.
The following career services are available through IPFW and external sources.