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Economists research and analyze economics, or the way people choose to use their resources to produce goods and services. Economists typically work in diverse sectors, from finance to government, industry to academia. Their research may cover a variety of issues including:

  • Business cycles
  • Employment levels
  • Energy costs
  • Exchange rates
  • Inflation
  • Interest rates
  • Taxes

Most people choose to specialize in a certain area of economics:

  • Financial economists study changing interest rates
  • Industrial economists study the economics of specific industries, looking at the number of competitors, monopolies, and market decisions that firms make
  • International economists look at exchange rates, tariffs, and international markets
  • Labor economists study the determination of wages along with the supply and demand for labor
  • Macroeconomists look at historical trends in order to forecast the future in terms of unemployment, inflation, and other economic trends
  • Microeconomists focus on supply and demand for individuals and firms
  • Public finance economists look at how the government affects the economy, particularly in terms of tax cuts, budget deficits, and welfare policies

Degrees in Economics

A degree program in social science in economics can provide the knowledge and training necessary to succeed in a variety of related fields. Unlike finance degree programs, which focus primarily on monetary resources, economics degree programs traditionally address more diverse resources, such as labor, land, machinery, and raw materials. Graduate degrees narrow down the coursework into a specific area of economics, such as the specialties mentioned above. Bachelor's degrees can open up opportunities in a few entry-level positions, such as research assistant, administrative, and sales positions in government, research organizations, or consulting firms. Those who complete a master's degree in economics may qualify for research and administrative positions with more responsibility. Top economics positions often require a PhD.

Career training usually involves:

  • Computer science
  • Econometrics
  • History of economic thought
  • Macroeconomics
  • Mathematics and statistics
  • Microeconomics
  • Sampling theory
  • Statistics
  • Survey design

Career Prospects in Economics

While no degree can guarantee a particular job or salary, job seekers with a background in economics are likely to have good opportunities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As of 2007, economists had a mean annual wage of $86,700. Of course wages vary per employer, degree held, and experience level. The federal government employs the most economists. Those with bachelor's degrees averaged starting salaries of $35,752, those with master's degrees averaged beginning salaries of $43,731, and those with PhDs averaged $52,912.

Economists held around 15,000 jobs in 2006, according to the BLS, and it's predicted to grow 7 percent by 2016. Management, scientific, and technical consulting services should most likely require the most economists and have the highest job growth rate. But many people with degrees in economics may end up having a job title other than economist, such as market analyst, financial analyst, public policy consultant, or purchasing manager. Those with specialized knowledge in a secondary area most likely should have the best career opportunities.

Pursue your Economics major today…

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