What can I do with a Degree in Economics?

Economists study how society utilizes natural resources, such as land and labor, in the production of goods and services. In the workforce they conduct research, collect and analyze data, monitor economic trends, and develop forecasts. Frequently economists specialize in a particular field of economics. These fields include:

  • Microeconomics
  • Industrial Organization
  • Macroeconomics
  • Monetary Economics
  • International Economics
  • Labor Economics
  • Public Finance
  • Health Economists
  • Econometrics
  • Environmental/Ecological Economics

An undergraduate degree in economics from Roanoke College arms students with the general knowledge of basic economic principles and an exposure to many of the fields listed above.

According to the BLS Occupational Outlook 2008-2009 report, economists held about 15,000 jobs in 2006. The government employed over 50% of all economists (32% federal, 20% state and local). The primary private sector employers were in scientific research and development services and management, scientific, and technical consulting services. Some economists combine a full time job in the government, academia, or business with part-time or consulting work in another setting.

Most economists work in major cities, and some work abroad for companies with international operations, U.S. Government agencies, and international organizations (ex. World Bank, IMF, and UN).

The job outlook for economists is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations (7% from 2006 to 2016). Demand for workers with skill in economics is projected to grow faster, but these workers are typically in occupations other than economist. Employment in Federal Government agencies is expected to decline. Those economists with graduate degrees (master's or Ph.D.) are likely to fair better than those with only an undergraduate degree. Competition for academic jobs is expected to be high.

The median annual wage and salary earnings of economists was $77,010 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $55,740 and $103,500. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,280, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $136,550.

The starting salary for economists employed by the Federal Government with a BA was $35,752 in 2007. Those with a master's qualified for positions starting at $43,731, while those with a Ph.D. qualified for positions starting at $52,912. Individuals with experience and advanced degrees could start as high as $63,417. The average salary for economists employed by the Federal Government was $94,098 in 2007.

The information on this page was collected from the BLS Occupational Outlook Quarterly 2008-2009 available at www.bls.gov. Some passages are quoted directly from the source, while others are summarized.

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