is an unusual major that plays different roles for different
people. For those of you in a liberal arts program with
no business major it is as close to business as you're
going to get. A major in economics will come closest to
learning the basics of business. So you can major in economics
to prepare you for business. For students in a college
with a business major, economics is as far as you can
get from business while still staying within business.
some colleges economics is in the arts and sciences school;
in others it is in the business school. Whichever it is
in, economics teaches the same material, and serves as
a foundation for all business. That ability of economics
to be in either school says a lot about what the econ
most important skill that businesses want are people who
can think and solve problems. Particular occupations may
require special skills, but the needed skills change.
The need for people who can think and solve problems does
not. Economics is probably the major that best trains
you to think in a way that's useful for solving problems.
That's what's in it for you. It turns you into a thinking
machine that businesses highly value. As a sidelight,
becoming a thinking machine changes the way you view life
and understand problems.
do Econ Majors Do after Graduation?
majors do all kinds of things after graduation. For example,
consider the following individuals. What do you think
they have in common?
Day O'Connor (Supreme Court Justice)
Romer (Former Governor of Colorado, current Superintendent
of Los Angeles Schools)
Trumka (President of the United Mine Workers)
Bush (Former President of the U.S.)
Allison (Jazz Artist)
Elway (Former NFL Quarterback)
Aspin (Former Secretary of Defense)
Isaac (Former Chairman of the FDIC)
the answer is that they majored in economics. Otherwise
we wouldn't have asked the question.
we're not saying that majoring in economics helped Mick
Jagger's singing, (but it may have helped him manage his
money). We are saying that economics should be seen as
an all round major that prepares you to be an all round
person. All the other business majors developed as spin-offs
of economics. With economics you study the core reasoning
that underlies all business decisions. It's like studying
the operating systems of computers rather than studying
software. John Maynard Keynes said, "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."
quotation helps to explain why economics majors pursue a
wide variety of careers after graduation. Economics is an
approach to decision making that is valuable to all aspects
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."
If you're thinking of becoming a lawyer, economics is a
perfect major. If you're planning on becoming a CEO or running
your own business, economics is a perfect major. If you're
planning on becoming an investment banker, economics is
a perfect major. However if you're planning on becoming
a CPA, economics is not the major for you.
table below, collected at one liberal arts college (Mary
Washington College) over many years, shows that no single
type of employer tends to hire economics majors upon graduation.
The large percent (9.8) found in the "other"
category also highlights that what you can do with an
education in economics is unlimited!
3 General Types of Economists
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.
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.
economists are hired by federal, state, and local governments
and serve in a wide variety of positions involving analysis
and policy making.
more information about positions for economists in government,
go to USAJobs,
which lists job openings at Federal agencies or see positions
listed on the Federal
Reserve Board of Governors web site. 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.
and Minorities in Economics
and minorities make up a small, but growing percentage
of economists. Several organizations support women and
minorities in the economics profession. 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
there may be fewer women economics majors and fewer female
economists, evidence shows that, when it comes to salaries,
women do well. 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
Earnings by College Undergraduate Major Women
Aged 35-44 (top 5)
with a degree in economics earn, on average, high salaries.
A survey by the National Association of Business Economists
found the median annual base salary for economists was
$70,000. Data from by the National show that economics
majors have higher earning potential than other business
or social science majors. To view more information on
salaries earned by economics majors, check out the SUNY
Oswego's web site or the College
Placement Council Salary Survey. If you want an idea
of what Federal Employees earn at various pay scales,
you can find it on the Office of Personnel Salary Tables.
as Preparation for Graduate Studies
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.
see a listing of economics departments, institutes, and
research centers around the world, go to the EDIRC
an overall view of occupations available, check out the
Handbook. It describes almost every possible job,
lists what education is needed as well as earnings and
job prospects. After you've decided what job you're looking
for, you'll have to prepare a resume, find job openings
and get ready for the interview. A number of web sites
provide help in all these areas. Quintessential
Careers provides resources specifically for college
in Business has links to various career areas, a list
of books on jobs in business and links to help you write
resumes and cover letters.