As you get ready to graduate with a degree in economics—or maybe as you’re choosing your major—you’re bound to be wondering what sort of jobs you’re qualified for. You likely know that you can go into investment banking or management consulting or head to grad school to become a researcher. But an economics degree sets you up for way more.
In fact, “The biggest challenge I see when economics students are considering their career path is narrowing down to what type of career they are most interested [in],” says Katelyn Rose, a career coach at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management who advises economics majors. “Their diverse skill set qualifies them for so many different kinds of jobs. The world is their oyster.”
So what directions can you go in with your economics degree? And which of your skills can help you land these jobs?
Top Skills Economics Majors Gain
Throughout your economics courses, you developed a number of transferable skills—that is, skills that are valuable in a number of different workplaces and careers. You can pair these skills with any other skills or interests you may have to pursue the job that’s best for you.
- Analysis: A lot of your time as an economics major is spent evaluating information, spotting patterns and inconsistencies, and drawing conclusions that are relevant to your goals. Economics majors “also gain specific skills in analyzing data, trends, graphs, models, [and] econometric methods,” Rose says. Analytical skills like this are valuable in any job where you need to make recommendations for what to do based on a lot of information, whether it’s qualitative or quantitative.
- Critical thinking: While completing their coursework, economics majors have also learned to examine issues and concepts from multiple perspectives and predict possible outcomes of different choices. These skills help them “to think independently, be skeptical, and to be able to deal with details,” Rose says. Critical thinking skills are almost universally transferable and are needed for any job where you’re solving problems or making evaluations.
- Problem-solving: “Economics majors ultimately learn how to make wise or productive decisions in a world of scarcity,” Rose says. And many, if not most, jobs involve making choices and solving problems using resources that are limited in some way. Economics majors are skilled at analyzing information and then using it “to design and implement strategic solutions to problems,” whether they’re large, macroscale policy issues or challenges being faced by a specific business, Rose says.
- Business, economics, and financial expertise: Economics degrees give you “the foundational knowledge and understanding of both the why and how of commerce, money, and finance,” says Muse career coach Jennifer Smith, founder of Flourish Careers. Every organization in every industry needs employees with this knowledge in order to know how to best function and position themselves within their market.
- Communication: As an economics major, you had to take complex ideas and analyses and communicate them both in writing (in the form of papers, projects, and exams) and orally (for presentations and when interacting with classmates and instructors). Communication skills are useful in almost every job where you work with other people to ensure that you get your point across, increase productivity, and nurture professional relationships.
- Adaptability: The field of economics is constantly evolving, Smith says. To complete your econ degree, you had to learn about a large range of subjects, theories, trends, and frameworks, likely keeping up with them as they—and the world—changed. “Being agile, open to learning, and staying on top of trends are highly transferable and valuable skills,” Smith says. Being able to adapt to change means you can get up to speed quickly, stay on top of your work, and help your company respond to anything that comes its way.
What jobs use all these skills? Here are 10. But remember, just because a job isn’t on this list doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not qualified for it as an economics major.
1. Financial Analyst
Average salary: $61,786
As a financial analyst, you might evaluate and give suggestions for budgets, programs, and company performance; assess and make investment recommendations on stocks, bonds, and other securities and commodities; or monitor all the finances for a company or department to help them make financial decisions. “This is the most common job I see students go into,” Rose says.
Financial analyst is often a first job title for those going into finance either at financial services companies (such as banks and investment firms) or at companies in other industries. Many financial firms and other corporations have rotational programs for their entry-level financial analysts during which they’ll be exposed to different areas of a business to see where they fit best (and putting economics majors’ ability to adapt to change to work). Recruitment for these programs may take place right on your college campus.
Average salary: $96,542
Actuaries take into account various risk factors and use math and statistics to evaluate the probabilities of different adverse events—such as accidents, property damage, or death—occurring. These probabilities are then used to design insurance policies and other models that predict the outcomes of events. Most actuaries work for insurance companies, but there are also jobs within government and at other financial firms.
Getting into the actuary field is tough—though the financial rewards are great, the job security is high, and the stress is relatively low once you’re qualified. Actuaries need to be certified by either the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) or the Society of Actuaries (SOA), which both require you pass seven exams for the lower level of certification. Most companies will expect you to have passed one or two of these tests before graduating. In Rose’s experience, economics students looking to pursue a job as an actuary need to work independently or with an instructor in order to prepare for their actuarial exams.
3. Policy Analyst
Average salary: $59,836
If you’re interested in applying your economics degree to government work, becoming a policy analyst is a great option to consider. Policy analysts research, evaluate, and analyze laws, policies, and other government programs to evaluate or predict outcomes. You may also help shape prospective laws with your analysis.
Economics majors who become policy analysts can use most of the skills they learned during their studies and work for all levels of government, lobbying firms, nonprofits, think tanks, and a number of other organizations interested in public policy. You can likely find an entry-level job or policy analyst fellowship with just a bachelor’s degree in economics, but as you progress in your career, you should be prepared to get an advanced degree, depending on what specialty you’d like to go into.
4. Business Reporter
Average reporter salary: $46,578 (PayScale does not list business reporter salaries specifically)
Business reporters research, evaluate, and write about companies, stocks, investments, industry and market trends, and the economy. You’ll interview experts and evaluate and analyze financial and economic studies and data. As an economics degree holder, you’ll use your knowledge of business and economics to understand the topics you’re reporting on and the context around them, which will give you an edge over reporters who don’t bring this background to the table. Your adaptability will come in handy when you need to learn a lot in a short time to cover different stories. Finally, strong communication skills are a must for business reporters—and your ability to translate complex concepts so that they’re more accessible to different audiences will be invaluable (your audience might be seasoned investors, for example, or the general public depending on where you work).
Business reporters can work across mediums, such as in newspapers, magazines, digital media, financial newsletters, radio, and television. Business reporters might work for financial media outlets or websites or a broader media company with a finance vertical. There is also a lot of opportunity to freelance as a business reporter.
5. Data Analyst
Average salary: $61,456
Data analysts collect, interpret, and analyze large sets of data to answer questions and monitor trends for the companies they work for. For example, they may help a company decide on the correct price point for a product or service or they may look for patterns in the web traffic coming into a business’s website.
Economics majors can leverage their financial and business knowledge as well as their analytical skills to find success in these roles. However, many employers are currently looking for programming skills for data analyst hires as well, which you may not gain from economics coursework alone, Rose says. So if you have a minor or took some classes in computer science, math, statistics, or another analytical field, or if you attend a data analytics bootcamp or take other online classes, you can set yourself up as a stronger candidate.
6. Management Consultant
Average salary: $88,080
Management consultants work for consultancy firms and go into different clients’ businesses, evaluate their practices and performance, and make recommendations to help them solve problems or increase their efficiency. For example, a management consulting firm might be hired to streamline workflows or to make recommendations surrounding budget cuts. Consultants do this type of work by gathering information about an organization’s finances and other data and speaking with their employees and/or customers. Then, they evaluate and analyze this information to come up with conclusions and recommendations that they communicate to their clients.
Economics majors are well-suited for all of these steps because of their research, communication, analysis, and problem-solving skills. Businesses of all types and in all industries hire outside management consultants, so your adaptability will help you to quickly get up to speed as you transition between projects and clients. Many firms have highly structured recruitment processes for entry-level employees (often associate consultants) that start right on college campuses.
7. Insurance Underwriter
Average salary: $58,005
Insurance underwriters evaluate and analyze all the factors that go into providing insurance for a business, building, vehicle, person, or other entity in order to decide whether the company they work for should offer insurance, for how much, and on what terms. Insurance underwriters who work in property insurance and similar fields might also go out to inspect and investigate properties in person.
As an economics major, you can use your analytical and critical thinking skills to evaluate the risks and possible costs of insuring a particular entity as well as your business and market knowledge to help you properly value insurance policies. Insurance underwriting, especially health insurance, is a common path for economics majors, Rose says. Insurance underwriters need to be certified as they move up in their careers, but often can get hired into entry-level roles with just a bachelor’s degree.
8. Marketing Analyst
Average salary: $57,007
Marketing analysts evaluate consumer behavior and market conditions along with other data for companies looking to sell their products or services. They research possible target markets, market needs, competitors, and ideal price points, and might also evaluate what types of marketing messages will resonate best with the company’s customers.
Economics majors can bring their experience in evaluating markets and other financial situations into the field of marketing and use it to help make the best recommendations possible. They’ll also use their analytical skills and communication skills to evaluate past and current marketing performance and communicate their findings to colleagues. Marketing analysts can work for marketing agencies or individual companies with marketing departments in virtually any industry from retail to financial services to tech—every company with a product or service to sell needs marketing. So this role might be a good choice for someone with an economics degree who doesn’t want their entire focus to be on finance.
9. Compensation and Benefits Manager
Average salary: $88,175
Compensation and benefits managers plan, track, and oversee the implementation of pay and benefits programs for employees of a company. They also monitor market conditions and track salaries and benefits both inside and outside of the company to ensure that wages are fair, competitive, and in line with any regulations. At especially large companies, compensation and benefits managers might specialize—either in benefits or pay, or even more narrowly in a specific employee program like health insurance.
Because these positions require someone who’s able to monitor larger market and economic trends, economics majors are well-suited for this role. They’ll also use their analysis and problem-solving skills to track salaries and choose the right benefits programs and their communication skills to interact with benefits providers and explain benefits and pay to employees. If you’ve taken any classes in human resources, you’re especially suited for these positions. Compensation and benefits managers often start out in more generalized human resources roles, such as HR assistant or similar.
Average salary: $77,813
Put simply, economists study the economy. They develop and test theories, compare historical data, and investigate current and past employment trends, productivity, wages, and other economic data to make recommendations or predictions about markets. Many economists work for local, state, or federal governments, but they might also be employed by NGOs (non-governmental organizations) think tanks, research organizations, colleges and universities, and even tech companies.
Economics majors will use a lot of the knowledge and skills gained from their coursework in an economist role. However, to become a “traditional economist,” you’ll likely need either a master’s or doctorate degree, Rose says.