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Careers in Economics

The most popular careers in economics are in financial services, including: brokerage firms (e.g. Merrill Lynch), investment banks (e.g. JP Morgan), retail banks (e.g. M&T Bank), and insurance companies (e.g. AIG).  Jobs in finance can generally be classified into sales (e.g. financial advisor) and analysis (e.g. financial analyst).  However, economics is applicable in so many fields that our graduates are now working in such varied areas as consulting, retail management, consumer goods industries, advertising, publishing, the health sector, not-for-profit research organizations, U.S. government agencies (local, state, and federal), and various organizations such as the World Bank, United Nations agencies, and the International Monetary Fund.

The demand for economists has increased steadily over the past decades.  There are several reasons for this.  Foremost is the transition over the past forty years of economics into an applied science, a change made possible by powerful computers, advanced mathematical and statistical software, and the collection of detailed datasets by government agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, research organizations such as the National Bureau of Economic Research, and universities such as the University at Buffalo.  The well-trained economics graduate today offers to employers analytic insights that were unavailable earlier.  Second is the ever-wider application of economic analysis. Organizations that never thought in economic terms now find themselves having to do so. Not least is the unhappy fact that resources are evermore scarce in our world so how they are used grows continually in importance. Economics is a science whose time is here.  The need for economists is strong and will continue to grow.  Starting salaries are high compared to those for graduates in most other subjects.

Students’ alternatives improve with their grade point average and the amount of economics that they study.  Those who graduate with a GPA of barely 2.0 and the minimum requirement of 33 credits in economics are employable, but less so than a peer who studied more economics and achieved a higher GPA.  That being said, economics graduates enjoy good job market prospects. The 2004 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey reports that 2003 – 2004 graduates are enjoying generally higher starting salaries and substantial increases in the numbers of graduates being hired. The survey is summarized in the following table:


Discipline Average Starting Salary Change from Previous Year
Chemical Engineering $52,819 +1.9
Computer Engineering $51,572 -0.3%
Computer Science $49,691 +4.8%
Mechanical Engineering $48,864 +0.9%
Industrial Manufacturing/Engineering $46,021 -3.1%
Information Science/Systems $43,053 +8.2%
Management Information Systems $42,098 +2.9%
Civil Engineering $42,053 +1.7%
Accounting $41,110 +1.4%
Economics/Finance $40,906 +2.1%
Nursing $38,594 -1.9%
Business Administration $38,188 +2.9%
Marketing $35,321 +2.0%
Political Science/Government $32,999 +3.9%
English/Literature $31,169 +3.4%
Liberal Arts Majors (as a group) $30,152 +2.6%
Biological/Life Science $29,750 -2.8%
Elementary Education $29,518 +5.3%
Psychology $27,791 +1.2%

Source: NACE 2004 survey data