Careers in Economics

What do economics majors do after graduation?

Alfred Marshall defined economics as "a study of mankind in the ordinary business of life."John Maynard Keynes said that "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."These quotes help to explain why economics majors are found in a wide variety of careers after graduation. Economics is an approach to decision making that is valuable throughout "the ordinary business 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."The information below was collected at one liberal arts college (Mary Washington College) over many years. The data show that there is no single type of employer that tends to hire economics majors upon graduation. The large percent (9.8) found in the "other" category also highlights the inability to limit what you can do with an education in economics! 

Type of Employer % of Graduates
Traditional Business 23.3
Government 18.4
Financial Business 17.7
Graduate School 13.1
Consulting Business 4.4
Private/public school 3.9
Law Firm 3.5
Other 9.8

The 3 General Types of Economists

There 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.

Business Economists

Business 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.For more information on business economists, see the web site for the National Association of Business Economists (NABE) at

Government Economists

Many economists are hired by Federal, State and Local governments. They serve in a wide variety of positions involving analysis and policy making.For more information about positions for economists in government, go to the federal government job web page, look under "current job openings" and type in "economist." You can also go to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors web site and look for economist positions. 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.

Academic Economists

Some economics majors graduate and go on to post-graduate studies in economics. Many of these become academic economists, like your instructor. If you are interested in seeing the types of jobs available in academics, check out the "Job Openings for Economists" web site. This site also contains jobs outside academics, for those with graduate education in economics.

Women and Minorities in Economics

Women and minorities make up a small, but growing percentage of economists. Several organizations were created to 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 Black Economists) (NEA) (CSWEP)While there may be fewer women economics majors and fewer female economists, there is evidence that women do well in economics when it comes to salaries. 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 "golden."


Graduates 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 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 web site below.

Economics as Preparation for Graduate Studies

A 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.To see a listing of economics departments, institutes, and research centers around the world, go to the EDIRC web site. (EDIRC)

Why Major in Economics?

The number of students majoring in economics has been rising. This article from the Wall Street Journal explains, in part, the reasons behind the trend.