What Can Economics Do for You?

Learn about the wide range of career opportunities and ways to connect with the St. Thomas Career Development Center 


Economics is the study of decision-making to allocate scarce resources. It affects every aspect of our lives and relates to a wide range of disciplines. The breadth of economics is reflected in courses offered by the Department including managerial decision-making, environmental economics, law and economics, international and public economics, behavioral economics, game theory, econometrics, and forecasting. Each of our courses help students develop analytical and rigorous ways of thinking critically about world issues and policies. Our quantitative courses equip students with specific skills to analyze data to answer real world questions asked by employers and policy makers. 

Our degrees are designed to help students develop the general, flexible and important skills valued by both the business community and graduate programs from law to business and economics. While some students major in economics without another degree, many pursue complementary coursework in other fields (e.g., math, political science, statistics, English, international studies). 


According to The Princeton Review, Economics is one of the 10 best college majors given the kinds of skills students acquire for a wide range of careers.  St. Thomas economics alumni are working for the government (U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve, U.S. Department of State, Minnesota Department of Revenue), in banking (Piper Jaffray, Merrill Lynch, Citibank), business (Medtronic, Target, Best Buy), in law (Dorsey & Whitney) and in consulting (Ernst & Young). Alumni also have successfully completed graduate work in economics (Northwestern and University of Minnesota), law, public policy and business. Finally, St. Thomas economics majors have interned at many local businesses, some of which have offered interns full-time employment after graduation.  


The American Economic Association website provides detailed information on career opportunities and graduate school.   In addition, every spring the Economics Department hosts an informational meeting with a panel of alumni to answer this very important question.  The economics alumni to share how their degree is helping them in their careers and pass on some wisdom (both general and specific to economics) about how best to prepare oneself for the work world.  Here is a list of alumni who have volunteered their time to speak with our students.

While our thousands of alumni are too numerous to list here, a few short biographies provide a sense of the range of careers our graduates pursue: 

Tyler Petersen ‘12 

Tyler uses the economic theory and empirical methods he learned at St. Thomas in his job at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C., where his research supports the policy making of the Fed. Tyler’s undergraduate research (in the Young Scholar’s program) is, he says, something that helped him develop the skills he uses in his current work at the Fed. He says “… the resources and support I received from the faculty of the Economics Department lead me to the point I’m at in my career today.” 

Mark Holmquist ‘07 

Mark entered investment banking at Piper Jaffray and is now vice president at Beecken Petty O’Keefe & Company, a private equity management firm in Chicago. He completed his M.B.A. at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, one of the top MBA programs in the nation. Mark graduated summa cum laude from the University of St. Thomas with a B.S. degree in business economics and a B.A. in philosophy. 

Rebecca (Neal) O’Donnell ‘07 

Rebecca graduated with a B.S. degree in mathematical economics. She worked for several years in the insurance industry before entering graduate school at the University of Minnesota, where she completed an M.S. in applied economics. She currently works for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (a state government agency working to provide affordable housing and to reduce homelessness within Minnesota) as a programs analyst. 

Post Graduate Earnings for Economics Majors

Economics routinely ranks as one of the highest paying undergraduate majors with a median starting salary of $48,500. By mid-career, economics majors have median earnings of $94,900. One of the best things about economics is that it is applicable to a variety of career paths. The American Economic Association recently created a new video that might help answer the question, What can I do with my Economics Major? Additional career resources are available on the AEA website.   

Compare Earnings Across Majors 

The resources below provide information about the kinds of careers that economics majors typically pursue after graduation and the salary potential of college majors. Economics is ahead of other rewarding degrees like mathematics, software engineering, and finance (not that money is everything: many graduates use their degree to enter public service, work at a non-profit or grass roots organization).  

  • The Center at Georgetown University calculated the economic value of various majors, including economics. The graph below lists the 25th percentile, median and 75th percentile salaries for Economics Bachelor degrees and graduate degrees. 
  • PayScale calculated average earnings by major based on compensation data from 300+ schools including Carleton and University of Minnesota. Economics routinely ranks as one of the highest paying undergraduate majors with a median starting salary of $48,500. By mid-career, economics majors have median earnings of $94,900.


Salaries of UST Alumni

A bar chart showing the median salaries by department("Source: 2016 First Destinations Survey")

Local companies and organizations actively recruit economics majors at St. Thomas for internships, some of which have offered interns full-time employment after graduation. These include Medtronic, Target, Ernst & Young, Dorsey & Whitney, Merrill Lynch, and U.S. Bank as well government agencies like the U.S. Treasury and the Minnesota Department of Revenue.   

We encourage students to seek guidance for career planning, internships, and resume preparation from the Career Development Center. Here are some directions on how to access all the job and internship (both paid and unpaid) listings St. Thomas offers: 

  • Go to the St. Thomas Career Development page 
  • Click on the “Job & Internship Listings” link on the right 
  • Sign in with your UST username and password 
  • On the left side menu click “Job Listings” then “Tommie Career Listings” 
  • Search jobs by job title, company, location, and more 
  • For a more specific search, click “Advanced Search” near the search bar 

Another option is to look at attending graduate school in Economics.   Because graduate programs are math intensive, we recommend taking three semesters of Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Mathematical Statistics. Additional math courses, such as real analysis or differential equations, can improve your chances of success in the program. Visit these PhD programs MinnesotaIowa, and Wisconsin, for example, to learn more about what these programs are looking for.  Please speak with your faculty advisor about graduate school so they can guide you through this process.

You also may consider attending the AEA Summer Training Program hosted by Michigan State University, which can help with mathematical preparation before starting graduate school. The program is open to all students, but there is preference for applicants that will increase diversity (gender, race, socioeconomic background) in the field of economics. Applications are due mid-January. The ICPSR Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research is another great option. 

Economics coursework, which emphasizes building and sharpening your analytical skills, prepares students for graduate work in a variety disciplines outside of economics, such as law, business, data analytics, and political science. 

  • In 2015-16, Economics majors had the highest average LSAT score of the 16 largest majors applying for Law School. In comparison with all majors, Economics (LSAT average score of 158.8) placed only second behind Math/Physics (161.7). (Nieswiadomy, LSAT Scores of Economics Majors: The 2015-16 Class Update) 
  • Economics majors similarly perform as well on GMAT exams, which are for admission to MBA programs. Only Mathematics, Physics, and Philosophy majors score higher than economics majors do.  
  • The GRE is the standardized exam for admission for most other graduate program, such as for Data Science, Political Science, and Public Policy programs.  Only Mathematics, Physics, and some Engineering majors perform better than Economics majors on the quantitative section.