Top Economics Careers

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Financial Economics

Find out what jobs are available in the field of financial economics.

Environmental Economics

Explore the impact of human activities on the environment in economic terms.

Political Economics

See the average job duties, degree requirements, and salaries for political economists.

Economics Research and Education

Use your economics degree in the world of academia as a professor or researcher.

Understand what economists do

Economics is the study of the production and distribution of goods, services, and natural resources. Given the wide range this covers, most economists specialize in particular fields of study such as financial, environmental, and political economics. Some choose to narrow their focus on the economics of the international oil trade, monetary policy, or Asian financial markets. Many economists work in academia, teaching at universities and conducting research. Others provide consultancy services and work for think tanks, also known as policy institutes, where they perform research and engage in advocacy for economic policy.

Check Out Popular Economics Specializations

Despite the broad range of work that economists engage in, you will find few opportunities to specialize until advanced levels. In economics bachelor’s degree programs, you will take core economics courses, as few schools offer specialties at this level. At the master’s level, you can begin to specialize in economic policy or global development economics, but some institutions only offer a master’s as part of a PhD program. One way to decide on a specialty is to select a broad range of undergraduate courses, even outside economics, as you may discover that the economics behind a typically unrelated field interests you most. Some of the more common specializations in economics, as well as careers in those specializations, are listed below.

Financial Economics

Financial economics focuses on debt and credit, as well as monetary policy and managing risk. It includes financial analysts and advisors, as well as more traditional economists.

Economists

  • Projected national job growth: 6%
  • Average Salary: $89,450/year
  • Entry-level education: Master’s degree; however, some entry-level positions only require bachelor’s degrees.
  • Job description: Economists gather and collect data on economic matters, whether from records or by conducting surveys. They then create models that explain the trends in the data in effort to make accurate predictions about future trends.
  • Why would I want to do this? Choose a career as an economist if you want to work with complex information and challenging problems on a wide range of topics, particularly those that deal with money. As an economist, you can expect to spend each day working with data and analyzing real problems.

Financial Analysts

  • Projected national job growth: 23%
  • Average Salary: $74,350/year
  • Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree, specializing in finance and economics. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and similar bodies issue licenses for financial analysts; however, most licenses require an employer to sponsor you, so it is typical for you to get your license after being hired.
  • Job description: Financial analysts guide individuals and businesses in making investment decisions based on their assessment of various financial products like stocks and bonds. They often focus on a specific region, industry, or product, such as oil, Asian bond markets, or the automobile industry.
  • Why would I want to do this? Pursue financial analysis if you thrive under pressure and want to work with complex mathematical data in order to determine financial results.

Personal Financial Advisor

  • Projected national job growth: 32%
  • Average Salary: $64,750/year
  • Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree, usually along with special training and licensing relevant to products you will sell directly. These licenses can vary by state, although you can find more information on the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) website.
  • Job description: Financial advisors give financial advice to individuals and couples who are making financial plans, such as preparing their retirement or arranging for insurance policies.
  • Why would I want to do this? Opt to be a financial advisor if the challenge of understanding and meeting your client’s financial wants and needs appeals to you. You can expect to spend your days meeting with, educating, and planning with clients as well as filing paperwork on their behalf.

Financial Examiners

  • Projected national job growth: 27%
  • Average Salary: $74,940/year
  • Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree, with some emphasis on accounting as well as other skills. For example, examiners working for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) must have at least six credit hours in accounting.
  • Job description: Financial examiners examine financial records to ensure compliance with laws governing financial institutions and transactions. They also recommend solutions to the problems of institutions and recommend ways to remain in compliance.
  • Why would I want to do this? Become a financial examiner if you want to protect the public from the fallout of financial institutions taking illegal risks with their clients’ money. You can expect to investigate financial records, reports, and balance sheets for signs of criminal activity on a daily basis, as well as lesser violations or problems.

Financial Managers

  • Projected national job growth: 6%
  • Average Salary: $103,910/year
  • Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree, although typically combined with five years or more of experience working in another financial field. Professional certification exists, but usually is not required; two groups that offer a certification are the CFA Institute, which offers the Chartered Financial Analyst certification, and the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP), which offers the Certified Treasury Professional certification.
  • Job description: Financial managers are responsible for the overall financial well-being of an organization, which often involves analyzing data and presenting reports as well as keeping track of accounts.
  • Why would I want to do this? Choose financial management if you want to keep businesses and other institutions financially solvent. You can expect to work long hours as you create long-term budget plans and work with complex financial data.

Loan Officers

  • Projected national job growth: 14%
  • Average Salary: $56,490/year
  • Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree, although some entry-level positions may require only an associate’s degree or similar coursework. Loan officers often require licensing, depending on the field; loan officers issuing mortgages require a Mortgage Loan Originator (MLO) designation, which requires some specialized training, an exam, and a background check.
  • Job description: Loan officers evaluate the financial situation of people who apply for loans, often using specialized software. Some loan officers focus on collecting on loans where the client has stopped paying.
  • Why would I want to do this? Become a loan officer if you are interested in helping people accomplish their goals while keeping financial principles and your employers’ needs in mind. You can expect to work closely with clients in an office environment, and you may have to put time into finding new loan clients as well.

Environmental Economics

This field of economics focuses on understanding the impact of human activities on the environment in economic terms. Some of the top jobs related to the field are environmental economists and farm advisors.

Environmental Economist

  • Projected national job growth: 3% – 9%
  • Average Salary: $90,550/year
  • Entry-level education: Master’s degree, with a specific focus on environmental subjects
  • Job description: Environmental economists perform economic analysis of the use and protection of natural environments and resources. They use computer models, data analysis and statistics software, and their knowledge of environmental science to provide advisement, develop plans, and deliver presentations on environmental management.
  • Why would I want to do this? Choose environmental economics if you would enjoy using economic facts to convince others to protect the environment. You must possess both a passion for environmental protection and excellent ability with math. You can expect to spend your time collecting and analyzing data to prepare reports and proposals.

Farm and Home Management Advisors

  • Projected national job growth: 10% – 19%
  • Average Salary: $45,430
  • Entry-level education: Master’s degree is typical; a bachelor’s degree is sometimes sufficient. Training in agricultural science is vital.
  • Job description: Farm and home management advisors, sometimes known as farm extension agents, provide technical advice and introduce newly developed methods and technologies to farmers. They also organize classes and conduct research on specific topics at farmers’ requests.
  • Why would I want to do this? Choose to become a farm and home management advisor if you want to help farmers with the economic challenges of raising crops and livestock. You can expect to do a great deal of traveling, working outdoors with plants and animals, as well as performing research that makes a difference in rural communities.

Political Economics

Political economics focuses on the ways in which public policy can influence economic outcomes. Political economists, budget analysts, and revenue agents are examples of jobs in the field of political economics.

Political Economists

  • Projected national job growth: 6%
  • Average Salary: $89,450
  • Entry-level education: Master’s degree, although a bachelor’s degree can be sufficient for some entry-level jobs.
  • Job description: Political economists study the economic impacts of public policies and gather data on the potential impacts of new policies. They provide this information to policymakers, either directly or through publications.
  • Why would I want to do this? Become a political economist if you want to influence government policies and decisions on the local or national level. You can expect to spend your time developing theories and arguments, backing them up with data, and using them to persuade policymakers of the best course of action.

Revenue Agents

  • Projected national job growth: 7%
  • Average Salary: $49,360/year
  • Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree, although the Internal Revenue Service may accept a lower level of education with experience in accounting. There is usually extensive on-the-job training.
  • Job description: Revenue agents work to ensure that the government receives its legal tax payments. They analyze financial records, communicate with individuals and businesses about discrepancies, and arrange for payment as necessary.
  • Why would I want to do this? Choose to become a revenue agent if you want to use mathematical and analytical skills to enforce the law and ensure that the government receives its legally owed taxes. You can expect to work in an office with records, perform field audits at taxpayers’ homes and places of business, and make arrangements for delinquent taxpayers to pay what they owe.

Budget Analysts

  • Projected national job growth: 10%
  • Average Salary: $68,200/year
  • Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree, although some positions may prefer a master’s degree. The Certified Government Financial Manager credential, provided by the Association of Government Accountants (AGA), is not required but may be very beneficial to your skills and job prospects.
  • Job description: Budget analysts help institutions manage their finances and monitor their spending. Budget analysts also prepare reports and may provide advice and estimates about the future economic needs of their institution.
  • Why would I want to do this? Pursue budget analysis if you want to advise decision makers on budgetary matters, backed by analysis and study. You can expect to work mostly alone analyzing data, predicting expenses and income, and preparing reports that present your findings to your employers.

Statisticians

  • Projected national job growth: 14%
  • Average Salary: $72,830/year
  • Entry-level education: Master’s degree; however, some employers may be willing to hire bachelor’s degree holders for entry-level positions.
  • Job description: Statisticians use advanced mathematics to interpret and analyze data, as well as to draw conclusions from that data. Their work is often used by other economics professionals, as well as many other decision makers.
  • Why would I want to do this? Aim for a career as a statistician if you enjoy looking for patterns in data and information, as well as working with complex mathematics and computer models. You can expect to work with mathematics and large amounts of data in an office environment, although you may also have to perform field survey work.

Economics Research and Education

This specialization focuses on using economics as a tool for academic research, as well as improving economic theories and methods. Research economists and economics professors are examples of common jobs for academic specialists.

Research Economists

  • Projected national job growth: 6%
  • Average Salary: $89,450/year
  • Entry-level education: Master’s degree. Many academic specialists in economics go on to get a PhD.
  • Job description: Research economists develop new general models and theories of economics based on the work of others and their own research and analysis. They are usually expected to publish research regularly and may have teaching duties.
  • Why would I want to do this? Pursue a career as an research economist if you want to build on economic theory. You may develop new theories, critique and improve the theories of others, or determine through research which model is more accurate or useful. Expect to work in an academic environment or a special institute or think-tank.

Economics Professors

  • Projected national job growth: 10% – 19%
  • Average Salary: $85,310/year
  • Entry-level education: Master’s degree. Most colleges will prefer you to have a doctorate, although you may be able to start work as an associate professor while completing your doctorate.
  • Job description: Economics professors instruct students on the principles, theories, and methods of economics. Responsibilities include classroom teaching as well as mentoring and guiding students, keeping up-to-date in the field, and publishing academic work or textbooks.
  • Why would I want to do this? Become an economics professor if you have a passion for both education and economics. You can expect to work in lecture halls and offices, as well as teaching traditional and online courses.