Department of Economics and Finance

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

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Types of Economists

Economists are familiar with most general principles. The knowledge gained are seen in fields like agriculture, medicine, education, law, energy, and environmental protection.

  • Microeconomists: Study supply and demand and find out how to maximize production.
  • Macroeconomists: Study the economy as a whole to find long-term, overarching trends throughout history. They draw conclusion and then make generalizations about investment productivity, inflation and unemployment.
  • Financial Economists: Study macroeconomists, financial economists study interest rates to see their effect on banking systems.
  • International Economists: Study markets international, currency exchange and the effects of tariffs and trade procedures and laws.
  • Organizational or Industrial Economists: Study the markets of individual industries, studying competitors and making predictions based on the decisions of competitors. They may also be involved in protecting the industry against trusts and monopolies
  • Demographic or Labor Economists: Study trends in salary and determines the need for labor. This specialty interest are the causes of unemployment and the results of changes in demographic.
  • Public Finance Economists: Study of government involvement in the economy, such as taxation, deficits or surpluses in budget, or policies concerning welfare.
  • Econometricians: Study of mathematics is in all branches of economics. Economist use models using methods like calculus, regression analysis, and game theory.

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 or Econ-Jobs 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. 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.

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Women and Minorities in Economics

Women and minorities make up a small, but growing percentage of economists. 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)

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."

Annual Earnings by College
Undergraduate Major, Women Aged 35-44 (top 5)
Economics 49,170
Engineering 49,070
Pharmacy 48,427
Architecture 46,353
Computer Science 43,757

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The median annual wage for economists was $91,860 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than the amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $51,410, and the top 10 percent earned more than $155,490.  * Note source of information from Bureau of Labor Statistics

A 2002 survey by the National Association of Business Economists found that the median annual base salary of business economists was $94,000 (Source: Careers in Business Economics, Washington: National Association of Business Economists, p. 55, 2004). This survey also indicated that the salary of business economists varied substantially with the level of education, experience and occupation.

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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)

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Job Opportunities

The following career services are available through PFW and external sources.

  • Career Services
    • Career Services offers comprehensive career services for all PFW students, alums and community members.
  • Cooperative Education (Co-op)
    • Co-op is nationally recognized academic training program that involves partnerships between students, employers, and PFW. This academic enhancement program gives you the opportunity to explore how classroom theory relates to actual employment opportunities, while you remain a PFW student.
  • Fort Wayne Newspapers
  • Job Zone
    • Please log onto JobZone, PFW Career Service's job database of internships and part-time, full-time, and work-study positions. Log-in directions are below. Please don't hesitate to contact Career Services at (260) 481-0689 with questions. To access these four positions and many more, please log into JobZone using the directions below:
    • Directions to log in:
      • Go to
      • Your username is your Student ID #
      • Your password is your birth date in the M/D/YYYY format
      • Much of your information will already be in the system - fill out the rest of the information and upload your resume using the "documents" tab
      • Click on the "jobs" tab and select "PFW JobZone Jobs" to find these positions and more!