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Career Profile

Submitted by dfto on Wed, 07/11/2007 - 1:35pm

4.1 Economics as a Career Foundation

Economics graduates are intellectually powerful: the intellectual development and capabilities of economics graduates are valued by employers. Of particular value is their ability to think logically and abstractly; communicate effectively; and understand the logic of optimal decision making and the operation of markets.


Large surveys of economics graduates by Stats Canada and Human Resource Development Canada (HRDC) indicate that economics graduates in Canada usually find work as financial consultants, sales representatives, insurance brokers, financial managers, banking/credit/investment managers, economists/researchers/consultants, financial analysts, and securities agents.

However, the range of careers for economists is very broad. The University of Kansas outlines the following examples of career opportunities for undergraduate Majors in Economics:[1]

Banking / Finance
Commodities broker Bank management trainee Financial analyst
*Economic forecaster Trust administrator Credit analyst
Loan counsellor Securities analyst Investment banker
Market research analyst Sales representative Cost estimator
Staff training Development specialist Public relations planner
Retail buyer Real Estate Insurance underwriting
Actuarial assistant Advertising copywriter Management consultant
Strategic planner Actuary *Business administrator

Government/Public Sector

Social Security Administrator Claims examiner Foreign trade analyst
Tax auditor Housing development aide Budget Office assistant
Legislative assistant Lobbyist *Regional/urban planner
Financial planner *Lawyer Research assistant
Compensation analyst Demographer *Public administrator
Education / Communication
*Professor Technical writer Journalist/columnist
Educational TV advisor *Higher education administration *Information analyst

The value of an economics degree as a foundation for further study is exemplified by the fact that students graduating from undergraduate economics programs typically score near or at the top of professional school entrance examinations. For example, economics majors are, and have been for many years, ranked number 1 in terms of performance on the LSAT, a key test in terms of gaining admission to law school.[2]


Job Prospects

Human Resource Development Canada indicates that job prospects for graduates across the country with BA's in Economics now, and through to 2004, are rated as good, the best possible rating. The earnings of a BA Major, based on Statistic Canada's large survey of graduates from all universities in 1990 and 1995 are shown in Table 1. Table 2 compares average earnings for graduates in Economics with some other disciplines. The message is that Economics degrees are a worthwhile investment.

Table 1:
Average Earnings of Graduates with a BA in Economics (Canadian Averages)

  1995 Graduates
in 1997
1990 Graduates
in 1992
1990 Graduates
in 1995
Highest 20% 48,200 51,300 67,700
Average 31,600 31,700 41,100
Lowest 20% 19,800 17,400 21,900

Table 2:
Average Earnings of Graduates with a BA in Economics vs Other Disciplines

  1995 Graduates
in 1997
1990 Graduates
in 1992
1990 Graduates
in 1995
Economics 31,600 31,700 41,100
Commerce 35,100 31,500 41,400
History 31,300 25,900 33,500
Political Science 28,000 29,800 36,400
Psychology 28,000 28,300 35,000
Sociology 27,800 28,700 34,700

4.2 Economics as a Career

Although an undergraduate degree in economics provided sufficient qualifications for economist positions in government and business, such positions increasingly require at the very least a honours degree, and more typically a post graduate degree, commonly a Masters degree or additional professional qualifications. Indeed, this trend toward requirements of higher qualifications applies to most disciplines and, consequently, it is important for students to keep this in mind when selecting programs.

The MA (Econ) can be course-based or thesis-based and, although most MA (Econ) graduates enter the work force upon completion, it also provides the background and qualifications for entry into a PhD (Econ) program. Students are advised to take the Honours program, or the same courses under the Economics Major program, if they plan to go on to a MA, or PhD program in Economics. Honours Economics students from the University of Calgary have gone on to excel in MA (Econ) programs at other top-ranked universities in Canada, the US and overseas, as well as our own MA (Econ) program. Table 3 illustrates the earnings power of an MA in economics.

Table 3:
Average Earnings of Graduates with a Masters Degree in Economics (Canada)

  1995 Graduates
in 1997
1990 Graduates
in 1992
1990 Graduates
in 1995
Highest 20% 66,300 58,500 74,700
Average 42,100 42,700 51,700
Lowest 20% 25,400 26,900 31,300

[1] For some careers listed below, such as educational television advisor, additional skills or related training may be required. Additional graduate study is generally necessary for positions marked with a *.

[2] See M. Nieswiadomy, "LSAT Score of Economics Majors", Journal of Economics Education, Fall 1998. To see how other disciplines ranked click here.

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