Economists work in virtually every sector of the economy, which means the economist career path is anything but typical. Because there are so many career opportunities for economists in today’s society, deciding which path to choose can be daunting—but not impossible. One of the best ways to narrow your search is to identify which broad category of economist you fall into by assessing your priorities and goals for the future and then charting your specific career path in that field or sector.
Generally, there are three broad types of economists: public sector economists, private sector economists and academic economists. The duties and responsibilities of economists within each category can be similar, but there are some important and noticeable differences that can help you decide which kind of economist you should be. Here’s a brief overview to get you started thinking about the possibilities in economics.
Public Sector Economists
- What Do Public Sector Economists Do?
The roles and responsibilities of a public sector economist include a wide array of tasks, but generally involve assessing policy, evaluating governmental budgets and collecting and analyzing data to help lobbyists and government officials make policy decisions. Economists work at all levels of the public sector, including local, state and federal government appointments.
- Pros and Cons of Working as a Public Sector Economist
Working as a government economist generally offers more stability since the government does not make hiring and firing decisions based on profits or market stability. Public sector work offers economists the ability to tackle social problems they are passionate about in order to improve the lives of others. Working as an economist for the government or a government-controlled enterprise may also come with better benefits but may offer a lower starting pay. Notable drawbacks include dealing with the strict hierarchy and bureaucracy of the public sector and a complex, drawn-out hiring process.
- Signs You Should Work in the Public Sector
Are you passionate about social issues? Do you want to play a role in policymaking? Is long-term job security important?
- What Do Academic Economists Do?
Careers in academia for economists focus on teaching and research. A professor’s time may be split equally between teaching classes and performing research, although this ratio can shift in either direction depending on the institution, the number of years of experience and sometimes the professor’s own interests and preferences. Note: positions at four-year colleges and universities typically require a Ph.D. degree.
- Pros and Cons of Working as an Academic Economist
One of the appeals of working in academia is the ability to set your own research agenda. Academic researchers are usually free to work on whatever they want, as long as they can arrange funding to support their endeavor. Academia also provides economists with a high level of job security. According to the American Economic Association, the number of econ majors has increased sharply over the past few years but the number of graduates who go on to seek a Ph.D. has declined, which could mean an excellent job market in the years to come. Some downsides to working as an economist in academia are a lack of financial support for research outside of what you can arrange on your own and, for some, the teaching component of the job.
- Signs You Should Work in Academia
Do you want the freedom to research subjects and topics that are most interesting to you? Do you plan on following up your Master’s in Economics with a Ph.D.? Do you want to help shape the minds of future economists?
Private Sector Economists
- What Do Private Sector Economists Do?
Private sector economists work in a variety of different capacities, including banks, investment firms and private companies like Facebook and Amazon. Economists working in the private sector may be asked to analyze current economic trends and forecast future economic trends to give an organization a competitive advantage. Private sector economists may also analyze the possible effects of legislation or regulatory laws as they relate to an organization’s market share and bottom line.
- Pros and Cos of Working as a Public Sector Economist
The private sector generally offers the highest salaries for economists. Working in the private sector also offers an economist the ability to move between businesses and organizations until they find the best culture fit. Of course working in the private sector can often mean high-pressure work environments where results are expected quickly. There is also less opportunity for independent research beyond what the organization deems necessary.
- Signs You Should Work in the Private Sector
Is organizational culture important? Do you want a career that offers more advancement opportunities? Do you want to maximize your earning potential as an economist?
What Type of Economist Should You Be?
The answers to these questions, and whether you value pursuing a passion or a high-earning position, will help you chart the right career in economics. But regardless of which type of economist you hope to become someday, the first step is obtaining an advanced degree that will prepare you to practice economics in the field at the highest levels.
To get started, learn about American University’s online Master’s in Economics with a specialization in applied economics. This online graduate economics degree is taught by highly-esteemed economists and scholars in Washington D.C., the epicenter of economic policy.
Request more information or call (855) 725-7614 to learn more about the program.