Beyond the Numbers: How You Can Pursue a Career in Economics
For most high schoolers, the field of economics is a bit of a mystery. To some, it may come as a surprise to learn that the discipline is extremely diverse, leading professionals with a wide variety of interests to exciting, stable, well-paying careers. Especially for more socially-minded individuals, a career in economics goes far beyond spreadsheets and number-crunching. Wherever your interests lie, there’s a good chance you can use an economics degree in a career that you’re passionate about.
Why Should You Go into Economics?
You may be excellently suited to study economics and not even know it. Yes, it’s important to be good with numbers, but an interest in politics and culture comes into play here as well. These skills are all key to understanding the structures and policies that shape our economy. You should find these structures interesting too—because you’re bound to get involved in some research along the way. If you make a habit of keeping up with the news and staying savvy on current politics and policies, you’re already on the right track.
It’s important to note that many entry-level positions in the economics field require a master’s degree, so keep in mind that going to graduate school might be a wise move. For most who follow this track, however, their efforts pay off. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, available positions for economists are steadily increasing, and they typically offer a good salary.
Given the breadth of the field, there is naturally a variety of careers an economics major can pursue. This is good news; if some aspects of the discipline interest you more than others, your career can reflect that. You could become an economist and provide advisory services as part of an organization, consulting agency, or as a government employee. If you’re interested in becoming a financial analyst or manager, pursuing a graduate degree may be especially beneficial since these positions are as competitive as they are lucrative. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the employment of market research analysts is to grow 20 percent by 2028, which is much faster than the average rate of job growth. If you would prefer to have more interpersonal elements to your work, however, you may find your niche in journalism.
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Preparing for Success
If you’re thinking of pursuing this path, there are steps you can take to set yourself up for success. In high school, focus your efforts toward studying advanced math and history by taking classes such as calculus, world history and U.S. history. If you can, take AP microeconomics or AP macroeconomics. Like many other professions, knowing a foreign language is increasingly valued in this industry.
As you explore the economics programs at different colleges, keep some questions in mind: Does the school offer a bachelor of arts (BA), a bachelor of science (BS) or both? Does the degree offered focus on the parts of the discipline that interest you? Can you specialize in your particular area of interest? Where have students interned in the past? Will the department support you in getting an internship? Does the department offer opportunities outside of class?
UNCF Schools to Check Out
Plenty of great UNCF HBCUs offer degrees in economics. Clark Atlanta University’s Department of Economics offers a BA degree in economics, which prepares students for graduate studies as well as employment in government or private industry. Tougaloo College’s Department of Economics makes a specific effort to inform students of the vast opportunities that are open to them in the business world while laying a firm foundation for further study in economics, accounting, business administration and management science. Spelman College offers an undergraduate degree in economics and, through the Sloan Foundation, is developing a curriculum and programming to address the scarcity of black women with doctoral degrees in economics. The effort will also fund the creation of a new distinguished speaker series that focuses on alumnae, and other women of color, who have Ph.D.s in economics to give students real-world examples of careers in economics.
Scholarships and Programs
There’s no better way to start out your path toward a successful career in economics than with a solid financial foundation. Fortunately, there are multiple scholarships specifically suited to your area of interest. The MUFG Union Bank Scholarship Program, for example, is available to college juniors, seniors or graduate students pursuing a variety of business degrees, including economics. The UNCF/Koch Scholars Program offers scholarships, mentorship, academic support and networking opportunities to undergraduate African American students studying economics, among other business degrees. If you’re studying in Massachusetts, the Liberty Mutual Insurance LEADA@Liberty Scholarship is worth checking out. And, of course, the UNCF General Scholarship Awards are a can’t-miss opportunity for any student going to a UNCF-member college, regardless of their major.
As you explore all the different places an economics major can take you, you may feel the need to reach out for some guidance. You’re not alone! Submit a major interest form on our website to get the ball rolling. And to keep the updates coming, make sure to follow us on UNCF social media channels. This way, you can be the first to hear about our scholarships and member HBCUs. Great minds make great economists, which is why we’re so intent on providing our students with all the resources they need. Reach out today!