Are you interested in economics but wondering what you can do with a master’s degree besides crunching numbers and analyzing data?
Economics degrees are often touted as a pathway to a lucrative career in finance, consulting or government. While these are certainly viable career paths, economics degrees can offer so much more than just a high-paying job (though the paycheck is nice, too).
One often overlooked benefit of studying economics is how it can help us better understand the world around us. Economics studies how individuals, businesses, and governments decide and allocate resources. Understanding these concepts, we can better understand inequality, climate change and international trade.
Furthermore, economics degrees can prepare students for a variety of careers that don’t necessarily fit the traditional mold. For example, if you want to start your own business, an economics degree can help you understand the principles of supply and demand, market competition and pricing — all essential skills that help entrepreneurs make more informed decisions about how they launch and grow their business.
In this blog, we’ll explore different and the unique value of a master’s in economics beyond the typical career paths.
Unconventional Jobs for Economists
A master’s degree in economics is a versatile degree that can open doors to many careers beyond the traditional roles of an economist. In fact, economics graduates possess a unique set of skills that make them valuable assets in fields like data science, marketing and entrepreneurship. So, whether you’re interested in working for a tech company or even launching your own startup, a master’s in economics could be the degree that equips you with the right knowledge and skills to succeed.
Here are a few examples:
- Data Science
With a strong foundation in statistics and econometrics, econ grads are well-positioned to become data scientists. Data scientists analyze large datasets to identify patterns and make data-driven decisions. The analytical skills and data literacy you develop in an econ master’s program could be valuable assets in this field.
Marketing is all about understanding consumer behavior and market trends, making it a natural fit for graduates with a master’s in econ. By leveraging your knowledge of microeconomics and game theory, you can help companies understand consumer demand and optimize pricing strategies.
An econ master’s will equip you with a unique combination of skills that can be valuable in entrepreneurship. With a strong understanding of market dynamics and the ability to analyze and forecast trends, econ grads can contribute crucial insights for starting or growing a successful business.
- Public Policy
While economics graduates may be well-suited for careers in government, they can also make an impact in the world of public policy outside of traditional roles. By combining their economics knowledge with a passion for social justice, economics grads can work with nonprofit organizations or advocacy groups to promote policies that address poverty, inequality and other societal challenges.
By pursuing an unconventional career path, you can apply your skills and knowledge in new and exciting ways while still enjoying the intellectual rigor and professional opportunities of economics.
Interdisciplinary Careers in Economics
One of the best advantages of a master’s in economics is the opportunity to explore interdisciplinary topics and develop versatile skills that are in high demand across a wide range of industries.
For example, economics graduates can combine their skills with law and public policy to work in environmental regulation, antitrust, or international trade. Working for government agencies, law firms or public policy organizations, economics graduates can help shape regulations and policies that affect businesses, consumers and society as a whole.
Combining economics with another field can make you more versatile and marketable in today's rapidly evolving job market. Employers increasingly seek candidates who can think critically, solve complex problems, and communicate effectively across disciplines. Pursuing interdisciplinary opportunities during a master's in economics program can provide graduates with the skills and experience necessary to diversify their careers.
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Opportunities for Global Impact
A master’s degree in economics equips graduates with a deep understanding of economic systems and policy-making on a global scale. Many economics graduates work in international development organizations where they can use their skills to address issues of poverty, inequality and climate change on a global scale.
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
The UNDP works in 170 countries to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities, and protect the planet. Economists at the UNDP may work on issues related to economic development, poverty reduction, and sustainable development.
- International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
The IFAD is a specialized agency of the United Nations that works to empower rural communities and promote food security. Economists at IFAD may work on issues related to agricultural development, rural finance, and value chains.
Oxfam is an international confederation of 20 organizations working to end poverty and promote social justice. Economists at Oxfam may work on issues related to inequality, economic justice, and gender.
- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
The Gates Foundation is the largest private charitable organization in the world, working to promote health and reduce poverty globally. Economists at the Gates Foundation may work on issues related to health economics, global health policy, and development finance.
- African Development Bank
The AfDB is a regional development bank that promotes economic and social development in Africa. Economists at the AfDB may work on issues related to macroeconomic policy, infrastructure development, and private sector development.
In these organizations, economists may work on a range of tasks, from conducting research and analysis to advising policymakers and implementing programs on the ground. Their work may involve designing and evaluating development projects, analyzing economic policies and trends, and providing technical assistance to governments and other stakeholders. By contributing their expertise to these organizations, economists can help make a difference in addressing some of the world's most pressing challenges.
Real-World Applications of Economics
At its core, economics is about understanding how people and societies make decisions about the allocation of resources. A master's in economics can equip graduates with the skills to tackle some of the world's most pressing problems — from poverty and inequality to climate change and healthcare, economics can be applied in a wide range of areas to create meaningful change.
One example is the work of Esther Duflo, a renowned economist and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics for her research into poverty alleviation. Duflo’s work focuses on finding effective interventions to help people living in poverty, like providing access to clean water or education. Her research has been instrumental in shaping development policies around the world.
In addition to high-profile examples like Duflo, many economics graduates go on to work in their communities to create positive change. Some work for non-profit organizations that aim to alleviate poverty or address social justice issues. Others work in local government or for community development corporations, using their economics skills to analyze data and make informed decisions about allocating resources.
Take the First Step Toward a Versatile and Impactful Economics Career at SMU
A master's degree in economics can open up a world of possibilities if you want to make a positive impact in your communities and beyond. With interdisciplinary skills, specialized knowledge, and a global perspective, graduates with an econ master’s degree are well-positioned for success in a variety of fields, from data science and marketing to public policy and international development.
At SMU, we offer a rigorous and engaging economics program that prepares students for a wide range of careers and opportunities to create meaningful change.
Want to know more about How to Succeed in Economics?
Explore our Master’s Degree Comparison Guide for an overview of the various master’s degree options in economics and related fields, as well as the different career paths each degree will prepare you for.