Deciding what career path to pursue is one of the most important decisions any of us can make, and also one of the most vexing. It can be difficult not knowing where our pursuits will take us. Fittingly, it’s not unlike studying the economy. Trends can be studied and predictions can be made, but there’s always an element of chance to take into consideration.
It is important, then, to remember that not everyone’s experience will follow the same career path. The career ladder outlined below is simply one of the most common among economists. It is also one based on the assumption that the economist in question plans to go into the private sector, and that he or she views economics as a primary career focus rather than as a secondary skill-set to aid in related but separate pursuits.
For some, there will be fewer steps, or more, or detours that lead to completely different steps and outcomes. Use this not as a strict how-to guide, but as general advice for what one should expect if choosing to pursue a career in economics.
First Rung: School
The first rung on the ladder to become an economist is attending business school. Economics is not a field one is likely to simply fall into. It is a challenging field requiring research and analysis of economic data. Employers generally want applicants who are well-trained and experienced in analytical methodology. At this level, the best (and arguably only) way to acquire that kind of training and experience is by gaining a college degree in economics. A two-year associate degree may be serviceable for the time being, but continuing to climb this career ladder all but necessitates a four-year bachelor’s degree.
Second Rung: Entry Level Position
Following receipt of an associate or bachelor’s degree, it’s important to gain real-world experience. The most readily available job opportunity at the entry level tends to come in the form of a consultant or research/analysis position at an economic research firm, possibly preceded by an unpaid internship. Such positions often require flexibility, long hours, and high motivation, but can quickly provide much-needed experience by providing opportunities to work with a multitude of clients in various industries.
Third Rung: More School
In order for one to be considered a true professional economist, postgraduate schooling is highly recommended. Research opportunities at top business colleges to get your MBA, or Ph.D. After completing a master’s degree, one may choose to continue on by applying to Ph.D programs, however only the master’s degree is considered essential. Without that much, one is likely to find a ceiling preventing him or her from progressing higher up the ladder than low- to mid-level consultant or research/analysis positions.
Fourth Rung: Managerial Position Or Quantitative Analyst
One is well-equipped to pursue a higher level position, either in a managerial role or as a quantitative analyst. The latter is a highly advanced form of economics work requiring complex mathematical and statistical methodologies to take advantage of financially beneficial trends in trade. In either case, at this point one should (if they haven’t already) begin to focus on a specialty. A niche discipline within economics or application of it that will make him or her invaluable to the right employer.
Fifth Rung: Chief Economist Or Director Of Economics Research
The farther one pursues a career in economics the more difficult it can be to find high-level positions. At the same time, the market becomes increasingly competitive. The best way to make oneself attractive to prospective employers at this point is to fulfill a specific specialization. Through this, one can efficiently rise up the ranks. Eventually you can even occupy a role as the leading economist within a company or organization.
There is a complex career ladder in place for individuals looking to become economists. The first rung on the ladder is undeniably getting an education. Consider obtaining a degree in business management or related subjects. After graduating, you need to obtain an entry-level position. Then, you need to return to school to earn a graduate degree. Following this, you need to obtain a managerial position or those as a quantitative analyst. Finally, you can obtain a position as a chief economist or director of economic research. Consider the points above to learn about the career ladder for economists.