Career outlook

What can I do with an economics degree?

Economics majors have wide choices of courses and careers. Many supplement their majors with cognate courses to prepare for careers in business, the world of finance, public policy, labor markets, journalism, health care administration, or public service.

Economists are now being found in places that few would have anticipated until recently. More and more high schools are offering economics courses, and some are requiring them. A degree in secondary education emphasizing math and economics is especially attractive to many school districts.

Nonprofit agencies, such as the Sierra Club or Greenpeace are employing more economists since market-based solutions to environmental problems are now being accepted by environmentalists. With increased economic integration throughout the world, even small firms need to be aware of import competition and the prospect for export markets. The global economy is extraordinarily complex, requiring careful analysis and planning – the sort of thing done best by economists.

Transferable skills

An economics degree offers skills in:

  • Critical thinking
  • Analytical problem solving
  • Interpreting findings using models, charts and graphs 
  • Conducting research findings using clear, accurate, and concise writing
  • Designing, leading and interpreting research and statistical analysis 

Some careers in economics

Career Median salary Market growth
(2014-2024)
Actuaries $97,070 14%
Auditors $67,190 9% to 13%
Budget Analysts $71,590 2% to 4%
Economics Teachers, Postsecondary $94,000 9% to 13%
Economists  $99,180 5% to 8%
Environmental Economists $99,180 5% to 8%
Financial Analysts $80,310 9% to 13%
Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists $62,150 14%
Personal Financial Advisors $89,160 14%
Risk Management Specialists $66,670 5% to 8%

Source: O*NET Online, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration

A capsule summary of careers in economics:

Corporate

  • Banking and Finance
  • Market Analyst
  • Marketing
  • Human Resources
  • MBA programs love economics majors!

Non-profits and government

  • International Agencies (International Monetary Fund, World Bank, United Nations, Peace Corps)
  • U.S. Government Agencies (Federal Reserve System , U.S. Treasury Department , U.S. Department of Commerce, Environmental Protection Agency, etc.)
  • State and Local Government Agencies (Labor, Economic Development, Budget Analysis, etc.)

Academia

  • Professor (requires a Ph.D., but graduates are in demand)

Graduate study

An economics degree offers a solid foundation for graduate study in: 

  • Law School
  • Medical School
  • MBA program
  • Public policy and planning

Undergraduates who want to undertake graduate work at the Ph.D. level in economics need a good mathematics background and are encouraged to take the Mathematics 2010 sequence as early as possible. Ph.D. graduates are in demand at universities, corporations, financial institutions and government agencies. M.A. graduates may teach at junior colleges but more typically go into business or public service.

Notable people with an economics major

  • Kofi Annan (7th secretary-general of the United Nations)
  • Sandra Day O'Connor (first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Stanford University)
  • David Overton (founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of the Cheesecake Factory, Wayne State University, 1967)
  • George H. W. Bush (former U.S. president, Yale University)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger (bodybuilder/actor/governor, University of Wisconsin)
  • Lionel Richie (singer/songwriter, Tuskegee University)
  • Warren Buffett (financier, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Columbia University School of Business, master's in economics)
  • Roger Goodell (NFL commissioner, Washington and Jefferson College)

Economics majors have a wide choice of courses and careers. Many supplement their majors with cognate courses to prepare for careers in business, journalism, health care administration, or public service. Other undergraduate majors find economics to be excellent preparation for law school. For example, past majors in our department include David Overton (B.A. 1967), who is the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of The Cheesecake Factory, the ninth-largest restaurant company in the United States; Ted profits and government (B.A. 1972), who is a senior partner in the Detroit law firm of Dykema Gossett PLLC; and Anna Kuzmik (B.A. 1991), who received her law degree from Harvard University in 1994 and is now practicing law in  New York City. Alexei Alexandrov (B.A. 2003) was admitted to the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. At the local level, for example, Robin West-Smith (B.A. 2003) works for the City of Detroit's Information Technology Services Department, and Tanisha Holmes (B.A. 2003) works for General Electric in Southfield.