What Can You Do with a Master’s in Economics?

Industry Advice Business Science & Mathematics

The field of economics is expected to see substantial growth over the next decade due to the increase in available data across industries and the need for professionals with the appropriate training and skills to turn that data into actionable insights.

The evolution of the field brings an increase in opportunities for those with a graduate degree in economics. Below, we explore the most common industries that those with this advanced education work in, uncover some of the top job titles that these professionals hold, and offer advice on how to choose the master’s in economics program that’s right for you.

Economics Career Outlook

A graduate education can increase a professional’s earning potential by 28 percent or higher across industries, and the field of economics is no different. As of 2019, economics professionals earned a median salary of $105,020 per year, while those with graduate degrees saw earnings up to $185,020 annually. 

A competitive salary isn’t the only benefit of pursuing a career in economics, however. Organizations across industries now rely on economics professionals’ insights, resulting in an anticipated 14 percent growth in job opportunities in economics by 2029—a rate much faster than that of the average role.

As promising as these figures are, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) identifies that competition for jobs in economics has gotten more fierce over time. This competition is due, in large part, to the growing need for advanced skill sets and training that can only be obtained in a graduate economics program. For this reason, the BLS notes that most roles in this field require a master’s degree or higher in economics.

Top Sectors for Economics Professionals

Professionals who graduate from a master’s in economics program obtain hands-on learning experience and an understanding of core tools and competencies that students with an undergraduate degree simply do not possess. As a result, these individuals have the benefit of applying their skill sets to work in a variety of different settings. 

Below, Jun Ma, PhD, professor, and director of the Master of Science in Economics program within Northeastern’s College of Social Sciences and Humanities, explains the three main sectors that employ economics professionals.

1. The Private Sector

Many with a background in economics choose to take on roles as analysts, data scientists, or economists within a variety of fields. From banking to biotechnology, there are many private sector initiatives that require the statistical analysis skills of an economics professional. 

Economics professionals might work with include:

  • Consulting firms
  • Private banks
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Biotechnology companies
  • Startups
  • Tech companies
  • And more

Though all of these career paths have grown, Ma acknowledges that the technology sector has perhaps seen the largest rise in opportunities.

“Our graduates recently are in great demand in the tech and business industries because tech companies nowadays like to hire economics graduates to analyze data in data science positions,” he says. “Many of our graduates have found positions doing just that at top companies.”

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2. Government Agencies

Economics professionals can apply their skills to a variety of careers within the public or governmental sectors. They may take on national, state, or local roles within government agencies. Ma identifies that other top organizations these individuals work in include the Federal Reserve Bank Service’s Central Bank, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other think tanks focused on research and advocacy. 

3. International Organizations

There are also many global opportunities for those with an advanced economic background. Ma identifies that professionals may work with organizations such as the International Monetary Fund’s World Bank or the United Nations, among others.

5 Top Jobs For Those with a Master’s in Economics

Here, we outline five of the most common job titles for professionals with a master’s in economics.

1. Economist

According to Ma, an economist is among the most common job titles for those with an advanced degree in economics. Economists gather and analyze data using statistical models, evaluate and report on economic trends, and advise organizations based on collected insights. They often provide recommendations and solutions to problems based on statistical data. With roles spanning the private sector, government agencies, international organizations, and more, these professionals are in high demand. | Average Salary: $129,826 per year

2. Data Scientist

Data scientists gather and analyze unstructured data sets. They develop or design data modeling processes, algorithms, predictive models, or statistical systems used to perform custom analysis. They then use gathered data to help answer questions or guide partners in determining economic policies. | Average Salary: $116,185 per year

3. Professor of Economics

Economics professors apply their real-world experiences and skills to mold future generations of economists. Primarily, these educators cover topics ranging from statistical and econometric tools to quantitative methods of data analysis. Academia is a very common path for those seeking a non-practical application of their economics training. | Average Salary: $84,675 per year 

4. Senior Financial Analyst

Financial analysts help corporations make strategic investments and business decisions by evaluating the trends, demographics, and economic factors that might affect their finances. At the senior level, these professionals may analyze an organization’s accounting data, evaluate risk, demonstrate the projection of future long- and short-term growth, and present recommendations for ways to maintain, adjust, or otherwise improve a company’s financial position. According to Ma, financial analysts may work in a commercial bank, mortgage bank, investment bank, or other similar organizations. | Average Salary: $81,081 per year

5. Data Analyst

Not to be confused with a data scientist, data analysts evaluate previously compiled data in order to identify trends, draw conclusions, and solve problems within an organization. These professionals may also create and maintain data collection systems and tools, interpret data sets using statistical models, and communicate with business teams about key findings. | Average Salary: $67,3377 per year

Pursuing a Master’s in Economics

Obtaining a master’s in economics is an efficient way to advance your career, increase your salary potential, and remain competitive within the industry. Yet not all programs are created equal. Here are a few key aspects to consider when choosing a master’s in economics.

1. Faculty Quality

The faculty at top programs like Northeastern’s provide graduate students with more than just knowledge from a textbook; they bring real-world experience from the field into the classroom. 

With prior experience working in many of the positions students aspire to have, Northeastern’s faculty can communicate industry trends, address cutting edge techniques, and discuss the most state-of-the-art economic theories defining the industry today. 

What’s more, because these faculty come from a variety of positions across sectors, they can help students determine their future career paths and provide actionable insights about how to address real-world economic scenarios across industries.

2. Opportunities for Hands-on Learning

Ma identifies that Northeastern’s experiential learning opportunities are one of the primary reasons students see so much success after graduation. These opportunities allow students to actually take the skills they’ve learned in the classroom and apply them hands-on within an organization in their industry of choice.

“We have classes that teach students the practical skills that will help them thrive in industry, and once they learn those skills from class, they get a chance to practice them within a company or government agency,” he says. 

These aren’t the only types of organization students can work in, however. Ma explains that Northeastern is committed to setting students up for success within the specific role, industry, or sector they wish to work in. As such, they have the flexibility to complete a co-op—a six-month, paid hands-on learning experience—in any organization they want. 

Keep in Mind: Co-ops also provide students with a chance to build their professional network and open doors to future employment opportunities. With 85 percent of all jobs today being filled through networking, this type of exposure to industry-leading professionals can go a long way in helping students stand out in a competitive job market.

3. Ability to Personalize Your Education

Alongside the chance to personalize your experiential learning, Northeastern’s master’s in economics is also designed to help students customize their courses to complement their unique aspirations.

“We design our program to provide students with a very general framework of economic and econometric models, but also have designed the program in such a way that we can tailor to every student’s different interests and career paths,” Ma says.

To do this, Northeastern offers unique tracks within the program, each of which provides extensive knowledge in a specific application of economics. “The tracks are established so that students will know what classes to take given their career of interest,” Ma explains. Some of the most common include a qualitative analysis track, an academic track, and a policy track that involves specialty areas such as health and financial economics.

Alongside these more informal tracks, Northeastern’s master’s of economics program also offers a concentration in data science. 

Take the Next Step

Ready to embark on a career in economics? A master’s degree from Northeastern can help set you on a path toward success. Learn more about this program, then get in touch with our enrollment coaches for personalized advice on applying, leveraging your degree in the industry, and more.

Explore our program page to learn about all that Northeastern’s master’s in economics has to offer. 

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