Exploring this Job

You can augment your interest in economics by taking related courses in social science and mathematics and by becoming informed about business and economic trends through reading business-related publications such as newspaper business sections and business magazines. In addition to economics course work, college students can participate in specific programs and extracurricular activities sponsored by their university's business school, such as internships with government agencies and businesses and business-related clubs and organizations.

The Job

Economists grapple with many issues relating to the supply and demand of goods and services and the means by which they are produced, traded, and consumed. While most economists either teach at the university level or perform research for government agencies, many work for individual for-profit or not-for-profit organizations.

Economics professors teach basic macro- and microeconomics courses as well as courses on advanced topics such as economic history and labor economics. (Macroeconomics deals with the "big picture" of economics as a whole, and microeconomics deals with individual companies and persons.) They also perform research, write papers and books, and give lectures, contributing their knowledge to the advancement of the discipline.

Government economists study national economic trends and problems; their analyses often suggest possible changes in government policy to address such issues.

For-profit and not-for-profit companies both employ economists to assess connections of organizational policy to larger business conditions and economic trends. Management often will rely on this research to make financial and other kinds of decisions that affect the company.

In their education, economists usually specialize in a particular area of interest. While the specialties of university economists range across the entire discipline, other economists' expertise generally falls into one of several categories. Financial economists examine the relationships among money, credit, and purchasing power to develop monetary policy and forecast financial activity. International economists analyze foreign trade to bring about favorable trade balances and establish trade policies. Labor economists attempt to forecast labor trends and recommend labor policies for businesses and government entities. Industrial organization economists study the way businesses are internally organized and suggest ways to make maximum use of assets. Environmental economists study the relationships between economic issues and the allocation and management of natural resources. Agricultural economists study food production, development in rural areas, and the allocation of natural resources. Behavioral economists study the psychological and social factors that influence the economic decision making of individuals and institutions. Econometricians create models and use mathematical tools and concepts such as game theory, calculus, and regression analysis to explain economic trends or facts in all areas of economics. Public finance economists study how government policies (such as tax cuts, budget deficits, and welfare policies) affect the economy.