What could I do with my degree in economics?

Eoghan Beamish of the Economics Network outlines some of your options in the private sector

What career opportunities are available to students studying economics? If you're in the second or final year of your economics degree, you'll be faced with a bewildering array of choices.

The following sectors seek to employ economists every year. This list is by no means exhaustive, but should give you an idea of where you might like to focus your time and efforts.

Investment banking

(e.g. BNP Paribas, Morgan Stanley)

Your degree will give you an excellent basis for a career in banking as economic issues are of huge significance to the work of this sector. Many investment banks employ economics graduates to work specifically as economists. In this kind of role you'll research and analyse economic data, issues and trends, and use your results to produce reports and forecasts, which will assist the bank's other employees and may be passed on to clients. Note, however, that a higher degree in economics is often required for this kind of role.

But you'll find that the skills you have as an economics student mean you're suited for many other positions at an investment bank, many of which don't require you to have a higher degree. For example, in an M&A role you might find yourself weighing up the costs and benefits of particular corporate strategies, while on the trading floor you could be assessing risks, both of which should come naturally to students with an economics background. Furthermore, economics students are often very knowledgeable about issues in the wider economy, which is helpful for working in any role in banking, as are your strong numeracy skills.

Commercial law

(e.g. Freshfields, Mayer Brown)

Since the financial crisis, regulation of the financial sector has become far more onerous, so dealing with these aspects of the law has become an ever-greater part of a City lawyer's job. As an economics student, you'll already be well-versed in how economies can be managed by governments through legislation, so have a good basis to become a legal expert in this area.

But there's far more to working as a commercial lawyer than an academic knowledge of legislation. A key part of working successfully as a City lawyer is understanding your clients' businesses and, especially as you become more senior, how your firm is commercially managed and run. An economics degree prepares you well for these aspects of the role.

As an economics graduate, you'll need to do spend some time at law school before you can start working at a City law firm. First, you'll need to complete a year of academic legal study known as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), then a year of more practical and skills-based work known as the Legal Practice Course (LPC).

Professional services and consulting firms

(e.g. Accenture, PwC)

Much of the work undertaken by large professional services firms for their clients, whether it's auditing their financial statements, giving them tax planning advice, helping them manage the risks their business faces, or guiding them through strategic business decisions is significantly affected by the economic climate and current economic regulation. So your knowledge of both of these areas as a economics student makes you especially attractive to these firms.

As an economics student you're highly numerate, which will give you a great basis for the numeracy tests you'll have to pass as part of the process of applying for a role at a professional services firm, and for the work you'll do in a graduate role in this sector.

If you choose to join the professional services industry, your employer may well want to invest in you by putting you through a professional qualification, for example, in accountancy, actuarial science or tax. As an economics graduate, you'll often get exemptions from some of the exams normally taken by first year graduates. Furthermore, economists will find their degree very relevant to the modules they study in subsequent years of these qualifications.

Major corporates

(e.g. BP, Sky)

The list of companies that come under this heading is long and could include organisations in the food, transport, media or energy industries to name just a few.

How do you fit in as an economics graduate? Larger companies will employ their own teams of economists to assess and report on sector or market specific economic data and trends, and also to monitor wider economic issues. In addition, economics students will be well-equipped for roles in many other areas of a big company's work, for example, in finance, strategy or research. And one of the advantages of joining a graduate training scheme at a major corporate is that you'll often get to experience more than one area of work, so you can find out which one suits you best.

If you're fascinated by how individual businesses function in the context of wider economic issues, you're likely to gain a depth of insight by working as an employee at a corporate organisation that you can't gain from being a professional adviser. However, those working in banking, law or professional services will have the advantage of being able to work with a number of different businesses.

Other options

Asset management (e.g. Baillie Gifford, M&G): This area of finance is all about managing pension or savings funds on behalf of investors. Your understanding of both short and long-term economic patterns gives you a great basis for a career here.

Corporate and retail banking (e.g. Barclays, RBS): Bankers in this area help businesses and individuals with all their day-to-day cash management and investment needs. If you have a particular interest in microeconomics, you might find a role here of interest.

Market research (e.g. Datamonitor, Nielsen): These organisations provide information about business and consumer trends. An area of work where economists can put econometric and statistical theories into practice.

The Economics Network provides support, help and assistance to economics undergraduates. For more information, visit studyingeconomics.ac.uk/about-us

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