The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. -Thomas Sowell
Choices. Trade-offs. Markets. Profits. Prices. Benefits and Costs. Risks and Rewards. Unemployment. Inflation. Poverty. Equality. International Trade.
THE CHOICES WE MAKE . . .
Economics develops methods for analyzing some of the more difficult questions of our day in the areas of personal spending behavior, business decisions and public policy.
IN LIFE EVERYDAY . . .
Economic analysis can help in making production decisions, pricing policies, and location decisions in business. With its analysis of financial markets and banking, economics can also help in making personal financial decisions, or aid in making career choices
TO MORE EFFICIENTLY USE . . .
Want readily available health care? How much should you pay for it, and how should you pay? Economists study the social and financial demands placed on the medical industry to develop policies for providing adequate care at acceptable costs.
Want a free and competitive marketplace? What do we do about those who lose jobs in the normal course of business competition? Should jobs be protected? Should government pay for retraining workers for new jobs? Should we bail out failing firms? Should the Federal budget be balanced? Economists study how economies work, recommending policies to encourage growth and minimize unemployment.
According to Business Week magazine, economics is the second most popular college major among the nation's top one thousand CEO's, second only to engineering. Economists study business within the context of the market setting and overall economic conditions. An economics degree has a broader focus than a concentration in management or marketing, for example. Economics is versatile and provides the mental flexibility to cope with unexpected events. While this can be a disadvantage in competing for some narrowly defined tasks, it also presents a wider range of opportunities over an entire career.
Economics, along with Finance, is a traditional preparation for careers in the financial services sector of the economy; that is, in banking, insurance, and securities. Many economics graduates take jobs in sales and marketing, or enter management trainee programs.
The economics graduate is not restricted to one job title. A recent survey of Missouri State economics graduates revealed the following job titles among graduates with only the bachelor's degree: program analyst with the Social Security Administration, head purchasing agent, college loan coordinator, bank commercial lending manager, marketing, research and forecasting analyst, bank trust administrator, investment broker and estate planner, land use planner. That is only a partial listing. Quite a few of our graduates own and operate their own businesses.
Respondents to the survey also offered comments concerning the usefulness of their economics degree.
For example, a bank trust administrator commented,
"An economics degree carries more weight with my superiors than do business degrees,"
A securities analyst said,
"I still feel as I did after the second week of principles class—economics is the most exciting discipline on the college campus."
Larger corporations use professional economists in forecasting, strategic planning, and regulatory affairs. Public utilities, whose rates must be reviewed by state commissions, keep economists on staff. Business economists are well paid but must generally have a master's or doctoral degree to attain top positions in their field. Those with bachelor's degrees work in entry-level positions and may take graduate courses to gain promotion. According to the National Association of Business Economists, the largest numbers of business economists work in manufacturing, banking, business services, and investments.
The world's largest collector and user of economic data is the U. S. government. Economists work in virtually every federal agency. The Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget prepare forecasts used in formulating tax and spending policy. The Federal Trade Commission, Food and Drug Administration, and other agencies regulate business affairs and perform analysis of regulatory impact. The State Department and CIA analyze international economic conditions. The Federal Reserve regulates banking conditions and researches monetary conditions. The Departments of Commerce and Labor collect and analyze a wide range of economic data. In short, economists are found everywhere in government.
Those with a B.A. or B.S. degree enter federal agencies at the GS5 or GS7 level at 2009 salaries of $27,026 or $33,477 respectively. Economists with a master's degree can qualify for the GS9 scale at $40,949 and Ph.D. economists may enter at a GS13 level of $70,615.
Economics graduates are also employed by state governments, often as policy and budget analysts. State divisions of employment security typically hire graduates with a background in labor economics. Strong quantitative skills (calculus, statistics, econometrics) are necessary for advancement in almost any career track.
About half of all economists with graduate degrees teach and do research at colleges and universities. The Ph.D. degree is usually required for teaching at four-year colleges while a master's may be sufficient at community colleges.
Community college instructors can expect to start at around $40,000 annually although this varies widely depending upon the tax base of the local community.
Ph.D.'s expect to start at the assistant professor level making a nine-month salary of at least $60,000. Promotions usually require published research with tenure possible after about six years.
Academic economists may also do consulting work for private business, or engage in grant funded research for public agencies.
Nationally, economics is among the most popular pre-law majors, since the work done by lawyers often relies on economic analysis or deals with economic issues. In civil practice the courts apply economic remedies in conflicts involving economic losses. This requires putting a value on physical damages, lost earnings, and medical costs. It may not be as glamorous as arguing a constitutional point before the Supreme Court, which few lawyers ever do anyway, but dealing with government regulations, tax issues, and other economic topics are a routine part of the legal practice.
Health and medical careers require science, biology, and chemistry. What do they have to do with economics? Pre-Med and health science students should not forget that health care is a business and doctors are often private business owners. An economics minor can round out one's scientific training by providing exposure to business affairs. Economics provides a background for understanding the regulatory and social choice issues confronting the health care industry.
WHAT ABOUT A MINOR?
Combining coursework in economics with other occupational training can be an excellent idea. A journalist might study economics to report more accurately on business activities and government policies. Marketing, management, and finance students might choose an economics minor to broaden their business training. Engineers and architects can benefit from the attention to efficiency and cost control that economics would bring to their designs.
Finally, we all make economic choices and, as voters, we all help shape economic policy. Regardless of occupation, to some extent we all think about economic issues and can benefit from a better understanding of the processes and principles that shape the world around us.
ECONOMICS AT MISSOURI STATE
Missouri State University offers the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in economics. The major includes courses in macroeconomic and microeconomic theory, statistics, and research methods. A minor also is available as a complement to many degree programs (majors). While individuals interested in continuing on to graduate work in economics are advised to expand their mathematics skills beyond the minimum requirements, our graduates are well prepared for graduate work. As indicated above, 30 percent of our graduates have earned advanced degrees (masters, law, and Ph.D).
THE MARKET FOR ECONOMISTS
In 2009, the National Association of Colleges and Employers reported national average salary offers to bachelor degree candidates in economics of $49,628. Salaries tend to vary widely though, with the highest earnings found in urban areas and fewer opportunities available in rural communities. The National Association of Business Economists reports that in 2008 the median starting salary for holders of a bachelor's degree was $49,500. Additional salary information can be found at the National Association of Business Economists.
WANT MORE INFORMATION
For further information on the study of economics or Missouri State University, call the Office of Admissions toll-free at 800-492-7900 or the Department of Economics at 417-836-5516.
E-mail (Department Head) at ADalal@MissouriState.edu