What does a typical day on the job look like for an economist?

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Question: 

I'm currently a student and considering pivoting majors to economics, as it's a field I have some interest in, but I can't figure out what actually happens on the job. What does a typical day on the job look like?

Answer: 

You can do a lot of different things with an economics degree so it's a bit of a tough question to answer. Of course, one thing you can do is be an economist. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has an overview of what that kind of position entails here: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/economists.htm. But just as people with psychology degrees do a lot more than just become psychologists, economics majors can do a lot more than be economists. People with an economics major include everyone from Elon Musk to Cate Blanchett to Ronald Reagan. 

Speaking for myself, before my current position as an assistant teaching professor in the department of economics, I held two different positions that used my undergraduate and graduate degrees in economics. 

My first job after I got my undergraduate degree was a financial, economics, and political analyst. I worked in an office during normal business hours and spent the first part of the morning looking over the financial markets and often writing a short analysis. The rest of the day I usually spent reading about the countries I was covering, updating databases and economic forecasting models, and writing up longer reports on the country. It was interesting work and I learned a ton.

After going to graduate school and getting a PhD in economics, I worked as a research economist for the federal government. This was another office job, that was in some ways similar to my first job. I still read a lot, updated data and models, and wrote up longer articles. The main difference was that everything was done at a more advanced level, all the projects were on a much longer timescale, and I had to do a lot more programming. I also had more meetings and interviews with people.

I think that kind of work is pretty common for people who use their economics degree heavily: reading, working with data and then writing an analysis.

Answered by:
Dr. Matthew Clancy
Assistant Teaching Professor
Last updated on October 13, 2021