If you’re interested in applying your love of math and social studies in a real-world context, a degree in economics from Furman will prepare you for success in dozens of fields. Well-developed applied quantitative and data analysis skills, combined with our strong job and law school placement record, ensure you’ll be in high demand in any job market. Our close integration with other departments means there is an opportunity to pursue several interdisciplinary minors, from environmental studies to poverty studies. And our internship and summer research programs, Investments Club, and Furman Economics Society provide exposure to real-world experiences before graduation day.
Areas of Study
You might think of consulting as corporate detective work. As an entry-level consultant, you and your team would meet with company leaders, examine confidential financial data, and learn the ins and outs of how the business functions.
By spending time on site, observing operations, you’d gain insights and fuse them with outside data—pricing and consumer trends, for example—to suggest improvements to the way the company does business. Economics graduates with good analytic and communication skills often find employment with consulting firms. Analysts with consulting firms often work with data, develop models of specific markets, and provide testimony in public hearings and in lawsuits. Many graduates find that a few years of experience with a consulting firm is a good lead into an MBA, law program, or graduate study in economics.
Work in the banking and finance industries require a deep understanding of money circulation, credit granting, investment making, financing acquisition, and banking facilities provision. Professional positions can be found in financial institutions, including commercial, investment, and savings banks; brokerage firms; insurance companies; and investment advisory services. In addition to financial institutions, work can also be found in the finance departments of non-financial corporations, non-profit institutions, and governmental agencies.
Mastery of tools like Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint, as well as math skills and a bit of mental grit, are necessary to succeed in this varied profession, whether in the fast-paced world of investment banking or the wider world of financial planning.
An economics major provides the logical structure that helps understand the big picture context for entering several fields in the corporate world. Its emphasis on logical thought and problem solving skills has universal value. Some students aspire to earn MBA degrees, typically expecting to complete a two-year program in a graduate business school. Leading MBA programs expect applicants to have had several years of significant business experience before enrolling. The better MBA programs give some preference in admission to applicants with technical backgrounds including engineering, physics, math, and economics. Students pursuing careers as managers often seek a strong, general education because they want to learn effective communication skills, develop habits of logical thought, and practice problem-solving skills.
Economics majors compete very well against most business majors for corporate jobs because many large corporations value the broad analytical training received by economics majors. Economics majors have also generally studied demand theory and estimation, production and cost theory, analysis of market structure, antitrust policy, government regulation of business, capital budgeting, inflation theory, unemployment, the determination of interest rates, and international economics. Employers know that this knowledge will enhance their performance in managerial decision making.
Governments at every level hire economists to manage and evaluate their operations. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) of the Federal government provides information about Federal employment opportunities. The Federal Reserve Board and its affiliated regional Federal Reserve Banks, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Census Bureau, also hire economists and research assistants at various levels of education. Skill with statistics and managing data is necessary for many entry jobs. Economists are valued in the Foreign Service and civil service in the State Department, and as analysts with the Central Intelligence Agency. For international jobs, additional languages, strong communication skills, and experience with diverse cultures are often important.
A passion for helping people, dedication to the science, extreme attention to detail and deadlines, and an innovative spirit are vital characteristics to success in this career path. Although you don’t need a medical degree to be a clinical data analyst, industrial hygienist, or nursing home director, you must be able to both speak and understand the language of healthcare. Some economics majors enroll in medical and dental programs by adding enough science courses to their undergraduate career to qualify for admission to medical school. Careers combining healthcare and economics that do not involve medical school can be found in government, academia, and not-for-profit industries.
In the insurance industry, a close cousin to finance, you’ll find jobs that factor into some of the most important financial decisions in people’s lives. For example, actuaries’ expertise in calculating risk can influence decisions on what life insurance a family buys. Sales agents educate and interact with customers on insurance policies, underwriters and risk managers assess the risk of everything from financial bets to big buildings, and claims employees work with customers to ensure they are compensated for damages when disaster strikes.
While many actuaries work in insurance, the skills and talents are transferable to any industry that requires risk modeling and management, including: financial services, such as banking and investment management; transportation, such as shipping and air travel; energy, such as utilities, oil, and gas; and the environment, on issues such as climate change. Actuaries also work with government institutions such as Social Security, the Department of Labor, and Medicare to manage social programs and to develop regulations and legislation.
The Law School Admission Council official guide to law schools emphasizes extensive reading and library research, skill in synthesizing large amounts of information, and logical thinking—all skills found in Furman’s economics degree. In addition, the Council values breadth of knowledge of history, politics, finance, human behavior, and diverse cultures. Because this skill set overlaps, traditionally economics majors applying for law school admission make competitively high scores on the LSAT test. Many careers in law involve shaping economic decisions. Writing and interpreting contracts, supporting mergers and acquisitions, dealing with the tax system, addressing disputes of workers, landlords, and vendors: all involve decisions with significant economic content and implications.
Marketing professionals work with a product that has specific features and benefits, create pricing and promotional strategies, and manage the process to get the product in the market. Market researchers collect and analyze market information and identify market trends and market segmentation. Researchers do this through the use of quantitative data, statistical analysis packages, survey, focus groups, and product testing. A survey researcher’s key responsibility is to design and conduct surveys used by the market researchers. Survey researchers often work with economics, statisticians, and market research analysts to design these surveys. Brand managers are involved in almost all aspects of a specific brand within a company, from strategy development to budget allocation to sales projections.
Working for a non-profit organization means that a passion for the organization’s mission and a genuine desire to contribute your time and effort toward helping others are absolutely necessary. Recruiters and employees say it’s crucial to be a versatile, Jack- or Jill-of-all-trades type because you’ll likely be expected to pitch in on a variety of responsibilities, from fundraising and organizing volunteers to tracking expenses and completing paperwork. You’ll need to be able to work collaboratively, but also be a leader and a self-starter because non-profits don’t always have the funds to hire more staff if workloads increase.
The Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.) in economics is necessary for a faculty position in economics at most four-year colleges in the U.S. Although some students complete masters programs before entering Ph.D. programs, many go directly from bachelor programs into Ph.D. programs. Completion of a Ph.D. requires about five years of full-time study. Holders of the degree often also choose research careers outside of academics, including roles at the Federal Reserve, international agencies, and government policy and evaluation departments as well as in private banks, investment houses, and other for-profit ventures. Students considering a Ph.D. in economics should complete a significant number of mathematics courses prior to applying for graduate school.
If you are interested in analyzing problems, seeking solutions, and advocating for change, consider a career in public policy. Working in public policy allows you to play a role in the decision-making that affects certain issues you are passionate about—decisions that can affect your community, both locally and globally, and the people within that community. You may find work with policy making in the following areas: education, government, environment, health, immigration, housing, taxation, social policy, water, employment, economic development, or agriculture.