What Can You Do with a Master’s in Economics? 5 Career Paths

Industry Advice Business Science & Mathematics

The economics field is expected to see substantial growth over the next decade due to the increase in available data across industries and the need for professionals with the appropriate training and skills to turn that data into actionable insights.

The evolution of the field brings an increase in opportunities for those with a graduate degree in economics. Below, we explore the most common industries and roles for MS in Economics graduates and offer advice on how to choose the master’s in economics program that’s right for you.

Economics Career Outlook

Graduate education can increase a professional’s earning potential by 18 percent or more across industries, and the economics field is no different. As of 2022, economics professionals earn a median annual salary of $113,940, with the top 10 percent earning more than $207,230 annually. 

A competitive salary isn’t the only benefit of pursuing a career in economics, however. Organizations across industries now rely on economics professionals’ insights, resulting in an anticipated six percent growth in job opportunities in economics from 2022 to 2032.

Given the high salary and in-demand roles, competition for economics jobs has gotten fiercer over time. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that most roles in this field now require a master’s degree or higher in economics.

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5 Jobs for Those with a Master’s in Economics 

Here, we outline five of the most common job titles for professionals with a master’s in economics.

1. Economist

Average Salary: $113,940 per year

According to Jun Ma, PhD, professor and director of the Master of Science in Economics program, economist is the most common job title for those with an advanced degree in economics.

Economists are typically responsible for the following tasks: 

  • Gathering and analyzing data using statistical models
  • Evaluating and reporting on economic trends
  • Advising organizations based on collected insights
  • Providing recommendations and solutions to problems based on statistical data

With roles spanning the private sector, government agencies, international organizations, and more, these professionals are in high demand.

2. Data Scientist

Average Salary: $144,250 per year

Data scientists work with other business professionals to understand what goals need to be set—as well as how to reach them—using a thorough analysis of data. They’re responsible for the following:

  • Gathering and analyzing unstructured data sets
  • Developing or designing data modeling processes, algorithms, predictive models, or statistical systems used to perform custom analysis
  • Using gathered data to help answer questions or guide partners in determining economic policies

Data scientists are instrumental in ensuring their organizations make informed decisions.

3. Professor of Economics

Average Salary: $98,200 per year

Economics professors apply their real-world experiences and skills to mold future generations of economists. Primarily, these educators cover topics covering a variety of economic principles, including:

  • Micro and macroeconomics
  • Statistical and econometric tools
  • Quantitative methods of data analysis

Academia is a very common path for those seeking a non-practical application of their economics training.

4. Senior Financial Analyst

Average Salary: $95,250 per year

Financial analysts help corporations make strategic investments and business decisions by evaluating the trends, demographics, and economic factors that might affect their finances. At the senior level, these professionals may:

  • Analyze an organization’s accounting data
  • Evaluate risk
  • Demonstrate the projection of future long- and short-term growth
  • Present recommendations for ways to maintain, adjust, or otherwise improve a company’s financial position

According to Ma, financial analysts may work in a commercial bank, mortgage bank, investment bank, or other similar organizations.

5. Data Analyst

Average Salary: $113,250 per year

Not to be confused with a data scientist, data analysts evaluate previously compiled data in order to identify trends, draw conclusions, and solve problems within an organization. These professionals may also:

  • Create and maintain data collection systems and tools
  • Interpret data sets using statistical models
  • Communicate with business teams about key findings

While these responsibilities may vary based on company and industry, the fundamental objective of a data analyst is to use data to solve problems and gain meaningful insights.

Top Sectors for Economics Professionals

Professionals who graduate from a master’s in economics program gain hands-on learning experience and an understanding of key tools and competencies that students with an undergraduate degree don’t typically possess. As a result, these individuals can apply their skill sets to work in a variety of settings. 

Below, Ma explains the three main sectors that employ economics professionals.

1. The Private Sector

Many with a background in economics choose to take on roles as analysts, data scientists, or economists within a variety of fields. From banking to biotechnology, there are many private sector initiatives that require the statistical analysis skills of an economics professional. 

The types of companies economics professionals might work with include:

  • Consulting firms
  • Private banks
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Biotechnology companies
  • Startups
  • Tech companies
  • And more

Though all of these career paths provide excellent opportunities for graduates, Ma acknowledges that the technology sector has perhaps seen the largest rise in opportunities.

“Our graduates recently are in great demand in the tech and business industries because tech companies nowadays like to hire economics graduates to analyze data in data science positions,” he says. “Many of our graduates have found positions doing just that at top companies.”

2. Government Agencies

Economics professionals can apply their skills to a variety of careers within the public or governmental sectors. They may take on national, state, or local roles within government agencies. Ma identifies that other top organizations these individuals work in include the Federal Reserve Bank Service’s Central Bank, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other think tanks focused on research and advocacy. 

3. International Organizations

There are also many global opportunities for those with an advanced economic background. Ma identifies that professionals may work with organizations such as the International Monetary Fund’s World Bank or the United Nations, among others.

Pursuing a Master’s in Economics

Obtaining a master’s in economics is an excellent way to advance your career, increase your salary potential, and remain competitive within the industry. To get the most out of your education, however, it’s important to select a program that best meets your educational and professional goals.

Here are a few key aspects to consider when choosing a master’s in economics.

1. Faculty Quality and Experience

The faculty at top programs like Northeastern’s provide graduate students with more than just knowledge from a textbook; they bring real-world experience from the field into the classroom. 

Many of Northeastern’s faculty members are actively working in the industry when they’re not teaching. As such, they bring up-to-the-minute industry trends, cutting-edge techniques, and state-of-the-art economic theories into the classroom. What’s more, because these faculty work in different sectors, they can help students determine their future career paths and provide actionable insights about how to address real-world economic scenarios across industries.

2. Opportunities for Hands-on Learning

Ma says that Northeastern’s experiential learning opportunities are one of the primary reasons students see so much success after graduation. These opportunities allow students to take the skills they’ve learned in the classroom and apply them hands-on within an organization in their industry of choice.

“We have classes that teach students the practical skills that will help them thrive in industry,” Ma explains. “Once they learn those skills from class, they get a chance to practice them within a company or government agency.” 

Ma further explains that Northeastern is committed to setting students up for success within the specific role, industry, or sector they wish to work in. As such, they have the flexibility to complete a co-op—a six-month, paid, hands-on learning experience—in any organization they want. 

Keep in Mind: Co-ops also provide students with a chance to build their professional network and open doors to future employment opportunities. With 85 percent of all jobs today being filled through networking, this type of exposure to industry-leading professionals can go a long way in helping students stand out in a competitive job market.

3. Ability to Specialize Your Education

Alongside the chance to personalize your experiential learning, Northeastern’s master’s in economics is also designed to help students customize their courses to complement their unique aspirations.

“We design our program to provide students with a very general framework of economic and econometric models, but also have designed the program in such a way that we can tailor to every student’s different interests and career paths,” Ma says.

To do this, Northeastern offers unique tracks within the program, each of which provides extensive knowledge in a specific application of economics. “The tracks are established so that students will know what classes to take given their career of interest,” Ma explains. Some of the most common include:

  • A qualitative analysis track
  • An academic track
  • A policy track that involves specialty areas such as health and financial economics

Alongside these more informal tracks, Northeastern’s master’s of economics program also offers a formal concentration in data science. 

Take the Next Step

Ready to embark on a career in economics? A master’s degree from Northeastern can help set you on a path toward success. Learn more about this program, then get in touch with our enrollment coaches for personalized advice on applying, leveraging your degree in the industry, and more.

This article was originally written in 2020 and has since been updated for accuracy.