Overview of Economics
Economics is a social science degree that provides an understanding of production, markets, and economies from a macro and micro perspective. Other knowledge areas based on specialisation may include econometrics, international trade, monetary policies, industrial relations and trends, labour markets, human behaviour, and developments.
Course-specific skillsets expected from Economics graduates include statistical and qualitative analysis, econometrics, economic modelling, policy analysis and formulation based on economic reasoning.
The knowledge and skills acquired from an Economics degree— means you have acquired competencies that make you fit for a career in any of the top career clusters for Economics graduates. These are:
- Finance: Relevant areas for Economists include Financial Planning, Business/Corporate finance, General Banking, Investment Banking, Wealth Management, and Insurance services. Economists can work as Economic Advisers, Financial Advisers & Planners, Credit analysts, Risk and Benefit officers, Investment analysts & bankers, Traders, and Actuaries.
- Development & Policy: Relevant areas to Economists include Economic Affairs, Social Welfare, Foreign Affairs, Governance, Health, and Energy. Economists can work as Economic Advisers, Development/Policy Analysts, Advisors and Formulators, and Programme Analysts/Coordinators/Officers.
- Consulting: relevant areas to Economists include Management/ Strategy Consulting in managing economic risk and compliance with government policies; Operation Consulting where they may need to apply their understanding of markets to supply chain management; Financial Advisory with career opportunities in risk management, corporate finance and transaction service; Human Resource Consulting where they can apply their labour market knowledge in planning staff benefits and compensation; and Information Technology, consulting in the areas of Data Science and Business Analytics.
- Governance and Public Administration: relevant areas to Economists include Social Services, Community and Economic Development. Economists can work as Economic Advisers, Policy Advisers and Formulators, State and Budget planners, and Community Directors.
- Management & Administration: this a fit for Managerial or Business economists who can work as business//financial/industry/market research analysts researching management, business/enterprise/financial planners and management consultants.
- Education, Training and Research: relevant areas to Economists are Academia, socio-economic research, human capacity development, thought leadership, economic and policy impact research, and think tanks.
Other career clusters for Economic graduates include:
- People and Talent Management: relevant areas to Economists are human resource as a factor of production, labour market analysis, human capital development, planning of benefits and compensation.
- Media and Communications: areas include business and economic reporting, coverage of financial markets, analysis and expert opinion on policy matters.
Learn more about each of these career clusters to discover specialisations. Decide which one fits you; jobs available, know more about what they do, relevant skills and find out further learning options in each discipline. For an overview of career clusters, visit Career Disciplines.
Economics graduates work across a wide range of industries and companies, top among them are:
- Agribusiness: top employers are agricultural banks and insurance service providers, commodity trading firms, government commodity boards, food processing and retailing companies, and international agencies focused on agribusiness. Entry job opportunities with these employers for Economists exist in economic and credit analysis, actuarial science, price and market analysis, commodity brokerage and trading, value chain analysis and supply chain management.
- Banking: top employers include commercial and investment banks, financial houses, security and exchange commissions. Entry job opportunities with these employers for Economists exist in financial control, financial planning. And also, market analysis, economy, credit application, data and risk for compliance.
- Consulting: top employers include Economic consulting firms where Economists advise businesses and governments at the intersection of business, economics and law. Career opportunities exist in areas such as; antitrust, financial securities, intellectual property, energy, utilities, and industrial relations.
- Development & Sustainability: top employers include development consulting firms, policy advisory firms, state and international agencies, non-profits/NGOs, social enterprises, and impact investing firms. Career opportunities exist in areas such as; policy analysis and advisory, trade and market development, gender specialisations, data analysis, impact assessment, and monitoring and evaluation.
- Public Service: top employers include central banks, tax and internal revenue agencies, regulatory agencies, research institutes, statistical agencies, think tanks, political parties and establishments. Economist roles in these organisations are policy formulation, monetary policy, social welfare, inflation, labour markets, income distribution, taxation, data analysis and economic intelligence.
- Media: top employers include media houses and publishers of financial/economics/business publications that hire Economists to report on the economy; cover the financial markets; analyse and provide expert opinion on policy matters.
Other Industries include:
- Insurance—actuarial science, underwriting, risk analysis, and finance are roles in the insurance industry—available to economists.
- Energy —issues around pricing present career opportunities for Economists in energy regulatory agencies, energy distribution and energy consulting firms.
- Higher Education. Economists make good academicians, and professors often work as consultants to Governments and Organisations on a wide range of economic issues.
- Human Resources and Staffing. Relevant areas for Economists are Human Resource, Labour Market Analysis, Human Capital Development. And also planning benefits and compensation.
Explore each of the industries to know more about career opportunities. As well as profiles of leading employers; insights on working in each industry and tips for entry. For an overview of the Industries, visit Industry Profiles.
Further degrees and specialisations available to Economic degree holders are numerous. They include finance, management and business-related courses. The prominent, finance-related options are Applied Economics, Political Economics, Agricultural Economics, Political Economy, Environmental Economics, Agricultural Economics. Additionally; Managerial Economics, Financial Economics, International and Development Economics, Behavioural Economics, Business Economics, Urban Economics, and Resource Economics.
Prominent majors at postgraduate levels are Econometrics, Decision Science, Construction and Real Estate Economics, Operations Research, Actuarial Studies, Law and Economics, Economics and Finance, Technology, Management and Policy.
A Masters in Business Administration (MBA) is also a popular route for Economics graduates going into Consulting, Corporate Finance, Investment Banking and management careers.
For relevant certifications, see the list of Certifications in the Finance Career Cluster.
Relevant Professional Bodies for Economists are:
- Royal Economic Society
- Society of Professional Economists
National bodies include:
- Mauritius: Mauritius Economic Society
- Morocco: Moroccan Association of Economic Studies
- Nigeria: Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria, Nigerian Economic Society
- South Africa: Economic Society of South Africa
- Tunisia: Tunisian Economic Association
A large number of global and African industry leaders have a degree in Economics. It means you are in good company. Some of them include:
- Okonjo Iweala: She is a former Chief at the WorldBank, two-time Nigeria’s finance minister, and current Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). She also sits on the board of GAVI, Twitter and several international organisations.
- Elon Musk: South African entrepreneur involved with companies such as Compaq (acquired by HP) and PayPal and currently leads companies such as SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity and the Boring Company. He ranks as one of the world’s wealthiest people.
- Mehdi Lahlou: A Moroccan Professor of Economics at the National Institute of Statistics and Applied Economics (INSEA) who has made several contributions to socio-economic issues such as poverty, employment, and emigration/ immigration.
- Kofi Annan: A career diplomat from Ghana; he was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) came into being under his leadership. He was a co-recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize.
- Warren Buffet: An American business magnate, prolific investor and philanthropist. He commands respect for his deep understanding of financial markets and ranks as one of the world’s wealthiest people.
- Others include Lionel Richie; an American music icon, Arsene Wenger; a former French coach of the Arsenal Football team and Arnold Schwarzenegger; Austrian-American actor, businessman, and former Governor of California.
Relevant industry skills expected by employers and transferable across jobs include:
- Communication: An Economist must be able to explain economic concepts to others in writing or orally. These may include recommendations, reports, and presentations to clients who need to make a financial decision. For instance; Management evaluating how to respond to a policy, politicians considering a stimulus package, reporters seeking an expert opinion on the financial market, or to the general public on the implications of not removing subsidies.
- Analysis & Problem-Solving: Economists must have the best practices in collection, review, processing, and observing patterns to make logical inferences to find solutions to a problem. It may include examining the impact of government subsidies on the overall national productivity to decide if they are removed or continued.
- Numeracy & Financial Literacy: Economists used mathematical tools such as statistics, calculus and other advanced concepts such as graph theory to analyse data and provide economic models. An economist must be able to understand financial reports and track indicators of performance in them.
- Critical Thinking: Economists sometimes have to make decisions or advise decision-makers on policies that affect the general populace. Rarely does a single solution meets all needs. Economists need to find solutions to problems—for the desired short-term and long-term effects for the public, their organisations or clients.
- Professionalism & Industry Awareness: Economists typically find themselves working in business and government circles that look towards them for their expert opinions. They must dress well. Economists must have a great ethos. They can manage information based on accessible data. They stay up-to-date on developments in key sectors of the economy and markets.
- Digital Proficiency (Data Science Specialisation): As data sources become more digitised, economists need to be proficient in software applications and other toolsets—for data analysis. These call for data science and analytics skills; these can complement data visualisation and business analytics to better communicate with decision-makers and a broader audience.
You can select each of these skills to learn more about the application areas and ways to develop them. For an overview, visit Industry Skills.
- The Economist
- Financial Times
- The Africa Report
- market information providers.
- Mauritius: Business Magazine, and Mauritius Business News
- Morocco: L’Economiste, La Vie Eco, and Finances News Hebdo
- Nigeria: BusinessDay, business a.m, Financial Report, and Nairametics.
- South Africa: BusinessDay, Business Report, Financial Mail, and South African Journal of Economics.
- Tunisia: Business News, WMC, and L’economiste Maghrebin
- The Economist Radio
- Planet Money
- Think Like an Economist
- Margin Call
- The Big Short
- A Beautiful Mind
- Wall Street
A degree in Economics opens up immense career opportunities in the industry, which is not limited to the ones featured in this guide. You can explore the Career and Industry Intelligence Hub for other careers and industries that may be of interest to you.