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Studying economics and job opportunities

Economics is a way of thinking about how the world works – a framework for analysing how humans and organisations behave and interact. This framework can be used to forecast economic conditions, design and implement policies, develop corporate strategies, and guide investment decisions. As such, an economics degree is highly valued by the public and private sector, as a specialist qualification or a body of knowledge that complements other qualifications. Here are a few reasons to study economics at university.

Economics is interesting

You will learn about many key areas of life, such as the recent financial crisis, stock markets, exchange rates, the job market and house prices.  You will also be able to apply your knowledge to other problems, such as why new cars decline in value as soon as purchased, and why it might be in every country’s best interests to act on climate change, but in no country’s interests to act first!

Economics is a good generalist degree

Economics is well-suited to complementing many other fields of study, including environmental science, finance, accounting, history, psychology, philosophy, politics and mathematics.  An Economics major, when combined with other fields, is highly valued by the business world and many types of employers.

A career in Economics... it's much more than you think. Much more than finance, banking, business and government, a degree in economics is useful to all individuals and can lead to many interesting career choices. Click here for the American Economic Association video which will be of interest to those who are evaluating career opportunities in economics.

Economics is a great specialist degree

Economics students are highly sought after upon graduation, especially those with an honours degree.  While the starting salaries of economics graduates are similar to those of most other business graduates, economists’ salaries tend to increase more rapidly. As an added bonus, the demand for economists is not highly sensitive to the business cycle, so you’re not likely to get laid off if the economy deteriorates.

Job opportunities

Graduates may become involved in research, analysis, advising on policy, or consulting. Employers include high-profile government institutions and departments, as well as private-sector financial firms and consulting companies. Many employers have graduate programs available for those who recently completed university. The graduate programs typically last for one or two years, after which time the employer decides whether to continue your employment. Some employers also have internship programs that run over a summer, either between 2nd and 3rd year or before the honours year.

These provide nearly-graduated students the chance to gain some experience and may lead to employment offers upon graduation.

In the public sector:

  • The Reserve Bank of Australia
  • Federal Treasury
  • Productivity Commission
  • ACCC
  • ABARE
  • State treasuries and treasury corps
  • ABS
  • Regulators, such as IPART, etc.

In the private sector:

  • Commercial and investment banks
  • Energy companies and regulators
  • Economics, management and engineering consulting firms

What else to study?

You will probably have the chance to study other subjects in addition to economics, either as part of a double degree or just as another major or minor. What you should study depends on your goals and interests, both of which can change over time. Here are a few principles to help keep your options open: - Consider studying some mathematics. Your economics degree will become quite mathematical around third year. Some mathematics background will help you in these subjects, and is especially important if you wish to enrol in a Phd later on. - Some finance units will improve your employability if you wish to work in the private financial sector. - An honours degree will most certainly help graduates obtain employment as a professional economist. For example, the RBA tends to employ only honours graduates. It may be too early think about the honours year, but it is something to keep in mind. Most universities require certain grades to be achieved to be eligible for honours: figure these out early on.

More questions? If you would like further advice about whether to study economics, what other subjects to study, or job prospects upon graduation, please contact admin@esansw.org.au. You will be put in touch with the ESA Committee member most able to help you


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