Making Money With Your Degree
High-Salary Career Options for Economists
Before you start considering what crazy lucrative job you are going to get with your economics degree, consider this fact: a lot of rich people don’t like their money. Many complain about not knowing what to do with it all, yet simultaneously having huge anxiety they’ll lose it. They moan about their friends treating them like walking bank accounts, being judged for not looking the part, and no longer being able to visit - how to put it delicately? - less refined establishments. Many work like dogs in jobs they don’t find fulfilling to top up the coffers, only to realise they never have any time to have fun with it. And all jokes aside, some studies suggest that, while earning more money than the national average does improve life satisfaction, once you get past a certain salary threshold, money stops making you any happier. (Depending on where you live, this is around $100,000.)
All of that not enough to put you off? This INOMICS writer admires your determination. Despite the many pitfalls on the way to becoming rich, and despite the fact it might not be all that good when you get there, it is true that an economics degree can stand you in good stead to make some decent coin. An investigation from GoodCall found the third most likely degree millionaires have is one in economics, behind engineering and an MBA. To that end, we’ve listed some of the most remunerative jobs for economists to consider if they’re planning on making a nice (though not necessarily quick) buck.
Perhaps not the first job economists think of when they graduate, but traders can make a hell of a lot of money if they’re particularly good at their jobs. Trading isn’t quite the same as stockbroking (as if you didn’t know): the stockbroker generally helps interested parties find, buy, and sell stock, agreeing prices between buyers and sellers, whereas the trader actually purchases and sells the stock themselves, sometimes with the help of a stockbroker. You’ll have to be on the ball for this role, monitoring the financial market and the performance of securities, and you’ll need to accurately analyse and evaluate costs, risks, and returns. How much you’ll earn doing this is highly dependent on your skills. The average salary according to Zippia.com is just $56,000, but as you might guess, some traders can earn far, far more money than this, becoming multi-millionaires - think the Wolf of Wall Street. (We here at INOMICS recommend always playing by the rule book and not engaging in any of the illicit activities Jordan Belfort did. Aside from that, Belfort was a stockbroker, not a trader, but you get the point.)
Managing compensations and benefits
Like the spread of germs? As a Compensations and Benefits Manager your grubby mitts will be handling money all day long. You’ll be looking after a company’s payment system and its employees’ benefits, including things like health insurance, retirement plans, dental, bonuses, that sweet company car the CMO wants, whether or not the Product Developer gets their gym membership so they can pump iron every lunchtime instead of socialise, and all the rest. It may sound a little simpler than the rest of the careers listed here, but you’ll be doing essential work in making sure the company’s workforce remains content (at least with regards to how much moolah they’re getting). You’ll have to enjoy, or at least be comfortable, working with people for this role, but you’ll be rewarded handsomely: Americans in this position earn, on average, around $115,000. Not bad.
Yes, that’s a verb. Actuaries use their monetary knowhow and economic acumen to analyse and manage risk. They’re the prophets of the modern age, using their crystal balls (read: economic expertise) to look far into the future, forecast economic difficulties, and figure out ways to minimise any potential damage. Nostradamus, eat your heart out (though hopefully you’re more accurate than he was). Normally you can get yourself partnered with a more experienced actuary at a company with just a Bachelor’s degree, but you will have to do some extra exams - always more exams! - to get certified and go it alone. So go get your tarot cards - that future risk ain’t gonna calculate itself. Actuaries in the US can earn upwards of $115,000.
Perhaps self-explanatory from the title, a finance manager manages, well, finances. You’ll be producing reports, advising and directing where investments should go, and strategizing to make sure the individual, organisation or company, long term, makes dollar. You’ll have to be pretty good at predicting the future (based on data, of course) and you’ll need to have your finger on the pulse of the market and any and all trends contained or developing therein. Data analysis is a big part of this role - but presumably all of you economists reading this article are already pretty comfortable with numbers and big data sets, so that’s no problem, am I right? The average salary in the US of A for a financial manager is around $112,000.
Working for The Man
Might seem like the thank-you-captain-obvious option, but becoming a straight-up, bonafide government economist with your economics degree is one of the most lucrative - and potentially rewarding - career paths you could take. Economists work for government organisations or research institutes, making reports and conducting research that influences government policy and/or the direction of businesses and funding. With climate systems breakdown currently such a big issue on the agenda, you might find yourself using your economic prowess to help mitigate environmental damage. Exciting stuff, not to mention important work. Median salaries float around the $100,000 mark for an economist working for the US regime.
Teching it up
According to a 2019 investigation in the Harvard Business Review, economists started playing a much bigger role in the tech sector in 2019. Tech companies, obviously including the big boys like Amazon and Google, but also smaller startups, have begun to hire groups of economics PhDs. Why? Firstly, because looking at data and solving problems of a monetary persuasion with cold-blooded rationality, which a degree in economics obviously inculcates, lends itself to big business; and secondly, because economics has something very specific to say about markets and how businesses work within those markets, particularly in the digital age. So ever wanted to work for an edgy startup? Feel like what’s really missing from your job is a ping pong table, discount on Brewdog craft ales, and a dedicated area for team members to take naps? You’re in luck if you’ve got a degree in economics. The average position at a tech company pays around $80,000 - but that’s not all you can earn. Get yourself up to the role of Finance Director at Google and you could be earning over $250,000 a year, with a bonus on top of around $350,000. (Chance would be a fine thing.)
Time to make some $$
So that’s just six of the many bankable roles available for you, with your economics degree, you lucky thing. Plenty of other jobs that can pay anywhere from $50k to over $100k per year also exist, like personal financial adviser, healthcare analytics specialist, economic consultant, budget analyst, and more - the list goes on. Looks like you picked a pretty good degree to make some decent bread with, eh? Well, good for you. Remember, though, that in whatever career you do decide on, money isn’t everything. (Yes, that stands in direct contradiction to the rest of this article, but hear me out.) Money can be nice, but it certainly shouldn’t be the only factor you take into consideration. Don’t forget you also have to have a social life, hobbies, free time, and all those other things that contribute to making a well-rounded, enjoyable existence on this football we call Planet Earth. So get out there and look for a job that isn’t just going to put some paper in your pocket, but will make you happy, too.
- INOMICS Salary Report 2020
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Top Career Paths: Financial Economics
If you're working on a degree in economics with a specialisation in finance, or if you're considering doing such a course, then you might be wondering about the career options that it will open to you. Here are some of the top career paths for financial economists. Browse our finance economics job listings