Jobs for Economists in the Government: The Right Career to Consider?
When discussing jobs in the government, the type of work that comes to mind is most likely influenced by your particular background. In countries in which large segments of the economy are nationalized, it’s possible to become a civil servant in nearly any field. In other places, your options might be more limited.
Regardless of where you’re from, or where you’d like to work, however, every government employs economists, and it’s easy to argue that they’re needed now more than ever - though in the weird times of the pandemic, finding a government job may be more complicated.
Security and Stability
Traditionally, working for the government meant more job security than working in the private sector. While this may no longer be true across the board, it is still the case in many countries. In this post, we want to focus specifically on jobs within the government itself, not including public sector jobs in national banks or public universities, two areas where job security is much less concrete than previously thought. Looking beyond these two branches, the types of jobs available to economists are quite diverse.
For instance, if you are a recent graduate looking for work, you should remember to think outside the box and look to governmental areas not exclusively connected with economics, such as the Patent and Trademark Office, the Department or Ministry of Transportation, Commerce, Labor, Health, Defense, or even the military. In a post a couple of years back, Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution examined the breakdown of economists across U.S. government departments, not including the Federal Reserve. Interestingly, he found that the Department of Agriculture was the second largest employer of economists after the Department of Labor. That’s a good bit of info to keep in mind when sending out applications!
Moreover, many governments also offer traineeships or internships for recent graduates, which can be a great way to get your foot in the door while gaining experience. In the UK, there is a professional network called the Government Economic Service, which offers positions at all levels to UK citizens, EU citizens and others.
Intergovernmental Agencies and Money
While not every government has a coordinated core of economists, there are also many intergovernmental agencies to keep in mind. For example, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)hires economists of all backgrounds and specializations to work on a wide range of issues. Within supranational governmental bodies, such as the European Union, there are also myriad departments looking for qualified economists. With institutes and branches across Europe, the opportunities for economists within the EU are quite vast.
Furthermore, there’s salary to consider. In the U.S., economists employed by the federal government earned an average of $106,850 per year as of 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While such a substantial salary might not reflect the reality of every country, high-level economists do tend to receive hefty remuneration across the board, making government positions quite sought after and worth aiming for.
Additionally, remember that in this day and age choosing a career is never a straight path. If you can’t imagine working in the government for your whole life, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply for government jobs right now. There are plenty of incredibly successful people who started in government positions then went on to make an impact elsewhere. For instance, Sheryl Sandberg, who, prior to becoming the COO of Facebook and a world-renowned author, gained valuable experience working for the Secretary of the Treasury.
Lastly, when searching listings for government jobs, remember to look at your country’s job portals as well as other platforms, including INOMICS. Sometimes bureaucratic sites lack regular updates, so it’s best to peruse other avenues as well to make sure you’ve seen everything out there.
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