Non-Profit Sector: Job Options for an Economist

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Career advice


Career advice

You know that there are a ton of career prospects open to someone who has studied economics, spanning from academia, to the finance industry, to management consulting. A big plus about studying economics is that it gives you a skill set which is applicable to many different fields. One area of work which is open to an economist is the non-profit sector, which people are often drawn to for social and ethical reasons, or from the desire to make a positive impact on the world. But what kind of non-profit jobs can you work in as an economist? Here are our suggestions for options that you could consider.

Governmental jobs: state and local

One of the biggest employers of economics graduates is government, either state or local. Governments hire economists at all levels to help shape policy, analyse data, and make predictions. Useful skills for this kind of work include statistical expertise, modelling, and data management on the high end, and data entry and research assistance at the entry level. The advantage of these jobs is that they tend to be stable and reliable, meaning that you have good job security and good benefits like vacation time and pension payments.

International agencies

International organisations, specifically international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), are also big employers of economists. INGOs include mission-driven organisations like the Red Cross or Médecins Sans Frontières, and NGOs include country-specific organisations like the Danish Refugee Council or the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee. This work is ideally suited for those who are driven to work for a social cause, and who have specific passion for the mission of the organisation. The work tends to be less well compensated and less stable than in other fields, however.

Economic development organisations

A subtype of NGOs or governmental agencies are economic development organisations: organisations which work toward the economic development of specific areas, cities, or regions. They include organisations such as the Arab Forum for Environment and Development or the Alaska Native Arts Foundation. They work firstly to influence policy in such a way as to promote economic development, and secondly to implement programs and schemes aimed at redevelopment. These jobs are suited to people who have business skills and financial acumen, but also a commitment to a particular region and an interest in local politics, arts, and culture.

Union organisation

Another field in which economics graduates can find work is in trade union organisations, which aim to improve labour relations and worker safety and benefits. For those who are skilled in politics and at working for change within complex structures, union work can be directly rewarding and make real improvements to the lives of the people involved. Unions might represent a particular group of skilled workers (such as nurses) or a whole industry of people (such as healthcare unions).

Environmental and sustainability roles

A growing area of employment is the environmental and sustainability sectors. When an alternative energy group wants to make a case for using their technology instead of fossil fuels, for example, they may employ a single person or a team of economists to demonstrate the long-terms savings that their technology could bring about. The advantage of these roles is that as awareness of environmental issues grows and governments take more action towards sustainability, more and more funding is available for the sector to grow, meaning lots of job opportunities.

City planning and housing organisations

A final sector which may not be glamorous but is extremely important to people's quality of life is in urban planning and housing organisations. Particularly in large cities, the pressures of gentrification and rents rising faster than wages in the local area have lead to wide-spread housing shortages. Housing organisations attempt to redress this issue by promoting policies like rent caps, by helping tenants who are facing illegal eviction by their landlords, and by arguing for a certain percentage of new housing being built to be rent controlled. These organisations are often small and may not be well funded, but they make a direct impact on habitability of the areas in which they work.

We hope this gave you some ideas about careers you could pursue with an economics degree.

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