Economics is the study of how people choose to use resources, including their time and talent, land, buildings and equipment on hand, and the knowledge of how to combine them to create useful products and services. It is the study of the allocation of time, money and energy and to what end, through the behavior of individuals, firms, industries, governments, countries and the globe as a whole. Most economists work in specialized areas, such as:
- Microeconomics – the study of the supply and demand decisions of individuals and firms.
- Industrial/organizational economics – the study of the market structure of particular industries.
- Macroeconomics – the study of historical trends in the whole economy and the forecasting of future trends in areas such as unemployment, inflation, economic growth, productivity and investment; includes monetary, international, labor, and public finance economics, as well as econometrics, the application of mathematical techniques to economic research.
The Department of Economics at Johns Hopkins prides itself on offering programs designed to improve the understanding of important economic problems and to provide the tools needed for the critical analysis of these problems, and for dealing with them in practice. On the undergraduate level, it is dedicated to providing students a stellar preparation for careers as professional economists or for specialties related to economics, such as business, law, government, history, health care management and environmental engineering.
An understanding of markets is an invaluable asset in the workplace. Economists conduct research, collect and analyze data, monitor economic trends and develop forecasts for issues such as energy costs, inflation, interest rates, exchange rates, business cycles, taxes and employment levels – all areas applicable to a wide variety of careers and industries. Some of these include:
- Economic consulting – employment with consulting firms such as McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, Bain, and Accenture to work with data, develop models of specific markets, provide testimony in public hearings and in lawsuits, and improve efficiency and profitability of clients.
- Law – economists in the legal field write and interpret contracts, support mergers and acquisitions, deal with the tax system, address disputes of workers, landlords and vendors, and assist with any case with significant economic content and implications.
- Government – government at all levels, federal and regulatory agencies all hire economics to manage and evaluate their operations, assist with economic forecasting and regulation.
- Academia and Research – after receiving a doctorate, economists enter academic life as professors or choose research careers outside of academics, including roles at the Federal Reserve, international agencies, governmental policy and evaluation departments and private banks, investment houses and other for-profit ventures.
- Business – the analytical training of economics majors is highly valued by corporations for managerial decision making, identifying and adapting to changing economic climates, interpreting and forecasting the general economic climate and conditions specific to the economist’s firm, and aiding their firm’s operational efficiency.
- Finance – financial analysis assess the economic performance of companies and industries for firms and institutions to invest; other positions within this field include security analysts, investment analysts, portfolio managers, fund managers, risk managers, financial advisors and wealth managers. A bachelor’s degree is acceptable for entry-level positions in this field, with most in finance eventually seeking an MBA.
Various levels of education and experience are required for these positions, but an undergraduate degree in economics is the first step toward a lucrative and exciting career in these fields.
A bachelor’s degree in economics, combined with internship and research experience related to your area of interest, is typically sufficient to gain an entry-level position. Experience gathering and analyzing data, conducting interviews and surveys, and writing reports on the findings of your research is vital, along with demonstrated quantitative skills in mathematics, statistics, econometrics, sampling theory, survey design and even computer science.
Internships and real-world experience are extremely important in this field; students interested in fields such as consulting or finance should consider taking additional courses in communications and/or business. As with any major, extra-curricular activities and volunteer work are an excellent way to demonstrate teamwork skills and establish time-management abilities.
Aspiring economists should take advantage of the strong tradition of research at Johns Hopkins, as well as the university’s proximity to Washington D.C. to participate in internships in government, federal agencies and world financial institutions. Many business schools require work experience prior to acceptance, and internship and research experience greatly strengthens your qualifications as a candidate to graduate school in economics or law.
Hopkins Economics alumni go into a variety of career fields. Since 2005 the Career Center has surveyed recent graduates about their academic and career plans 6 months after graduation. Here is a summary of their responses.
Hopkins Alumni in Economics
Mark Basch- Director of Product Development, Interactive Data Economics, Class of 1988
- How did you get interested in your field? Was it your original goal when you started at Hopkins? - When I graduated from Hopkins, I went home to NYC and looked for a job in the NY Times. I found a position that was interesting and that became my field. When I was at Hopkins, I had no idea that financial information even existed as a field.
- What was your career path? How did you get to where you are today? - My career path was working my way up to a management position. I then worked overseas in London and Tokyo for a while before I returned to the US. I changed divisions at the company I was working for and my division was acquired by another company. The end of these twists and turn left me where I am today.
- What was your first job after college? Was it in your current field? - I was a research analyst at a company called Securities Data Company. It is not in the exact same field as I am today, but a closely related one.
- What advice do you have for current students? - You don't have to know what you’re going to be doing when you graduate. You still have time to figure that out.
- What is your typical day like? - There is no typical day. One day I might be meeting with clients trying to help solve their problems and the next day I might be working with the development team to bring a new product to market.
- What’s most rewarding about your industry and/ or job? What's most challenging? - Rewarding: I enjoy the ability to solve problems. Challenging: The clients are very demanding and there is pressure each day to make sure everything is working properly
- What are typical entry-level positions for this field? What tips do you have for students to be successful in these positions? - A typical entry level positions would be in data research or client support. The key to success is to learn what the company does and take responsibility for your own career.
- Where do you see the field going in the next 5-10 years? This is a growth industry. I foresee continued growth along with industry consolidation.
- What skills and out-of-class experiences (i.e. internships, co-curricular activities, volunteering, etc.) are ideal for entering your industry / career field? - Knowledge of the financial markets and the ability to work under stress.
- Where can someone in an entry-level position expect to be in two years? Five years? Ten years? - In two years a person can expect to be in a more senior position and potentially a manager in five years. By ten years there are no limits.
- What related occupations and industries would you recommend students explore who are interested in your industry or career field? - Financials Services and Investment Banking
Chad E. Gutstein- Executive Vice President, Ovation TV Economics, Class of 1995
- Describe what you do and how you got started in your current career. - I am the EVP at Ovation TV, the only national network that entertains, inspires and engages the artist in all of us. Ovation TV focuses on art, culture and personal creativity and helps the cultural consumer put his/her "art" into his/her life each and every day.
- What is most rewarding about your job and/ or industry? What is most challenging? - As the EVP, I am responsible for business and corporate development, cultural institutional relations and partnerships, non-linear and other new media businesses, finance and administration. The most rewarding thing about my company is that we are building the world's leading marketing services company touching the cultural consumer by serving and supporting art and cultural in America. Every day I get to work with the foremost stakeholders in American culture, including institutions (MoMA, MOCA, LACMA, Metropolitan Museum, Metropolitan Opera), artists and other creators, arts educational organizations and public and private arts agencies. The most challenging aspect is operating as an independent company in a world of media conglomerates.
- Is your career the same or different from what you had envisioned your career would be when you started at Hopkins as an undergraduate? How is it similar and/or different? - I expected to become an investment banker; and I did. But it was not satisfying and I eventually engaged my love of the media business and discovered my entrepreneurial side.
- What advice do you have for a Hopkins student entering your career field / industry? - Be focused on what you want to do, build a network of advisors, mentors and business contacts, and don't be afraid to take calculated risks.
Henry Huang- Literary and Talent Manager, Industry Entertainment BA Economics, Class of 2002
- Describe what you do and how you got started in your current career. - I represent TV and feature writers, directors and actors. I started by interning at a small feature production company in NY and then got my first job in the business at an agency in LA
- What is most rewarding about your job and/ or industry? What is most challenging? - I love TV and movies and I love being a part of the creative process and seeing the finished products, be it on the small screen or big screen. The most challenging part is that a lot of parts of your job life very much becomes a part of your everyday life be it working in the office, reading scripts on the weekend or networking.
- Is your career the same or different from what you had envisioned your career would be when you started at Hopkins as an undergraduate? How is it similar and/or different? - I was an Economics major and was very much on my way to a career in the financial sector and never thought I’d be working in the entertainment industry. In terms of the work that is done, it’s very different where a lot of finance jobs are about number crunching, my job allows for a lot of creative outlets and freedom to put together creative projects that I am passionate about.
- What advice do you have for a Hopkins student entering your career field / industry? - You will have to move to LA as soon as you're ready to start your career. There's no getting around it. There are limited entry level opportunities in NY and a miniscule number of promotions. While in school intern at a few different types of entertainment related companies during the summer and learn everything you can at those places to get your foot in the door. And you should try to get your first job at an agency. It is the only place in the industry where you will be exposed to all the different parts of the industry and the relationships you make there will be the ones you use for the rest of your career.
Jason Budden- Sports, Senior VP of Operations & Marketing, Baseball Factory, Johns Hopkins University, Economics, Class of 2002
- How did you get interested in your field? Was it your original goal when you started at Hopkins? - I was always into sports and wanted to work in sports coming into college. After taking a marketing class with Prof. Kendrick at JHU, I was confident I wanted to go into marketing.
- What was your career path? How did you get to where you are today? - I started as an intern at Baseball Factory, worked my way into part-time sales, then part-time on-field instruction, all while in college. I started as the Director of Marketing full time at Baseball Factory and have been promoted a few times to get to be the Senior VP of Operations & Marketing.
- What was your first job after college? Was it in your current field? - Baseball Factory
- What advice do you have for current students? - Get internship experience in your field of interest. The sooner you get experience, the sooner you can determine if it is really the right fit for you. In addition, the more internship experience you have, the better your resume will look. In addition, don't be afraid of a sales position. Sales experience can lend very well to success in marketing. Understanding the sales approach can make you a better marketer. Be prepared to work long days and make very little money, if any as an intern. Pay your dues and you'll have more success after college.
- What is your typical day like? - Every day is different. Whether I'm communicating with sponsors, developing marketing materials, organizing direct mail campaigns, writing press releases or meeting with other department heads, it is entertaining and challenging. Normal hours range from 8 - 14 hours per day, depending on the time of year.
- What’s most rewarding about your industry and/ or job? What's most challenging? - Most rewarding is the success that we see as a company in helping youth and high school baseball players develop their skills and ultimately play college baseball. You have to believe in what you do. The most challenging piece comes from being in a small company. You can't always do exactly what you want based on financial constraints, so you have to plan accordingly and fit your projects within your budget.
- What are typical entry-level positions for this field? What tips do you have for students to be successful in these positions? - Sales representative and marketing associate. To be successful you need to be ready to work hard and keep longer hours. Stay organized and be energized to take on new projects. Work ethic and creativity go a long way towards continued development.
- Where do you see the field going in the next 5-10 years? - Field should not change much, other than general technology changes. Baseball will always be baseball, so it comes down to helping players develop their skills.
- What skills and out-of-class experiences are ideal for entering your industry / career field? - Again, internships are very important. If you have an opportunity to volunteer at a sporting event, these can also be good opportunities to gain experience. General networking is also key.
- Where can someone in an entry-level position expect to be in two years? Five years? Ten years? - Depends on their work ethic and success, but our organization prefers to promote from within, so their are opportunities to move into a management or senior director position.
- Which professional organizations and resources should students look into or get involved with? - The AMA is a great tool, regardless of whether students want to go into sports or not. WorkinSports.com and NCAA.com's workplace are good sites to find sports jobs.
- What related occupations and industries would you recommend students explore who are interested in your industry or career field? - Don't be confined to one sport. You can start in basketball and move into baseball, etc. Sports experience in general allows you to get your foot in the door. Network when possible to help find bigger and better opportunities.
Edward Tuvin- First Vice President, Community South Small Business Lending
B.A., Economics, 1981, MBA, Class of 1993
- How did you get interested in your field? Was it your original goal when you started at Hopkins? - I started in business typing tickets in a lumber mill at the age of 14. At 16 I became a field laborer on construction sites, at 18 I was an assistant site superintendent in London. From there I moved on to working with several real estate developers and represented the interests of investors such as Prudential, Allstate, New England Life and Copley Real Estate Advisors. When the commercial real estate market crashed in the mid 1990's, I shifted to finance and have continued ever since. I am a commercial lender focusing on small business which means loans from $250,000 to $8 million.
- What was your career path? How did you get to where you are today? - From working with a developer, Manekin Corporation, I became the assistant to the President. There I was involved with all areas of running a commercial development company including recruiting MBA candidates from Harvard, MIT, Wharton, etc. who had great educational experience but not necessarily a working knowledge of real estate. I discussed with my boss that while my financial contribution to the organization was high, I was being paid less than the new recruits. He agreed to adjust my salary and to pay for my Masters at Hopkins. I was later recruited to join Heller Financial as a loan officer for small business loans. We assist small businesses which represent almost 90% of all business in the United States in obtaining SBA loans. I enjoy helping people realize the dream of owning their own business, the financial rewards, and helping to boost our economy as a result of the jobs which are created thru the small business administration loan programs.
- What was your first job after college? Was it in your current field? - I worked with a local gourmet store where I was to be a partner in an import business with the owner. In college I had a valet parking business and had worked for him on various catering jobs. He liked me and gave me a position in the wine department while I gathered information for our planned import business. The import business never took off, but I learned a great deal about wines and today I am the Vice Charge de Missions of the Greater Washington DC chapter of the Confrerie de la Chaine de Rotisseurs, an international food and wine society.
- What advice do you have for current students, especially freshmen and sophomores? - Focus on what is important and of interest to you. Plan - make plans in writing as to what you seek to accomplish in business and life. Buy a home early. Dress for success at all times. Read - books such as The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and industry related materials. For sales people read Jeff Gitomer's books. Learn to deal with various types of people and understand yourself. Network - be in front of people and work with your Hopkins alumni to seek out opportunities. At all times be honest -- you have one reputation in life and when you lose it, it is gone. Realize that life is short, have fun, and stay focused on your goals at the same time.
- What is your typical day like? -
6 a.m. check internet email and respond
7 a.m. work when it is quiet on financial projections and underwriting of loan packages.
8 a.m. breakfast with my wife
9 a.m. return phone calls
11 a.m. on the road for meetings with mortgage brokers, clients, attorneys, business brokers
4 p.m. back in the office to check email and paperwork, handling notes to follow up on items raised during the day -- on average I receive about 75 calls a day which I take mostly while driving between meetings
dinner ---- with my wife
8 p.m. plus or minus another hour or 2 of computer time
Of course it should be noted that exercise is missing and that is a critical requirement of anyone's schedule.
- What’s most rewarding about your industry and/ or job? What's most challenging? -
Rewarding: Helping others to realize the dream of owning their own business.
Challenging: It is extremely competitive, (generally) borrowers have minimal loyalty and shop loans anywhere they can to save a penny, many lenders provide inaccurate information thus creating a bad reputation for the SBA programs, currently an inverse yield curve has short term rates higher than long term rates
- What are typical entry-level positions for this field? What tips do you have for students to be successful in these positions - Working in a bank has often been the vehicle to gain access to non-bank lending that I am involved with. One needs to understand the commercial loan business and it is.
- Where do you see the field going in the next 5-10 years? - Alternative lending sources will replace most of what the SBA does today which programs that are more flexible and much less paperwork intensive than SBA loans require. There is a vast opportunity for supplying good loans to investors.
- What skills and out-of-class experiences (i.e. internships, co-curricular activities, volunteering, etc.) are ideal for entering your industry / career field? - An MBA, an undergraduate degree in finance. Sales training. No matter what, and even though I am a lender, we must still make the sale.
- Where can someone in an entry-level position expect to be in two years? Five years? Ten years? - $45,000 entry, as a salesperson $250,000 in five years, and if successful say $400,000 in a great year in ten years.
- Which professional organizations and resources should students look into or get involved with? - Including but not limited to various Mortgage Banker's Associations, state banking associations, professional networking groups like BNI, and my best tip ever online networking thru LinkedIn.com
- What related occupations and industries would you recommend students explore who are interested in your industry or career field? - In addition to conventional banking and lending there are huge opportunities with finance companies such as CIT, CapitalSource, GE, and others.
Rob Deichert, Jr.- Vice President of AMN Operations, AOL, Economics, Class of 1997, MBA, 2005
- How did you get interested in your field? Was it your original goal when you started at Hopkins? -
Through colleagues at work. It was not my original goal.
- What was your career path? How did you get to where you are today? - Started out in finance, switched to strategy consulting, and then internet startups
- What was your first job after college? Was it in your current field? - Working for a hedge fund run by a fellow JHU and fraternity alum.
- What advice do you have for current students, especially freshmen and sophomores? - Join a fraternity or sorority and take on a leadership position. It's great training to have to lead others without any real authority. Would also suggest doing a stint at the Phone-a-Thon raising money for JHU. Nothing like it to get you comfortable on the phone with people you don't know.
- What is your typical day like? - Meetings take up 75% of the day with most of them being with staff, internal customers or one-on-ones. The rest of the day is spent working on analyzing data or determining short-term and long-term strategy for the operations of AOL.
- What’s most rewarding about your industry and/ or job? What's most challenging? - Rewarding: The pace of change is amazing which means what you're doing six months from now could be completely different. We're also in a cutting edge industry where we can have drastic impacts on the future of advertising.
Challenging: Finding enough talented people. The industry has agreat many entry level jobs and we haven't done enough to market them to college students.
- What are typical entry-level positions for this field? What tips do you have for students to be successful in these positions? - There are many entry level positions. In sales you have account managers. Operations you have delivery analysts as well as launch and traffic roles. All of these roles require great communication skills as well as a firm grasp of numbers and strong computer skills.
- Where do you see the field going in the next 5-10 years? - Continued growth along with improved targeting capabilities.
- What skills and out-of-class experiences (i.e. internships, co-curricular activities, volunteering, etc.) are ideal for entering your industry / career field? - Quantitative skills, computer skills, good people skills. Experience - would have at least one stint working with the general public, internships at internet startups, work on some websites.
- Where can someone in an entry-level position expect to be in two years? Five years? Ten years? - Two years - one or two promotions maybe even leading a small team of individual contributors.
Five years - could be leading teams of people
Ten - could be director or vice president
Additional Alumni Profiles
Networking with alumni and other professionals who work in these fields can help you learn very specific information about a career field. Use Johns Hopkins Connect to contact alumni to ask for their advice. You may also find professional contacts through professional associations, faculty, friends and family.
For more information on What You Can Do with an Economics Major go to What can I do with a major in Economics.
Want to know more? Read our Hopkins Career Profiles on Marketing, Finance, and Investment Banking.
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Omicron Delta Epsilon is the economics honor society, dedicated to the recognition of scholastic attainment and to honoring outstanding achievements in economics. It is one of the largest academic honor societies and works to facilitate communication between economics faculty and students on academic campuses throughout the world. Omicron Delta Epsilon is also the publisher of “The American Economist.”
The American Economic Association was founded in 1885 to promote the study of economics from all points of view, and has 18,000 international members working in academia, business, and government, international and not-for-profit agencies.