By Scott Cawfield
School of Business
Centennial College

Economics Skills, Qualifications, and Abilities

Among the most sought-after skills in economics graduates are analytical skills, clarity, organization, research ability (especially in senior jobs), and quantitative skill. A knowledge of economics is often considered central to success in fields such as banking, financial analysis and advising, government research, and business management positions. What the employer often seeks is not just someone who can understand and explain economic concepts, but someone who can relate economic knowledge to an interdisciplinary environment, to explain economic factors to other professionals, and help the firm to profit as a result. Business is, in effect, an interdisciplinary activity involving marketing, communications, finance/economics, problem solving, and leadership skills.

The skills listed below are acquired from a study of economics; however, they are applicable in many occupational settings. A banker, a business analyst/writer, and an entrepreneur will all have to employ analytical skills on a daily basis to reach their particular goals, though often in different ways.

Communications Skills

  • Explaining ideas and goals
  • Justifying a position
  • Reading and interpreting reports and finance-based statements
  • Speaking persuasively
  • Summarizing
  • Writing proposals
  • Writing reports/articles

    Financial Skills

  • Developing and defending budgets
  • Creating and evaluating financial reports and statements
  • Doing cost/benefit analyses
  • Manipulating numerical and financial data
  • Maintaining accurate records
  • Tabulating data
  • Problem-Solving Skills

  • Applying quantitative analysis
  • Assessing needs
  • Defining problems
  • Evaluating policies
  • Generating solutions from problems
  • Projecting and forecasting results
  • Setting, reviewing, and assessing goals and objectives
  • Relating theory to practice

    Research and Analytical Skills

  • Analyzing results
  • Applying statistical methods
  • Designing projects
  • Computing data
  • Generating and developing ideas
  • Organizing research material
  • Testing an idea or hypothesis
  • Using computers

Occupational Possibilities in Economics

The study of economics gives you a wide range of occupational choices, notably in the banking/finance, business, education and communications, and government/public management career areas. Economists in the banking sector are frequently interviewed by the television news networks to give the latest spin on the statistics of the day, the current state of the market, or short-term prescriptions for policy action. In business, people with economics knowledge are frequently sought for executive training positions, and many senior-level managers have taken courses in economics and finance. The preferred educational route for senior-level positions in business is frequently an undergraduate degree in economics or economics and political science, topped off with a Master's degree in Business Administration. In teaching positions, usually the entry-level qualification is an M.B.A., M.A., or Ph.D. (the latter in hand or in progress is preferred). In communications positions related to the economy (e.g., an analyst on a television public affairs show), only an undergraduate course concentration in economics may be required. In government management positions, deputy ministers and senior-level management are often recruited on the basis of an undergraduate or graduate degree in economics, or combinations of economics and political science/public policy course concentrations.

The following careers frequently require economics training:

Banking and Finance Careers

  • Bank management trainee
  • Commodities broker
  • Credit analyst
  • Economic forecaster
  • Financial adviser/counsellor
  • Trust administrator
  • Securities broker
  • Investment banker

    Business Careers

  • Actuary/actuarial assistant
  • Business administrator
  • Insurance cost estimator
  • Insurance underwriter
  • Management consultant
  • Market research analyst
  • Public relations/media organizer
  • Real estate agent
  • Retail buyer
  • Strategic planner
  • Tax analyst

    Education and Communications Careers

  • Educational television producer/adviser
  • Information analyst
  • Higher education administrator
  • Economics journalist or columnist
  • Economics or economics and marketing teacher
  • Technical writer
  • Higher education professor

    Government and Public Management Careers

  • Budget office administrator
  • Claims examiner, social assistance
  • Collective bargaining manager/director
  • Compensation analyst, human resources
  • Demographer
  • Deputy minister
  • Financial planner
  • Foreign trade/exchange analyst
  • Housing administrator/researcher
  • Legislative assistant/researcher
  • Researcher in various ministries, CMHC, Bank of Canada
  • Regional or urban planning assistant

Salary Expectations

A 1996 Statistics Canada study of the average annual earnings of government managers involved in economic analysis showed that they earned $58,695 per year. Economists and economic policy researchers and analysts made $58,578, while economic development officers and marketing researchers earned $49,793. University professors with tenure can expect to make $68,000 to $80,000 annually. The average income for all occupations that year was $37,556.

Other Job-Specific Suggestions

If you already have an economics degree or specialization, you may want to visit or during your job search. And, don't forget that the career counsellors at the university or college you graduated from will likely have some helpful suggestions, and possibly even have profiles of graduates who are employed in economics and related fields. You should ask if you can contact them for networking, as they may be able to help you find a job. If you want to branch out to other careers, a career services librarian or consultant will be able to help you identify key alternatives.

The author wishes to thank Natasha Ramlochan of the Career Services Department of the University of Toronto for her assistance in providing research for this section. The research for the first and second sections is from University of Toronto files on economics careers.