Economics Career Path: Which Job Is Right for You?

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A Master of Business Administration (MBA) can be the foundation for many successful careers in business and finance. While an undergraduate degree is typically a requirement for professionals in entry-level economics positions, such as actuaries and revenue agents, an advanced degree in business — particularly one with a finance concentration — can help graduates stand out when pursuing management positions.

Furthermore, the median annual salary for MBA graduates was $91,000 per year as of September 2021, whereas those with only a bachelor’s degree in business administration earned a median annual salary of $69,000, according to PayScale. Although pursuing an MBA requires an additional investment of time and money, the return on investment can make it worthwhile.

The Master of Business Administration is designed to prepare graduates for top-level jobs in the world economy. As such, MBA graduates can pursue many different roles on their economics career paths.

5 Business Economics Careers

There are several potential business economics careers for MBA graduates who have a passion for finance and are interested in working in the private or public sector. Taking a look at five of the most popular roles, along with their most recent salary info and job outlook, can help students and graduates narrow down their choices.

1. Budget Analyst

Budget analysts work in both the public and private sectors, helping companies create budget management systems. These professionals prepare budget reports and then communicate their findings to management, helping them understand how money has been spent and how to decide where to allocate expenses and cut costs in the future.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median annual salary for a budget analyst was $78,970 as of 2020. The BLS projects a 5% job growth for budget analysts from 2020 to 2030, which is marginally slower than average.

Budget analysts work primarily in the government, educational institutions, and scientific and technical services. Most budget analysts work in offices and are full-time employees. They may occasionally have to travel to verify funding allocations, according to the BLS.

A budget analyst should have analytical skills, be detail-oriented, and have strong math skills, including knowledge of spreadsheet and financial analysis applications, as well as financial theories. Excellent writing and interpersonal communication skills are important, as both hard and soft skills are necessary when providing a cogent analysis of the budget to management.

2. Financial Examiner

Financial examiners play an essential role in any business or government agency. Graduates who are interested in economic theory, as well as economic law and policy, may want to consider a career as a financial examiner. The primary task of financial examiners is to assess balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements, and asset management to ensure they comply with local, state, and federal financial laws. When companies are not in compliance, large fees and even criminal charges can be filed against them.

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for a financial examiner was $81,430 as of 2020. The BLS also projects job growth of 18% for financial examiners from 2020 to 2030, which makes it one of the fastest-growing business economics careers.

Financial examiners typically work in credit intermediation or other related activities. They may also work in securities, commodity contracts, or financial institutions, as well as federal, state, and local governments. They normally do their work — evaluating loan risks, assessing bank fund management, and reviewing balance sheets — from an office or financial institution.

To succeed as a financial examiner, graduates must have advanced knowledge of economic theory and practice, as well as an expert understanding of economic laws. They must also be detail-oriented and have strong analytical, math, and writing skills.

3. Personal Financial Advisor

A personal financial advisor — another top economics career path — helps individuals and families manage their finances and plan for the future. These advisors must provide financial advice and assistance to clients who are navigating a wide range of financial hurdles, including college planning, money management, and retirement planning. As such, they must be well-versed in economic and financial theory and practice. A financial planner will generally present their clients with a number of options, including high-risk/high-reward investments, along with low-risk, long-term investments that pay off over time.

Personal financial advisors have higher annual salaries than financial analysts, financial examiners, and budget analysts. The median annual salary for personal financial advisors was $89,330 as of 2020, according to the BLS. The BLS also projects a 5% job growth for personal financial advisors from 2020 to 2030.

Most financial advisors work in securities, financial investments, and other activities, and many are self-employed. Those who are self-employed may have home offices and work more flexible hours to meet the needs of their clients. It also means that they can set their own rates for what they charge clients.

Other highly prized qualities that successful personal financial advisors possess include interpersonal and verbal communication, math, sales, and analytical skills. These skills can help them give correct, qualified advice to their clients.

4. Economist

Economists act as expert consultants to business and government leaders, helping to guide their decision-making processes. An economist analyzes the supply and demand of goods, resources, and services, as well as collects and evaluates complex financial data. Economists need to employ economic theory and critical thinking to develop reports and insights for management.

Economists earn more than financial analysts, budget analysts, and personal financial advisors. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for an economist was $108,350 as of 2020. The BLS projects a 13% job growth for economists from 2020 to 2030.

Economists are commonly employed in government or consulting services, and many work collaboratively with other economists and statisticians in an office setting. Economists should have strong math, writing, public speaking, and analytical skills. They need to be highly proficient in economic theory and know how to apply it to local and global scenarios.

5. Financial Analyst

Businesses of all sizes often need guidance when making investments, regardless of the scale of the investment. Financial analysts can assist them, as well as government entities, with investment analysis and risk assessment, in addition to providing overall financial guidance. Those in this economics career path can understand and analyze stocks, bonds, and other types of investments. A financial analyst provides insight into the performance of investments and makes suggestions about whether an investment is worthwhile or too risky.

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for a financial analyst was $83,660 as of 2020. The BLS projects a 6% job growth for financial analysts from 2020 to 2030.

Financial analysts typically work in securities, commodities, and financial investments. They may also work in credit intermediation or as upper-level managers of companies or enterprises. Financial analysts may also be required to travel to visit clients, according to the BLS.

Financial analysts must be detail-oriented and have strong math skills. They also need critical thinking skills to assess and communicate historical investment data. Financial analysts should have effective communication skills and be comfortable with presenting in front of groups, as they regularly share their analyses with senior leaders.

Economics Careers with an MBA in Finance

One distinct advantage of getting an MBA with a concentration in finance is that it doesn’t specifically prepare graduates for a single job role but rather multiple roles. Once a graduate understands the big picture of economics and the schools of economic theory, they will be equipped to pursue several potential economics careers.

Finance concentration courses span financial markets and institutions, investments, and advanced corporate finance. They lay the groundwork for an economics career path, as they teach graduates financial decision-making, how to assess risk, long-term versus short-term financing, and other critical concepts. Although the field of economics is highly competitive, the rewards and opportunities can outweigh the risks when considering the positive career outlook, job stability, and salary range. 

Take Your First Step Toward a Career in Economics

If you’re interested in becoming a finance professional, Ohio University’s Online Master of Business Administration with a concentration in finance can help prepare you for success. With courses including Financial Markets and Institutions, Investments, and Advanced Corporate Finance, the MBA program can prepare you to manage investments, understand corporate finance, and mitigate financial risks.

The coursework is 100% online, and no GMAT is required for admission. As a result, studying the fields of finance and economics has never been easier or more convenient. Take the first step on your career path in economics today with Ohio University.

Recommended Readings

How an MBA Helps Entrepreneurship

Reasons to Get a Master of Business Administration

Why Every Entrepreneur Needs a Business Plan, and How to Write One

Sources:

Investopedia, “A Career as a Financial or Business Analyst?”

Investopedia, “Guide to Economics”

Investopedia, “Top Financial Career Options”

Investopedia, “What Do Financial Advisors Do?”

Investopedia, “What Is an Economist?”

PayScale, Bachelor’s Degree, Business Administration Degree

PayScale, Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree

Society for Human Resource Management, Budget Analyst

Society for Human Resource Management, Financial Analyst

Society for Human Resource Management, Financial Examiner

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Budget Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Examiners

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Personal Financial Advisors