Careers in Economics

There are so many places to work as an economist that it might seem hard to know where to begin looking.  This note is intended to help you sort through the information and begin to figure out where you would like to pursue your career as an economist.  I’ll update this note frequently, so check back regularly for these updates.  I also encourage you to send me any insights you have on the job search.   As always, keep in touch with me if you have any questions. Thanks.  Prof. Weiner ([email protected])

Career Services at GW

GW’s Center for Career Services provides you with all of the resources --- online and in person --- you need to start your career and the first thing you should do is sign up for your Handshake account. Handshake is GW's one-stop shop for managing the career development & recruitment needs of our students, alumni, & employers. The Center offers programs that can help you learn how to target potential employers, negotiate salaries, draft and edit resumes and cover letters and sharpen your interview skills. These resources can help you increase opportunities for internships and part-time employment while you’re a student and for full-time jobs after you finish your studies.

Even though you may not have yet started thinking about your career, I recommend that you register for the Career Services newsletters. The weekly Business, Finance, Consulting & Economics newsletter provides timely reminders and key information for students interested in careers in the major business sectors (finance, consulting, real estate, marketing, HR, and economics). You can sign up for the newsletter here.

Since many applied economics students develop skills in broad areas, you may also wish to sign up for the newsletters listed below:

The newsletters will tell you which firms are coming to campus to interview and when various workshops, career fairs, and other important events are taking place on campus and nearby.  You also should sign up for the On-Campus Recruiting (OCR) e-newsletter (to subscribe, email [email protected]). 

Although newsletters are helpful, you can’t learn everything from them. That’s why I strongly recommend that you go to the Career Services Center as soon as possible to meet the “career team” and learn about the range of resources the Center offers.  They’ll give you tips on identifying your strengths and interests, creating an online presence, interviewing, writing your resume and cover letter, arranging for mock interviews and preparing you for a real interview, and hunting for a job or an internship. You can schedule individual coaching appointments through Handshake or stop by during their drop-in coaching hours. Here’s where to find them: Center for Career Services, Colonial Crossroads. Marvin Center, Suite 505, 800 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC  20052 (202) 994-8633 and (202) 994-6495.  Here’s the website:

Global Career Opportunities

Passport Career is an exclusive online career resource for exploring opportunities around the world. Whether you are seeking a job, an internship, volunteer work, or are studying abroad, this resource provides extensive guidance, strategies, tools and support to help you make your international career move. Log in to your Handshake profile. In the Resources section you will find, Resources for Global Job & Internship Opportunities which will have instructions on how to register, including the registration key exclusively for GW students and alumni, and tips to get started.

AIESEC is an international non-governmental not-for-profit organization that provides young people with leadership development and cross-cultural global internship and volunteer exchange experiences across the globe, with a focus to empower them so they can make a positive impact on society. The AIESEC network includes approximately 70,000 members in 127 countries and territories.

GoinGlobal provides expert knowledge on the global job market. The database includes over 80,000 pages of content curated by local industry experts, providing country-specific career and internship resources for students and professionals interested in working domestically or internationally. You may gain access through the Resources section in your personal Handshake profile: Resources for Global Jobs & Internship Opportunities

Additional Resources

You don’t have to rely on your courses to develop your economic and analytical skills.  For example, if you’d like to brush up on your quantitative skills or develop new ones, such as Excel, R, SPSS, or other platforms, I suggest you look at what the online learning platform “Lynda” has to offer. Sample courses include Excel 2016, Powerpoint2016 Power Shortcuts, and R Statistics Essential Training. For more on this service, read what the career coach for business sectors, Julianna Hutchins, has to say about the service.  This service is Free to all GW students. (A good way to figure out what skills you need to develop is to find a place where you’d like to work and see what qualifications the employer seeks.)

You should create a LinkedIn profile and follow people and companies that interest you. Many employers go to LinkedIn to see a job candidate’s profile, so you want to make sure that you keep your profile up to date. You can also post interesting articles and participate in discussions. LinkedIn helps you expand your network, which is a great way to get connected to people working in your field.  If you need help setting up your profile, take a look at this LinkedIn Profile Checklist - it does a good job of walking you through how to create and/or improve your profile.

Bloomberg terminals

Set up your Bloomberg account & complete the Bloomberg Market Concepts course - for free!
GW manages the Bloomberg terminals in the Business School and all GW students have free access to set up an account and use the terminals. We encourage students interested in finance career paths to complete the Bloomberg Market Concepts course, which can be done for free if using GW's terminals.

Some Advice from a Pro

Economics professor Anthony Yezer is an expert on helping students find jobs. He has put together a short document that gives you several essential tips on how to search for a job, prepare for your interview, and conduct your interview. 

Here’s the secret to getting a job: plan ahead!  Prepare for your interview the same way that you would prepare for an exam or a tennis match.  You wouldn’t expect to ace an exam or your opponent if you hadn’t practiced, would you?  So, why would you think you can ace an interview if you don’t practice ahead of time?  People who find jobs aren’t lucky.  They practice and they plan ahead.  Don’t go into an interview without knowing what the company does and certainly don’t ask questions for which you can find the answer simply by using Google. 

One other thing that many students forget:  After the interview, send a hand-written thank you note to any senior people with whom you spoke; email is fine for junior people who participate in the interview process.  Trust me. You’ll stand out if you take the time to show a simple courtesy.  The same comment goes for people who write letters of recommendation for you.  Send them a note of thanks and let them know if you get the job.

The Job Search

A good place to begin is with the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. The Handbook describes a range of economists’ careers and salaries and can help you find out what kinds of jobs are available, the skills and experience they require, and how much they pay.

Next, find out what jobs are currently available.  You can see a list through the Social Science Research Network.

Finally, go to the American Economics Association  (AEA) website and explore its career information page and watch this video for an introduction to the variety of careers that economists can pursue. As the AEA says, a career in economics is more than you think.  While you’re on the AEA’s website, take a look at the wide variety of information provided about economics --- you’ll be glad you did.

One of the most useful career-based items is the AEA publication called Job Openings for Economists, or JOE, which listed 3,051 jobs in 2014.  Looking for a job in China?  In consulting?  In academics? The JOE simplifies your search.  You can search through the JOE by criteria such as location, specialization, and academic/non-academic, among others. The AEA holds its annual meeting in early January and is where many economic graduate students interview with potential employers.  You must sign up for interviews in advance.  I recommend that you sign up for the JOE now and become a member of the AEA.  Both are worth their weight in gold.

Although it’s targeted for Ph.D. students, you should read “A Guide and Advice for Economics on the U.S. Junior Academic Job Market, 2014-2015 Edition,” by John Cawley of Cornell University and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). This article describes how the AEA’s job search process operates and is definitely worth reading whether or not you’re a PhD job market candidates.  For additional information, see Peter Coles, John Cawley, Phillip B. Levine, Muriel Niederle, Alvin E. Roth, and John J. Siegfried. 2010. "The Job Market for New Economists: A Market Design Perspective." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 24(4): 187-206.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a fantastic source of information on the latest cutting-edge research, economic conferences, sources of data, a “who’s who in economics,” and networking opportunities.  You can find information about research positions not just at the NBER but also outside of the NBER.

Not all economists work at universities and, in fact, most applied economists won’t work in academia. A survey of job openings done by Bill Craighead of Wesleyan University, showed that nearly one-third of the 2,914 openings in Job Openings for Economists in 2007 were for non-academic positions, including government (124) banking or finance (94), business or industry (57) and consulting or research (239).  For details, see John J. Siegfried (2008) “Report of the Director, Job Openings for Economists,” American Economic Review, 98:2. This survey is nearly a decade old so the distribution of jobs may have shifted, but the point remains the same:  there are many economics jobs outside of academia. 

Major International Organizations: The IMF and the World Bank Group

The International Monetary Fund – the IMF -- describes itself as the world leader since 1944 in applied macroeconomists and has hired research assistants with a graduate degree in economics. To give you an idea of the candidate qualifications the IMF seeks for the research position, I’ve pasted an excerpt from the webpage below:

  • Minimum of a Bachelor's degree, but more competitive candidates would have a Master's degree in economics, statistics, mathematics, finance, or computer science.
  • Two years of relevant work experience in a similar capacity
  • Proficiency in software applications is required, e.g., Excel and/or econometrics packages such as TSP, Eviews, AREMOS, SAS, RATS, together with a knowledge of statistical and econometrics techniques and macroeconomic relationships.
  • Graphics presentation skills

Note the emphasis on knowledge of statistical packages – that’s why the Applied Economics program has such a strong emphasis in this area.

The IMF also has a page that describes its general recruitment process.

The World Bank Group consists of five distinct organizations:

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Development Association make up what’s known as the World Bank.  The Bank has a graduate student internship program for students who have completed their first year of graduate study. With sufficient work experience, you may also be eligible for the World Bank’s Young Professionals Program.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has many career opportunities for research on Latin American issues. The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) focuses exclusively on the private sector in developing countries. For a list of current openings around the world, take a look at this list.

Non-Academic Careers

  • Business: The National Association for Business Economists (NABE) provides extensive career information for business economics.  NABE has a “Spring Economic Policy Conference” each year in Washington where you can network with a wide variety of professionals and take a step toward landing a job. NABE’s career site has an incredible variety of jobs available in the Business Economics Career Center.
  • U.S. Government: provides a search tool for U.S. government jobs. Type "economist jobs" on the main page.  You may want to explore the possibilities for working in the U.S. government before you go to the USA.GOV web page. Some of the organizations that hire economists include the Federal Reserve Board, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Joint Committee on Taxation, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  The various departments, including Commerce, Labor, State, and Treasury, also hire economists and many of the departments also offer internships. You might consider working on Capitol Hill for a member of Congress. Contact the member of Congress directly to see what positions might be available.

Washington, D.C. Think Tanks and Research/Policy Institutions

Washington, D.C., is the center of economic policy analysis and there are numerous think tanks and research institutions where you can apply your skills as an applied economist.

Some of the notable institutions and the research centers at these institutions include:

Economic Consulting

Finally, you may wish to become an economic consultant.  Here are a few well-known firms:

  • Management consulting firms: McKinsey & Company, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), EY, KPMG, Deloitte, Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company, Accenture, Charles River Associates, BearingPoint
  • Economic consulting firms: NERA Economic Consulting, Boston Research Group, Bates White Economic Consulting, IHS Global Insight, JP Morgan Chase Institute, The Brattle Group, Econometrica, Inc., Economic Consulting Services, Analysis Group, Compass Lxcon, Edgeworth Economics
  • Global research/international development firms: Abt Associates, RTI International
  • Research/Policy think tanks, advocacy: RAND, the Environmental Defense Fund, Mathematica Policy Research


Internships are a great way to get experience in a job before making a career choice.  You are likely to find internships by asking your professors for ideas, your previous employers, your friends, and visiting GW’s Career Services Center. For some tips and advice on obtaining an internship, review Locating and Applying for Internships from the National Association of Colleges & Employers.

Below is a list of Resources to find international internships from the Career Services Center website: