In this fifth installment of our seven-week Careers of the Future series, Aaron Jackson, associate professor of economics and director of the Bentley Honors Program, makes the case that a range of broad career opportunities awaits students who have the critical thinking and problem-solving skills gained through an economics degree education.
I may be biased, but I genuinely believe that studying economics, or being an economics major, is one of the most valuable things a millennial college student can do today to get ready for the post-graduate world he or she will face.
Employers definitely know this already. Economics not only trains students to think, it also allows them to gain critical problem-solving skills.
As a result, economics majors end up working in a wide variety of jobs in a vast number of industries. I think this flexibility is a tremendous plus, because it makes a college graduate much more marketable in a digital-technology world where so many of the professions of the future are still evolving.
If you major in economics, you can go to Wall Street in banking and finance. You can help any number of companies with Big Data. You can transform yourself into an entrepreneur. You can go into government and help mold public policy. You can nurture economic development around the world. You can make global trade work better. You can help reform the health-care system. You can become a lawyer. You can re-shape our cities as an urban planner or real-estate expert. You can run a retail chain. You can become a management consultant.
The career choices go on and on.
Put another way, having a broad set of employment options is a really good thing, and being in demand, because you know how to analyze and assess even when the problems are messy, is equally beneficial.
Right now, there’s a temptation to color the world negatively because there have been so many recent problems — the financial crisis of 2008, or climate change, or health care, or global trade. But the fact that employers are grappling with a host of different (and big) problems today reinforces the marketplace value of pragmatic and problem-solving economics students. Just as important, employers are actively looking for college graduates who can adapt — and thrive — in this time of tremendous change and upheaval.
Looking ahead, I’m optimistic that the problems may get a bit easier to solve for all of us. But even if they don’t, economics majors will still thrive, because they will always have the crucial skill sets that are necessary to understand the world that surrounds them.
We’re deeply aware of this at Bentley, and it informs how we teach economics, and how we train our economics students. In a nutshell, we’re very adaptable, and we use experiential technology, so that students can learn how they want, when they want, and where they want.
In closing, I’ll try to make my case for studying the wide world of economics by citing some of the most interesting and accomplished people in the world who majored in the subject:
- Warren Buffett, financier
- Sam Walton, Retailer
- Bill Belichick, NFL coach
- Sandra Day O’Connor, Supreme Court justice
- Cate Blanchett, actress
- Diane von Furstenberg, fashion designer
- George Herbert Walker Bush, president of the United States
I’d be remiss if I omitted one name from this list: Mick Jagger, the strutting soul of the Rolling Stones, who studied at the London School of Economics until he dropped out to start his rock-and-roll band with Keith Richards.
Jagger had lots of swagger, and he obviously made the right choice for himself. But I wouldn’t encourage my economics students to follow suit today if they’re truly interested in preparing for the jobs of the future.
Careers of the Future Series
Read other installments in our Careers of the Future Series:
Our 21st Century Mission: Preparing Students for Careers of the Future
Blending Theory and Practice with Big Data
Human-Centered Design Is Putting Innovative Insights Into Action
Sustainability, the Merging of Science and Business
Accounting Helps Students Get Beyond the Numbers
Will You Be Able to Recognize the Next Big Thing?