Being the Economist

Dr. John Patrick Ojwando
Published: December 2014

If your goals call for an understanding of the world and the problems its inhabitants grapple with, and being able to critically think of issues related to its markets, you would be better served engrossed with a degree in Economics, observes Dr. John Patrick Ojwando

economicsIn countries the world over, whether they are saddled with inchoate systems or vastly improved, there is a huge potential for developing banking, insurance and financial structures, crucial to their impending or routine growth. Career options for those with credentials in Economics are therefore bewildering, both in terms of variety and career growth. While governments and the people wrestle with myriad problems often in day to day life, Economists are called upon to exercise the analytical skills needed to tackle the complexities of the contemporary world. Exchange rates, trade agreements, cuts or increase in taxes, international banking and related areas are perhaps only understood better with the insights of Economics.

A degree in Economics could be the key to those seeking access to a whole gamut of specialisations and careers upon completion of Class XII or graduation, ranging from multinationals to government agencies, nonprofit organisations to consulting agencies and universities.

WHO SHOULD CHOOSE ECONOMICS?

The term ‘Economics’ has it origin in the Greek words ‘oikos’ meaning ‘house’ and ‘nomos’ that means ‘custom or law’. It has therefore come to be deemed to be ‘the rules or laws of household’. Economics as a social science is the study of the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. As a discipline, it holds an engaging fascination for those who seek to gain an understanding of the working of the world of business, impacts decisions have on firms and industries, effects of government policies on the economy and employment, the key issues and developments in international business, including trade, globalisation, international political economy, foreign investment, financial markets and cross border labour flows, amongst others.

LEARNING AND QUALIFICATIONS

The path to a career in Economics is heralded by a combination of both schooling and work exposure. Jain University offers a host of programmes in Economics that help graduates develop a wide range of skills – analytical problem solving, teamwork, research and organising and communicating information as well as other transferable skills required by professional Economists and by employees. The University’s Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree course that combines interdisciplinary approach to study of Economics along with the choice of two additional social sciences – Sociology, Psychology, Journalism or Political Science- is an ideal launchpad to a career in its allied sectors. Aside, there is the option to enroll into Bachelor of Arts plus Master of Arts –Journalism/Economics dual degree integrated programme. The courses offer the requisite introduction to the various facets of the discipline such as macroeconomics and microeconomic and econometrics. At the master’s level, students learn the core areas of Economics as well as the role and impact of government policies and international issues, including the benefits and costs of globalisation, economic growth in developing countries, and so on.

skillsIn both the BA and MA degrees, whether students wish to study an expansive curriculum or seek to specialise in a particular area, they are given sound training in theory and in practice to tackle a wide range of relevant problems. The goal is to meet the needs of diverse workplaces. At the University’s lecture halls, a host of cutting edge teaching methods are employed, including lectures, discussion sessions, group work, class presentations, and case studies. Also, graduate students have the platform to gain valuable experience in diverse areas such as gathering and analysing data, researching economic issues and trends, writing reports by undertaking internships in government offices, business, or consultancy or research organisations. This phase of learning if well spent provides hands-on experience ensuring that aspirants stand out from the crowd and enhance their employability. Besides, they gain insights into various pathways available in Economics.

That assumed, majority of those who graduate with a degree in Economics find their footing in the finance, insurance, banking, accounting or management, both in public and private sectors. However, there are opportunities for one to delve into the discipline by opting to undertake a masters or research programme –Master of Philosophy or Doctor of Philosophy in Economics that are important for consultancy and teaching assignments.

SKILLS

careerOften, the pursuit of Economics favours those with quantitative and analytical skills and engulfs practically anything and everything that touches on production and distribution of resources –both goods and services. Students with sound numerical ability, analytical bent of mind and interest in statistics will find the course not only absorbing but extremely satisfying. Besides domain knowledge, studying Economics equip graduates with practical skills that are highly valued in workplaces. Some of these include:

  • Effective communication and managerial skills – essential in making presentations, explaining reports or advising clients on matters related to its domain. Sometimes Economists may be called upon to explain Economic terms or concepts to those without a background in economics
  • Mathematical skills – statistics, calculus and other advanced topics in mathematics feature in routine Economic analysis
  • Problem solving – logical thinking and reasoning is required to solve complex problems for instance how Economic trends affect the fortunes of an organisation Ability to see the ‘big picture’– precise and long term data analysis is necessary to ensure accuracy in findings
  • Report writing skills – ability to present finding clearly, prepare reports for colleagues or clients and write for publications such as journals, magazines, or newspapers
  • Self-motivation as well as discipline to work independently in office. However, many Economists collaborate with their colleagues and statisticians, sometimes working on teams hence the call for teamwork. Some Economists work from home, others may be required to make travels as part of their job, or to attend seminars or conferences. Some combine full time jobs in universities or business with consultancy assignments. The ability to work under pressure of deadlines, tight schedules or long hours will always be a plus point.

WHAT DO ECONOMISTS DO?

Because Economists gather and analyse data, monitor market trends, and evaluate economics related issues, they offer advice on thrifty management of assets –money, materials or labour in an exchange economy. Typically, their work revolves around but is not limited to the following:

    • Gathering data – through surveys, random samples or use of mathematical and statistical models to test economic relationships
    • Analysis of economic related issues – the way people create goods and services, allocate their limited resources such as raw materials, labour, technology, etc.
    • Conducting research and monitoring trends in diverse areas of economics – exchange rates, taxation, employment, inflation, cost of materials, etc.
    • Interpretation and forecast of market trends
    • Preparation of reports and presentation of research findings using charts and graphs– a requisite aid for those in business to make informed decisions
    • Advising businesses, both small and large, firms, governments as well as individuals, on diverse economic topics
    • Assisting in designing policies
    • Making recommendations to public and private firms on ways to solve economic related issues
    • Dissemination of information -by publishing in academic journals, magazines, or any other forms of media

CAREER PATHS AFTER ECONOMICS

economicstContrary to popular perceptions, though a sizeable number of Economics graduates find themselves helping out in government offices analyzing inflations, unemployment rates, and tax rates, the logical, analytical and mathematical skills they develop studying the discipline make them immensely valuable in any workplace.

Their versatility becomes extremely evident in business and finance industries because of their familiarity with principles and economic laws applicable in these sectors. The ability to gather, analyse and forecast financial and marketing trends often benefit organisations because they are able to make smart financial, marketing and product related decisions.

Economists use their skills in analyzing issues across diverse sectors – finance, retail, agriculture, energy, information technology, health, transport, law, environmental protection, cultural, urban and education economics. They can choose from a wide arena of specialisations that include such as:

Econometricians:

They use models to explain economic happenings and project future economic occurrences and trends for instance the effect of new taxation laws on employment.

Industrial Economists:

They analyse firms, industries and markets and offer insights on the levels at which capacity output and prices are set, outline the basis on and extent to which products are differentiated and advice on completion and protection against truest monopolies and investments to be undertaken.

International Economists:

They analyse and offer insights on international trade –global financial markets, currency exchange rates, effects of tariffs and the laws related to practices of trade.

Labour Economists:

They analyse labour related issues –demand and supply, wages, etc.

Macroeconomics and Monetary Economists:

They analyse fiscal and monetary policies as well as trends related to unemployment, inflation and economic growth.

Microeconomists:

They analyse the supply and demand to find out how to maximise production.

Public Finance Economists:

They analyse the effects of tax cuts, budget deficits, and welfare policies put in place by governments.

Financial Economists:

They analyse interest rates to see their effect on banking systems.

Demographic or Labor Economists:

They look at trends in salary, causes of unemployment and the results of demographic changes.

Other career paths include:

      • In Diplomatic Service
      • In Financial Analysis, Planning and Brokerage
      • In Financial Journalism, Media
      • In Portfolio Management
      • In Public Administration
      • In Stockbroking
      • In Urban and Regional Planning

MAJOR EMPLOYMENT AVENUES

      • In Federal (National), state, and local governments
      • In Corporations
      • In Research firms and think tanks
      • In firms or organisations with international operations – World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF), United Nations (UN), amongst others
      • In associations and Non Profits – Greenpeace, WHO, etc.
      • In Educational institutions
      • In Consultancy

JOB OUTLOOK

Since a sizeable number of graduates in Economics find placement in financial management, accountancy or banking insurance sectors, a positive outlook in the economy will always have a large bearing on their career growth. While entry level jobs-mostly in local and national governments –are available to aspirants with a Bachelors degree, options abound for for those with master’s degree or research credentials to scale the ladder. The growing globalisation and increasing interdependence in commercial life means that those equipped with Economics, whatever path they opt to tread, will eternally remain in demand, their progress and growth only limited by their ambitions, imagination and interests.