Economics Degree Job Prospects & Career Paths

If you are planning to study Economics at a top university, your Economics degree job prospects may be quite different from what you have imagined. Jobs that actually make use of Economics theory is quite limited compared to jobs available in Accounting or Finance. Hence, studying it is unlikely to give you an edge in your future profession due to the knowledge you gain. However, it will impart you with technical, analytical and quantitative skills that is an entry requirement for highly paid roles like being an analyst in the financial industry.

So where do Economics graduates from top universities work? Below you can find popular BSc. Economics career paths, based on university statistics and the perspective of a BSc. Economics degree alumni at LSE. The career option likelihood indicates your chances of getting into the sector. This depends on how competitive the role is, and the number of graduates they hire, and more. Apart from which university you study at, Economics degree job prospects can also be heavily influenced by internships you acquire at university.

Ready to apply for a BSc. Economics programme? Be sure to check out our Economics Entry Requirements Table to compare grade requirements, and download our sample Economics Personal Statement which received offers from LSE, Warwick, Bath and Bristol.

BSc. Economics Degree Career Paths:

  1. Investment Banks
  2. Business Consulting
  3. Big Four Audit/Accountancy Firms
  4. Commercial/Retail Banks
  5. Other Career Paths

Investment Banks

Career Option Likelihood: Medium
Investment banks provide a variety of financial services to both institutions and individual clients. To put it very simply, their main function is to raise capital (money) for companies to pursue business projects for profit. This can happen through the selling of company shares to the public (IPO), or issuing bonds so the public can lend them money (much like how governments issue bonds to finance their spending). Another service that investment banks provide may include asset/wealth management, which involves managing the money saved in company pensions, retirement investments, and high net worth individuals. The asset manager will be responsible for ensuring that money is invested properly and generate a satisfactory rate of return. Finally, the investment bank may also be involved in sales & trading of financial securities like stocks and bonds as well.

Top Company Examples: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank

Example Departments/Roles:
Front office – Investment Banking Division (IBD), Sales and Trading, Wealth Management, Asset Management
Middle/Back office – Research, Operations, Finance, Treasury

Investment Banking Job Prospects:
Investment banks are where the majority of Economics/Finance students from top universities aspire to work at, and is what most students imagine their Economics degree job prospects to be. This is mostly due to the very high starting salaries offered for analysts, which range from £60,000 to £91,000 a year, including bonuses. Note that this is for client-facing (front-office) roles which is more demanding than middle/back office roles in an investment bank. Breaking into the industry is very difficult even for top Economics graduates given the intense level of competition among students in Oxbridge, LSE, UCL, Warwick etc., and you will need to have done the right internship opportunities in the sector. In fact, successful students tend to receive a full-time job offer in their second year of study after completing their summer internships, which are very selective.

Ironically, not a lot of analysts stay on their jobs after being recruited, even though salaries increase exponentially. This is because of the role’s long hours of 60 to 80 hour weeks, high pressure, and get promoted or get fired (up or out) culture. 44% of investment banking analysts leave within 3 years after getting hired. Some bankers transfer into private equity or the buy side (asset management) where working hours may improve slightly. A more sustainable career pathway within an investment bank will be its non-client facing functions (company operations, compliance and regulations, etc.).

Business Consulting

Career Option Likelihood: Low/Medium
Simply put, consulting firms provide business advice to big companies. It is a very diverse field, as the expertise provided can be specialized in management, strategy, economics, politics, risk, operations, technology and more. Economic Consulting generally aims to answer questions on how the economy may affect the client business, or how a government decision may affect the economy. For example, if Economic growth in China softens, how would it affect sales of LV handbags? Other types of consulting typically do not involve Economics.

Management consulting is one of the bigger branches in consulting. It provides advice on how the business is managed, meaning anything from how the business acquires its supplies to produce goods, to internal/external business processes, human resources management, corporate strategy, brand management and more. Whereas strategy consulting deals with business strategy, so aims to address questions like: how should the business achieve revenue growth? What products should the business focus on? Should the business expand to overseas markets?

Depending on the needs of the client business, consulting projects can last months to years. Some consulting projects aim to provide advice on a particular business decision, which is usually done using industry expertise and research into the client business. Other projects may include implementation of the business advice given.

Example Types/Roles: Strategy Consulting, Management Consulting, Operations Consulting, Financial Consulting, Risk Consulting, Technology Consulting

Top Company Examples: McKinsey, Bain and Company, BCG, OC&C, Oliver Wyman, Accenture, NERA Economic Consulting
Note that the Big Four audit/accountancy firms also provide consulting services, and has become more prominent after making several acquisitions in the consulting industry.

Consulting Job Prospects:
Consulting can be claimed as the second favorite career option of top Economics/Management/Finance graduates. The reason it is so popular with students is because of its high starting salary (£31,000 average) and diverse job nature. It is possible to work with businesses in different industries as consulting projects come and go, so you may be working with a retail business for a few months and be switched to an oil and gas company the next. This exposure to various industries and business functions helps to accelerate one’s career. As many client companies operate multi-nationally, some consultants travel weekly to another country for work. Hence, it is alluring for Economics graduates and top business graduates to get into the industry.

Because of the perceived benefits, competition is again fierce to get into the consulting industry. The number of graduates they hire are very limited, and have high requirements – including a specialized business case-interview recruitment process. As junior consultants progress, there is an expectation for them to acquire an MBA at some firms, which may or may not be sponsored by the company. Salaries do increase as you step up the career ladder, although the pay is inferior to investment banking. Work hours can be long and stressful (50 to 80 hour weeks), and the travelling will add to your fatigue. Therefore, quite a number of junior consultants leave the industry after a few years, instead of trying to become a partner at the firm.

Big Four Audit/Accountancy Firms

Career Option Likelihood: Medium/High
The Big Four Audit/Accountancy firms provide a wide range of professional services to business clients, and are most well known for their audit and tax practices. When companies have their shares traded on the stock exchange and become publicly listed, they need to adhere to audit regulations set by the government. Independent auditors (audit companies) will then review and check their finances before they are published to investors. This is to ensure companies do not commit accounting fraud towards investors and lie about their profits/costs/revenue. Auditors do a variety of financial tests on the client company’s accounts to ensure their accuracy, for example checking their inventory and manufacturing equipment to verify assets owned by the company. Tax advisors in the Big Four, on the other hand, may help client companies calculate and submit their tax obligations to the government. Throughout this process, the accountants will hopefully minimize the tax paid, such as by considering the company’s tax deductible expenses. Some tax accountants even provide tax planning advice to reduce potential tax paid in the future. Finally, there are also career opportunities to work as a management consultant in the Big Four, and some professionals provide services/advice on company risk, valuation, and corporate mergers.

Example Practices/Roles: Audit (under Assurance), Tax, Advisory (Valuation, M&A, Risk)

Top Company Examples: PwC, EY, Deloitte, KPMG

Audit & Accounting Job Prospects:
With tens of thousands of hires each year globally, the Big Four Accountancy/Audit firms have become a safe choice for Economics graduates from top universities. Competition for a role is less fierce in these companies, particularly in audit/tax roles. Entry level pay is reasonable at around the £25,000 mark although it can vary by country. Given the opportunity to work with big listed companies in Big Four firms, it provides some brand recognition for the graduates’ CV. Audit professionals are expected to acquire the ACCA professional qualification a few years within getting the role in order to progress in their career. Quite a few graduates will leave after acquiring the qualification to work in finance divisions of large companies. Hence, the Big Four is a recognised and stable career path for Economics graduates.

Commercial/Retail Banking

Career Option Likelihood: Medium
Commercial and retail banking are focused on helping individuals and companies with banking services. This may include the provision of loans to client companies, transaction and bank account management services, and the recommendation of investment products to individuals/businesses. Some Economics graduates end up as relationship managers, who are responsible for maintaining the bank’s relationship with client companies. Relationship managers may be expected to sell or promote certain lending/investment products to clients as well, such that the bank can turn a profit. Others may be looking to encourage more SMEs to utilise their banking services, for example. There are also analyst roles available, which again, would likely make use of financial knowledge more than Economics.

Top Company Examples: Lloyds, Natwest/RBS, HSBC, Co-Op Bank

Other Career Paths

Career Option Likelihood: Low
There are other job opportunities for top Economics graduates that a small minority pursue. This ranges from working as Economic advisors (private and public sector), to graduate schemes, or becoming a teacher/academic. The reason most Economics graduates do not become Economists in the public or private sector is because job opportunities are rare. It is possible to apply for graduate schemes in multinational corporations, but most graduates do not feel comfortable venturing outside of Economics/Finance. Finally, the remuneration received from working in graduate schemes or in teaching / academic positions are lower compared to finance-related roles. Hence, there is a significant opportunity cost in pursuing something different and unpopular compared to the above positions.

What career opportunities do you wish to go for after finishing a BSc. Economics degree? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and discuss Economics degree job prospects with your friends!

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