What economists are trained for?

Dear students,

Economics is an area of inquiry as old as written human history. Economics is misunderstood by some as study of money and banks and some limit its scope as a mere study of economic transactions and interactions. Others take it as a study of economic policies of a government. Some as just the study of human behavior. Of course, it started as a social science and mostly is a social science. But that’s too narrow way of viewing what economists are doing all over the world.

Modern day economics is much more than that. Modern job market demands much more from economists. The term “economics” itself has become a misnomer and cannot capture the broader scope of what economists have been hired for and what they have been accomplishing in last decades.

Economists are trained and prepared for identifying problems, formulating them (almost exclusively in mathematical form) and find optimal solutions for those problems.

As is commonly stated, identification and problem formulation is half of its very solution. The dominant role of mathematics and data in economics is due to its efficiency and accuracy to move closer to the truth. Combination of mathematics and data can do miracles as can be seen in technologies around us. Half a million kilogram of Airbus can fly easily with a couple of engines and 500 passengers in it, Ibuprofen can relieve us from the unabated pain, we can predict the weather for next 10 days with ever increasing accuracy and we know how old the universe is. Without mathematics and data, rarely can one think of this level of accomplishment from mere bi-pedal humanoid designed to survive in the Savannas of Africa.

Flying an object is an example of a problem. This problem can be formulated mathematically and optimum shape, size and weight of the object can be determined using mathematical tools and data (experimental or observational). Economic problems like high inflation, lousy economic growth, massive unemployment can be similarly formulated in the mathematical language and optimal solution be derived or simulated.

Job market requires economists to possess tools to solve all sorts of optimization problems such as transportation, queuing, pollution, economic growth, macroeconomic stability, profit maximization, predicting stock returns, disease control, optimal time path, and infrastructure development. And the universities are compelled to train their students accordingly.

Most of the economists are very good at data science as well. Modeling data to learn about the reality is the necessary skill economists need to have to propel ahead in the professional life. As a direct consequence of availability of overwhelming high frequency and detailed information and big data, data visualization, computing and programming are well paid skills for economists to have.

Economists have found job at all sorts of industries and department like bio-tech, Microsoft, Amazon, central banks, commercial banks, UNICEF, World Bank and many other organizations.

Before diving into the field, New students should think about two things

  1. if they have the willingness and zeal to have a career of problem solving
  2. if their choice of institutions have will, infrastructure and human resources to meet the market demands.

Good luck for new economists!!