Consulting or banking with loooots of money.
I am a third year Ph.D. student in economics (a top 15 program, Iím not comfortable saying exactly where I attend) and I have seriously begun questioning my career track since the start of the year. My degree is right on track (ďon trackĒ means Iím on track to graduate in 5 years, which is about normal at my school) Ė I have finished my coursework, I have passed all qualifying exams, and have found my thesis topic and an advisor that seems to enjoy helping me.
My problem is that I canít see myself working as an economist after I graduate. My advisor is helping me meet contacts and establish a name for myself to help me get a job when I graduate, but my doubts about my career started coming out when I started talking to these people, feeling like I had to bluff my way through to show enthusiasm. I have no desire to work in academics doing research and teaching. I donít feel comfortable telling my advisor this either because I honestly donít see him wanting to help me with my thesis if he realizes that Iím not all that excited about my work. Itís an extremely political environment. Heís a great guy and is trying his best to help, but research and teaching is really not for me.
Looking back, I can see that a lot of this comes from the fact that I didnít come to graduate school for a good reason. I came because I didnít know what I wanted to do when I was an undergraduate, I majored in economics and liked it, so I thought, ďwhy not?Ē Iím realizing now that research and teaching is just not for me.
I apologize for going on and on. Perhaps Iím just frustrated. My question, however, for anyone who knows is: what opportunities are available to people with a Ph.D. in economics who do not particularly want to do research or teaching for a living? At least not ďresearchĒ as it is defined academically. What do private sector economists do? What does an economist working at a bank or state/federal governments do? My perspective on the economics profession has been limited to academics. Any advice on how to find information on what else is available?
I have no intention of leaving before I complete my degree. Iíve worked too hard and too long for that. But Iíd like to ease my mind in the meantime by finding some careers out there that I can see myself tackling and enjoying after I finish.
I have a good friend who is all-but-dissertation from a top 20 PhD economics program. It's been 20 years since he left. He worked for about 10 years at a smaller consulting firm which specialized in valuations (loved it); then for about 6 years for a big accounting/consulting firm doing valuations, strategy and a mix of other stuff (hated it); and now is the Chief Operations Officer for a not-for-profit health care clinic (loves it). He has a wife, 3 wonderful children, a happy life and, as near as I can tell, no regrets about leaving economics. FWIW.
I believe that in international institutions, IMF, WB, IADB, etc, the research is more applied stuff. Maybe you should contact them and ask what they actually do. They also have summer internships, so maybe a good idea would be to apply and see what it actually is about.
Also, take a look at the kind of stuff that Varian is doing at Google, that might help.
I am still an undergrad, so you might wanna take my advice with a grain of salt, but here's my 2 cents.
Here are some gov't jobs (I just typed PhD Economics in the search field).
I imagine you know about this website, and they always have some non-academic job postings for economists.
Here are more private sector jobs (not all, but many of these jobs will take applications from PhD economists).
In the private sector, I think many economic consulting firms and also many corporations hire economists, so you may want to take a look there. The federal government hires a lot of economists (such as the Fed, CBO, BLS, etc). Not to mention, there are always think tanks (RAND, Hoover, Brookings, Cato, etc) and international organizations (like the IMF and World Bank).
In my opinion, those with a PhD in Econ could probably go into many jobs and succeed. It just seems like the analytic and quantitative skills we learn are highly valuable and also somewhat rare amoung the working population at large. Therefore, you could probably find work in many areas that are normally not thought of as economist jobs. For example, in the private sector I'd think PhD economists (with certain specializations) could probably get hired at places that traditionally hire MBAs.
First I want to say that it's really great how you, Youngeconomist, spend so much time on issues like that and your comments are always pretty usefull!!
My contribution: The following webpage also gives a nice overview of current job offers for economists. You may even specifiy continents, whether it should be in the academic sector, the private sector or the gov sector.
Hope it helps: Job Openings
"The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct, which with the addition of certain verbal interpretations, describes observed phenomena. The justification of such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it is expected to work." John von Neumann
Before you finalize your determination to go for the private sector, try working there for a short period. Maybe an internship in the summer or something like that. I worked for a year in a company and realized I'm always get drifted to the analytical or academic problem-solving style. Before I worked there I didn't know whether I will like academia or business better. My experience there, although very nice and enriching, made me go for the academia.
Supposed to be studying now.
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