So, you’re curious about a career in economics, but you’re not sure what jobs you can do with an economics degree. Let’s explore all the potential pathways and opportunities you can enjoy in this field.
At first glance, the Bachelor of Economics is often misunderstood as a degree consisting entirely of numbers, money and analysing the nation's interest and inflation rates.
However, the study of economics is simply about trying to understand therelationship between different things in order to make informed decisions – or reverse bad ones.
This process often involves seeking to understand human behaviours and how those behaviours impact the world around us, especially in terms of resource allocation, wealth distribution, access to justice and more.
By applying a social understanding or pattern – or even the absence of either – to populations of human beings, economists can uncover:
why markets react the way they do
what results might occur and why (e.g. basic supply and demand)
how a nation’s future might be economically impacted by these
how we can influence change now to build a different future.
Needless to say, economists are integral to creating change and shaping the circumstances of people, planet and profits.
Economics: the science of people
Economics is often described as a ‘science of people and behaviours’. Whether you’re embedded in the economics of a single financial institution or driving policy reform at a national level, you can apply the study of economics to almost anywhere your passions take you.
Upon graduation, you could be looking at a variety of job opportunities including but not limited to:
Potential job opportunities with an economics degree
Business development manager
Economic governance analyst
Economic development analyst
Social enterprise owner / director
Read on to learn about the many career paths available to economists in areas including health care, sustainability, tourism, finance and philanthropy (to name a few). Or skip ahead to the area that interests you:
Mikhara Ramsing (Bachelor of Laws (Honours) / Bachelor of Economics) is a UQ Distinguished Young Alumni Award winner and one of the Australian Financial Review’s Top 100 Women of Influence (2019). She graduated in 2015 and started her own Australian-made social enterprise, where 50% of the profits fund suicide prevention.
Founded in 2019, Miks Chai – ‘tea for mental health’ – is a simple idea put to good use, which, when backed by a strong understanding of supply chains, economic theories and human behaviour, was destined to thrive.
“I loved my economics degree at UQ, particularly the courses that pushed us to think about the social and political impacts of different economic models,” says Mikhara.
“It made me feel empowered to be the change I wanted to see in the world.”
Mikhara didn’t stop there though, taking on the position of project manager for community incubation and innovation at UnitingCare Queensland in 2021. At the same time, she continued to run her second successful company, Ethnic LGBT+ – an online platform that has helped over 5000 culturally and linguistically diverse LGBTQIA+ individuals navigate national resources.
“An understanding in economics enables me to dream big every day,” she says.
“I understand the micro, meso and macro interactions that make the way we work and design so interesting. I feel like I’m solving the problems that matter to people and planet.”
“These are complex challenges that require all minds coming together to create a better future.”
With an economics education, you’ll gain insight into real-world scenarios and experience a fundamental shift in your thinking that allows you to discover and understand potential solutions to problems.
Can you be an environmental economist?
Did you know our Great Barrier Reef supports as many as 64,000 jobs, contributing $6.4 billion to the Australian economy?
Current graduates have more opportunities to work in the environmental space than any previous generation. The same goes for students graduating with a Bachelor of Economics who are eager to play their part in a greener future.
Today, there are government departments dedicated to the allocation of natural resources. Increasingly, private businesses are looking at developing their corporate social responsibility (CSR) alongside their financial sustainability. Both the private and public sectors hire environmental economists to quantify costs – such as in the above Great Barrier Reef study – and subsequently inform policies, business logistics and sustainable viability for the future.
Often these roles conduct cost-benefit analyses on a number of areas, from renewable energy use in households to funding new installations such as hydroelectric or turbine power plants. Environmental economists also look at issues like the human cost of pollution and how governments might reduce these impacts.
Typically, these findings are then used to influence government policies, private investment and business operations in a way that will remain financially viable while also benefiting generations to come.
How can economic theory be the key to a greener future?
Another pathway for economics graduates interested in a greener future is academia.
Academics working in economic theory can research any area of their choosing. Their job consists of teaching, research and service relative to this area.
By spending a large portion of their time researching a topic, academics become experts in their fields and are often on the board of various councils, foundations and policy reform taskforces.
and, of course, the environment and sustainability.
UQ’s own Professor John Quiggin found himself pursuing a career as an academic in economic theory to influence change and help the public understand issues that would impact them.
“I wanted to communicate my ideas to the general public in simple terms,” says John.
“While the work requires a lot of patience because progress can be very slow, it fascinates me.”
In particular, John is a vocal advocate for progressive policy changes in both the green energy sector and the general wellbeing of populations.
“I’ve been doing lots of work advocating for the decarbonisation of the energy sector, and advocating for a reorientation of the economy towards increasing leisure time – for example, through a 4-day working week,” he says.
According to John, if implemented correctly, ideas such as a 4-day week can be offset by an increase in output per hour – not to mention a happier and healthier population. This approach would subsequently reduce costs in health care and boost tourism.
By applying an economic lens to societal problems, John can convince those in charge to discuss topics that might otherwise be dismissed as idealistic and impractical when they’re actually more beneficial to the economy.
Of course, academic economists don’t only go to bat for green energy or workforce wellbeing. There is a myriad of options to sink your teeth into, including the complex world of health care.
What is health economics?
Australia’s healthcare system, while among the best in the world, has arguably missed the mark on providing adequate and accessible services to minorities, rural communities and patients with uncommon medical needs.
Like many young people, economics graduates want to feel a sense of purpose and contribute to a more inclusive future. If you choose to pursue a career in health economics, you’ll join the economists who are working to ensure our healthcare system meets the needs of all Australians.
Health economics involves applying economic theories to the current healthcare system to identify a dollar value and subsequent cost to the taxpayer. This information is then used to reform healthcare policy and services to ensure they’re more equitable and economical.
Health economists – like those at the Centre for the Business and Economics of Health – identify shortfalls in the current system either at a policy or operational level within a hospital or clinic. They then identify more effective methods of resource allocation to better service the needs of the population.
During her placement, Michelle reviewed international telehealth evidence and identified what the future might look like in various scenarios. She then used these findings to propose recommendations to policymakers.
“My research proposal was chosen based on its relevance to the current policy context,” says Michelle.
“A nationwide telehealth program is not a small investment, so my policy brief assessed telehealth from a costs and benefits perspective, and considered the equitable distribution of these services.
"The placement gave me an opportunity to immerse myself in the policymaking process and gain experience on how to communicate with policymakers. I was even able to chat with representatives from the Department of Health directly.”
“What makes this work so rewarding is the feeling that I’m making a difference in people’s lives, by applying economics to answer policy-relevant questions.”
Boosting the tourism industry using economics
Did you know national parks in Queensland alone generate over $2.5 billion annually?
Young economists in this field play an integral role in quantifying the tourism industry. They do this by identifying which areas need protection for future economic gain and other areas which, with the right funding, could also thrive.
Relevant jobs in the tourism industry include research officers, investment attraction officers, statistical analysts and economic development directors – just to name a few.
Bachelor of Economics alumnus Tiana Stuart is living proof of the opportunities available in the sector. The high-achieving student and proud Iningai and Gubbi Gubbi woman always knew she wanted to pursue economics. What she didn’t expect, however, was to land a job at the Australian Bureau of Statistics after graduation.
Currently working as a statistical analyst on the national Tourism Satellite Account, Tiana has been analysing the direct contribution to the economy from the tourism industry nationwide – including GDP, consumption and employment patterns.
Improving our quality of life is a central purpose of the study of economics. One way to achieve this purpose is by giving back to the community through information-sharing and education, as Bachelor of Economics alumnus Tiana Stuart knows well.
Speaking as chairperson for the Aboriginal not-for-profit organisation Gubbi Gubbi Dyungungoo Group, and as a regular volunteer at Aboriginal cultural education workshops provider Bulu Yabun, Tiana has noticed her economics degree coming into play in more ways than one.
Currently, Tiana is applying her education and expertise to support the important Know Your Country campaign as an ambassador. The campaign aims to employ First Nations Cultural Educators in every primary school to teach the history, culture and language of their local area.
“Right now, our work is focused on giving back to the community through education,” says Tiana.
"All children should have the opportunity to learn about the Country they live on from local Cultural Educators.
“There's also a lot happening in terms of First Nations languages becoming more of a topic of discussion. People are becoming more interested in the teaching of these languages now.”
“Bringing an economics perspective to the table gives you not only a unique perspective but an understanding of the market in which you play and what's happening right now.”
As an ambassador for the campaign, Tiana is proud to see schools engaging and learning about the local Traditional Owners of their area and the history of the Country they live on.
As an Aboriginal woman, growing the breadth of representation in the economics discipline is something Tiana is passionate about.
“Currently, the field of economics is underrepresented,” Tiana said.
“It’s crucial that Indigenous voices are heard, especially since economists play a vital role in informing policy. There's so much more that we can delve into – in every policy or discipline, there's an Indigenous perspective."
"We as economists can help unpack this perspective in a really impactful way.”
Where can an economics degree take you in the finance world?
Perhaps the most well-known careers in economics are those in the finance world.
Whether you end up as a financial planner, investment analyst or even an auditor, young economists in financial institutions assist in risk assessments for loans and investments, allocation of budgets and resources, and even business development.
Charles Hornery, a Bachelor of Commerce / Bachelor of Economics alumnus and Gunggari man, found his feet as an analyst with National Australia Bank (NAB) after graduation.
Today, he helps institutional property clients secure funding for upcoming projects. His notable transactions include Westfield shopping centres and multibillion-dollar industrial sites located throughout Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A common misconception is that economics is just about boring statistics and outdated knowledge – and isn’t fun,” says Charles.
“This couldn’t be any further from the truth in my opinion. Every day I’m able to work with millions (if not billions) of dollars from the balance sheet of NAB, track market trends, talk and connect with big ASX200 clients and understand a whole suite of trading products the bank issues – how cool is that?”
“Ultimately, I want to one day sit on the board of a listed company, remain in banking and support other Indigenous professionals to make a path in their chosen career.”
Effie Zahos, a no-nonsense finance commentator and Bachelor of Economics graduate, also tackled a career in finance following the completion of her economics program – though she represents a slightly different avenue: an expert in the public eye.
Gracing Channel 9’s Money Show in 1997, Effie successfully launched her public career in finance journalism, providing easy-to-follow expert tips for everyday Australians.
“I fell in love with economics from the get-go; understanding the fundamentals was like a lightbulb moment,” says Effie.
“It just makes sense and it teaches you to understand the choices we make about everything, from work to leisure – everything. When I started out, I didn’t necessarily have a grand plan, I just knew I loved economics – I didn’t quite know where I would land.”
“I am so grateful to be doing what I do today and to be able to help people and bring what I know into their households. Knowledge is power, and sharing that knowledge is very fulfilling.”
Effie continues to turn her experience as the former editor of Money Magazine and current editor-at-large at Canstar (impressive feats on their own) into a thriving and meaningful career, and has successfully authored a flourishing suite of books.
Effie has authored 3 books: A Real Girl's Guide to Money: From Converse to Louboutins, Ditch the Debt and Get Rich, and (not pictured) The Great $20 Adventure for kids.
Despite the exciting life being in the public eye demands, it’s not the glory that sustains her. For Effie, it’s about the real impact her work provides.
“I love being able to help people understand their worlds and find solutions to the decisions that affect them; it’s very rewarding to see the impact I’m able to have on their lives – it’s the reason I get up every day,” she says.
“I have the ability to demystify complexities for others, and truly help people understand their own choices on a finance level. I really enjoy seeing them grow and support their goals.”
“It truly is so satisfying to be able to help people.”
It’s clear that the study of economic theory can be effectively applied to nearly any sector.
From health care to community, the environment to banking – even education, law reform and engineering – an economic perspective can help us determine values, efficiencies, equitable distribution and sustainable viability of businesses and policies.
Much like any discipline, the breadth of economics careers is always expanding. New areas are constantly coming to light, including banking reform, economic technology and behavioural economics.
Take cryptocurrency as an example. While still extremely volatile, it’s not outside the realm of possibility for Bitcoin to develop its reach and legitimacy for banking in the future. This turn of events would require economists to advise on policy, privacy and security, governance and, of course, risk.
Jobs and opportunities for graduates within these newfound spaces weren’t fully realised until only a decade ago – a pattern that’s bound to repeat in the next 10 years. One thing is for sure, however; with unlimited ways to apply economic theory, an education in this discipline will prepare you to tackle any new frontier.