Going to university is one of the most exciting times in any person’s life. You can look forward to exploring your own identity while discovering your independence for the first time. Not only will you be making new friends, you’ll also get to encounter all the exciting and challenging parts of becoming an adult in your own right.

If you plan to study a graduate degree program in economics we know however, that the most exciting part of this phase is to pursue your bachelor’s degree.

Are you ready to kickstart your career with a degree in Economics?

Does the idea of exploring economic systems, economics concepts and economic problems with the help of professors and faculty members excite you?

According to stats SA, only 1.9% of unemployed people in 2019 were graduates while 6.8% had other tertiary qualifications and 34.7% only had matric as highest level of qualification. This means that simply by becoming an economics graduate, you already have a competitive advantage in the job market.

The reasons why graduates are more favoured when looking at employability is because a bachelor’s degree in economics provides them with a variety of skills. During your degree studies you’ll gain life skills while quantitative and analysing skills make you more attractive to employers.

If you decide that you want to specialise in something like econometrics, you’ll take your numeracy and mathematics skills to the next level while also crafting and refining your analytical and reasoning skills.

Here are some of the skills you'll learn as graduate and the exciting jobs or possible specialisation fields you can enter with a degree.

What's an Economist?

Before we explore some thrilling and challenging jobs in economics, we need to ask the question: What is economics and what’s an economist?

Economics is the study of how humans and society behave to enable the production of goods and services in the face of scarcity.

We constantly have to make decisions as individuals, companies and countries on where or how we allocate resources like money, time or labour for maximum output.

The study of Economics touches on and considers all facets of life. Whether we’re thinking about behavioural economics, which is more focussed on the social science and human aspects of the study, or areas like managerial economics and financial analysis. All these various areas in Economics come together in the ever-changing landscape of economics.

General Economics graduate students or professional economists will be able to study and analyse economic data to help them predict economic activity. Government, private organisations and financial institutions all make use of this kind of information to guide and aid their decision-making around economic issues, policies and strategies.

As an economist you will do a lot of economic research to collect data, interpret data and forecast trends. You can study a Bachelor of Arts in Economics (BA), Bachelor of Science in Economics (BSc) or Bachelor of Commerce (Bcom) in Economics.  All graduates from these graduate programs will gather the exposure and proficiency in the basic economic theories and arguments including:

  • Microeconomics and Microeconomic theory
  • Macroeconomics and Macroeconomic theory
  • Economic History

Economics graduates in South Africa who decide to specialise will generally continue their studies towards a master’s degree. Don’t worry if you are a bit uncertain about your preferred course of study at this stage, during your undergraduate degree studies you’ll quickly discover your passions and potential areas of specialisation. Here are some of the most common jobs for Economics graduates:

  • Economic Researcher
  • Data Analyst
  • Public Sector Roles
  • Financial Risk Analyst
Reading newspapers
An Economist needs to know what is current in South Africa and the world. This data will inform their predictions around our economic climate - Image by Priscilla-du-preez on unsplash

Minors and electives will allow you to dip your toes into areas that might interest you. If you are investigating optional future careers in economics, selecting the correct major and minor courses will be your first step. Ensure these electives engage you and can set you apart from general graduates.

The various specialisation fields in economics are incredibly diverse. We won’t be able to cover all of them, but here are a few you can research and delve into during your undergraduate studies:

  • Labour economics
  • Organizational Behaviour
  • Development Economics
  • Growth Economics
  • Education Economics
  • Game Theory
  • International Economics
  • Financial Economics
  • Environmental Economics
Economics study will also consider aspects like job creation and unemployment - Image by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

The curriculum of most economics’ programs will also equip students with some valuable transferrable skills. These are skills of value regardless of the industry and job specialisation. Studies in philosophy and politics are more focussed around human and social aspects and thus automatically more attentive around language, communication skills and negotiation skills. Commerce studies on the other hand is focused on commercial, business and financial activity and will teach you some important transferrable skills like negotiation skills and business writing.

The true value economics provides come to the fore when an economics student start to apply their analytical skills, problem-solving skills and critical thinking to economic issues. Combining good social skills with these professional skills will most certainly make them attractive to any prospective employer.

Economics Careers in the Public Sector

Do you want to pursue a job in the public sector? This means you’ll join the government of South Africa to develop public policy, economic policy and regulations to serve and uplift communities and businesses. You can work for either the national or provincial government and economic specialists will advise on issues like labour, production output, GDP and fiscal policy.

Stimulating tourism, creating policy and trade measures around International trade, protecting local commerce and managing labour within the job market are all imperative aspects the South African Government needs to manage. Economists can become advisors in the Department of Trade & industry, Department of Labour, the Department of Tourism or even Public Works to mention only a few.

As career options you can also consider working with charities, councils or other parastatal organisations as their economic consultant. You’ll require a love for economics, a passion for politics and career goals that include a curiosity around how policies and measures can stimulate socio-economic behaviour and growth.

Trading with USA
Economists can land you a job where you can advise and inform the SA government around International trade policies - Image by Neonbrand on Unsplash

Jobs in The Private Sector

Probably one of the most diverse and commercially viable option for most graduates is to grow their career in a company. We recommend this option if you have an interest in business and economics as it’ll qualify you for economics careers in the business, banking or financial sectors.

Economic consultants are very similar to a general economist. They operate independently and give counsel on a case-by-case basis together with consultancy firms. On a freelance basis they’ll provide insights into a customer’s operations and how to best operate in the current and or future economic climates. You can imagine that this is quite important if you work on the vision and future strategy of an organisation as the country’s general economic activity will greatly influence operational viability and success.

If you have an interest in banks and insurance companies, you can consider becoming a financial analyst. They research financial press and online sources to analyse risk and similar to any economist, help their clients to make key decisions around potential risks, production allocation, earning capacity and other factors that could influence their future.

If you want a policy-orientated career in the banking sector there are also jobs at the reserve bank. They generally work with the government around how money supply in the market and monetary policy influences economics. Economists in banks will also work on issues like the inflation rate, lending rate or other important economic indicators we use to explain economic activity.

Having proficiency in accounting and financial risk will not only make you a good candidate for a career in financial analysis, you can also transfer those skills to become a chartered accountant or enter one of the other accountancy focused careers. Ensure you take accountancy as major and perform well during your undergraduate studies if you have an interest in possibly going this route.

private sector jobs
Economics graduates can also land a job at private companies where they help guide and inform the business on its strategy - Image by Anna-shvets on Pexels

Academic Economics Degree Jobs

Economics, like most modern industries, keeps evolving and it is exciting that new types of economists and specialists are required due to more complex and global variables impacting economic activity.

Economics graduates can also take the academic route when considering a future career to become an economics professor or teacher. Would you like to develop and inspire the future economists of South Africa? You can do a Phd in economics to become part of the economics faculty at a university or become an economics tutor like the ones we have on Superprof who help guide students in their studies daily.

Academics and economics
Do you enjoy working with young people? You can also become an economics teacher or economics professor after graduating - Image by andrea-piacquadio on Pexels

Ready, Set, Study

Job seekers always seek out the best graduates from graduate programs. Getting your degree in Economics will definitely help with getting a job, but if you are in the top 5% bracket of your graduate class it will improve your chances significantly.

Economics tutors on Superprof are there to help you as you work towards becoming the cream of the crop. You can organise a private class for you and your friends, in person or online. A tutor will guide you in your exploration of economic perspectives and most of all help you prepare for those scary exams.

Hopefully we’ve given you enough job options to explore, research and discover as you plan your graduate studies in economics. Regardless of what you choose, ensure you make the most of your time at university and your studies.

Enjoy the ride and may you land the job of your dreams.

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Writer and qualified yoga instructor, who is passionate about health and well-being.