Economics After Pitzer
One of the joys of teaching at Pitzer is the time we spend advising economics majors. Unfortunately we do not always get to spend enough time with our students. As one remedy, we have prepared this missive to answer some of the basic questions that you might have about what courses might be appropriate for what you have in mind after you leave Pitzer. This document is not intended to substitute for the direct advice that you can get from an advisor, but perhaps it can answer some of the more common questions, allowing the advising to be focused on circumstances that may be unique to you.
In this short document we do not discuss, of course, all employment possibilities; that would require a book. Nonetheless we shall try to cover those for which course preparation is particularly important.
Graduate Study in Economics
We would like to encourage more Pitzer economics majors to consider graduate study in economics. Economics is a worthwhile and rewarding profession, and we believe that the economics curriculum at Pitzer provides excellent training for graduate study. The main degree in economics is the Ph.D. Since many schools give a Master's Degree in economics to those people who they find are not equipped to complete the Ph.D., the Master's Degree in economics has become somewhat tainted and we would not recommend it as a terminal objective. If you have your heart set on a Master's Degree perhaps you should consider a related program that doesn't have this problem such as public policy, urban planning, etc.
There will be a tremendous demand for Ph.D.'s in economics in the next couple of decades, reversing the trend of the last decade or so. In part this is due to the large number of retirements of teachers and researchers who entered the profession thirty or forty years ago. Therefore the opportunities for Ph.D.s in your generation are very bright.
An economics Ph.D. program is quite mathematical. To prepare for it you should take much more math than we require. In particular you should have multivariate calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra. A demonstration of research skills through an independent study honors project or senior scholars project would also be very helpful.
Unlike many Ph.D. degrees, the economics Ph.D. degree is not totally or even normally a teaching degree. There are many job opportunities in both the public and private sector. If you would like to get some idea of the nature of these jobs and the fields that they are in you should take a look at a publication called Job Openings for Economists which is also available from the Department. We would also recommend that anyone planning a Ph.D. in economics consider our Major in mathematical economics.
Graduate Work in Business Contrary to popular belief, many graduate schools state unequivocally that the appropriate way to prepare for graduate school in business is not to take as many business oriented courses as possible. These schools prefer that you get a good solid analytical background and take a few key business courses to facilitate your entry into graduate school. Key courses to take would include accounting and finance. Some knowledge of computers and statistics would no doubt be helpful. If you intend to go into financial fields such as banking then Econ 130 (Money and Banking) would probably be an important course to take. Other courses of particular interest might include Econ 138 (Business Finance), Econ 139 (Investments), Econ 147 (International Finance), Econ 146 (International Trade), Econ 165 (Industrial Organization), and Econ 166 (Regulation of Industry).
Graduate School in Law
Economics has typically been excellent preparation for law school. It has a solid analytical base that usually provides excellent preparation for taking the LSATs, the law school entrance exam. In addition many law schools are now regularly teaching economics courses because they are finding that current legal doctrine is increasingly incorporating economic analysis.
Pitzer does not have a pre-law program as such. In the department some courses may hold special appeal for those interested in studying the law and the legal system. Those are Econ 168 (Economic Analysis of Law), Econ 165 (Industrial Organization), Econ 172 (Environmental Economics, which contains a healthy amount of environmental law), and Econ 150 (Public Finance, which contains a good deal of tax law).
A host of master's degrees are available in disciplines allied to economics. Typically these are not well known to undergraduates, but for some of you these may be exactly what you want. These include public policy, public health, urban planning, public administration, etc. Many of these degrees can be combined with further training in economics. Our students who have taken this route have typically entered excellent graduate schools and have done very well.
Many undergraduates don't really consider consulting firms as an employment possibility until their senior year. By then it is too late to acquire the specific skills consulting firms seek. You should consider them -- there are many such firms and they typically hire a large number of graduates. Our graduates do very well at consulting firms. The typical stint would be from one to three years followed by some kind of graduate school.
Aside from a strong grounding in economics, consulting firms most often look for some computer experience and some experience in econometrics. As a research assistant in a consulting firm you would typically be asked to assist with formulating models to be used in answering important policy questions. To provide evidence of this kind of experience in your background it would make sense to take Econ 125 (Econometrics), and to have some experience with both the mainframe computer and some microcomputers. In addition, it would make sense to have completed an independent research project in economics that can serve to demonstrate your ability to do research with a limited amount of guidance.
With the analytical thinking and critical writing skills developed in Economics, there are numerous employment opportunities in the private and public sector. In addition to consulting, students should consider investment and commercial banking, legislative and social research, and journalism, among others. In the public sector students should consider work at the local, state, federal and international level. Students should also consider fellowship opportunities after Pitzer like the Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Watson and Fulbright. We put new information on the Economics bulletin boards in Fletcher Hall quite frequently. Here you will find information on job opportunities, internships, graduate school options in economics and related disciplines, summer programs, and fellowships. Check it periodically!
Adapted from "Life After Colby", Department of Economics, Colby College, 1990.