The corporate world and the MBA

A popular path for economics majors

Although the economics major does not provide training for specific occupations, it provides the logical structure that pays off in understanding the big picture, the context for entering several fields in the corporate world. Its emphasis on logical thought and problem solving skills has universal value. Many employers seek to hire graduates with these skills.

Some students aspire to earn Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees, typically expecting to complete a two-year program in a graduate business school. Leading MBA programs expect applicants to have had several years of significant business experience before enrolling. The average age of students entering top MBA programs is 27 years. Bloomberg Business Week (search for MBA) provides an online guide to MBA programs as does Peterson's Business Degree Online, and a number of others.

The better MBA programs give some preference in admission to applicants with technical backgrounds including engineering, physics & math, and economics. Some areas of study in business like finance use a significant amount of mathematics. Undergraduate study in business then is not a primary or even necessarily a desirable path to an MBA. Of course, people who have developed their own successful businesses or enjoyed considerable success in other ways also tend to be attractive to MBA recruiters. The schools value success in many forms.

Students intent on careers as managers often seek a strong, general education. They want to learn effective communication skills, to develop habits of logical thought, and to practice their problem solving skills. Many undergraduate programs do this well; economics is often particularly effective.

In addition to careers as general managers and entrepreneurs, economics majors also often pursue careers in specific occupations common to the corporate world. Economics majors with the BA degree find jobs in the financial world, in marketing, and consulting. Some pursue one-year post baccalaureate programs for entry into a target career. The Master of Accountancy (MAc), for example, will launch an accounting career and go a long way toward completion of requirements for the Certified Public Accountant title.

Students who have a specific occupational goal will often do well in enrolling in a program of training specific for that occupation. For example, accounting majors readily get jobs as accountants on completing a BA. Finance majors have a good chance of being employed as financial analysts or budget officers. The broader horizons of the economics major are certainly not for everyone.