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Interested in Jobs in the International Arena?

A Degree in Economics Might Be Your Ticket

The old adage about it being a small world has never been more correct. With advances in the technologies of communications and transportation occurring at a dizzying pace, we can be literally almost anywhere on the planet in a matter of hours and virtually within seconds. These changes have led to a tremendous increase in the need for individuals with training related to international issues. While there are a number of fields of study one can pursue in order to gain this experience, graduate study in economics is one of the most flexible and effective. With most of the best graduate programs in economics located in the United States, looking at U.S. programs is an excellent place to start.

At its heart, economics is a discipline that teaches analytical thinking and problem solving. These skills are highly prized commodities in any job market, not least for jobs in the international arena. As part of this rigorous analytical focus, graduate work in economics (especially in the U.S.) typically involves extensive and intensive training in data analysis methods. In general, individuals with advanced degrees in economics are most highly prized for their abilities to think flexibly and to solve problems rationally.

Given the nature of graduate training in economics, it is not surprising to find that employers in the international arena are especially interested in applicants with an economics background. Certainly, fluency in foreign languages as well as some training in international affairs are attractive attributes to employers, and depending on the particular nature of the job certain other qualifications may be important. For example, careers in international banking might involve advanced degrees in finance or accounting, whereas work in the energy exploration sector might require training in earth sciences. However, the most commonly listed type of training that employers prefer is economics. In fact, of the jobs listed in International Jobs: Where They Are, How to Get Them, some 42% list economics as a preferred major of applicants (see chart). Quite a few of these international jobs also list the ability to carry out quantitative analysis as important attributes of successful applicants. This sort of training also figures prominently in the curricula of most U.S. graduate economics programs.

Why are economists in such demand in the international arena? A large part of the answer is that economists are trained to analyze and solve problems. Whether the job involves derivatives and securities trading, assessing the impact on African villages of the adoption of energy-efficient family cook stoves, negotiating on behalf of one's government before the World Trade Organization, or in any of the countless international jobs in between, disciplined and logical thinking will always be in demand.