What’s A Graduating Economics Major to Do?


By Cole Lennon Graduating from college often begs an important question: “Now what?”  Recently compiled research from the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce helps answer that question, particularly as it looks back on economic data on college graduates from 2009-2012.  Even as wages and labor market conditions have improved since 2012, the report still yields interesting information on salaries, returns on graduate education, and more.

The most recent data on undergraduate economics majors in 2012 is an ideal place to start.  Recent graduates had an average salary of $47,000, which was also the 9th highest starting salary by major for this cohort.  It was also tied for the highest salary amongst both social science and business disciplines, with recent graduates in finance tying the amount of $47,000.  Adding experience also makes this data even more interesting, as experienced economics graduates made an average salary of $83,000.  This massive boost (something the report counts as 3 or more years in the labor force) is incredibly helpful to note: Experience really does pay off, in a sense.

Graduate education is the next category to explore.  Recent graduate degree-holders in economics boasted an average salary of $75,000, making for a $28,000 boost in earnings from undergraduate to graduate (experience not included).  This jump is the 2nd highest amongst all majors, only being exceeded by a $30,000 earnings bump for computer science majors.  Still, experienced economics graduate degree-wielders got an average salary of $113,000.  This is yet another massive leap in terms of how much experience does play a role in how earnings increase.

Other interesting factors to consider include age and the unemployment rates for each major, as they add another dimension to the salary data provided.  The questions, overall though, move from qualitative to quantitative.  “Now what?” is the prevailing question immediately after graduation, but “How much?” is sure to follow. – CL