What is Economics?
As an economist, you’ll delve into how society uses both natural and human-made resources. These include machinery, land, and raw materials such as lumber. You’ll also study how society actually regulates and distributes these resources. You may work in a purely theoretical framework or you may help CEOs make solid data-based decisions for their companies. The government also hires economists for policy-making purposes, as they help the government control decisions relating to whole economies. If you choose not to work in any of these types of positions, you may end up in academia, training the next generation of economists who will help decisions be made for the future.
As you read through rankings for Alabama colleges, remember that each school’s business college will have degrees focused on business-focused careers. Schools often focus their degree programs to create professionals who can fit well into the industry framework of the state where they are located. States with a lot of conservation efforts train more conservation professionals; states with a lot of industry headquarters will train more business professionals of all kinds. Local schools will offer degrees that are the most useful for the local workforce.
Economics Education in Alabama
Associate Degree in Economics (AS)
Beginning with your associate degree in economics, you may be able to find some work in an industry or business field. You may examine economic data and provide trend forecasts that involve societal issues, budget analysis, and business strategy. A two-year degree is also a big step toward a bachelor’s degree in either business administration, statistics, accounting, finance, or economics, depending on what your interests are going forward.
Earning an economics degree at this level prepares you to do one of two things: transfer to a four-year university or go into the workforce. To actually work as a fully-fledged economist will require you to hold a bachelor’s degree in economics. Because of the intricacies of studying patterns, numbers, and trends in business or finance, you’ll need that extra two years of education and experience.
Bachelor's Degree in Economics (BS)
Earning your bachelor’s in economics opens many doors to a new career. With a bachelor’s in the field, you may work in real estate, banking and financial services, consulting, the public sector, enterprise risk management, or insurance. You’re also better prepared if you decide to earn a master’s degree as it will give you more insight into the available concentrations. There are plenty of options including public policy, MBA programs, or even doctoral programs in finance, economics, or other business applications.
With a bachelor’s in economics, you may work in one of the following areas: utilities commission, stockbroker, litigation consultant, consulting firms, data mining, financial advising, and more. Experienced alumni who have gone back to school for master’s and doctoral degrees may work in management positions, as attorneys, credit risk managers, and as professors of economics.
Master's Degree in Economics (MS or MC)
As you move into a master’s program of an Alabama university, you’ll find you are being challenged and prepared as you continue growing your knowledge base and the breadth of your expertise. Your classes should give you the concepts you need as you work on state-of-the-art statistical analysis and economic analyses, whether you are in business, government, or industry. After you finish a master’s degree, you may work in universities, for business corporations, or government agencies.
Master’s programs usually require students to complete 30-36 credits to graduate. Classes at this level will be more challenging and may include Intermediate Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, Calculus and Applications, and Statistical Data Analysis. If you plan to go into a PhD program, you may take courses in preparation for this, as well as graduate-level electives.
PhD Degree in Economics (PhD)
If you choose to take on an economics PhD program, you’ll benefit from the advanced training you received from your master’s degree. You’ll expand upon the knowledge you learned in all other degree levels so that, when you graduate, you’ll be able to pursue positions that lead to research careers at other universities or teaching. You may also choose to work in economic analysis and forecasting, though many other positions in economics don’t require or make the best use of a doctoral degree. Public policy analysis is another area which may attract your interest and can benefit greatly from the higher-level research skills a doctorate will provide. Gaining access to these types of positions will allow you to work for a state, local, or federal government agencies looking to track the effectiveness of their economic policies.
To successfully receive your PhD, you’ll perform research and you’ll likely write a dissertation to demonstrate your grasp of the material.
Become an Economics Professional in Alabama
Earning successive degrees in economics means that, one day, you may be the one in the front of the classroom, as a professor. Or you might prefer to build a career in finance and banking. No matter where you end up, you’re unlikely to need any special licensure or certification to work as an economist in general. However, for those of you who are interested in teaching economics in a college classroom, working as a financial advisor, an actuary, a professional researcher for businesses or government entities, and some other positions – you might want to consider earning job-specific certifications that can expand your qualifications and gain you access to more career opportunities.
These certifications include actuarial certification, Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification, Professional Researcher Certification (PRC), and others. These are often provided by professional associations to provide licensure and value to their memberships, and to give employers something they can refer to when looking for a professional who is highly qualified for a particular position.
For those looking to become teachers or professors, you’ll need to review the requirements of the Alabama Board of Education to find what certifications and licensure you need for this type of position. To teach at the college level, you will need at least a master’s (or a doctorate), a graduate college teaching certificate, and active teacher licensure from the state.
Top College Programs in Alabama for Economics
- University of West Alabama:
Located in Livingston, this small, public university has a student population of just over 5,600. The school offers one degree in Economics and graduated 12 students with bachelor’s degrees in economics in a recent academic year.
- Tuskegee University:
This university is a small, private not-for-profit university with a student population of just under 2,900. Located in the remote town of Tuskegee, AL, the school offers three economics degree programs.
- University of Alabama in Huntsville:
This small university, with around 10,000 students, is located in a midsize city in northern Alabama. It’s a public, four-year university offering one major in business and managerial economics.
- University of Alabama at Birmingham:
This larger university has a student population of over 22,000 and offers two bachelor’s economics degree programs.
- Samford University:
This private, not-for-profit university has a student population of just under 5,700. They also offer two Economics degrees and graduated 19 students in a recent year from these majors.
- Troy University:
This large school, with a student population of around 16,400, is a public, four-year university. Troy University graduated 54 Economics students in 2019. Forty-nine students earned their bachelor’s degrees and five earned their master’s degrees within the field.
- Birmingham-Southern College:
This small college with a student population of 1,200 is a private, not-for-profit university. Six economics students graduated from the college in 2019, earning their bachelor’s degrees from the school’s general economics program.
- Auburn University:
A large university with a student population of 30,460, AU offers five economics degree programs to its many students across the bachelor’s/master’s levels.
- The University of Alabama:
This very large university boasts a student population of over 38,000 students. It is a public, four-year university offering several economics degree programs. In 2019, the university graduated 211 students with economics degrees.
Careers for Economics Graduates
If you plan to work as an accountant, having an analytical mind is a benefit. You should also like working with numbers and other financial data. In your daily work, you’ll provide support to the chief financial officer (CFO) or you may support the finance department. You may also work one-on-one with people to review their financial records before filing their taxes.
- Investment and Acquisition Analyst:
For this position, you may study different industries as you work with them when they buy or acquire other companies. You’ll also help them as they decide whether to sell, divide, or restructure these companies. Or the company you are working with may decide to combine companies so that they can realize a higher rate of growth and efficiency. You’ll help to support these deals by studying company operations and evaluating financial reports.
- Financial Planner:
In this position, you’ll be the professional helping people to manage their finances. You may be employed in a small financial planning company or you may be an independent contractor. Some financial services firms are requiring that their financial consultants and advisers earn a certification as financial planners. You may advise on investments, borrowing, saving for college or retirement, budgeting and saving for a car or home purchase. You may also oversee expenditures for your clients.
- Economic Researcher:
An economic research will carry out requested research and prepare reports on their findings. They may also create plans to focus on economic issues connected to the production and distribution of goods and services or create plans to address monetary and fiscal policy. Many of them also collect and process data (economic and statistical) by using sampling techniques as well as econometric methods as a part of their research responsibilities.
- Business/Financial Consultant:
In this position, you’ll be the professional responsible for creating financial plans for individual clients or organizations you may work for. You’ll ensure that the organization meets its financial goals using a variety of methods. Some of your main responsibilities may include monitoring financial situations, developing financial strategies, giving various options to clients, and forecasting (predicting) the fiscal year. You’ll also create in-depth reports on your organization’s financial status.
An actuary will analyze the financial costs or risk and uncertainty for their clients or employer. To do this, they use financial theory, math, and statistics to develop a good risk analysis. These professionals assist businesses and clients to help them create policies to minimize the overall costs of that risk. They provide the biggest benefit is to the insurance industry, which chooses customers presenting the lowest financial risk in order to maintain profits.
- Economics Professor:
In a university setting, economics professors will, of course, teach economics courses. They may also be put in charge of lower-level mathematics courses in order to get all students through their required math basics. Your working days may be mostly filled with teaching or you may combine teaching and research. At this level, teachers prepare lectures for students, undergraduate or graduate, on price theory, macroeconomics, econometrics, and more. They prepare homework assignments, handouts, and syllabi; conduct research and publish findings in professional journals, electronic media, or books; and stay current on developments in the field by reading current literature, participating in conferences, and talking with colleagues.