What is economics?

Economics investigates the choices people, businesses and governments are forced to make because of a fundamental truth: resources are scarce. Economics is not just about money, consumption, and profits. Rather, economics is a decision-making science that seeks to understand human behavior and find solutions to improve peoples' lives. In the Department of Economics at Western Michigan University, you will be challenged to think about all of the situations in which scarcity forces choices such as how to engage with government and making decisions on money, time and trade.


Information on WES Economics courses can be found here

Why study economics?

“What can I do with a degree in economics?” is a common question. In fact, “almost anything” is the correct answer. A degree in economics is not just for those interested in working in finance, or banking, or in the government. In fact, the knowledge and skills you acquire in economics courses are useful in a wide variety of career fields. Studying economics provides you with essential analytical problem-solving skills essential that employers look for in college graduates. In fact, current questions being examined by economists include:

  • What are the short-run and long-run economic impacts of ocean acidification?
  • How do tradeable pollution permits and pollution emission taxes differ in their approach to controlling pollution?
  • What role will autonomous vehicles have on urban planning and future public transportation system design?
  • How and why does a foreign nation’s macroeconomic stability affect U.S. security interests?
  • What are the implications of population aging on a nation’s economic growth prospects?
  • How would additional countries leaving the European Union affect U.S. trade and economic growth?

A career in economics; it's much more than you think.

A degree in economics is useful to all individuals and can lead to many interesting career choices. Watch the video below from the American Economic Association - these four diverse individuals offer their insights on how a background in economics can be a tool for solving very human problems. A Spanish edition is also available.


Careers in economics

What do U.S. Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Donald Trump have in common with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day-O’Connor, UN General Secretary Kofi Annan, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, SpaceX founder Elon Musk, actor Ben Stein, eBay CEO Meg Whitman, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, Walmart founder Sam Walton, NASA Shuttle Commander Col. Eileen Collins, and New England Patriots football coach Bill Belichick? They all have economics degrees.

As noted by that list, those with economics training can be found working in a variety of career fields. WMU Career Services provides an employment list of recent WMU graduates with economics degrees in Economics and Economics in Business.

Here is a broader list of companies and positions suitable for economists:

  • Accenture – Technology Consultant
  • Allstate – Catastrophe Modeling
  • Aon Hewitt – Banking, Outsourcing Specialist
  • Amazon - Economist
  • Bank of America – Quantitative Management
  • Chicago Board of Trade/CME Group – Commodities Clerk
  • CitiBank – Business Intelligence Analyst
  • Expedia – Market Analyst
  • Ford Motor Company – Data Scientist
  • Hartford – Risk Management Analyst
  • KPMG Business – Economic Valuation Services
  • Northwestern Mutual Life – Financial Security Support Services
  • SpaceX – Supply Chain Analytics

Here is a partial list of government agencies that hire economists:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics – Economist
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture - Economist
  • Central Intelligence Agency – Analytic Methodologist
  • Central Intelligence Agency – Economic Analyst
  • Central Intelligence Agency – Targeting Analyst
  • Congressional Budget Office - Macroeconomist
  • Department of Justice - Economics Analysis Group
  • Federal Trade Commission – Economist
  • Department of Homeland Security – US Coast Guard- Economist
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development - Economist
  • U.S. Army Corp of Engineers
  • U.S. Department of State – Foreign Service
  • Plymouth, MI – Senior Economic Development Manager

Interested in more information?

Check out Career Advice for economics majors, What to do with an economics degree, as well as Policy, Economics Show Med Students the Big Picture. For more information on U.S. government jobs, visit

Pursuing graduate studies with an economics degree

At the recent WMU Graduate/Professional School Fair, economics graduates were highly sought-after in many graduate academic and professional programs—in addition to economics and business—including:

  • Business Analytics
  • Economic Development
  • Geography/Demographics
  • Health Informatics
  • Human Resource & Industrial Relations
  • International Studies
  • Law School
  • Masters in Management
  • Medical School
  • Peace Sustainability
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Survey Methodology
  • Urban/Regional Planning


Questions about a career or a degree in economics? Check out our Advising page.