The economics major at Lewis and Clark college provides valuable training for a range of rewarding career opportunities as well as preparation for graduate study in economics, business, and law.
Graduate Programs in Economics
A significant number of our majors continue their study of economics after graduation. Students interested in pursuing graduate studies in economics have a range of options. The terminal degree in economics is the PhD. PhDs are most often sought by individuals wishing to pursue a career in academic research and/or teaching at the collegiate level. A PhD in economics is also of value to those seeking senior level private sector positions (e.g., researchers or managers at research institutes, consulting firms, investment banks) or senior governmental positions (e.g., Federal Reserve banks, Social Security Administration, Federal Trade Commission). A Master’s degree can be taken as a step towards earning a PhD or as a terminal degree for those interested in a career as a professional working economist. Students can earn a Masters degree in a range of applied subfields (e.g., health economics, public finance, environmental economics, public policy).
Getting into a good graduate program is difficult (program rankings). It is therefore important to select a school that matches your level of preparation. Graduate programs in economics (U.S. graduate programs, heterodox graduate programs) have become increasingly quantitative in nature, and it is strongly recommended that students with an interest in pursuing graduate studies invest in developing those skills (important courses to consider include, MATH 132 Calculus II, MATH 215 Discrete Mathematics, MATH 225 Linear Algebra, and MATH 235 Differential Equations). Graduate programs usually start with a solid grounding in advanced microeconomics, macroeconomics, mathematical economics, and econometrics. It is therefore imperative that students interested in graduate studies perform strongly in their core economic requirements (Econ 103, 291, 292, 303).
Students interested in pursuing graduate studies directly after graduating Lewis & Clark should start researching a range of schools by the summer of their junior year. You should plan on taking the GRE by October. Applications are typically due in December to early January, with acceptance letters sent out February through August. As part of this process students should be in close contact with the economics faculty in order to help determine which programs might be a good match and to secure letters of recommendation (AEA timeline for application). It is important that you select faculty members who are able to write you strong letters. Excelling in classes taken with a faculty member, being a good citizen of the economics department, and producing a solid piece of research in your senior thesis are all examples of how you can help yourself secure strong letters from the faculty. Students should also be sure to visit the Career Center for strategies on applying to graduate school.
A number of economics graduates go on to law school each year and the college has a range of resources for economics students interested in acquiring a law degree. If you are interested in attending law school we recommend that you contact one of Lewis and Clark’s pre-law advisors in their first or second year to help work out your curricular choices.
Students starting a career directly after graduation may encounter a challenging job market. Being housed in a Liberal Arts college, with its traditional focus on developing a broad set of traditional academic skills, the department does not attract the kind of business attention (jobs fairs, employer campus visits, etc.) that large departments at universities might. However, economics graduates that mount an organized job search achieve success in a wide variety of careers without any graduate training. Students should be sure to start a job search with a visit to the Career Center (make an appointment with a career counselor). Students can improve their job search prospects with a good internship experience as part of their economics degree. Internships provide a rich opportunity for on the job learning, applying classroom lessons to real world situations, and developing contacts. Lewis & Clark alumni, trustees, and friends of the college are also important sources of potential contacts for students.
Keep in mind that a job search is a process and that your first job out of college will most likely not be your last, and that part of what you will be doing in your first years after graduation is building a set of experiences, and contacts, and learning about yourself and the job market. A large body of research demonstrates that once the career of an economics major is underway their blend of analytic and quantitative skills are well rewarded (the Wall Street Journal reported in 2008 that Economics majors were the third highest paid college major, with a median starting salary of $50,100 and a median mid-career salary of $98,600).