Applied Economics Career Information and Education Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

Because economics is essential for a number of different industries, those with a background in applied economics have a variety of career options. This article will discuss these options, paying particular attention to the financial managers, statisticians and mathematicians. A bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement for any of these positions, with statisticians and mathematicians typically needing a master's degree.

Essential Information

Applied economics programs cover how to implement economic theories into everyday business. Professionals with expertise in applied economics are needed in just about every sector, from private industry to government and academia. Many universities offer bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in applied economics with the option to focus on specific concentration areas.

Career Financial Managers Statisticians Mathematicians
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree in business management, finance, economics or accounting; master's degrees are becoming increasingly common Master's degrees in statistics or a related field are typically required Master's degrees are typically required
Other Requirements Significant work experience in a related field Experience in a related is typically valued Double majoring in mathematics and a related field is often recommended
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 15% 35% 3%
Median Salary (2020)* $134,180 $92,270 $110,860

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Economic theory can be applied to virtually any industry, making careers in this field highly valued. Those with experience and education in applied economics may serve in the following positions:

  • Agricultural manager
  • Budget analyst
  • Economics professor
  • Financial manager
  • Mathematician
  • Program analyst
  • Purchasing manager
  • Research analyst and director
  • Statistician
  • Transportation manager

Here is some more information on three possible career options for students studying applied economics:

Financial Managers

Financial managers typically come from related fields, such as accounting or financial analysis. They ensure that businesses remain financially sound by considering investment opportunities, writing financial reports, and overseeing a team of budget and financial analysts. Financial managers are the heads of their departments. While a bachelor's degree is usually required, a master's degree is becoming increasingly necessary. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median salary of $134,180 for financial managers as of May 2020. Job opportunities are expected to increase by 15% between 2019 and 2029.


Statisticians use numerical data to help businesses and organizations solve problems. They analyze surveys and reports and develop their own statistical theories and methods. Most statisticians possess at least a master's degree, although a bachelor's will suffice for entry-level positions. A Ph.D. may be necessary for research positions. The BLS projects that statisticians earned a median salary of $92,270 as May 2020. Jobs in this field are expected to grow by a relatively high 35% between 2019 and 2029.


Mathematicians used highly advanced mathematics techniques to analyze data in order to solve practical problems. Many spend time developing their own formulas and methodologies. These professionals can work in private industries, government, or academia. According to the BLS, mathematicians earned a median salary of $110,860 as of May 2020. Between 2019 and 2029, jobs are expected to increase by 3%, more than double the national average.

Career Information

Applied economics draws on economic principles to provide practical solutions for an array of industries including agriculture, aviation, finance, government, international and domestic banking, consulting, nonprofit and academia. A strong background in applied economics enables practitioners to make educated predictions about financial trends and consumer habits. For those working in government, this can affect policymaking decisions as well.

Skills and Training Needed

Although applied economics pertains to multiple positions, there are certain skills shared by those who put applied economics into practice. Strong talent in mathematics and statistics are essential as well as econometrics, which is the ability to apply statistical theories to economic and financial data. An economist analyzes and interprets information to develop solutions for problems. Thorough knowledge of microeconomic and macroeconomic theories as well as organization and effective communication is also important.

Education Requirements and Concentrations

Degrees in applied economics typically offer students many options for specialization. Bachelor's degree programs include courses in macroeconomics and microeconomics, finance, advanced calculus, linear algebra, business statistics, econometrics, environmental economics, agricultural policy, international trade and finance, price analysis and business regulation. Additional courses in physical and life sciences as well as communications may be required.

Master's degrees (M.S. or M.A.) require courses in economic theory. Advanced degrees will delve deeper into the field and offer concentrations in environmental economics, international trade, public health, and transportation. Many schools offer the choice between a traditional thesis and research project.

Doctoral degrees in applied economics prepare students for careers in academia and public policy programs. Ph.D. candidates take advanced courses in economic theory and policy, conduct their own field research and write a dissertation.

Knowing what path one wants to take in applied economics can help to ensure that they gain the skills necessary to be successful. Those wishing to become statisticians or mathematicians should plan on earning a master's degree. Students of applied economics can usually specialize or take special courses in order to set themselves apart in their job search.

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