Differences in employment prospects amongst graduates of the various economic degrees

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Aizak852
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#1
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#1
Hello,

I am interested in taking an MSc Economics degree to pursue a career as a GES Economist / Economic Consultant in the UK, but as I was doing research on possible programmes offered by various unis to apply to, I found that there are a lot of variant programmes: apart from the most intuitive 'MSc Economics', there are also 'MSc Economics and Econometrics', 'MSc Economics and Finance', 'MSc Economics and Public Policy', 'MSc International Business and Economics', etc. I am wondering what's the difference amongst all these degrees in terms of graduate employability, i.e. whether taking one of those degrees will give an edge over the others in terms of achieving what I want to be?

A bit about my background, my first degree was an American Bachelor of Science degree in Public Policy, in which approximately half of them are econ courses in nature but with a public policy twist to them, plus calculus and statistics courses up to the intermediate level. I have been working in the public policy realm for 10 years and am considering to make the said switch by topping up myself with an MSc Econ (or Econ-related) degree in the UK.

Any advice on this would be much appreciated.
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BenRyan99
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#2
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#2
(Original post by Aizak852)
Hello,

I am interested in taking an MSc Economics degree to pursue a career as a GES Economist / Economic Consultant in the UK, but as I was doing research on possible programmes offered by various unis to apply to, I found that there are a lot of variant programmes: apart from the most intuitive 'MSc Economics', there are also 'MSc Economics and Econometrics', 'MSc Economics and Finance', 'MSc Economics and Public Policy', 'MSc International Business and Economics', etc. I am wondering what's the difference amongst all these degrees in terms of graduate employability, i.e. whether taking one of those degrees will give an edge over the others in terms of achieving what I want to be?

A bit about my background, my first degree was an American Bachelor of Science degree in Public Policy, in which approximately half of them are econ courses in nature but with a public policy twist to them, plus calculus and statistics courses up to the intermediate level. I have been working in the public policy realm for 10 years and am considering to make the said switch by topping up myself with an MSc Econ (or Econ-related) degree in the UK.

Any advice on this would be much appreciated.
Ultimately it depends haha, if you'll forgive the expression.

The impact of a specific MSc Economics variant will likely depend on where you study it and what type of economics you want to do in the future. The general rule is that the more quantitative, the better in terms of employability, and the relative level of quant is highly correlated with quality of university. This means that you could make a case that 'lower regarded courses' (e.g. economics and management) at a very good university still have better employment prospects than something like an MSc Economics and Econometrics at a good university.

But it also depends on what you want to do in the future. You said GES/Economic Consulting but this covers a vast array of roles so isn't very specific - GES covers the whole of government economics so covers every sub-topic in economics, Economic Consulting is similar in that roles could be macro/micro/econometrics/data science/strategy roles/almost every sub-topic in economics. I'm saying this because unless you know which areas of economics you actually want to work in, then how can you pick the right university (Econ department specialisms are quite important at master's level) or the right MSc Economics variant?

I've done a master's in economics here in the UK and researched them thoroughly beforehand. Whilst I can only give my opinion and I'm not a 100% expert, if you let me know what sort of unis and specific careers you're looking at I can try to point you in the right direction regarding MSc Economics courses (or at least tell you what I would do if in your position).
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Aizak852
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#3
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(Original post by BenRyan99)
Ultimately it depends haha, if you'll forgive the expression.

The impact of a specific MSc Economics variant will likely depend on where you study it and what type of economics you want to do in the future. The general rule is that the more quantitative, the better in terms of employability, and the relative level of quant is highly correlated with quality of university. This means that you could make a case that 'lower regarded courses' (e.g. economics and management) at a very good university still have better employment prospects than something like an MSc Economics and Econometrics at a good university.

But it also depends on what you want to do in the future. You said GES/Economic Consulting but this covers a vast array of roles so isn't very specific - GES covers the whole of government economics so covers every sub-topic in economics, Economic Consulting is similar in that roles could be macro/micro/econometrics/data science/strategy roles/almost every sub-topic in economics. I'm saying this because unless you know which areas of economics you actually want to work in, then how can you pick the right university (Econ department specialisms are quite important at master's level) or the right MSc Economics variant?

I've done a master's in economics here in the UK and researched them thoroughly beforehand. Whilst I can only give my opinion and I'm not a 100% expert, if you let me know what sort of unis and specific careers you're looking at I can try to point you in the right direction regarding MSc Economics courses (or at least tell you what I would do if in your position).
Thanks Ben. I must confess that I am still in the rudimentary stage of contemplating what I want to do with the MSc Economics degree, but at the moment I think the two fields of economics that have captured my imagination the most are behavioural economics and development economics. As for unis, I am currently looking at Warwick, Nottingham, York and City.
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BenRyan99
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#4
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(Original post by Aizak852)
Thanks Ben. I must confess that I am still in the rudimentary stage of contemplating what I want to do with the MSc Economics degree, but at the moment I think the two fields of economics that have captured my imagination the most are behavioural economics and development economics. As for unis, I am currently looking at Warwick, Nottingham, York and City.
Yeah I'd recommend figuring out what you're interested in and what career you want the MSc to lead into, before applying. But yeah two of Nottingham's specialisms are behavioural and development economics so could be one to consider.

Generally I'd rate them in the following order: Warwick, Nottingham, York, City. But there are also better economics departments in the UK than the ones you've mentioned, just depends on things like finances, undergrad grades and course preferences.
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Aizak852
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(Original post by BenRyan99)
Yeah I'd recommend figuring out what you're interested in and what career you want the MSc to lead into, before applying. But yeah two of Nottingham's specialisms are behavioural and development economics so could be one to consider.

Generally I'd rate them in the following order: Warwick, Nottingham, York, City. But there are also better economics departments in the UK than the ones you've mentioned, just depends on things like finances, undergrad grades and course preferences.
Hi Ben,

Thanks for your advice and as I have mentioned in another post you have responded to, U of Nottingham gave me an offer to their MSc Economics programme this coming September and I have some time to consider whether I will accept it.

I looked into the different branches/disciplines of economics and I'd my original thoughts about behavioural and development economics are still my preference and what I want to do after the MSc programme as I come from a public policy background and I like to explain things more in words than purely crunching numbers. I suppose there are still quite a fair bit of quant to do in both branches but it seems to me that they are the least quant ones within the Economics discipline by comparison. I hope I am right on this?

In that regard, might you know whether the demand for behavioural economists and development economists are big enough in the market? I tried to look it up on Google but there seems to be no breakdown figures showing the demand (how large, which employer, what kind of jobs) and salary range for behavioural / development economists versus economists in other branches (say financial analyst or monetary economists working for the Bank of England). Based on what you've said previously about the general rule that "the quant-er, the better" in terms of doing an economics degree for better job opportunities, I am worried that the behavioural /development economics field might not have as many opportunities as the more quant branches of the field.

Another question is my concern about whether employers (GES, economic consultancies, etc.) accept mid-career changers in their 30's, i.e. whether they would give preference to fresh graduates instead as this would affect the difficulty in finding a job after completing the master's degree at Nott.

One more side question is about the necessity of joining industrial societies like The Society of Professional Economists (SPE) or the Royal Economic Society (RES) - I found these two names on Prospects.ac.uk when I was doing my research. As I understand it, economists are not licenced like how Social Work England licenses its members as qualified social workers, or the Solicitors Regulation Authority licenses its members as qualified solicitors. So I am wondering how helpful/necessary it is to register with the SPE or RES?

Thanks and sorry for the long questions, hoping to hear your insights on the above.
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BenRyan99
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#6
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#6
(Original post by Aizak852)
Hi Ben,

Thanks for your advice and as I have mentioned in another post you have responded to, U of Nottingham gave me an offer to their MSc Economics programme this coming September and I have some time to consider whether I will accept it.

I looked into the different branches/disciplines of economics and I'd my original thoughts about behavioural and development economics are still my preference and what I want to do after the MSc programme as I come from a public policy background and I like to explain things more in words than purely crunching numbers. I suppose there are still quite a fair bit of quant to do in both branches but it seems to me that they are the least quant ones within the Economics discipline by comparison. I hope I am right on this?

In that regard, might you know whether the demand for behavioural economists and development economists are big enough in the market? I tried to look it up on Google but there seems to be no breakdown figures showing the demand (how large, which employer, what kind of jobs) and salary range for behavioural / development economists versus economists in other branches (say financial analyst or monetary economists working for the Bank of England). Based on what you've said previously about the general rule that "the quant-er, the better" in terms of doing an economics degree for better job opportunities, I am worried that the behavioural /development economics field might not have as many opportunities as the more quant branches of the field.

Another question is my concern about whether employers (GES, economic consultancies, etc.) accept mid-career changers in their 30's, i.e. whether they would give preference to fresh graduates instead as this would affect the difficulty in finding a job after completing the master's degree at Nott.

One more side question is about the necessity of joining industrial societies like The Society of Professional Economists (SPE) or the Royal Economic Society (RES) - I found these two names on Prospects.ac.uk when I was doing my research. As I understand it, economists are not licenced like how Social Work England licenses its members as qualified social workers, or the Solicitors Regulation Authority licenses its members as qualified solicitors. So I am wondering how helpful/necessary it is to register with the SPE or RES?

Thanks and sorry for the long questions, hoping to hear your insights on the above.
First, congrats on the Notts offer, it's arguably the best uni to do an economics master's outside of the 'elite' ones (LSE, Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and Warwick).

An important thing to note about the economics courses Notts offer is that they split them into 'technical' and 'non-technical'. So you'll be able to see on the course pages that not all courses do the same core micro/macro/metrics classes. Basically the MSc Financial Economics and MSc Economic Development and Policy Analysis courses are considered the non-technical ones the rest are 'technical'. This basically means that those two do a different compulsory micro and macro module that's less theoretical and mathematical, they also aren't forced to do econometric theory like all the others are, instead they do a specialist module relevant to their course. They say that these two wouldn't serve as enough prep for a PhD if you ever wanted to do one. Whereas all the others like straight Econ, development, behavioural, international, econometrics and data science MSc Economics courses all do the same semester of micro/macro/econometric theory and then an applied Econometric module. So what this means is that the behavioural and development economics courses would be considered technical imo, technical enough to do a PhD afterwards, even if you don't want to do one. So these two aren't their least quant master's.

The demand for development/behavioural economists sorta has two answers because it's unclear whether you mean about the prospects for grads in these courses, or whether you mean the prospects of these grads going into actual behavioural/development economics jobs? If the former then I wouldn't expect it to be significantly different from the other master's that are offered there. If you mean to get into behavioural/development econ roles then it's a bit more tricky.

AFAIK there are very few behavioural economics roles outside academia and a fair few require a PhD. From the top of my head, consultancies don't really hire behavioural people, but I do know that PwC's London office has a team of behavioural economists. Again, the government doesn't really have many behavioural positions, but probably some positions that sometimes use behavioural economics - if that makes sense. Then the rest of the positions are at tech firms (e.g. Amazon, FB/Meta, Google, etc) but I'm pretty sure these all require a PhD.

The prospects are much better for development economics jobs. Firstly, you've got government ones like the FCDO who have the old DFID section now incorporated into them, they probably have a couple of hundred development economists. You've got the opportunity to be an ODI fellow which is where the government pays you to be an economist in a developing country for two years (good opportunity). There are also quite a lot of roles in consultancies for development economists but hiring isn't huge (e.g. maybe 1-2 positions per year per firm). Then you've also got all the international development organizations. I think the difference is that behavioural is typically more lab based and theoretical so lends itself towards academia or big tech, whereas development is more applied micro so has more of a place in industry and government.

The GES is very open to any economist good English, regardless of age. They always can never hire enough good candidates for the positions and I've seen older entry-level economists (e.g. even around 40) when I interned in Whitehall. I imagine consultancies are less forgiving as they want to invest in your training and seek long-term returns, they're a bit more elitist whereas the gov can't discriminate at all. You've also got to consider that you'll be getting entry-level pay rather than mid-career pay.

In terms of societies, economics is a bit of a free-for-all Wild West really. There's no charterhood like for doctors/engineers/psychologists etc which is why the syllabus of economics degrees vary so much (departments have almost free reign to teach what they like). I honestly don't know a single person who are part of these societies, I imagine they're more for academics or later stage economists (i.e. the sort of people who would present at academic/industry conferences), rather than for students.
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