After Graduation

While some students know what they want to do after graduation, many do not.  This page can help economics-interested students think about some possibilities.  Here, we narrow 'after graduation' options to (1) work and (2) school.  (But, if you want to travel the world, take time off, or anything else, we'd love to chat with you about that too!)

As you browse this page, remember that (1) your concentration does not determine your career and (2) where you land after graduation does not determine your career.  And, as always, if you want to chat, come see an ec concentration advisor.

The world is your oyster after graduation!  But, there are some jobs that economics concentrators might find particularly interesting (many are places where ec alums have worked).  Here are just a few possibilities, in five broad categories: 

  • Private Sector/For-Profit

    • Finance.  Many Harvard undergraduates join the financial sector after graduation, both at large organizations like Goldman Sachs, small firms targeting a niche market, and everything in between.  There is on-campus recruiting and a lot of information from the Office of Career Services' finance page
    • Consulting.  Many Harvard undergraduates pursue consulting positions after graduation, at a huge variety of consulting firms.  There are large strategy consulting firms like Bain and Company and large economics consulting firms like Analysis Group and NERA, as well as other firms focused in specific areas such as the environment, health care, public policy, and development (eg, Oxford Policy Management).  There is on-campus recruiting and a lot of information from the Office of Career Services' consulting page.
    • Market Research.  Many companies have an interest in market research to better understand their current and potential clients, changing tastes and preferences, etc.  Your insight into decision-making combined with econometrics skills make you well-prepared for jobs like this.
    • Risk analysis.  Many companies are interested in analyzing risk; your econometrics skills will really come in handy!  For example, Moody's Analytics, credit card companies, car insurance companies...
    • Health industry.  Pharmaceutical companies (for humans as well as animals), health care insurance providers, health care exchanges, and many other places will all have jobs where the economics tool kit you've built over four years will be very valuable.
    • Analytics and Strategy.  Many companies specialize in analyzing big data for companies, sports, elections, and so much more.  Check out groups like Civis Analytics, Clarity Campaign Labs, BlueLabs, Opta, and Avero. Professional sports teams also hire data analysts.  Moneyball is real!
    • Social Enterprise.  Companies focused on social enterprises can be either for-profit or non-profit.  Some examples of interesting SE companies are Polymath VenturesReboot, and Central Square Foundation.
    • A truly huge array of interesting jobs.  Past concentrators have gone to Tootsie Roll, Pinterest, Las Vegas casinos, Microsoft, the fashion industry, and more.  The possibilities are endless.
  • Government and government-related jobs

  • International Organizations

  • Research and Think Tanks

  • Non-Profit sector

At some point in post-graduation life, many concentrators pursue an advanced degree.  Here we discuss (1) graduate study in a variety of areas common among our concentrators and (2) economics Ph.D. programs. 

Graduate Study: a variety of options

Economics concentrators pursue graduate programs in a variety of fields: Business School, Law School, Medical School, non-economics Ph.D. programs, and more.  In terms of Masters programs, the possibilities are huge: public policy programs, international relations, elementary and secondary education, statistics, mathematical finance, just to name a few.  Some concentrators also consider Masters programs in Europe; in particular, several universities in the United Kingdom have strong one-year Masters programs (as well as two-year programs). 

Masters programs in Economics and economics-related fields are plentiful.  While most top-tier US research universities do not offer Masters programs in their economics departments per se, you can find 'related' Masters programs.  At Harvard, for example, the Economics Department does not offer a Masters degree, but the Kennedy School offers economics-related Masters level studies.  

There is a lot of information online about all of these programs, and more.  And, of course, you can always chat with your concentration advisor.

Economics Ph.D. Programs

Graduate study in economics (at the Ph.D. level) is very different from undergraduate coursework.  It is not only a continuance and deepening of the undergraduate curriculum; it is also about research. In this sense, the honors thesis provides a closer look at the enterprise of graduate study. Although some doctoral students choose careers in nonacademic sectors such as government service or finance, most are accepted and trained with the objective of producing academic professionals whose research will advance the discipline.

Most admissions committees gauge the potential applicants in three ways: preparation, aptitude, and creativity. A scholar with all three could make important contributions to our understanding of economics.

Aptitude is assessed largely through one's undergraduate record and professor recommendations. To a smaller extent, scores such as the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) are also considered. Creativity is demonstrated primarily through work on the honors thesis and other research, the quality of which is relayed through professor recommendations. Preparation is particularly important and is demonstrated through coursework in mathematics, statistics and econometrics, and economic theory. First, candidates with a well-developed mathematical foundation will not struggle with the high level of abstraction of graduate work. Students interested in graduate school should take coursework in multivariable calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, and real analysis. Each area deserves a semester of study, though a year of real analysis is especially impressive.  Second, the greater a student’s training in statistics and econometrics, the greater the scope and depth of empirical research they can understand and complete. Students should consider statistics and econometrics courses using stochastic calculus, such as the graduate sequence ECON 2110 and ECON 2120.  Graduate schools also value theoretical courses, which prepare students for the demands of graduate coursework. At the intermediate theory level, students are encouraged to take the ECON 1011AB sequence.  Beyond that, graduate schools are impressed with further coursework in microeconomics and macroeconomics, especially at the graduate level. They also look for coursework in particular areas of theory, such as game theory.

Graduate school represents an important and exciting decision in the academic careers of Harvard undergraduates.  Starting to develop and demonstrate these three components will provide you with an impressive background for graduate study in economics.

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