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It’s a good time to be an economist

Sally Herships Jan 13, 2016
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If you haven’t yet heard, “The Big Short” is that new movie starring, among others, Christian Bale, Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling. Based on a book by the same name, it’s just the latest in a long line of media trying to explain what happened during the financial crisis. “The Big Short” has rock music, cameos from pop culture icons like Selena Gomez and Anthony Bourdain, and it actually makes economics feel sexy. Which in turn, has lead to another new trend.

“Undergraduate students more frequently deciding to major in economics,” said John Siegfried, a retired professor of economics at Vanderbilt University, and former secretary treasurer of the American Economic Association. Since the recession, economics has become, for lack of a better term, a hot topic, leading to newfound demand for economists with Ph.D.s.

In a new report from the American Economic Association and authored by Siegfried, the AEA says its listings for jobs for economics Ph.D.s has increased by 8.5 percent compared to last year.

Notes Siegfried, there are 25 percent more economics majors now than there were in 2008. And that translates into more teaching jobs available for Ph.D.s.  

“The reason that’s important is that about 65 percent of Ph.D. economists are employed by colleges and universities,” he said.

Tara Sinclair is one of those economists. She’s a professor at George Washington University as well as chief economist at Indeed.com, a jobs site. “The recession made economics interesting to this generation of students,” she said. “But the other piece of it is on the private sector side.”

As the economy improves, she said, all kinds of companies, from banks to tech, want more economists on staff to help figure it out. 

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