In This Issue:
You’ve no doubt heard a lot about the economy in the past few years—mostly bad. Maybe you’ve wondered: ‘What is this mysterious place people spend hours each day fretting about?’
The economy is the financial foundation upon which our society is structured. It involves producing, exchanging, distributing and consuming goods and services. When you buy an iced latte and chocolate-filled croissant each morning, you are contributing to the economy. Selling an autographed baseball on eBay? That’s the economy. Working at Shop-Rite three days after school? That’s the economy. Socking money away in your savings account? That’s the economy.
The United States economy is the world’s largest national economy with a 2009 GDP of $14.3 trillion. GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, is the amount of goods and services produced in a country in one year. All kinds of professions and money-related activities contribute to the economy. And there are a number of ways to measure the economic activity of a nation, such as unemployment, consumer spending and the stock market. In recent years, the unemployment rate has been high, consumer spending has been down and the stock market has hit big-time lows, all of which point to a weak economy.
The good news is that the economy is cyclical. What goes up must come down and vice versa. Economists, the folks who analyze and observe the economy, say things are improving in the U.S., a relief for anyone planning to look for a job in a few years. If you’re thinking of pursuing a career related to the economy, then you have lots of options: everything from anthropology and engineering to business ownership and the stock market. Maybe the idea of becoming an economist interests you? Read on for on-the-job insights from one of New Jersey’s own economists.
If it’s everything economy you crave, then you might like to explore a career as an economist. An economist often spends time doing research, preparing and analyzing data and forecasting how the economy might change in the future. People rely on economists to let them know if the economy is improving or heading for trouble. Economists can study factors related to the economy, like jobs, interest rates, the stock market and taxes. They often work with numbers, charts and computers.
Economist Elizabeth Elmore is a professor of economics at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Pomona. Elmore, a New Jersey native who graduated from Shore Regional High School in West Long Branch, began laying the groundwork for her economics career back in high school when she took a calculus course. She later discovered her passion for economics while she was a math major at St. Mary’s College for Women in Notre Dame, Indiana. “As a junior, I took an introduction to macroeconomics course and could see the application of math and that’s when my interest was born,” says Elmore. “I went to Notre Dame as an economics grad student.”
Elmore specialized as a labor economist, skilled in the history of labor unions and eager to follow and analyze the market economy in the U.S. She has brought these skills to Richard Stockton, where she urges students to study economics. “Economics is one of the best majors you can pick because it is grounded in the liberal arts,” says Elmore. “It allows you to have a lot of flexibility in your career. You can work right after college in entry-level positions in economics like a staff economist doing statistical analysis. It prepares you for law school and for grad school in economics. It prepares you to get a masters in business and so many different areas like public policy.”
Think economics might be for you? Get out your calculator because math is a must. “You absolutely have to have quantitative skills to be an economics major and to be a working economist,” says Elmore. “You don’t have to be an undergrad mathematics major, but you have to feel confident in your quantitative reasoning skills and statistics.”
Read an expanded version of this article by visiting http://www.njnextstop.org, clicking on the Advice 101 column’s Show All feature and selecting “The Economist's Office.”
Alexandra Hadley, a junior at Mount St. Mary Academy in Watchung, has a knack for numbers, so much so that this past summer she stayed on Rutgers University’s Busch campus in Piscataway for a month to participate with 34 other teens in a camp focused on math.
It was actually a few months earlier during her sophomore year of high school that Alexandra discovered her true career calling. “Math is my favorite subject, but career-wise I’m more interested in economics,” says Alexandra, 16.
More than Alex’s penchant for pre-calculus, AP statistics and graph theory has inspired her love for economics. Last spring, she and several classmates participated in the Euro Challenge, a national competition in Washington, D.C. for high school students to learn about the European Union and the Euro. Student teams are asked to make presentations answering specific questions about the European economy and the single currency, the Euro.
“Six of us were on a team and put together a presentation. We went through three rounds and presented to other economists,” explains Alex. “We had to pick one of the EU nations and talk about its current economic status. We picked slow growth in Germany. We talked about how more women contributing to the economy would help stimulate economic growth, which is great because I go to an all-girls school.”
Alex’s team came in second, a big accomplishment considering they were competing against high school students from around the country. Alex says she gained more than a trophy that day. “A lot of us went in with no knowledge of economics and came out knowing so much,” she says. “To become an international economist would be my dream come true.”
Read an expanded version of this article by visiting http://www.njnextstop.org, clicking on the Real People column’s Show All feature and selecting “Alexandra Hadley.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, an office in the U.S. government that provides information about all types of careers, offers these insights for aspiring economists: