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Saturday, August 16, 2008



  The significance of economists can be traced back to Ancient Greece , with the analysis of human production by Aristotle in his works ‘Topics’ and ‘Politics’. Over 2,000 years later, economics can be described most simply as, a study of the decisions made by human beings and how these decisions affect the world we live in. More specifically, going back to economists, these are the experts who study the science of economics. Their focus includes the study of financial markets, micro and macroeconomic analysis and mathematical economics, for which they use analytical methods and tools such as econometrics, statistics and computational models to study the same. 
  Economists work in various fields such as the government, academia, and to a lesser extent, in the private sector, where most often, they are employed to study data and statistics to identify trends in consumer attitudes and economic confidence levels. 
  For most economic majors, the focus of an economist’s work, in part, if not all, forms an integral part of their academic curriculum. And despite the fact that economic graduates are equipped with the preliminary skills to study the science of economics, how many economic graduates become economists? 
  Investment bankers, consultants, policy analysts: the career opportunities one can pursue after completing an economics degree are countless, and perhaps, it is these very opportunities that have over shadowed the pursuit to become an economist. 
  “I think it’s true that few economic majors become economists. Firstly, one needs to be careful about the definition of an economist. Being an economist means strong math skills, five intensive years of graduate school and a special emphasis on solving small and large- scale problems, academic-style questions, conducting academicstyle research and trying to improve the theories and methods existing in the field so far,” explains Gabriela Dobrescu, a PhD student of Economics at University of California, Berkeley. 
  Adds Nupur Parikh, graduate student, Harvard University, “In my opinion, you can’t really call yourself an economist until you have completed an advanced degree in economics, specifically a PhD. As an economics major I worked in a field that indirectly required the skills and the training of an economics major. Both the partner and senior manager in my practice were PhD economists, whereas the majority of my colleagues had an undergraduate training in economics. Few people become economists because like I said, it takes a PhD to become one and getting a doctorate is an immense amount of work, requires a significant time commitment, and takes a high aptitude for mathematics.” 
  As a student who in fact aspired to become an economist while she was an undergraduate student, Gabriela provides a keen insight to why, despite the fact that she is in the midst of completing an Economics PhD, she no longer harbours the same professional interests. “As an undergraduate student, I always wanted to be an economist, or rather, what I then thought was an economist, ie, 
  someone who uses economic theories and methods to improve government policies and social outcomes and writes policy reports. Now, that I’ve been through three years of graduate school, I don’t want to be an economist anymore, primarily because, economists believe in their fancy models a bit too strongly and without realising that the social picture is much more complex and their models can only go that far. Plus, I personally also want to be more active, rather than sitting at a desk and evaluating or criticising,” she elaborates. 
  Perhaps an even more significant reason for the lack of economic students becoming economists is the relatively lower promise of financial returns. “Yes, becoming an economist was definitely an option for me as an undergraduate economics student, but I chose against it because it is not as lucrative and interesting a field as finance,” says Kanishk Bhatia, adding, “I think, apart from money, the other reason such few economic students become economists is because the academic/theoretical nature of studying economics exposes you to subjects like banking, accounting and finance which students tend to find more interesting and are undoubtedly, more lucrative fields.” 
  “Plenty of students get undergraduate degrees in economics, after which they can pursue numerous opportunities. The skills and training are transferable and desirable in a lot of industries, such as banking, consulting, business journalism etc, and there is the opportunity to pursue advanced degrees that build on the economics background but do not culminate in a PhD (for example, my Master’s in Public Administration in International Development, which requires intermediate level economics and math courses),” explicates Nupur. 
  In conclusion, while a majority of people remain unaware of what the job of an economist even entails, the above discussion could serve as an introduction to both, the field at large and what lies ahead, if using extensive economic tools to study and solve the problems that stand in the way of global development and growth, matches your professional aspirations. 

Sunil Sharma
Dil Se Desi Group

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