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MIT student blogger Mitra L. '07

What do you do with a BS in econ? by Mitra L. '07

Answering Karen's question about my degree

(Title above and song below inspired by lyrics from Avenue Q‘s “What Do You Do with a BA in English?“)

What do you do with a B.S. in econ?
What is my life going to be?
Four years of college and plenty of knowledge
Have earned me this useless degree

I can’t pay the bills yet
‘Cause I have no skills yet
The world is a big scary place

But somehow I can’t shake
The feeling I might make
A difference
To the human race

… the musical then transitions to a song entitled “It Sucks To Be Me” so let’s pause here and answer the initial question

After graduating from MIT, most econ majors (like most other students at MIT, I believe) choose between two paths: work or more school.

“More school” is usually a graduate program in economics (either Masters or PhD), though it can also be in finance, mathematics, political science, etc. Similarly, in the economics PhD program at MIT, there are students who studied computer science, physics, mathematics, political science, and psychology as undergrads. Law school is another destination that recent alums I know have taken. It is becoming increasingly rare to go directly to business school (at least into an MBA program), but I should mention this option just in case. Most grads (I think) of econ PhD programs go on to research/teach as professors or employees of a think tank, like the Brookings Institute.

There are more varieties of “work” things than I can remember or fit into this entry, but I’ll try to list as many as I can. The most popular jobs for the graduating economics seniors I know are in finance — specifically, investment banking, sales and trading, and research. I have never worked at one of these jobs, but from what I hear, the general idea is as follows: long hours, high-pressure environment, lots of research, model-building, financial calculations, and presentation-making, fast-paced environment good pay

As you may have guessed, different types of companies come to MIT to recruit for corporate positions in finance/strategy, and these jobs (especially at tech companies) are popular with double majors. Another common career paths is consulting, which can be strategy, operations, environmental, financial, economic, law, health care, etc. And for people who want to take UROPing to the next level, there is research assisting for the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, or Fed (generally at one of the Federal Reserve’s regional banks). You can also do this sort of work at places like the government’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Department of the Treasury, or Council of Economic Advisors (CEA)

Some of the other things people do after graduation include military service, volunteer work, and non-profit work, but I don’t know as much about these fields. In addition, entrepreneurship is a huge part of the MIT culture, and econ grads can team up with grads from other departments to launch a new product/service and change the world. Later on after graduation, older alums sometimes switch into fields like private equity, venture capital, and corporate management.

Later on down the line, here are some of the things MIT economics alums are doing:

1. Ben Bernanke – Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
2. Steve Levitt – author, Freakonomics
3. Gary Loveman – CEO/Chairman of the Board/President, Harrah’s Entertainment
4. Laura Tyson – former Dean, London Business School and Dean, Haas School of Business
5. Paul Krugman – professor and columnist, New York Times

And I’m copying these names from the admissions website’s Notable Alumni page
* John Thain ’77, CEO, New York Stock Exchange
* John Reed ’61, Chairman, New York Stock Exchange
* Lawrence Summers ’75, former Secretary of the Treasury
* Thomas Gerrity ’63, Dean Emeritus, Wharton School
* Donald Layton, former co-CEO, JP Morgan Chase
* Denis Bovin ’69, Vice Chairman of Investment Banking, Bear Stearns
* Gregory Palm ’70, Executive Vice President, Goldman Sachs

P.S. A giant high-five to my special someone for giving me mojito-flavored gum– brilliant!!!

22 responses to “What do you do with a BS in econ?”

  1. Abhishek says:

    first international and indian post

  2. bhushan says:

    lyrics r mind blowing

  3. Snively says:

    Interesting! I’m not really intending to major in econ but I found this entry to be oddly interesting, so thanks for posting it. 9 days guys, can you stand the pressure?!

    “Pressure, pushing down on me, pressing down on you. . .”

  4. Katherine says:

    That’s amazing. I knew there are important people who attended MIT, but not in charge of JP Morgan and the Federal Reserve. Yet another reason to attend MIT…
    Perhaps admissions decisions should just be released without warning to remove the everlasting waiting period?

  5. Kevin says:

    Isn’t it also true that MIT grads are currently the heads of the entire banks of FOUR unique countries?

    I’ll definitely be taking some Econ classes wherever I go. One of the few topics outside the typical math/science regimen I find fascinating.

  6. Sampson says:

    In fact, I’m studying out of Paul Krugman’s textbook right now.

  7. Harrison says:

    I love Avenue Q! That is all.

  8. Duh says:

    How is the new Orbitz flavor? Is it me, or is it redundant to call it “Mint Mojito”? Mojito is already mint-flavored – duh. In other news, have you thought of a career writing lyrics?

  9. Steve says:

    I’m personally interested in economics for its development side. Jeffrey Sachs and he has written a lot about how economics is central to poverty reduction and a key to improving people’s lives, and improving life for those who need help most is where I want to be. My second favorite is Freakonomics though, since the research pioneered by Becker and, more recently, Levitt is simply … freaky and addictively readable.

  10. Carlos says:

    Personally, the BS in econ is one of my favorites because it combines several fields that I like into one. Good choise!
    By the way, does anyone knows if decisions for international students are sent by regular mail or DHL or something?

  11. Carlos says:

    *know not knows

  12. Alyssa says:

    Gotta love Avenue Q!!!!!!!! – and if you like Avenue Q, you’ll love this!

  13. an unrelated note,
    does the MIT homepage today remind anyone of Caltech’s “What do you want to know?” envelopes?

  14. Future Business gurus — How many of you have started using MS office 2007 ??

  15. Elizabeth says:

    Madman, what did happen to your long name? I posted my question on an earlier blog, but I don’t think anyone saw it since there were new posts and the like.

  16. Solomon says:

    A degree in economics hmmmmmmmmmmm……

  17. Karen says:


  18. greenday says:

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  19. Gayatri says:

    i’m gayatri from delhi..i wish to pursue a undergrad in economics from Sloan,M.I.T.i’m going to b starting with my 12th grade next week.n i will b giving my sat and toefl this you please help me with some of the requirements and i’d really appreciate it if u could answer some admission queries for me.
    my id [email protected]

    thanking you

  20. mehmet says:

    The world is in a horrible environmental state. The income gap is widening at an incredible pace and some people call enterpreneurship “changing the world”. So the most elite grads from schools like MIT go on to join the ranks of the world bank or corporate finannce which are the biggest contributors to the unequality in the world. Pitty really…