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Economics: Choose this career to solve the big issues

Meet four economists with a rewarding economics career using data to help us all 

Economists combine data – which could include official statistics, surveys, big data and even interviews – with their analytical smarts to gain insights into important issues and propose solutions. But the best part is, once you have a grounding in economics, you can choose which area you want to make a difference in – just like these four superstars.

#1 Taking care of business

Siddarth Roche uses data to … take the ‘temperature’ of Australian businesses

Even when he was young, Siddarth had an interest in business. “I used to have my own store as a kid where I’d sell erasers to my family members!” Siddarth says. “I knew I wanted to do something related to numbers and business, but I wasn’t too sure what.”

Today, as a senior analyst in the Reserve Bank of Australia’s Financial Stability Department, he works in a team that looks at how healthy (or not) Australian businesses are – be they small or large. 

“On a day-to-day basis, I might be looking at financial statements to assess whether businesses have enough income to service their debts, or I could be monitoring the number of business failures and the impact on the economy,” Siddarth says.

He’s also conducting analysis looking at potential challenges businesses may face in the future. “It’s important work. If these pressures lead to more businesses failing, it could have an adverse impact on the financial system (through losses to creditors such as banks) and the economy (for example, through workers being laid off).”

Siddarth’s top career tip
Stay curious and seek out internships or projects that apply what you learn to real economic problems.

#2 Keeping people employed

Madison Terrell uses data to… help the Reserve Bank of Australia improve the way it forecasts wages

Madison started out wanting to be a lawyer, choosing a combined Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Economics degree.

“Although I enjoyed studying law too, I leaned towards economics because the range of jobs I could do were so diverse and I knew I could make a positive impact in my career,” Madison says.

And she was right! Her current role forecasting wage growth influences how the Reserve Bank Board makes decisions affecting all Australians. “Even though it’s just one piece of the puzzle, the work I do directly contributes to improving economic outcomes for the Australian people! And how cool is that?”

Madison says many people underestimate the broad range of roles economists have.

“You can help develop solutions for the big social issues humanity faces today, like climate change, immigration inequality, the gender pay gap and even increasing happiness. You might want to help in designing new cities, work as a diplomat, engage in international affairs or work towards a greener future – a degree in economics will allow you to work in all these sectors!”

Madison’s top career tip
Grades aren’t everything, and no matter the course you want to do there are always other ways to get in.

#3 Linking money with mental health

Dr David Johnston uses data to… look at how our economic situation relates to our mental health

David started out in science after he graduated high school, but once he realised he could apply his maths and statistics skills to real-world problems, economics was the path for him.

Now a professor at Monash University, David researches how a person’s economic situation can impact their mental health, and vice versa.

The data sets he works with include millions of people to look at how their lives are evolving over time. “There’s so much data out there. And if you can have the skills to analyse it, which economics teaches you to do, then you’ve got lots of different career paths.”

David’s top career tip
Keep doing maths in years 11 and 12, and don’t forget science is also a legitimate path into economics.

#4 Putting a price on nature

Dr Ngoc Lan Le uses data to. ..help the environment

As an environmental economist, Lan has crunched data to help quantify the value of everything from water to forests and clean air. Today, she works for the Asian Development Bank, which lends money to the governments of developing countries to help with sustainable development projects including climate change adaptation, and environmental conservation and rehabilitation.

“For environmental conservation projects, if you only look at the revenue parts, they usually do not cover the cost. However, for such projects, the benefits to the community and to the environment are huge and need to be considered. My job is to make sure that all the benefits of the projects are accounted for.”

Lan’s top career tip
There are a lot of resources online to learn economic principles, methods, techniques and data analysis.

See more from Siddarth and Madison here:

This article was brought to you in partnership with the Reserve Bank of Australia. It originally appeared in Careers with STEM: Economics 2024

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