Economic Development Jobs: Career and Salary Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in economic development. Read on to find out about typical job duties, education options and potential earnings. Schools offering Economics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Kinds of Jobs Can I Find in Economic Development?

Economic development careers involve working to improve a community's economic health. Urban and regional planners work with the public to develop plans regarding the use of land, and provide recommendations on the approval or denial of plan proposals. They also keep up to date on zoning and building codes, as well as identifying any needed changes in a community. Urban consultants, who work under the more common title of management analysts, are those who interview people to determine what type of equipment and personnel may be needed for improvements and restructuring.

Consider the information in the table below to determine if a career in economic development is the right choice for you.

Urban and Regional Planner Consultant
Degree RequiredMaster's degree Bachelor's degree is common; MBA preferred
Education Field of StudyEconomics, geography, political science, environmental design Business, economics, political science
Key SkillsAnalytical, communication, decision making, and management skills Analytical, communication, and problem-solving skills
Licensure RequiredRequired in New Jersey and Michigan Licensure not required; professional certification common
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% for all urban and regional planners* 14% for all management analysts and consultants*
Median Salary (2015) $68,220 for all urban and regional planners* $81,320 for all management analysts and consultants*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Where Can I Find a Career in Economic Development?

If you are interested in working in economic development, you could find a job that allows you to create and implement the policies that affect the economic health of a specific community or location. Careers in development are generally distributed among three different categories: non-profit, public and private.

Non-Profit Jobs

Non-profit organizations can often provide you with the opportunity to work on issues of economic development that relate specifically to poverty reduction. Program directors at non-profits try to come up with plans to help various communities locally and around the world develop financially. If you recently obtained your undergraduate degree, you could begin by performing entry-level administrative work at a not-for-profit. Some well-known non-profit organizations that deal with international development are OxFam America, Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE USA) and Partners of the Americas.

Government Jobs

Several government agencies focus on distributing aid to developing countries and overseeing infrastructure projects aimed towards encouraging economic growth. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and U.S. Foreign Service are a couple of the most prominent of these. Becoming a Peace Corps volunteer can be a great jumping-off point for this type of work, particularly if you are interested in working abroad.

In addition, many international governmental organizations (IGOs) deal with issues of economic development. The United Nations Development Programme, Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) are a few examples of agencies that combine the resources of different nations in the name of global economic development.

Private Sector Careers

You can also find jobs in the private sector that focus on development. Many of these positions are with financial institutions and consulting firms that establish projects geared towards economic growth. Some development consulting agencies are Emerging Markets Group, Developing Alternatives Inc. (DAI) and Abt Associates.

What Local Economic Development Jobs Might I Find?

You may be interested in starting a career promoting economic development closer to home. Domestic careers in economic growth focus on revitalizing local communities in a sustainable way. You could pursue a position in local government that involves coming up with strategies for job creation, or become an urban planner and work on more practical aspects of development, like transportation. The U.S. Economic Development Association handles projects in federal economic development.

How Can I Prepare for the Career?

If you want to work internationally, you will likely need a strong knowledge of economics and possibly even a master's in business. There are many universities that offer programs focusing on international economics and trade. In addition, knowledge of a foreign language will prove invaluable should you decide to live abroad. If you want to become a diplomat, you will have to take the Foreign Service Officer Test. Meanwhile, working locally will require strong community organizing skills and a working knowledge of public policy issues.

How Much Might I Make?

Salaries vary a lot depending on which career path you choose. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, regional and urban planners made a median annual salary of $68,220 in 2015 (www.bls.gov). Local government jobs in community and social service have an average salary of $69,330, while state government jobs in community and social service have an average salary of $67,340. Consultants, meanwhile, averaged $87,750 working for the federal executive branch, $60,780 working for state governments and $107,990 working for central banks in positions that involve managing a nation's monetary supply.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

With a bachelor's degree, you could go into civil engineering, where you will design and build construction projects for cities and towns, which could include buildings, tunnels, bridges, and sewage treatment facilities. With a bachelor's degree, you might also consider becoming an architect, where you can branch out and design factories or office buildings. Those with a master's degree can look into survey research, where you will take surveys and analyze the data contained inside to further understand the survey subjects.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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