Consumer economists are trained to understand the factors driving consumer behavior. Continue reading to learn more about the field, the job outlook, education requirements and what jobs are available to make an informed career decision.
The economy is a ceaselessly changing entity, and studying it requires clever and dynamic approaches. The field of consumer economics focuses on how and why consumers make the choices they do by implementing economic and sociological theory to map consumer behavior in varying economic environments. Consumer economists identify and study the factors influencing consumer choices, such as household consumption, finance and consumer preference, to help inform business and market decisions. Strong quantitative skills coupled with business acumen are essentials in this area of work.
A consumer economics degree often lends itself to a career in business, particularly with corporations involved in sales and services. You could work in the area of consumer support as a business manager or research specialist. Additional job titles can include market research analyst, business analyst, financial planner, sales representative and financial consultant. Economists are also employed by various government agencies and educational institutions. You can work as an economics teacher at the secondary level by completing a bachelor's degree and teacher education program. Earning an advanced degree can allow you to pursue a research and teaching career within universities or colleges.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected jobs for economists to grow as fast as the national average, at 14%, from 2012 to 2022. Jobs for market and survey researchers were predicted to grow by 32%, a rate much faster than average, over this same period (www.bls.gov). Those with advanced degrees should see the best job prospects overall. As of May 2013, the median annual salary for economists was $93,070, and that for market research analysts and marketing specialists was $60,800, also per the BLS.
Formal education in consumer economics is available through undergraduate and graduate certificate and degree programs. An associate's degree in economics can prepare you for entry into a bachelor's degree program. While a bachelor's degree can be sufficient to enter the field, many economist and market research positions require a master's or doctoral degree. Related economics certificate programs are also available in such areas as family financial planning and economics teaching.
This field of study is commonly offered within economics or consumer and family sciences departments. You could pursue an economics degree while concentrating in consumer economics, or you could choose to earn a consumer sciences degree. Major coursework typically includes applied consumer economics, microeconomics, consumer and social policy, financial management and consumer protection. You'll need to take classes in statistics and mathematics as well.
Continuing education and other professional opportunities, including several certificate programs focused on applied skills used in the industry, are available through the National Association for Business Economics (www.nabe.com). Depending on your career goals, you may also consider professional certification. For instance, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. administers the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Certification Examination. To earn the CFP credential, you'll need to meet educational requirements, pass character standards and a background check, have a minimum of three years professional experience in the field and pass the exam (www.cfp.net).