Econ major promises success after college

By April DeJarlais

A quick scan of the Forbes “Top 10 Most Lucrative College Majors” list, while disappointing to many an ambitious English major, shows that financial success lies in knowing about finances. An economics major came in second on the list, with the median income for zero to five years of experience being $48,100. But for many Macalester economics majors, the labor is for love, not money.Josh Paulson ’10, vice president of the Economics Honors Society and co-chair of the Macalester Investment Group, realized his passion for economics before coming to Macalester. He credits the Macalester classes and professors, however, for making him “love.the department.”

Paulson is completing two senior capstones, one studying the impact of credit markets on child labor in developing countries and another on “price bubbles,” a market concept concerning inflation. The credit market project relates to his study abroad experience in Bangladesh, where he observed microfinance and rural credit programs first-hand.

Paulson has interned with both a non-profit organization and Travelers Insurance, a Fortune-100 company in the Twin Cities. The non-profit, Community Reinvestment Fund (CRF), employs 40 workers and helps small businesses to develop through loans.

Paulson preferred the more personal atmosphere of CRF to Travelers Insurance, with a workforce of over 30,000. He did, however, appreciate the corporate experience’s role in helping him “develop professionally.”

Paulson’s decision to establish himself in the corporate and non-profit world is a wise one, according to associate director of the Career Development Center John Mountain. He said employers were more likely to discriminate based on major if an applicant simply sends in a resume. Networking and demonstrating skills are more likely to reel in job offers, more than if “you’re just on paper.”

The experience Paulson has gained will likely prove helpful after graduation. He expects to either become an investment analyst with the Macalester endowment, or employed with Piper Jaffray, a Minneapolis investment bank. The prospect of working with Macalester is one he calls “an amazing opportunity.”

“I love Macalester and would love to be able to directly give back to the college so soon,” Paulson added.

If Paulson goes to Piper Jaffray, he may be in good company with another Macalester graduate. Erica Graboyes ’10 will be joining the company as an investment banking analyst after establishing herself there with a 12-week internship last summer.

That internship, along with two summers at Stark Investments in Milwaukee and studying abroad in Copenhagen, helped Graboyes realize she wanted to pursue investment banking as a career.

“The [internship] experience was extremely challenging and demanding but rewarding at the same time,” she said in an email.

Her studies in Copenhagen focused on international business and economics at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS). She called studying abroad her “best experience at Mac.”

The versatility of the economics major is a primary draw for students.

“Economics allows you to do just about anything..There is no limit,” Paulson said in an email.

Molly Frean ’12, a recently declared economics and psychology major, took a similar stance.

“Economics applies to lots of situations and it doesn’t limit you,” she said.

Frean will stay away from the investment banking path, calling it “pretty dry.” Her interests lie instead in behavioral economics, and she hopes to intern with health insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield this summer.

The financial payoff of an economics major may sound attractive, but the field is still very competitive, Mountain said. Students who pursue economics will have to weigh the difficulty with their love of the field.

“I’m a little nervous because it [economics] has such a difficult reputation.but I think I’ll stick with it,” Frean said.