Wednesday, April 16, 2014
CAREERS IN MATH

Economist

Significant Points Slower than average job growth is expected, as the vast majority of bachelor’s degree holders in economics find employment in closely related fields, such as business, finance, or insurance. Candidates who hold a master's or Ph.D. degree in economics will have the best employment prospects and advancement opportunities; some entry-level positions are available to those with a bachelor's degree. Quantitative skills are important in all economics specialties.

Nature of the Work Economists study how society distributes resources, such as land, labor, raw materials, and machinery, to produce goods and services. They conduct research, collect and analyze data, monitor economic trends, and develop forecasts on a wide variety of issues, including energy costs, inflation, interest rates, exchange rates, business cycles, taxes, and employment levels, among others. Economists develop methods for obtaining the data they need. For example, sampling techniques may be used to conduct a survey, and various mathematical modeling techniques may be used to develop forecasts. Preparing reports, including tables and charts, on research results also is an important part of an economist's job, as is presenting economic and statistical concepts in a clear and meaningful way for those who do not have a background in economics. Some economists also perform economic analysis for the media. Many economists specialize in a particular area of economics, although general knowledge of basic economic principles is essential. Microeconomists study the supply and demand decisions of individuals and firms, such as how profits can be maximized and the quantity of a good or service that consumers will demand at a certain price. Industrial economists and organizational economists study the market structure of particular industries in terms of the number of competitors within those industries and examine the market decisions of competitive firms and monopolies. These economists also may be concerned with antitrust policy and its impact on market structure. Macroeconomists study historical trends in the whole economy and forecast future trends in areas such as unemployment, inflation, economic growth, productivity, and investment. Monetary economists and financial economists do work that is similar to that done by macroeconomists. These workers study the money and banking system and the effects of changing interest rates. International economists study global financial markets, currencies and exchange rates, and the effects of various trade policies such as tariffs. Labor economists and demographic economists study the supply and demand for labor and the determination of wages. These economists also try to explain the reasons for unemployment and the effects of changing demographic trends, such as an aging population and increasing immigration, on labor markets. Public finance economists are involved primarily in studying the role of the government in the economy and the effects of tax cuts, budget deficits, and welfare policies. Econometricians investigate all areas of economics and apply mathematical techniques such as calculus, game theory, and regression analysis to their research. With these techniques, they formulate economic models that help explain economic relationships that can be used to develop forecasts about business cycles, the effects of a specific rate of inflation on the economy, the effects of tax legislation on unemployment levels, and other economic phenomena. Many economists apply these areas of economics to health, education, agriculture, urban and regional economics, law, history, energy, the environment, and other issues. Economists working for corporations are involved primarily in microeconomic issues, such as forecasting consumer demand and sales of the firm's products. Some analyze their competitors' market share and advise their company on how to handle the competition. Others monitor legislation passed by Congress, such as environmental and worker safety regulations, and assess how new laws will affect the corporation. Corporations with many international branches or subsidiaries might employ economists to monitor the economic situations in countries where they do business or to provide a risk assessment of a country into which the company is considering expanding. Economists working in economic consulting or research firms sometimes perform the same tasks as economists working for corporations. However, economists in consulting firms also perform much of the macroeconomic analysis and forecasting conducted in the United States. Their analyses and forecasts are frequently published in newspapers and journal articles. Another large employer of economists is government. Economists in the Federal Government administer most of the surveys and collect the majority of the economic data about the United States. For example, economists in the U.S. Department of Commerce collect and analyze data on the production, distribution, and consumption of commodities produced in the United States, and economists employed by the U.S. Department of Labor collect and analyze data on the domestic economy, including data on prices, wages, employment, productivity, and safety and health. Economists who work for government agencies also assess economic conditions in the United States and abroad to estimate the effects of specific changes in legislation and public policy. Government economists advise policy makers in areas such as the deregulation of industries, the effects of changes to Social Security, the effects of tax cuts on the budget deficit, and the effectiveness of imposing tariffs on imported goods. An economist working in State or local government might analyze data on the growth of school-age or prison populations and on employment and unemployment rates to project future spending needs. Work environment. Economists have structured work schedules. They often work alone, writing reports, preparing statistical charts, and using computers, but they also may be an integral part of a research team. Many work under pressure of deadlines and tight schedules, which may require overtime. Their routine may be interrupted by special requests for data and by the need to attend meetings or conferences. Some travel may be necessary.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement Some entry-level positions for economists are available to those with a bachelor's degree, but higher degrees are required for many positions. Prospective economists need good quantitative skills. Education and training. A master's or Ph.D. degree in economics is required for many private sector economist jobs and for advancement to higher-level positions. In the Federal Government, candidates for entry-level economist positions must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum of 21 semester hours of economics and 3 hours of statistics, accounting, or calculus, or a combination of education and experience. Economics includes numerous specialties at the graduate level, such as econometrics, international economics, and labor economics. Students should select graduate schools that are strong in the specialties that interest them. Some schools help graduate students find internships or part-time employment in government agencies, economic consulting or research firms, or financial institutions before graduation. Undergraduate economics majors can choose from a variety of courses, ranging from microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics to more philosophical courses, such as the history of economic thought. Because of the importance of quantitative skills to economists, courses in mathematics, statistics, econometrics, sampling theory and survey design, and computer science are extremely helpful. Whether working in government, industry, research organizations, or consulting firms, economists with a bachelor's degree usually qualify for entry-level positions as a research assistant, for marketing or finance positions, or for various sales jobs. A master's degree usually is required to qualify for more responsible research and administrative positions. A Ph.D. is necessary for top economist positions in many organizations. Aspiring economists should gain experience gathering and analyzing data, conducting interviews or surveys, and writing reports on their findings while in college. This experience can prove invaluable later in obtaining a full-time position in the field because much of the economist's work, especially in the beginning, may center on these duties. With experience, economists eventually are assigned their own research projects. Related job experience, such as work as a stock or bond trader, might be advantageous. Other qualifications. Those considering careers as economists should be able to pay attention to details because much time is spent on precise data analysis. Candidates also should have strong computer and quantitative skills and be able to perform complex research. Patience and persistence are necessary qualities, given that economists must spend long hours on independent study and problem solving. Good communication skills also are useful, as economists must be able to present their findings, both orally and in writing, in a clear, concise manner. Advancement. With experience or an advanced degree, economists may advance to positions of greater responsibility, including administration and independent research. Many people with an economics background become teachers. (See the statement on teachers—postsecondary elsewhere in the Handbook.) A master's degree usually is the minimum requirement for a job as an instructor in a community college. In most colleges and universities, however, a Ph.D. is necessary for appointment as an instructor. A Ph.D. and publications in academic journals are required for a professorship, tenure, and promotion.

Employment Economists held about 14,600 jobs in 2008. Government employed 53 percent of economists, in a wide range of agencies, with 31 percent in Federal Government and 22 percent in State and local government. The remaining jobs were spread throughout private industry, particularly in scientific research and development services and management, scientific, and technical consulting services. A number of economists combine a full-time job in government, academia, or business with part-time or consulting work in another setting. Employment of economists is concentrated in large cities. Some work abroad for companies with major international operations, for U.S. Government agencies, and for international organizations, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and United Nations. In addition to the previously mentioned jobs, economists who hold faculty positions in colleges and universities are counted as postsecondary teachers.

Job Outlook Employment of economists is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations. The demand for workers who have knowledge of economics is projected to grow faster, but these workers will commonly find employment in fields outside of economics, such as business, finance, or insurance. Job prospects for economists will be best for those with graduate degrees in economics. Employment change. Employment of economists is expected to grow 6 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is slower than the average for all occupations. Demand for economic analysis should grow, but the increase in the number of economist jobs will be tempered as firms hire workers for niche areas with specialized titles. Many workers with economic backgrounds will work in related fields with more specific job titles, such as financial analyst, market analyst, public policy consultant, researcher or research assistant, purchasing manager, or a variety of positions in business and the insurance industry. Overall employment growth also will be slowed because of the relatively high number of economists—about 53 percent—employed in declining government sectors. Employment growth should be fastest in private industry, especially in management, scientific, and technical consulting services. Rising demand for economic analysis in virtually every industry should stem from the growing complexity of the global economy, the effects of competition on businesses, and increased reliance on quantitative methods for analyzing and forecasting business, sales, and other economic trends. Some corporations choose to hire economic consultants to fill these needs, rather than keeping an economist on staff. This practice should result in more economists being employed in consulting services. Job prospects. In addition to job openings from growth, the need to replace experienced workers who retire or leave the labor force for other reasons will create openings for economists. Individuals with a background in economics should have opportunities in various occupations. Some examples of job titles often held by those with an economics background are financial analyst, market analyst, public policy consultant, researcher or research assistant, and purchasing manager. People who have a master's or Ph.D. degree in economics, who are skilled in quantitative techniques and their application to economic modeling and forecasting, and who also have good communications skills, should have the best job opportunities. Like those in many other disciplines, some economists leave the occupation to become professors, but competition for tenured teaching positions will remain keen. Bachelor's degree holders will face competition for the limited number of economist positions for which they qualify. However, they will qualify for a number of other positions that can use their broad-based economic knowledge. Many graduates with bachelor's degrees will find jobs in business, finance, insurance, or related fields. Numerous positions in sales should also be available. Bachelor's degree holders with good quantitative skills and a strong background in mathematics, statistics, survey design, and computer science also may be hired as researchers. Some will find jobs in government. Candidates who meet State certification requirements may become high school economics teachers. The demand for secondary school economics teachers is expected to grow, as economics becomes an increasingly important and popular course. (See the statement on teachers—kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary elsewhere in the Handbook.)

Earnings Median annual wage and salary wages of economists were $83,590 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $59,390 and $113,590. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $44,050, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $149,110. In March 2009, the average annual salary for economists employed by the Federal Government was $108,010. Starting salaries were higher in selected geographical areas where the prevailing local pay was higher.

Related Occupations Other workers who are concerned with understanding and interpreting financial matters include: Accountants and auditors Actuaries Budget analysts Cost estimators Financial analysts Financial managers Insurance underwriters Loan officers Personal financial advisors Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents Economists also rely heavily on quantitative analysis, as do: Mathematicians Operations research analysts Statisticians Other occupations involved in market research and data collection are: Management analysts Market and survey researchers Economists also study consumer behavior, similar to the work of: Sociologists and political scientists

Citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Economists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos055.htm (visited March 25, 2010).

Electricians

Significant Points Job opportunities should be good, especially for those with the broadest range of skills. Most electricians acquire their skills by completing an apprenticeship program usually lasting 4 years. About 79 percent of electricians work in the construction industry or are self-employed, but there also will be opportunities for electricians in other industries.

Nature of the Work Electricians install and maintain all of the electrical and power systems for our homes, businesses, and factories. They install and maintain the wiring and control equipment through which electricity flows. They also install and maintain electrical equipment and machines in factories and a wide range of other businesses. Electricians generally focus on either construction or maintenance, although many do both. Electricians specializing in construction primarily install wiring systems into factories, businesses, and new homes. Electricians specializing in maintenance fix and upgrade existing electrical systems and repair electrical equipment. All electricians must follow State and local building codes and the National Electrical Code when performing their work. Electricians usually start their work by reading blueprints— technical diagrams that show the locations of circuits, outlets, load centers, panel boards, and other equipment. After determining where all the wires and components will go, electricians install and connect the wires to circuit breakers, transformers, outlets, or other components and systems. When installing wiring, electricians use handtools such as conduit benders, screwdrivers, pliers, knives, hacksaws, and wire strippers, as well as power tools such as drills and saws. Later, they use ammeters, ohmmeters, voltmeters, harmonics testers, and other equipment to test connections and ensure the compatibility and safety of components. Maintenance electricians repair or replace electric and electronic equipment when it breaks. They make needed repairs as quickly as possible in order to minimize inconvenience. They may replace items such as circuit breakers, fuses, switches, electrical and electronic components, or wire. Electricians also periodically inspect all equipment to ensure that it is operating properly and to correct problems before breakdowns occur. Maintenance work varies greatly, depending on where an electrician works. Electricians who focus on residential work perform a wide variety of electrical work for homeowners. They may rewire a home and replace an old fuse box with a new circuit breaker box to accommodate additional appliances, or they may install new lighting and other electric household items, such as ceiling fans. These electricians also might do some construction and installation work. Electricians in large factories usually do maintenance work that is more complex. These kinds of electricians may repair motors, transformers, generators, and electronic controllers on machine tools and industrial robots. They also advise management as to whether the continued operation of certain equipment could be hazardous. When working with complex electronic devices, they may consult with engineers, engineering technicians, line installers and repairers, or industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers. (Statements on these occupations appear elsewhere in the Handbook.) Work environment. Electricians work indoors and out, at construction sites, in homes, and in businesses or factories. The work may be strenuous at times and may include bending conduit, lifting heavy objects, and standing, stooping, and kneeling for long periods. Electricians risk injury from electrical shock, falls, and cuts, and must follow strict safety procedures to avoid injuries. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that full-time electricians experienced a work-related injury and illness rate that was higher than the national average. When working outdoors, they may be subject to inclement weather. Some electricians may have to travel long distances to jobsites. Most electricians work a standard 40-hour week, although overtime may be required. Those who do maintenance work may work nights or weekends and be on call to go to the worksite when needed. Electricians in industrial settings may have periodic extended overtime during scheduled maintenance or retooling periods. Companies that operate 24 hours a day may employ three shifts of electricians.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement Most electricians learn their trade through apprenticeship programs that combine on-the-job training with related classroom instruction. Education and training. Apprenticeship programs combine paid on-the-job training with related classroom instruction. Joint training committees made up of local unions of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and local chapters of the National Electrical Contractors Association; individual electrical contracting companies; or local chapters of the Associated Builders and Contractors and the Independent Electrical Contractors Association usually sponsor apprenticeship programs. Because of the comprehensive training received, those who complete apprenticeship programs qualify to do both maintenance and construction work. Apprenticeship programs usually last 4 years. Each year includes at least 144 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. In the classroom, apprentices learn electrical theory, blueprint reading, mathematics, electrical code requirements, and safety and first aid practices. They also may receive specialized training in soldering, communications, fire alarm systems, and cranes and elevators. On the job, apprentices work under the supervision of experienced electricians. At first, they drill holes, set anchors and attach conduit. Later, they measure, fabricate, and install conduit and install, connect, and test wiring, outlets, and switches. They also learn to set up and draw diagrams for entire electrical systems. Eventually, they practice and master all of an electrician's main tasks. Some people start their classroom training before seeking an apprenticeship. A number of public and private vocational-technical schools and training academies offer training to become an electrician. Employers often hire students who complete these programs and usually start them at a more advanced level than those without this training. A few people become electricians by first working as helpers—assisting electricians by setting up job sites, gathering materials, and doing other nonelectrical work—before entering an apprenticeship program. All apprentices need a high school diploma or a General Equivalency Diploma (G.E.D.). Electricians also may need additional classes in mathematics because they solve mathematical problems on the job. Education continues throughout an electrician's career. Electricians may need to take classes to learn about changes to the National Electrical Code, and they often complete regular safety programs, manufacturer-specific training, and management training courses. Classes on such topics as low-voltage voice and data systems, telephone systems, video systems, and alternative energy systems such as solar energy and wind energy increasingly are being given as these systems become more prevalent. Other courses teach electricians how to become contractors. Licensure. Most States and localities require electricians to be licensed. Although licensing requirements vary from State to State, electricians usually must pass an examination that tests their knowledge of electrical theory, the National Electrical Code, and local and State electric and building codes. Electrical contractors who do electrical work for the public, as opposed to electricians who work for electrical contractors, often need a special license. In some States, electrical contractors need certification as master electricians. Most States require master electricians to have at least 7 years of experience as an electrician or a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering or a related field. Other qualifications. Applicants for apprenticeships usually must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a G.E.D. They also may have to pass a test and meet other requirements. Other skills needed to become an electrician include manual dexterity, eye-hand coordination, physical fitness, and a good sense of balance. Electricians also need good color vision because workers frequently must identify electrical wires by color. In addition, apprenticeship committees and employers view a good work history or military service favorably. Advancement. Experienced electricians can advance to jobs as supervisors. In construction, they also may become project managers or construction superintendents. Those with sufficient capital and management skills can start their own contracting business, although doing so often requires a special electrical contractor's license. Supervisors and contractors should be able to identify and estimate costs and prices and the time and materials needed to complete a job. Many electricians also become electrical inspectors. For those who seek to advance, it is increasingly important to be able to communicate in both English and Spanish in order to relay instructions and safety precautions to workers with limited understanding of English; Spanish-speaking workers make up a large part of the construction workforce in many areas. Spanish-speaking workers who want to advance in this occupation need very good English skills to understand electrician classes and installation instructions, which are usually written in English and are highly technical.

Employment Electricians held about 694,900 jobs in 2008. About 65 percent of wage and salary workers were employed by electrical contracting firms, and the remainder worked as electricians in a variety of other industries. In addition, about 9 percent of electricians were self-employed.

Job Outlook Average employment growth is expected. Job prospects should be good, particularly for workers with the widest range of skills, including voice, data, and video wiring. Employment change. Employment of electricians should increase 12 percent between 2008 and 2018, about as fast as the average for all occupations. As the population grows, electricians will be needed to wire new homes, restaurants, schools, and other structures that will be built to accommodate the growing population. In addition, older buildings will require improvements to their electrical systems to meet modern codes and accommodate higher electricity consumption due to the greater use of electronic equipment in houses and workplaces. New technologies also are expected to continue to spur demand for these workers. Robots and other automated manufacturing systems in factories will require the installation and maintenance of more complex wiring systems. In addition, efforts to boost conservation of energy in public buildings and in new construction will boost demand for electricians because electricians are key to installing some of the latest energy savers, such as solar panels and motion sensors for turning on lights. Job prospects. In addition to jobs created by the increased demand for electrical work, openings are expected over the next decade as electricians retire. This will create good job opportunities, especially for those with the widest range of skills, including voice, data, and video wiring. Job openings for electricians will vary by location and specialty, however, and will be best in the fastest growing regions of the country. Employment of electricians, like that of many other construction workers, is sensitive to the fluctuations of the economy. On the one hand, workers in these trades may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, shortages of these workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity. Although employment of maintenance electricians is steadier than that of construction electricians, those working in the automotive and other manufacturing industries that are sensitive to cyclical swings in the economy may experience layoffs during recessions. In addition, in many industries opportunities for maintenance electricians may be limited by increased contracting out for electrical services in an effort to reduce operating costs. However, increased job opportunities for electricians in electrical contracting firms should partially offset job losses in other industries.

Earnings In May 2008, median hourly wages of wage and salary electricians were $22.32. The middle 50 percent earned between $17.00 and $29.88. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $13.54, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $38.18. Median hourly wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of electricians were as follows: Electric power generation, transmission and distribution $28.15 Local government 25.66 Nonresidential building construction 22.21 Building equipment contractors 21.72 Employment services 18.32 Apprentices usually start at between 30 and 50 percent of the rate paid to fully trained electricians, depending on experience. As apprentices become more skilled, they receive periodic pay increases throughout their training. About 32 percent of all electricians are members of a union, especially the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Among unions representing maintenance electricians are the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine, and Furniture Workers; the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; the International Union, United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America; and the United Steelworkers of America.

Related Occupations Other occupations that combine manual skill and knowledge of electrical materials and concepts include the following: Computer, automated teller, and office machine repairers Electrical and electronics drafters Electrical and electronics engineering technicians Electrical and electronics installers and repairers Electronic home entertainment equipment installers and repairers Elevator installers and repairers Heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers Line installers and repairers

Citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Electricians, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos206.htm (visited March 25, 2010).