This page has been written by Pamela Andrew
, the relevant Careers Adviser for this occupational area. To see how you can meet Pamela, or any of our advisers, visit our website
Economic consultants apply techniques of economic analysis to help businesses, regulators and policy makers evaluate and implement strategic decisions.
They use microeconomic theory, econometrics, quantitative techniques and financial modelling in conjunction with sector expertise to formulate tailored advice to organisations.
Typical problems may include helping a company with a merger opportunity, advising a company on how to respond to new taxation regulation, or analysing drivers of demand for public services.
Economic consultancies often specialise in certain sectors, such as financial services, telecommunications, or utilities. They will also provide particular kinds of consultancy expertise, such as competition policy, regulation, or market analysis. Economic consultants use their economic expertise to advise others. They may be members of a consultancy firm or they may offer their expertise within their own organisation which will either be large, eg Deloitte, or specialist, eg Government Economic Service.
Working as an economic consultant can be very varied because of the project based nature of the work. Projects will vary in length and scope, and you may well develop specialist expertise. The number of specialist consultancies is small at around 50 in the UK. However, many management and social research consultancies also employ economists whose work is focused around economic analysis.
One key difference to management consultancy is that firms are usually much smaller, employing 10-100 staff. Nonetheless, several economic consultancies have more than one regional office.
Two key areas of growth are in Energy and Health. In the energy sector the increasing international emphasis on energy provision, regulation and rules of access has generated a great deal of work.In the health sector with an ageing population and limited budgets economics is not just about looking at the costs and benefits of a new drug, treatment or service but also, in a world of limited budgets, the consequences of making that decision in terms of what cannot then be provided for other patients.
Nature of sector or roles
Graduate entrants to this sector are typically called ‘Analysts’ or ‘Research Analysts’, and will work on a variety of projects, including data collection and analysis, background and theory research, economic modelling, client liaison, and drafting reports with senior colleagues. Beyond that, graduates will become consultants or economists.
Since economic consultancy focuses on factors that are often central to the state of the economy, and how those factors can be managed by businesses, work can be generated by the slowdown.
The current view from one particular independent economic consultancy is that activity has held up fairly well during the recent recession. The drop in merger activity has hit anti-trust cases but regulation and litigation work has been stronger. There has also been a strong appetite for advice related to the increased amount of state aid available during the recent economic crisis.
Another key area of growth is the energy sector, and while many firms already have a specialism, the increasing international emphasis on energy provision, regulation and rules of access has generated a great deal of work [Source:London School of Economics].
- Intuition and excellent analytical skills
- Interest in and high levels of ability when working with numbers
- Accuracy and attention to detail
- Project management skills and the ability to work on own initiative
- High standards of written and spoken communication
Networking is particularly important and can help you succeed with your applications. If you have been in contact with someone working for the organisation then you have extra information to back up your application. Visiting the Careers Centre Graduate Management and Finance Fair and turning up to employer run events is a great way to make valuable connections, it helps to introduce yourself to representatives from the companies ask for their card so you can make contact in the future. Use social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook (many organisations have their own page).
Recent St Andrews graduates have gone on to work for Deloitte, Bain and Company, McKinsey & Company, PwC, Ernst & Young, European Development, Mercer Consulting Middle East, Factset, Belgian Foreign Office , Future Foundation, Forex Capital Markets (FXCM) Ltd., Bavarian US Office for Economic Development, Strategic Asia and Financial Supervisory Authority in Iceland.. You will find St Andrews alumni at many of the large economic consultancy firms all over the world ranging from graduate trainees to CEOs. These alumni can make extremely useful contacts, giving you an "edge" with your applications and interviews. There are several ways to make contact with alumni.
- Saint Connect - is the new networking platform which allows you to connect with alumni and join discussion groups. Find out how to use Saint Connect by viewing the 'Video Tour' (bottom right-hand side of Saint Connect screen).
- Groups -School of Economics and Management Consultancy by joining these groups you will receive updates on events, competitions, jobs and other sector related news.
- LinkedIn – Alumni Tool, this feature shows the career paths of over 30,000+ alumni you can find graduates working at particular organisations in an economics capacity e.g.PwC, Bank of England, Scottish Government and NHS. Watch the YouTube video on how to use this resource.
- Graduate recruiters - ask if they can put you in touch with any alumni now working for their company.
- Friends and family - ask around your immediate social network for any contacts in the organisations which interest you.
- This networking video produced by Cass Business School gives excellent tips on effective networking.
How to gain experience/internships
To gain a graduate position in economic consultancy, it’s certainly an advantage if you have relevant experience or have completed an internship.
Many economic consultancies run programmes in the summer vacation and the deadlines for applying usually come in the early spring – but check employer websites for up-to-date details of closing dates.
According to the London School of Economics, ‘don’t leave it to the last minute to apply: recruiters tend to look at applications as they receive them, rather than reviewing them altogether after the deadline has passed’.
Try to arrange work shadowing and longer placements or internships as this can help you to decide on your career choice and is a real advantage when applying for jobs. You can also adopt a speculative approach - see our networking section on the Careers Centre website and speculative applications for more advice.
Some paid internships are only open to penultimate year students so if you are in first or second year you could also consider work-shadowing and working voluntarily or a speculative approach to smaller employers - see below for advice on finding employers.
Organisations which offer internships in Economic Consultancy include:
- Accenture regularly look for penultimate year students as part of their Summer Vacation Scheme.
- The Adam Smith Institute recruit interns 4 times a year, not just in the Summer. Shorter periods of work experience can be gained by joining their ASI's Next Generation group on Facebook.
- Frontier Economics offer short and long-term internships
- Government Economic Service advertise options for 6-12 week Summer internships, 12 month "sandwich" placements as well as a list of contacts for short periods of work experience.
- NERA Economic Consulting have opportunities worldwide for internships.
- The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) offers several placements each summer to economics students who are interested in how microeconomics can be applied to public policy issues and who are considering a career in economic research.
- Oxera provide internships built around the interests of their interns.
- PwC offer summer internships and work placements.
- Social Market Foundation are a Think Tank that have research internships for economists interested in public policy.
- The Bank of England
- First Year Internship (NB These opportunities are targeted at students who have 2 further years of study - so although they advertise for 1st years, this means 2nd year at St Andrews) - These internships run for six weeks giving you the opportunity to support a team on a specific project across all areas of the Bank, from procurement or HR to monetary policy and banking supervision. If your performance during the six weeks is considered to be outstanding, you will be given the opportunity to be assessed for a Penultimate Year Internship.
- Penultimate Year Internship - This scheme is for students in their penultimate year and runs for eight weeks. You'll focus on an individual project, working closely with economists and analysts to collect and analyse data. Graduate offers are made to outstanding performers at the end of the internship.
- The bank also run several Summer Insight Days specifically for First Year Students who want to learn more about the Bank and who are interested in applying for Internship Programmes.
The following websites include listings of numerous internship opportunities, and may include some in Economic Consultancy:
See also the employers listed in the next section - check their websites to find out if they are offering internships.
Professional bodies and trade associations can be a good source of employers - look for their member or partner listings, which you can often search by location. See links below.
How to get a (graduate) job
For Analyst positions, the majority of employers will look for a minimum 2:1 degree in Economics (or related degree). Some firms, however, will require a postgraduate qualification. Read the Relevant Postgraduate Study section for more details.
Many economic consultancy firms run graduate programmes for those new to the sector, which can vary in length from six months to two years. Deadlines will vary – check with your preferred employer/organisation for up-to-date details.
To get an economic consultancy position, there are some key sources of information you can use. Our website advertises a number of vacancies through the year. However, to reach smaller economic consultancies you will need to be more proactive as outlined above.
Look in The Guardian on Tuesdays for vacancies with an education focus and Wednesdays for those with a development or health focus. Also look at the Financial Times, in The Economist and look at the links below.
Professional bodies and trade associations can be a good source of employers - look for their member or partner listings which often have direct links to the employers’ websites. See links below.
A selection of employers by sector (this is not an exhaustive list!) NB. Some of these employers may not offer graduate positions every year so check their websites for the latest vacancy information.
| Economic Consultancy Employers|
| Private Sector|
| Public Sector|
US Economic Consultancy employers
Applications, interviews and assessment centres
Application procedures for this sector can vary - the application process for the larger organisations tends to be an on-line application followed by an assessment centre then successful candidates go onto the interview stage. Smaller organisations use CVs and a covering letter. Check with your preferred employer/organisation for up-to-details.
Numerical/data interpretation tests often form part of the assessment tests. The Careers Centre has many resources for you to practice.
Selection procedures normally combine Interviews and technical exercises. Be prepared to be closely questioned on your economic and commercial knowledge. You should also be prepared to sit numeracy, verbal reasoning and comprehension tests. You can prepare for interviews by reading any economic journals produced by the organisation you are applying to, by reading The Economist, The Financial Times and specialist journals.
Check the websites of your preferred employer/organisation - most firms provide details of their application and recruitment process.
Relevant Postgraduate Study
A growing number of employers in this sector require applicants to have a relevant postgraduate qualification (eg Masters, PhD). Some employers may expect you to study for a part-time, part funded-Masters which you can complete on-the-job (eg Frontier Economics). Check with employers for their recruitment criteria. St Andrews economists have gone on to do further study at the London School of Economics, the University of Oxford and the University of Milan. Search for relevant postgraduate courses on Prospects.
|For further information on researching and planning for a postgraduate qualification, please visit the postgraduate study page.
Key Links and Resources
Careers Centre resources
The Careers Centre has the following free take-away brochures which contain careers information and listings of graduate opportunities in Economics:
- eFinancial Careers: Careers in Banking & Finance
- Inside Careers:
- Banking, Securities & Investments
- City & Finance
Useful Background Information
Finding an Economic Consultancy Job
Professional Bodies, Trade Organisations & Journals/Magazines
Wet Feet - Careers in Management Consulting / 25 Top Consulting Firms
WetFeet Guides are available free of charge for University of St Andrews students. WetFeet is a comprehensive online library of US-based company research and career-related information. It also publishes ‘Insider Guides’ – a series of career management guidebooks for job seekers.
How to gain access: