Resource Economics: Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook

Resource Economics

"Resource Economics" is the understanding and application of economic principles to resource management. Although it is related to Environmental Economics, the field is broader and covers economic principles and realms not traditionally considered to be related to the environment.

Resource Economists and Environmental or Ecological Economists can work together to bring people a balanced view of complicated economic issues. Economics is a very complex field; the balance of supply and demand and other simple principles you learned about in math class do not give an accurate description of real market principles. Economists from all schools of thought are needed to help policy makers make good decisions and to help people understand the underlying principles of economics.

The Academic Requirements

Resource Economics majors will take the same classes as traditional economics majors; advanced math, economic theory, computer science, etc. They will also learn about resource management, including environmental perspectives on the field. Many programs include classes on ethics, even though it may seem that ethics have no place in traditional economics. Understanding the ethics behind an issue, however, can help explain certain economic trends; can help shape policy; and can nudge the economist into thinking of things (such as human health, the value of the environment, and the protection of habitat for biodiversity) in non-economic terms.

Just being a good number-cruncher does not make you an economist. You will also need to be able to explain complex theories to the lay person. You will have to write papers in the major, and probably in your career, too. Economists also need to be open-minded; sometimes, the traditional way of understanding a theory turns out to be out-dated or overly simplistic. Open-minded economists lead the way in changing policies so that they are in keeping with the scientific understanding and social needs of the times.

Most economists hold masters or doctoral degrees, as these degrees are usually needed to work in private industries and in a position of responsibility within a firm or agency. Graduate school is the time to choose a subfield within economics and specialize in that field.

Here are some courses that we've seen:

  • Agricultural Economics
  • International Markets and Trade
  • Quantitative Policy Analysis
  • Non-market Valuation
  • Econometrics: Multiple Equation Estimation
  • Environmental & Resource Science
  • Environmental Science & Policy
  • Economics of Natural Resource Policy
  • Introductory Mathematical Statistics for Economists
  • Consumption Economics and Price Analysis
  • Finance

Professional Outlook

Economists generally have regular work schedules and work in offices. They often work alone, writing reports and preparing presentations. Sometimes they work within a research team, or with other non-economists, to come up with solutions to multidisciplinary problems. Economists sometimes attend meetings and conferences, for which travel may be necessary.

Private industry employs over half of all economists; many of these industries are research and consulting firms. Government agencies employed most of the other economists. Some work in academia, and about 11 percent are self-employed.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, Economists who hold master's or doctorate degrees have the best chance of getting a good job.

Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Resource Economics:


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