Looking Ahead – Preparing Economics Students for the Real World

Recent economic data do not paint a favorable picture for soon-to-be college grads. The unemployment rate hovered at a stubborn 5.1% in September, and the U.S. Labor Department reported an overall lack of job growth. Additionally, the labor force participation rate dropped, which Kaulkin Ginsberg believes could be caused by Baby Boomers staying on past their slated retirement date, discouraging younger generations.

With such daunting statistics, many college students look toward graduation with dread. In such a competitive job market, any advantage helps.

To prepare the undergraduates participating in our Research Fellowship Program at the University of Maryland, we invited representatives from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Reserve Bank (Fed) to attend one of our classes and talk about government careers for economics majors.

Several recent graduates, including one of our previous fellows, kicked off the evening with an overview of what they’re doing now. Two of them currently work for the CFPB in the Director’s Financial Analyst Program, a two-year rotational fellowship that allows them to sample different departments, including research, markets and regulations, fair lending and equal opportunity, and enforcement. The program is specifically geared toward recent graduates, and the representatives spoke to the many projects they’ve been involved with over the past year, particularly revamping the outdated Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) of 1977. Our past fellow is a research assistant with the division of monetary affairs at the Fed, another two-year position. Participants who complete these programs go on to pursue graduate degrees or PhDs, or careers in economics, business, or other related fields.

Seasoned analysts also attended the event, and they explained their educational backgrounds and some of the qualifications they look for in applicants. They emphasized the importance of describing your skill set on your resume, and not just listing your classes but detailing the types of projects you worked on. They provided students with personal feedback on their resumes and warmed them that the window for submitting their applications online is very small.

It was an eye-opening evening for us, and we hope it was beneficial for our fellows. Regulatory compliance has become a pivotal part of collections, and people with these credentials are the most sought-after candidates for jobs in our industry. By gaining exposure to these agencies now, students set themselves up for success in both the public and private sectors. And career nights like this are an excellent opportunity for them to get their foot in the door.