What is Economic Consulting?
Economic consulting is the practice of providing organizations with information they can use to improve their performance and inform public decision-making. Economic consultants use economic theory, econometrics, surveys, and data visualization practices to answer client questions about a variety of business and social issues. In addition to traditional financial, business intelligence, and other business related topics, today’s economic consultants are increasingly involved in other exciting areas such as environment and natural resources, education, intellectual property, healthcare, economic development, and sustainability.
Economic consulting is playing an increasingly important role in managerial decision making in the United States and abroad. Enterprises are increasingly influenced by government regulations and policies that necessitate strategic decision-making. More recently, the explosion of data and inexpensive computing power has made economists’ analysis more valuable. As a result, there is increasing demand by firms, such as Analysis Group, Charles River Associates, FTI Consulting, McKinsey & Company, NERA Economic Consulting, The Brattle Group, EY, Bates White, Edgeworth Economics and RTI International for graduates with the skills and background to succeed in these kinds of environments.
The Elon BSBA in Economic Consulting
The BSBA in Economic Consulting provides students with training in the application of microeconomics, macroeconomics and econometrics to problems of business decision making. To be successful, business economists have to know how to apply the tools of microeconomic analysis (e.g., critical thinking, modelling, econometric analysis, etc.) to real-world business problems.
Unlike the BA in Economics, which is a traditional Arts & Sciences major that concentrates on developing generalizable critical thinking skills, the BSBA in Economic Consulting requires students to take the Love School of Business core curriculum as those majoring in Entrepreneurship, Finance, International Business, Marketing and Management currently do. The Love School of Business core provides the necessary background for students to understand (1) the basic functional areas of business; (2) the strategic decisions that firms must consider; and (3) how these areas are integrated within organizations. The Love School of Business core also develops basic skills and knowledge that are critical to the success of consultants and that will be built upon within the major courses. These skills include oral and written presentation, basic knowledge of Excel, case-based analytics, and general business acumen.
The BA in Economics major requires all students to write an original thesis. They develop their own research question, read the literature, and test theoretical predictions of economic models to address their thesis. They work one-on-one with a faculty mentor throughout the academic year. Such research is best described as “basic research” in the sense that students are looking to answer fundamental questions about how individuals behave and respond to incentives.
The BSBA in Economic Consulting also requires a research-based capstone, but it is very different. First of all, students work in small groups as they would if they were working in a consulting firm or division. Second, they work on a client-driven research project rather than a question of their choosing. Such research questions are not well-formed, but typically broad. Part of the role of the consultant is to take the client’s question and figure out how to address it. In this sense, the skills are more similar to those utilized in case competitions. Third, the client may or may not provide data. If not, the group has to find data themselves. Finally, as Assistant Professor Brooks Depro explains, “As a consultant, you will have to consider a broader set of constraints and tradeoffs when performing empirical analysis and communicating results.” In other words, the standards for best practice analysis are quite different than they are in academics due to data and time constraints.