Having a degree in economics is great, but to ensure that you get the most from your education an internship is a must. Internships offer real world experience, which is something that your classes can never truly give you. This experience will also translate into confidence about your career path, and greater job opportunities after graduation.
Many jobs require previous work experience, and that can be something of a catch-22 for recent graduates. If you don't have work experience, it's hard to get a job, and if you can't get a job you can't get the required work experience. This is where an economics internship comes in. An economics internship is one of the best ways for international students to get ahead in the job market. Although you may not get paid much (or at all), the non-financial benefits are numerous. You will have a taste of what it is like to actually work in the field, and this will make you more attractive to employers in the United States and the rest of the world.
How to apply for an internship
Many students decide to do an economics summer internship so that they can still take a normal class-load during the fall and spring semesters. If you decide that this is something you want to do, but are unsure where to begin, you should visit your college's career center. The people there are employed with the specific purpose of helping you find a job and internship, so use them to your advantage. Ask them what is available in your area, what skills are required from those options, and ask them what extra steps are required of international students when applying for internships.
There are also organizations online that can help you in your search. The youth-run organization AIESEC exists to help students around the world find internships. Another similar organization is CIEE. Both of these places offer tips for people interested in applying for internships, as well as places for people to sign up and actually apply for them through the company.
When you apply for an economics summer internship, you will be competing mostly with US students. Companies who hire international students have to complete more paperwork and follow more strict guidelines. To make sure that a company sees you as worth the extra work you need to highlight the things that make you unique. For example, if you are interested in international economics, try to find a company that has dealings with your country. You will be able to speak both languages, and you will be aware of the differing customs the countries have. This can make you an asset to the company, and will certainly make you worth hiring.
What to expect from an internship
When you finally get an acceptance call, don't expect to be offered a lot of money. Economics internships in the United States pay little to no hourly wage. You may have free meals or be reimbursed for your daily commute, but the biggest advantage of the internship is the experience you will gain. Economics jobs can be very fast-paced and require long hours. An economics summer internship can prepare you for the kind of day you will be experiencing in your day-to-day life, and let you speak with people in your field first-hand.
Popular places for economics internships
Federal Reserve - The Federal Reserve is the central banking system of the United States. The role of economists in this organization is to study the economy and see how it relates to the banking system. The two most popular internships in the Federal Reserve are in the Economic Research Divisions and in Information Technology.
Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) - The BEA is a government organization that gathers data about the US economy, including its gross and domestic product. This aim of the bureau is to provide a place people can go to find the most accurate and up-to-date economic information.
Mathematica Policy Research - Mathematica Policy Research is a firm that offers research and evaluation services to policy makers and program managers in subjects such as disability, early childhood, education, health, labor and many other important issues.
Brookings Institute - The Brookings Institute is a think tank which studies economics and governance. The major research focuses of those are on US foreign policy and the global economy and development.