Economic Development Jobs: Career Options, Duties and Requirements

Sep 17, 2019

Learn about the education and qualifications needed to pursue a career in economic development. Get an overview of the requirements as well as details about career options, job duties, and salary.

Economic development planners are in charge of helping local government with the development of land and facilities. They are a type of urban or regional planner that specializes in economic activity, so their focus includes attracting businesses and ensuring there is housing for workers. They need a graduate degree in a relevant field, and many employers look for experience.

Essential Information

Economic development jobs revolve around bettering the quality of life and financial well-being of a region's citizens. Careers in this field focus on how to create sustainable growth within a target community, city or state.

Required Education Master's degree
Common Employment Industries Government (local, state, and federal) and private architectural organizations
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 11% (for urban and regional planners) *
Median Salary (2018) $73,050 annually (for urban and regional planners) *

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Economic Development Career Options

Government economic development jobs can be found at the federal, state and local level. On a federal level, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) oversees initiatives to create jobs and encourages partnerships and creativity by awarding grants to applicants whose work furthers the EDA's goals. At the state level, offices with economic development workers oversee agencies that work on business and community development. On a local level, economic development agencies can foster innovations spawned at local universities and work to keep them in the area.

Economic development jobs with a global reach and can be found through private organizations and government agencies. Assignments vary according to needs and safety concerns, specifically for international work.

Private industry economic development jobs include university development officers, business alliance managers and chamber of commerce directors. Universities hire economic development officers to find ways to collaborate with the business community to enhance and sustain job growth. Business alliances and chambers of commerce are groups that form to attract new business to an area and to better market current businesses.

Economic Development Job Duties

Governmental economic development officers do everything from run workshops to oversee grant applications to community outreach in order to encourage specific industries to relocate to or remain in a certain region. Assistance sometimes takes the form of helping business owners navigate areas of legal confusion. Economic development officers lobby for industry specific tax incentive legislation or help businesses apply for tax breaks.

Some economic development workers create public awareness campaigns, work directly in the community, organize and train community members, write mission statements and raise funds. Employees also assist with paperwork for building and business permits. A major part of an economic development officer's job consists of writing proposals for grant money.

Requirements for Economic Development Jobs

Governmental economic development jobs require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as accounting, business administration or finance. In addition, government employees who work overseas are expected to have relevant job experience including prior work overseas.

Common qualifications to work for a non-profit organization include a bachelor's degree and two years of management experience for a nonprofit. Higher-level positions may require more experience, up to five years of nonprofit management, or graduate-level education including a master's degree in public administration, nonprofit management or organizational development. Full-time economic development officers working for a university need a master's degree and a minimum of five years in economic development.

Salary and Job Outlook

The salary and outlook information for economic development jobs varies based on the position. One example of an occupational group that performs many economic development tasks is urban and regional planners. These planners, including economic development planners, are expected to see 11% employment growth during the 2018-2028 decade. The median annual salary for this occupational group was $73,050 as of May 2018.

While most economic development planners will work for local or state government, some private enterprises, such as architectural or engineering services, may hire urban planners to assist in ensuring that facility design meets public needs. Some positions only require a bachelor's degree, but most applicants now carry a master's degree and at least one year of relevant experience. The BLS expects employment to grow at a rate approximately equal to that of all occupations, but job opportunities can fluctuate greatly, depending on the state of the economy.

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