Jobs in Economic Development: Career and Salary Information

Economic developers work under a wide range of job titles, including economic development specialist, project director, and project coordinator. While these jobs require various degrees of education and experience, all involve working toward the advancement of healthy local economies.

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Supporting and improving the economy can happen at the local, regional, or national level. There are several careers that can help to further this goal; they include economic development project directors and coordinators, as well as urban or regional planners. A bachelor's degree in economics will allow you to pursue work in this field.

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Essential Information

Economic development is described by John Blaye, economic development director of Valley County, ID, as being about the fundamentals of enhancing land, labor, capital, and technology to increase productivity. The California Association of Local Economic Development (CALED) states that the term holds different definitions for different groups of people, but always has to do with the enhancement of a healthy economy (www.caled.org). The U.S. Department of Commerce funds the Economic Development Administration (EDA), which provides job opportunities to individuals interested in this profession. Job titles might include urban and regional planner or economic development project coordinator.

Required Education Bachelor's or master's degree in economics
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% (for urban and regional planners); 2% (for architectural and engineering managers)
Mean Salary (2015)* $70,680 (for urban and regional planners); $141,650 (for architectural and engineering managers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

After earning a degree, graduates could pursue directorial or managerial positions in government agencies or private firms. They could work at the state or local government levels in small towns or large cities. They may also find work as project coordinators or directors in a variety of physical locations. Below are more details about two career opportunities available to those interested in economic development.

Urban and Regional Planner

Urban and regional planners typically work for state or local governments, architectural firms, engineering companies or consulting firms. They conduct and review studies about the ways in which land development impacts the environment, review development plans and confer with public officials about land development projects and needs.

The BLS reports that this group could expect to see a 6% job growth rate over the 2014-2024 period. The mean annual salary for urban and regional planners as reported by the BLS in May 2015 is $70,680. Those working at the federal government level made a mean annual wage of $93,970, while employees at the state and local government levels earned $67,340 and $69,330, respectively. Those working in the architectural and engineering fields were paid a mean annual wage of $74,020.

Economic Development Project Coordinator & Director

Economic development project coordinators and directors can have diverse job duties. Some cities hire these professionals and give them jobs directing programs designed for the good of the public. Job duties may include completing projects to make a city look more appealing. This may allow new or current businesses to open up locations within the city. Professionals in this field may have to put together agreements and contracts and develop a knack for marketing and business networking. They might work for government agencies as well as architectural or engineering firms.

While the BLS does not report directly about economic development project coordinators or managers, they do provide job outlook and salary details for architectural and engineering managers. A job growth rate of 2% is predicted for this group between 2014 and 2024, says the BLS. A mean annual salary of $141,650 was realized by these types of managers as of May 2015, the BLS states.

Careers in economic development include work in urban or regional planning, or as an economic development director or coordinator, in a variety of geographic locations. Growth in this sector is slow to average, with competitive salaries at higher levels.

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