Case study

Assistant economist — Kitty McCarthy

As an assistant economist on the Civil Service Fast Stream, Kitty makes the most of the many learning and development opportunities available

How did you get your job?

I graduated with a BSc (Hons) Economics from the University of Birmingham in 2019 and am employed as an assistant economist working for the higher education (HE) economic analysis team at the Department for Education (DfE).

I applied via the Civil Service Fast Stream. As an economist you complete the first four stages of the Fast Stream selection process - competency-based questions, an e-tray exercise, a video interview and the Fast Stream Assessment Centre.

This is followed by the EAC (Economics Assessment Centre), a day of economics-based assessment interviews and exercises. The whole process took me just under three months, but it can take up to four or five.

What's a typical working day like?

My working day begins at around 8:45am, when I check my emails for any impending PQs or FOIs and read through the morning briefings. One of the great parts of my job is the independence I have, so I'm free to choose how to split up my day.

Currently, I'm training in R coding to create a financial sustainability dashboard (an interactive board of graphs and charts) to display key statistics, while also heading up a research commission on international HE, and beginning some cluster analysis work. On top of this I have ad hoc requests and help other team members out with quality assurance.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I most enjoy the responsibility of work within a culture of support and empowerment. I've been given support on the work I'm undertaking and the freedom to lead on projects and control my workload. This leads into the autonomy I have over my own learning and development.

What are the challenges?

Working in an economics team in an analytical division means a lot of the work we do can get very analytical, something I didn't focus much of my time on at university. However, I've had a lot of support from training and colleagues.

In what way is your degree relevant?

I'm shocked at how relevant almost all of my degree has been. I've used aspects of most of my modules to apply economic theory and quantitative analysis in my work.

Outside of my job, I've attended a variety of Fast Stream events and talks that access even more of the economics I learnt at university. For example, last week I went to the launch of the Fast Stream Environment Network where we spoke about sustainability and financial economics - using theory I learnt in my applied modules in my first year.

What are your career ambitions?

I've always been interested in development economics as well as aspiring to an international career, both of which I'd like to pursue in the public sector. My work at DfE has also furthered my interest in education policy and I would love to try working in a position with a greater focus on policy or in economic diplomacy.

If I was not to continue on a Civil Service path, working in a think-tank or international organisation such as the OECD stand out as ambitions to me.

What advice can you give to other aspiring economists?

  • Don't be put off by how long the application process can take or if you don't get through the first time - it's very common for people to join the Fast Stream after two, three or even four years of applying.
  • Your studies are going to be very relevant, so how hard you try at university will reflect in how successful you are in the job.
  • Take a variety of modules, even if some of them aren't your strongest points. I'm so grateful for taking opportunities to learn both analytical skills as well as essay-based applied modules.

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