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From engineer to economist: Post-baccalaureate diploma helps Seamus Long change careers

May 23, 2023

Seamus Long had finished his course work in civil engineering at BCIT, completed nearly 4 years of work experience, and was just shy of receiving his professional engineer designation when he was struck by a question.


Although he was doing important work on major Metro Vancouver water infrastructure projects, he felt like something was missing. Engineering in some ways felt to him like “a band-aid solution.”

Upon the realization that his current career was less fulfilling than he'd hoped, Long looked at the rest of his life. “Pretty much on every metric,” he says, speaking like an economist, “I didn’t feel like I was maximizing my benefits.” He wanted to pursue unique research and craved a deeper focus on the bigger picture.

Long’s career questioning coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic and the availability of more remote learning options. He made an arrangement with his then-manager and scheduled blocks during his workday to take courses at Douglas College.

The economics courses he took challenged him in a new way. He loved how economics “asks big questions in a formalized manner.” Long was so excited about economics that he took the leap: in April 2022 he quit his engineering job, focused on his summer courses, and then started as a full-time SFU student in September.

Long was drawn to SFU’s Department of Economics because of its high ranking in Canada, the quality of the faculty, and the post-baccalaureate diploma (PBD) option that allowed him to accelerate his degree and prepare him for graduate school.

Designed for students who hold a bachelor’s degree in another discipline, the PBD program allows students to pursue individual interests in specific areas of economics. The program consists of 30 units of third and fourth-year courses.

Long enjoyed all of his economics courses at SFU, especially ECON 355W: Economic Development with Chris Bidner which helped him express his ideas on the page and ECON 302: Microeconomic Theory II with Shih En Lu which, although challenging, gave Long a deep appreciation for theory.

The economics honours program and Long’s cohort of peers were a bonus: he appreciated the small class sizes, the collaborative nature of the program, and the discussion style of lectures. “There’s nothing better than it at SFU,” he says.

Long credits his partner, who is completing her master's degree in occupational therapy, as a big source of support on this new path. They balance their studies with hiking, camping, skiing, and hanging out with their cat, Hugh.

“Probably one of the hardest choices I’ve made in my life was deciding to go back to school,” Long says, but he has no regrets. After just one year at SFU, he has been offered MA placements in economics at several top-tier universities in the UK and Canada and has accepted an offer from UBC.  He hopes to complete a PhD and pursue a career in research, policy, or planning.