How to Become an

Economist

The complete career guide to be an Economist: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $109,230
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 5.6%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Good Entry Level Salary
    Career Attribute

Economists are mathematicians and theorists who study data and trends to make predictions about shifts in the economy. Economists are employed by corporations, the government, and academic institutions. They teach economics, analyze the impacts of decisions, and provide advice on policies.


What is an Economist?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in economist roles:

  • Collect and analyze data to determine the state of the economy, predict future shifts, and provide guidance on business decisions or government policies
  • Work with other economists and leaders to devise plans for simulating economical growth
  • Teach college economics courses, study economic theory, and publish theories and research in scholarly publications

A Day in the Life

Economists typically work in one of three sectors: government, corporate, or academia. The responsibilities of an economist will vary greatly depending on his/her sector of employment.

Economists employed by the government are focused on the health of the U.S. economy. They collect, research, and analyze data to provide reports to policymakers on economic health, which may include unemployment levels, inflation, and wage data. The information collected by economists is used in policy decision-making; for example, an economist may suggest raising minimum wage to stimulate economic growth or to provide acceptable living wages due to recent inflation of basic goods.

Economists employed by corporations generally study economic trends as a means of aiding company decision-making. These economists observe market trends for signs of changes that could impact the profits of the companies they work for. For example, an increase in foreclosures may be an early sign of a potential recession, and an economist might observe the sign and recommend against launching expensive new programs until signs point to growth in the economy and consumer purchasing.

Economists that work in academia teach economics courses to undergraduate and graduate college students. Additionally, economics professors are generally required to conduct research over the course of their careers and publish frequently in scholarly journals and other quality publications.

Typical Work Schedule

Most economist jobs are full-time positions conducted during normal business hours, and some overtime may be expected.

Projected Job Growth

Increased federal and state regulations on financial institutions and corporations may increase the demand for economists in coming years as companies search for ways to maximize profits and deal with the growing global economy.

Career Progression

  • Early Career: Economic Analyst, Statistician, Data Analyst
  • Mid-Career: Economic Forecaster, Economic Modeller
  • Late Career: Economics Professor, Senior Economist

Typical Employers

The federal government is the largest employer of economists. However, corporations, business consulting agencies, and universities also commonly employ economists.


How To Become an Economist

While it’s possible to work in an economist position with only a bachelor’s degree in economics, accounting, or finance, most employers will expect economists to hold a graduate degree, and many higher-level positions require graduate degrees in economics. Those with only bachelor’s degrees may qualify for entry-level positions as economic analysts, or they may be able to earn experience in a related field, such as banking or finance organizations.

Economists who aspire to be promoted into high-paying positions will most certainly need to pursue a master’s degree in economics, and may also need to earn a Ph.D. in economics. Aspiring economics professors will most certainly need to have earned a Ph.D. to qualify for tenured positions at colleges and universities. Applicants may be able to teach introductory economics courses as adjunct instructors with only a master’s degree if demand for courses is higher than tenured instructors can support.

Aspiring economists should make sure that their coursework is focused on a variety of skills that they’ll need to employ while working as economists. Business courses can be helpful for those looking to work for corporations, political science courses are useful for those who want to work in government, and pedagogy courses may be useful for aspiring economics professors. All economists will also need significant education in mathematical and financial topics.


Economist Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range

$70,870

Average

$109,230

High Range

$176,960

National Hourly Wage

Low Range

$34/hr

Average

$53/hr

High Range

$85/hr

How do Economist salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Economist's can make an average annual salary of $109,230, or $53 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $70,870 or $34 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #48 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally


Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming an Economist. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.


Highest Education Among Economists

  • 35.7%   Doctorate
  • 37.2%   Masters
  • 25.6%   Bachelors
  • 0.2%   Associates
  • 0.6%   College
  • 0%   High School
  • 0.8%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs

21,500

2024 Est. Jobs

22,700

Job Growth Rate

5.6%

Est. New Jobs

1,200

How does Economist job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 1,200 jobs for a total of 22,700 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 5.6% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #402 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally


What Companies Employ The Most Economists

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Federal government, excluding postal service 4,600 -500 0%
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 3,800 1,100 1%
Research and development in the social sciences and humanities 2,600 -300 0%

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