What They Do: Economists collect and analyze data, research trends, and evaluate economic issues for resources, goods, and services.
Work Environment: Although the majority of economists work independently in an office, many collaborate with other economists and statisticians. Most economists work full time during regular business hours, but occasionally they work overtime to meet deadlines.
How to Become One: Most economists need a master’s degree or Ph.D. However, some entry-level jobs—primarily in the federal government—are available for workers with a bachelor's degree.
Salary: The median annual wage for economists is $105,630.
Job Outlook: Employment of economists is projected to grow 13 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of economists with similar occupations.
Economists study the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services by collecting and analyzing data, researching trends, and evaluating economic issues.
Economists typically do the following:
Economists apply both qualitative and quantitative economic analysis to topics within a variety of fields, such as education, health, development, and the environment. Some economists study the cost of products, healthcare, or energy, while others examine employment levels, business cycles, exchange rates, taxes, inflation, or interest rates.
Economists often study historical trends and use them to make forecasts. They research and analyze data using a variety of software programs. They sometimes present their research to various audiences.
Many economists work in federal, state, and local government. Federal government economists collect and analyze data about the U.S. economy, including employment, prices, productivity, and wages, among other types of data. They also project spending needs and inform policymakers on the economic impact of laws and regulations.
Economists working for corporations help managers and decisionmakers understand how the economy will affect their business. Specifically, economists may analyze issues such as consumer demand and sales to help a company maximize its profits.
Economists also work for international organizations, research firms, and think tanks, where they study and analyze a variety of economic issues. Their analyses and forecasts are frequently published in newspapers and journals.
Many PhD economists become postsecondary teachers.
Economists hold about 18,600 jobs. The largest employers of economists are as follows:
|Federal government, excluding postal service||25%|
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||17%|
|Scientific research and development services||14%|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||11%|
|Finance and insurance||7%|
Economists typically work independently in an office. However, many economists collaborate with other economists and statisticians, sometimes working on teams. Some economists work from home, and others may be required to travel as part of their job or to attend conferences.
Economists spend much of their time using computers to analyze data, review research, or write findings.
Most economists work full time. In addition to working full time at a business or university, some economists consult part-time. Some perform work that may require overtime hours.
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Most economists need a master's degree or Ph.D. However, some entry-level jobs—primarily in government—are available for workers with a bachelor's degree.
A master's degree or Ph.D. is required for most economist jobs. Positions in business, research, or international organizations often require a combination of graduate education and work experience. In addition, courses that introduce students to statistical analysis software are helpful.
Students can pursue an advanced degree in economics with a bachelor's degree in a number of fields, but a strong background in mathematics is essential. A Ph.D. in economics may require several years of study after earning a bachelor's degree, including completion of detailed research in a specialty field.
Candidates with a bachelor's degree may qualify for some entry-level economist positions, including jobs with the federal government. An advanced degree is sometimes required for advancement to higher level positions.
Aspiring economists can gain valuable experience from internships where the work involves gathering and analyzing data, researching economic issues and trends, and writing reports on their findings. In addition, related experience, such as using statistical analysis software, can be advantageous.
Analytical skills. Economists must be able to review data in detail, observe patterns, perform advanced calculations, and draw logical conclusions. For example, labor economists analyze the effects of labor policies on employment.
Critical-thinking skills. Economists must be able to use logic and reasoning to solve complex problems. For instance, they might identify how economic trends may affect an organization.
Speaking skills. Economists must be able to explain their work to others. They often give presentations and explain reports to clients who may not have a background in economics.
Writing skills. Economists must be able to present their findings clearly. Many economists prepare reports for colleagues or clients; others write for publication in journals or for news media.
The median annual wage for economists is $105,630. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $62,460, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $193,690.
The median annual wages for economists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Finance and insurance||$163,640|
|Federal government, excluding postal service||$125,950|
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||$117,510|
|Scientific research and development services||$101,910|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||$82,220|
Most economists work full time. Some perform work that may require overtime hours.
Employment of economists is projected to grow 13 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations.
About 1,600 openings for economists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Many of the new jobs for these workers are expected to be in firms that specialize in research and consulting services.
Organizations across many industries use economic analysis and quantitative methods to study and forecast business, sales, and other market trends. Employment demand is expected to be strong for these workers, as organizations increasingly turn to economists to apply analysis of big data to pricing, advertising, and other areas. The increasing complexity of the global economy and a more competitive business environment also are expected to support demand for economists.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2020||Projected Employment, 2030||Change, 2020-30|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.