Economist Education & Job Requirements

See what it takes to become an economist. Read on to learn about the job requirements, educational paths and salaries to see if this is the job for you. Schools offering Economics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Economists work for the government or for private companies to crunch numbers, analyze data and study trends to provide insight into the economy. While a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for a limited number of entry-level positions, a master's degree is generally required to work as an economist. Take a look at the chart below for more information on becoming an economist.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Economics
Key Skills Analytical, critical-thinking, public speaking
Job Growth (2016-2026) 6%*
Median Salary (2017) $102,490*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Economists Do?

Economists collect data from a range of sources and analyze the data to make predictions about future trends in the movement of resources, goods and services within an economic system. If that sounds complicated, it's because it is. Economists use advanced mathematics, complicated algorithms and complex metrics to paint a picture with numbers. Because the economy is so sophisticated -- and affected by such a wide array of sectors -- economists are faced with the task of taking information from the past and present to project the future.

What Education Do You Need to Be an Economist?

Most economists need an advanced degree to work in the field. There are some jobs -- such as local government or entry-level work -- where a bachelor's degree in economics or math will work. By and large, though, economists are required to hold a master's degree. Other positions even require a Ph.D. in the field, such as working for the Federal Reserve. Internships are a great way to learn how to research, analyze data and write reports on trends. In addition, having advanced analytical and critical-thinking skills, strong writing abilities and excellent verbal communication can be helpful.

What's the Pay Like for Economists?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for an economist in May 2017 was $102,490 per year. Economists who worked in finance and insurance earned the most at $121,920 while those who held positions in the federal government were a close second at $113,950 a year.

How About the Job Outlook?

As the global economy becomes more and more complex, and as governments and business try to navigate those complexities, the need for economists will grow. The BLS predicts a change in employment of 6% from 2016 to 2026, which is right in line with the average growth of all other occupations in the country.

Where Do Economists Work?

Some economists work alone in offices or as a part of a team. Economists spend the lion's share of their time working on computers to analyze data and write reports about what they see. And, because of this independent nature, some are able to work from home. According to the BLS, for the majority of economists, the work is a full-time endeavor.

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