Economists: Job Description & Career Requirements

Apr 15, 2019

Economists research and report on how countries and markets utilize human and natural resources to produce products and services. Learn what type of education is needed to enter the field, as well as job outlook and salary potential for economists.

Career Definition for Economists

Economists study how societies and markets distribute resources, such as raw materials, land, human labor and capital in order to create goods and services. Economists are employed by a wide variety of entities, including government agencies, investment houses, banks, think tanks, non-profit groups and large corporations. Common duties of economists include collecting data, analyzing reports, utilizing modeling techniques, studying forecasts and producing reports.

Required Education Master's degree in economics; some jobs require a Ph.D
Job Skills Math and analytical skills, computer skills, technology skills, detail oriented
Median Salary (2018)* $104,340
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 6%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Required

A master's degree in economics is the minimum educational requirement for obtaining this position, but a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) may be required for some jobs. Master's programs typically take 2-3 years to complete; a Ph.D. in Economics program may require a 5-year commitment. Coursework typically includes topics in macro and microeconomics, econometrics, mathematics, calculus, accounting and statistics.

Skills Required

In addition to strong math and analytical skills, economists need to have strong computer and technology skills. Those seeking a career in economics also must be able to prioritize tasks and pay careful attention to details.

Employment and Salary Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment opportunities for economists nationwide will increase by 6% from 2016-2026, a fast-as-average rate in comparison to all other occupations. In May 2016, approximately 31% of economists worked for the federal or state and local governments; many others were employed by financial, management, scientific or technical firms and services. Median annual earnings for economists as of May 2018 were $104,340 (

Alternate Career Options

Two other jobs that deal with finance and economics are as follows:

Financial Analysts

Financial analysts evaluate quantitative data and help companies and individual clients make sound investment decisions, such as those associated with bonds and stocks. Undergraduate preparation can include a bachelor's degree in economics, mathematics, finance or statistics; graduate students can pursue a Master of Business Administration or a Master of Science in Finance. In addition, licensure is required for many types of financial analysts.

As reported by the BLS, an 11%, or faster-than-average, increase in employment is expected for financial analysts across the country between 2016 and 2026. Those employed in May 2018 received median yearly salaries of $85,660 (

Political Scientists

Political scientists research the developmental and organizational aspects of political institutions, including government policies and patterns. While a bachelor's degree may qualify some candidates for entry-level positions with government entities, nonprofit associations, political campaigns or research organizations, completion of a master's or Ph.D. program in political science or public administration is the usual requirement for obtaining a position. Employment opportunities are expected to increase by 3%, with a gain of 200 jobs in this limited and select field from 2016 to 2026. According to the BLS, political scientists employed in May 2018 earned median annual wages of $117,570 (

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