Become an Economist: Education Requirements and Career Info

Apr 28, 2020

Learn how to become an economist. Explore the job description and requirements, and learn about the experience you'll need to advance your career in economics.

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Economists collect and scrutinize information in order to study, research, predict, and evaluate business and revenue trends in most industries. They identify current events in the production and availability of goods, services, and other resources in order to track history and predict the future. Economists often gather and analyze information online, using the data to assist in the control and regulation of costs, interest rates, and distribution of products.

Almost all economists work full-time, although some may combine part-time consulting with teaching. The job may be stressful, especially as deadlines for reports approach. The majority of economists conduct their research independently in an office setting or from home. Some travel to conferences or executive meetings.

Career Skills & Info

Degree Level Bachelor's degree required; most positions in the private sector and academia require a graduate degree
Degree Field Economics
Experience Internships are helpful
Computer Skills Know how to work with statistical, spreadsheet, and office software
Key Skills Analytical, math, and writing skills
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 8% (for all Economists)
Average Annual Salary (May 2019)* $116,630 (for all Economists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Next up, we'll look at some of the different undergraduate and graduate programs that can help you begin and advance a career in economics.

Step 1: Bachelor's Degree

An undergraduate degree in economics requires general education courses along with classes in business, management, and economics. Core economics topics include the study of microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, and economic thought. Depending on the college or university, the major may be offered through the college of liberal arts, social science department, or school of business.

Step 2: Master's Degree

A master's degree in economics can usually be completed in two years or less. An undergraduate degree in economics is not always required for admission, though students who have majored in another area may have to take additional coursework.

A masters degree program in economics prepares graduates for further study at the doctoral degree level. Some programs allow students to choose an area of emphasis, such as international economics or economic development. Others may cover wide-ranging topics in contemporary economic issues. A thesis may also be required, though some programs offer a non-thesis option.

Step 3: Doctoral Degree

A Doctor of Philosophy in Economics is a research-based degree that covers advanced topics in microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, and quantitative analysis. Economists hoping to teach at a postsecondary institution often pursue a doctoral degree. A majority of their time in residence is spent working on a dissertation.

Some possible areas of emphasis include econometrics, income distribution, industrial organization, and international economics. Students applying to a PhD program in economics don't need a master's degree in the field. In fact, many doctoral degree students have only a bachelor's degree in economics.

Step 4: Employment

The private sector, particularly consulting firms and scientific and technical companies, may offer the best chances for employment for economists. Research and educational institutions will also provide employment opportunities. These will be most plentiful for applicants with master's or doctoral degrees. Individuals with only bachelor's degrees will face intense competition. Economists who hold doctoral degrees are qualified to teach at universities.

Step 5: Professional Membership

Professional organizations provide members with an opportunity to network with fellow economists working in the same subfields and to keep current on advancements and research. Organizations include the Association for Social Economics and the National Association for Business Economists.

Just to recap, a master's or doctoral degree in economics can help you succeed in the field, which is expected to grow by faster than average rate through 2028. As of May 2019, economists earned a median yearly salary of $105,020.

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