Economist Job Description, Salary and OutlookAnalyzing economic trends through complex quantitative methods is a reliable way to forecast sales, profits and trends. Some businesses rely on skilled economists to do this valuable research, present their findings and guide them toward sound and profitable decisions. Becoming an economist is a great career option for people with strong math and analytical skills and an interest in research and the economy.

Economists may work in the private sector, in academia, for finance or consulting firms or for government agencies. They use their specialized knowledge to analyze events and developments in the local, national and global economy. They then provide insights into these events and their impact on business.

An economist’s forecasts can benefit an organization in a number of ways, including:

  • Determining when to increase or decrease staffing.
  • Planning for increases in costs, such as energy or labor.
  • Determining the impact of rising interest rates or changes in the dollar’s value.

Some economists work in sectors such as education, healthcare or the environment. Some focus on narrow sections of the economy, such as employment, wages, energy or exchange rates. Others have a more general focus, working to increase their employer’s productivity and profits.

An economist’s job duties will vary according to the industry and employer, but they often perform research and gather data to analyze economic issues. They may study economic trends, and then build and use statistical models to solve business problems.

Additional duties for economists might include presenting their findings through comprehensible tables, reports and charts; designing and implementing policies to solve business problems; managing analytical teams; and making recommendations to improve operations.

Salary Range and Job Outlook for Economists

A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) national survey reported that economists earned a median salary of $91,860 in May 2012. Those in the top 10% earned salaries of $155,490 and above.

BLS projections show that employment of economists will increase by 14% through 2022. Job growth is expected to improve based on factors like stringent financial rules and regulations, along with a more competitive business landscape.

According to the BLS, job prospects will be best for economists with advanced education, such as a master’s degree or Ph.D., or strong work experience. Those with a bachelor’s degree will likely face strong competition for jobs, although they may find success in landing entry-level positions, such as research assistant or financial analyst.

Required Knowledge and Skills

Economists need to be extremely sharp, with a thorough understanding of complex economic and mathematical concepts. They are often called upon to think on their feet, using data to make sound decisions and recommendations. For success in an economist career, you’ll need to develop the following knowledge and skills:

  • Awareness of statistics methodology.
  • Strong research skills.
  • Knowledge of modeling, statistical analysis, data collection and manipulation.
  • The ability to work in fast-paced environments.
  • Effective verbal and written communication skills.
  • Strong attention to detail.
  • Critical thinking skills.
  • The ability to work independently.

Required and Recommended Education for Economists

Most economist jobs require at least a master’s degree. For certain positions, employers may require or show preference to candidates with a Ph.D. Some entry-level jobs in the field will require only a bachelor’s degree.

Students can plan their educational path by earning a bachelor’s degree in business, economics, finance or a related field. Coursework in economics, math and statistics will be especially helpful. Pursuing an advanced economics degree after earning a bachelor’s in an unrelated field is possible, but a strong background in math is necessary.

A Ph.D. in economics requires years of study beyond the bachelor’s level, including detailed research in a specific field.

Work experience or an internship as a research assistant, either with a government agency or private firm, will augment your educational credentials. Many employers will prefer candidates with at least some relevant experience.

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