Economists held about 21,000 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of economists were as follows:
|Federal government, excluding postal service||22%|
|Scientific research and development services||19|
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||13|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||9|
|Finance and insurance||6|
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.
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.
Economists typically have an interest in the Thinking, Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Thinking or Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as an economist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Economists should also possess the following specific qualities:
Analytical skills. Economists must be able to review data, observe patterns, and draw logical conclusions. For example, some economists analyze historical employment trends to make future projections on jobs.
Communication skills. Economists must be able to explain their work to others. They may give presentations, explain reports, or advise clients on economic issues. They may collaborate with colleagues and sometimes must explain economic concepts to those without a background in economics.
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.
Detail oriented. Economists must pay attention to details. Precise data analysis is necessary to ensure accuracy in their findings.
Math skills. Economists use the principles of statistics, calculus, and other advanced topics in mathematics in their economic analyses.
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 was $105,020 in May 2019. 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 $59,450, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $185,020.
In May 2019, the median annual wages for economists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Finance and insurance||$120,770|
|Federal government, excluding postal service||119,580|
|Scientific research and development services||114,140|
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||108,190|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||73,400|
Most economists work full time. Some perform work that may require overtime hours.
Employment of economists is projected to grow 8 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.
Businesses and organizations across many industries use economic analysis and quantitative methods to analyze and forecast business, sales, and other economic trends. Demand for economists should come from the increasing complexity of the global economy, additional financial regulations, and a more competitive business environment.
In general, job opportunities should be good. Job prospects should be best for those with a master’s degree or Ph.D., strong analytical skills, and experience using statistical analysis software.
Applicants with a bachelor’s degree may face strong competition for jobs. As a result, bachelor’s degree holders will likely find jobs in other occupations.
For more information about economists, visit
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For information on federal government education requirements for economist positions, visit