Economists picture    Economists image

Economists are experts in the social science of economics, which analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services by society. Their job typically involves some combination of research, analysis, and/or forecasting. The types of things they research and analyze include historical trends and economic indicators such as interest rates, energy costs, business cycles, and employment levels. They typically use or maintain databases and develop models to make projections on future growth, interest rates, unemployment, or inflation.

Most economists focus on practical applications of economic policy. Many of them make regular use of mathematical models to help predict answers to questions involving the effects of inflation rates, tax legislation, or some other social phenomenon on unemployment levels or general economic health. They use their understanding of economic relationships to provide advice to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations.


Duties of economists are largely dependent on where and for whom they work. Many economists devise tools that can be used to obtain or analyze data. Economists often prepare reports, including tables and charts, which depict economic and statistical concepts in a clear and meaningful way. Typical other duties include the following:

  • Provide advice and consultation on economic relationships
  • Make recommendations on policies or plans to solve economic problems or interpret markets
  • Formulate economic projections
  • Develop economic guidelines and standards
  • Prepare reports to explain economic phenomena and forecast market trends
  • Supervise research projects

There are several specializations within the general field of economics. Although all types of economists need a good general knowledge of basic economic principles, specialists tend to focus on certain specific aspects of economics. Some of these specialists are listed here:

  • Industrial economists analyze the market structure of particular industries and market decisions of competitive firms
  • Monetary economists study the financial and banking systems
  • Labor economists analyze the reasons for unemployment and the effects of changing demographic trends on labor markets
  • Public finance economists concern themselves with the role of the government and the effects of budget deficits, tax cuts, and welfare policies on the economy
  • International economists focus on exchange rates and the effects of various trade policies on international financial markets
  • Macroeconomists focus on the economy as a whole, analyzing how historical trends might affect forecasting of future trends in areas such as economic growth, unemployment, inflation, productivity, and investment
  • Microeconomists study the supply and demand decisions of individuals and firms and make recommendations on maximization of profits
  • Econometricians investigate all areas of economics and formulate economic models by applying mathematical techniques such as calculus, game theory, and regression analysis
  • Market Research Analysts focus on the potential sales of a product or service by analyzing data on past sales to predict future sales and by gathering data on competitor pricing, sales, and methods of marketing and distribution

Job Characteristics

Economists have widely varying work schedules which usually depend on their specialty and their employer. They most often work alone, relying on computers and statistical charts to do research and write reports, but in some cases they are integral parts of research teams. There can be some pressure associated with the job, mostly in the form of deadlines and tight schedules which must be met. When this is the case, overtime work can be common. They are often called upon to produce special reports and to attend meetings or conferences. Those economists who work in academia tend to have flexible work schedules and often divide their time among teaching, research, consulting, and administration. For some types of economist, frequent travel may be necessary.

Perhaps the most important skill needed by a good economist at any level is a close attention to detail, which is necessary for the large amounts of precise data analysis that must be done. Economists also need strong computer skills as well as quantitative abilities required for complex research. In order to be able to study independently and solve problems successfully, a good economist should be both patient and persistent. As is the case in many professions, good communication and writing skills are also very important, as economists must be able to present their findings clearly and concisely both orally and in writing.

Employment Outlook

The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (USDL BLS) forecasts employment growth of economists to substantially match that of the average occupation over the next decade. There is expected to be a continually robust demand for economists in general; however, overall job growth in this field may be tempered somewhat by a slow growth or decline of many government sectors, where the bulk of economists tend to be employed.

Employment is expected to grow most rapidly in private industry, especially for those economists who work in consulting services. Many corporations prefer to hire economic consultants instead of keeping an economist on their staff. Either way, companies will encounter a growing need for economic expertise due to the expanding complexity of the global economy and an increasing reliance on quantitative methods for analyzing and forecasting sales, business, and other economic trends. Not surprisingly, economists with master's or Ph.D. degrees, especially those who also have good communications skills, should have the best job opportunities.

Economist Degrees, Certification, and Licensing

Although there is no legally-mandated educational or licensing requirement for economists, the minimum qualification for a career in practical terms is a bachelor's degree. Higher degrees, however, are required for many positions. To work for the Federal Government, candidates for entry-level economist positions need a bachelor's degree with a minimum of 21 semester hours of economics and 3 hours of statistics, accounting, or calculus. Advancement to more responsible positions usually requires a more advanced degree. Many private sector economist jobs require a master's degree or Ph.D. in economics.

The importance of quantitative skills in this profession requires aspiring economists to strongly consider courses in mathematics, statistics, econometrics, sampling theory and survey design, and computer science as part of their undergraduate curriculum. Other very useful courses, if offered, would be microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics. Courses at the graduate level might include a higher focus on specializations; for example, international economics and labor economics. Students who intend to specialize should make an effort to select graduate schools that are strong in the specialties that interest them.

Some schools help graduate students find internships or part-time employment before graduation. This is an ideal way for aspiring economists to gain experience gathering and analyzing data, conducting interviews or surveys, and writing reports on their findings. The experience gained can prove invaluable later in obtaining a full-time position in the field because much of the economist's initial tasking may center on these duties. After acquiring more work experience, economists are typically assigned their own research projects.


Major Employers

More than half of all economists in the U.S. are employed by some government agency in either the Federal Government or at the state or local level. Other large employers include international organizations (e.g., the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and United Nations), colleges and universities, scientific research and development services, and various types of consulting firms.

Schools for Economists are listed in the column to the left.

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Economists jobs , as of 2016

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Metro Area (Arizona) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Scottsdale 80 $82,870
Mesa 80 $82,870
Phoenix 80 $82,870
Metro Area (Arkansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Conway 90 $59,700
North Little Rock 90 $59,700
Little Rock 90 $59,700
Metro Area (California) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
San Francisco 500 $114,340
Oakland 500 $114,340
Hayward 500 $114,340
Long Beach 490 $128,960
Los Angeles 490 $128,960
Anaheim 490 $128,960
Arden 190 $71,850
Roseville 190 $71,850
Sacramento 190 $71,850
Arcade 190 $71,850
Carlsbad 60 $80,110
San Diego 60 $80,110
Ontario 40 $101,740
San Bernardino 40 $101,740
Riverside 40 $101,740
Santa Clara N/A $119,670
San Jose N/A $119,670
Sunnyvale N/A $119,670
Metro Area (Colorado) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lakewood 140 $91,970
Aurora 140 $91,970
Denver 140 $91,970
Metro Area (Connecticut) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
East Hartford 120 $93,880
West Hartford 120 $93,880
Hartford 120 $93,880
Stamford 30 $172,980
Norwalk 30 $172,980
Bridgeport 30 $172,980
New Haven N/A $112,230
Metro Area (Florida) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Tallahassee 50 $61,620
St. Petersburg 40 $95,720
Clearwater 40 $95,720
Tampa 40 $95,720
Orlando N/A $77,810
Sanford N/A $77,810
Kissimmee N/A $77,810
Metro Area (Georgia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Roswell 340 $103,040
Sandy Springs 340 $103,040
Atlanta 340 $103,040
Metro Area (Hawaii) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Urban Honolulu N/A $95,520
Metro Area (Iowa) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Des Moines 40 $76,290
Des Moines 40 $76,290
Metro Area (Maryland) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Towson 80 $101,370
Columbia 80 $101,370
Baltimore 80 $101,370
Metro Area (Michigan) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Dearborn 90 $70,340
Warren 90 $70,340
Detroit 90 $70,340
Ann Arbor 50 $92,760
Metro Area (Nevada) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Paradise N/A $81,700
Henderson N/A $81,700
Las Vegas N/A $81,700
Metro Area (New Jersey) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Trenton 70 $78,150
Metro Area (New York) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Troy 70 $78,410
Schenectady 70 $78,410
Albany 70 $78,410
Metro Area (North Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Raleigh N/A $95,210
Metro Area (Ohio) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Elyria 70 N/A
Cleveland 70 N/A
Metro Area (Pennsylvania) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Harrisburg 170 $65,460
Carlisle 170 $65,460
Pittsburgh 60 $91,780
Metro Area (Puerto Rico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Caguas 80 $36,590
Carolina 80 $36,590
San Juan 80 $36,590
Metro Area (South Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Columbia 60 $60,480
Metro Area (Texas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Arlington 390 $103,690
Dallas 390 $103,690
Fort Worth 390 $103,690
Sugar Land 340 $120,350
The Woodlands 340 $120,350
Houston 340 $120,350
Round Rock 90 $82,950
Austin 90 $82,950
Metro Area (Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Richmond 70 $90,880
Metro Area (Washington) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bellevue 140 $97,370
Tacoma 140 $97,370
Seattle 140 $97,370
Metro Area (Wisconsin) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Madison 190 $82,230
West Allis 160 $78,950
Milwaukee 160 $78,950
Waukesha 160 $78,950
Metro Area (Wyoming) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cheyenne 40 $74,990

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Economists

To find out more about building a career as Economists, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Government 7,090 56% $82,140
Professional And Technical Services 3,250 26% $91,680
Non-profit 550 4% $75,210
Business Management 420 3% $80,460
Education 310 2% $52,320
Central Bank 310 2% $109,290
Securities And Investment 150 1% $98,000
Banking And Credit 130 1% $88,390
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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Economists.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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