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Career as an Economist

Who is an economist?

An economist is a practitioner in the social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts from economics and write about economic policy.

An economist is an economics expert, i.e., somebody who specializes in economics. An economist may also study, develop, and apply economic concepts and theories and write about economic policy.

are people who study the production and distribution of resources, products, and services; in other words, the economy. Economics is a social science that describes the factors that determine the production, distribution, and consumption of products and services.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has the following definition of economist:

“Economists study the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services by collecting and analyzing data, researching trends, and evaluating economic issues.”

“Economists apply both qualitative and quantitative economic analysis to topics within a variety of fields, such as education, health, development, and the environment. Some economists study the cost of products, healthcare, or energy, while others examine employment levels, business cycles, exchange rates, taxes, inflation, or interest rates.”

An economist may study historical trends. He or she may subsequently use those trends to make forecasts. They use a variety of software programs to research and analyze data. In many cases, they present their research and findings to audiences.

What does an economist do?

Economists study how society distributes resources, such as land, labor, raw materials, and machinery, to produce goods and services. They conduct research, collect and analyze data, monitor economic trends, and develop forecasts on a wide variety of issues, including energy costs, inflation, interest rates, exchange rates, business cycles, taxes, and employment levels, among others.

Economists develop methods for obtaining the data they need. For example, sampling techniques may be used to conduct a survey, and various mathematical modeling techniques may be used to develop forecasts. Preparing reports, including tables and charts, on research results also is an important part of an economist's job, as is presenting economic and statistical concepts in a clear and meaningful way for those who do not have a background in economics. Some economists also perform economic analysis for the media.

Economists working in economic consulting or research firms sometimes perform the same tasks as economists working for corporations. However, economists in consulting firms also perform much of the macroeconomic analysis and forecasting conducted in the United States. Their analyses and forecasts are frequently published in newspapers and journal articles.

Economists who work for government agencies also assess economic conditions in the United States and abroad to estimate the effects of specific changes in legislation and public policy. Government economists advise policy makers in areas such as the deregulation of industries, the effects of changes to Social Security, the effects of tax cuts on the budget deficit, and the effectiveness of imposing tariffs on imported goods. An economist working in State or local government might analyze data on the growth of school-age or prison populations and on employment and unemployment rates to project future spending needs.

Types of an economist

Generally, there are three broad types of economists: public sector economists, private sector economists and academic economists. The duties and responsibilities of economists within each category can be similar, but there are some important and noticeable differences that can help you decide which kind of economist you should be. Here’s a brief overview to get you started thinking about the possibilities in economics.

Public Sector Economists

What Do Public Sector Economists Do?

The roles and responsibilities of a public sector economist include a wide array of tasks, but generally involve assessing policy, evaluating governmental budgets and collecting and analyzing data to help lobbyists and government officials make policy decisions. Economists work at all levels of the public sector, including local, state and federal government appointments.

Pros and Cons of Working as a Public Sector Economist

Working as a government economist generally offers more stability since the government does not make hiring and firing decisions based on profits or market stability. Public sector work offers economists the ability to tackle social problems they are passionate about in order to improve the lives of others. Working as an economist for the government or a government-controlled enterprise may also come with better benefits but may offer a lower starting pay. Notable drawbacks include dealing with the strict hierarchy and bureaucracy of the public sector and a complex, drawn-out hiring process.

Signs You Should Work in the Public Sector

Are you passionate about social issues? Do you want to play a role in policymaking? Is long-term job security important?

Academic Economists

What Do Academic Economists Do?

Careers in academia for economists focus on teaching and research. A professor’s time may be split equally between teaching classes and performing research, although this ratio can shift in either direction depending on the institution, the number of years of experience and sometimes the professor’s own interests and preferences. Note: positions at four-year colleges and universities typically require a Ph.D. degree.

Pros and Cons of Working as an Academic Economist

One of the appeals of working in academia is the ability to set your own research agenda. Academic researchers are usually free to work on whatever they want, as long as they can arrange funding to support their endeavor. Academia also provides economists with a high level of job security. According to the American Economic Association, the number of econ majors has increased sharply over the past few years but the number of graduates who go on to seek a Ph.D. has declined, which could mean an excellent job market in the years to come. Some downsides to working as an economist in academia are a lack of financial support for research outside of what you can arrange on your own and, for some, the teaching component of the job.

Signs You Should Work in Academia

Do you want the freedom to research subjects and topics that are most interesting to you? Do you plan on following up your Master’s in Economics with a Ph.D.? Do you want to help shape the minds of future economists?

Private Sector Economists

What Do Private Sector Economists Do?

Private sector economists work in a variety of different capacities, including banks, investment firms and private companies like Facebook and Amazon. Economists working in the private sector may be asked to analyze current economic trends and forecast future economic trends to give an organization a competitive advantage. Private sector economists may also analyze the possible effects of legislation or regulatory laws as they relate to an organization’s market share and bottom line.

Pros and Cos of Working as a Public Sector Economist

The private sector generally offers the highest salaries for economists. Working in the private sector also offers an economist the ability to move between businesses and organizations until they find the best culture fit. Of course, working in the private sector can often mean high-pressure work environments where results are expected quickly. There is also less opportunity for independent research beyond what the organization deems necessary.

Signs You Should Work in the Private Sector

Is organizational culture important? Do you want a career that offers more advancement opportunities? Do you want to maximize your earning potential as an economist?

What is the workplace of an economist like?

Economists often 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.


Abstract and simplify in order to identify and model the essence of a problem

Analyze and reason – both deductively and inductively

Marshal evidence and to assimilate, structure and analyses qualitative and quantitative data

Communicate concisely results to a wide audience, including those with no training in Economics

Think critically about the limits of one’s analysis in a broader socio-economic context

Draw economic policy inferences and to recognize the potential constraints in their implementation

Apply literary and information-processing skills, as well as interpersonal skills

Abilities of an economist

1.Communication skills

In order to really excel in your career, it's not enough for you to know lots of facts and to understand lots of complex ideas – you also have to be able to communicate this knowledge to others. You should work on your oral presentation skills as well as your written work, as you will be asked to present more often as you become more senior. You should also work on the ability to communicate with different audiences – academics, industry people, and lay people all need different approaches, and you should be able to adapt your information to a useful level for each audience. This is particularly true in economics, where there is a huge gulf between the average person's understanding and expert knowledge. Being able to clearly communicate important information to the public about recessions, global economics, and the long-term consequences of economic policies will help you to stand out in your field.


While academia can often promote a loan wolf approach to research, over your career it is vital for you to be able to work as part of team. You need to be able to take direction from a manager, to cooperate with colleagues, and to give support to more junior workers. This requires you to let go of your ego and to focus on getting the project complete, rather than focusing on what you want to do or what you think is the correct approach. “Difficult to work with” is not something that anyone wants in their reference, so put some effort into improving your teamwork skills.


In addition to working in a team, over your career you will likely need to lead a team in order to be successful. Management is an extremely challenging field, which some people mistakenly believe is easy. Finding the right balance of giving clear instructions while being approachable for your team is tricky! You may also need to manage people from other fields like business, IT, or science, so you need to know how to reach people with these different backgrounds. There are a huge range of books, courses, and other materials on leadership skills, and even if leadership is not your ultimate career goal, it will be useful for you to study the basic principles.

4.People skills

Sometimes, very ambitious people can be dismissive of people skills. “I'm brilliant at what I do – why should bother to be nice to people?” But this is a mistake. Every work project and career opportunity is also an interpersonal interaction. Knowing how to speak to people, being able to deal with emotions, looking people in the eye, and making others feel comfortable are all essential skills to make you appear competent and professional. If you're unsure about how to work on your people skills, pick a friend or colleague who you find easy to talk to and observe them in their interactions. How do they talk to others, how do they stand, what do they not do? Try to model these behaviors to make yourself open and approachable, which will benefit you at every stage of your career.

5.Language skills

In an increasingly globalized world, language skills have never been more important. Especially if you are working on global economic topics, speaking more than one language can be a real boon to your career and make you stand out from the pack. Obviously, if you specialize in the economics of a particular geographic area, it's useful for you to speak the local language. But there are also languages which will be important for future economic development which everyone could benefit from learning – such as Cantonese, Spanish, Japanese, or Russian.

Personalities of an economist

How do you become successful in the field of economics? What qualities do you need to become an economist? This is the topic we’re looking at today, with a list of 10 qualities that define a good economist.

1. Mathematical aptitude. Numeracy is a key skill for an economist. From dealing with large numerical datasets to interpreting visual data like graphs, you’ll need to be comfortable handling numbers and working with mathematical principles. This is why many economists take preparatory classes in mathematics before beginning work or study in economics.

2. Knowledge of social sciences. But mathematics is not all you need to be a successful economist. Economics also has a lot of common ground with other social science subjects like psychology, history, and sociology. Having a working knowledge of both the factual basis of these subjects and the methods used in them is beneficial for economists who will be working in related topics.

3. Good at understanding complex systems. The fact is that economics is a complex subject which looks at complex systems. You’ll need to be able to pull together information from different sources and different fields in order to be able to work with these complex systems.

4. Curious. In order to be successful as a student, professor, or researcher, you need to have a strong sense of curiosity. What is unknown or unclear in your field? How do insights from other fields affect the understanding of your subject? What topics are up for debate, and what are the arguments on each side? An interest in these questions is needed to motivate you to work your way through economics.

5. Independent thinker. While it’s obviously important to have knowledge of other people’s work and theories, to be truly successful as an economist you also need to have insights and ideas of your own. The ability to think for yourself and to question what you know will allow you to take new directions and to come up with original research which will make you a better economist.

6. Comfort with uncertainty. You will need to be comfortable with uncertainty, as not every question in this field has a clear and unambiguous answer.

7. Written skills. It’s no good having a great understanding of economics unless you can communicate that understanding to other people in a way which is meaningful. Good written skills are essential for making sure that your articles, book chapters, and notes are useful and comprehensible to others.

8. Verbal communication skills. As well as written communication skills, you’ll also need to be an effective presenter so that you can speak at conferences and teach classes. You should be comfortable speaking in front of an audience and able to convey the essential points of your subject clearly and concisely. These skills also help with other social situations like job interviews, speaking to the media, or making contacts to build up your network at conferences and other events.

9. Open minded. For success in any academic field, you need to be open-minded. It’s important that you are open to new ideas and do not become too set in your perspective. You need to be able to hear the views of others and to engage productively with them even if you disagree with their reasoning. A debate with a colleague can be a highly instructive experience, but only if you are open to hearing their views and to adjusting your own opinions where necessary.

10. Self-driven. Something else that’s important for academics, including economists, is the ability to motivate oneself. From postgraduate studies onwards you will be expected to manage your own time and set your own priorities, so you need to be able to push yourself to complete tasks without anyone else checking in on you or supporting you.

Job Outlook

Employment of economists is projected to grow 8 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects should be best for those with a master's degree or Ph. D., strong analytical skills, and experience using statistical analysis software

Frequently asked questions

What is some good advice for economist students?

Review your notes after class.

Complete homework assignments early.

Study for exams gradually.

Create a study guide.

Keep your goals in mind.

Develop an understanding of economic theories, history, and practice.

Watch the news.

Attend on-campus lectures.

What are the various economist designations?

Chartered Economist - Certified Financial Analyst - Certification Chartered Financial Planner GAFM ® - AFA Accredited Financial Analyst ® Certification - AMA Accredited Management Accountant ® - MMC Master Management Consultant ® Chartered Economist.

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