Becoming an Economist: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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An economist's median annual salary is around $95,000. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about the career outlook to find out if becoming an economist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming an Economist

Economists research and analyze mathematical models and economic issues. Before pursuing a career in this field, you may want to find out the pros and cons of becoming an economist to find out if it's the right career for you.

Pros of an Economist Career
High-paying careers (average salary in May 2014 was just over $105,000)*
Several specializations (such as financial, labor and international economists)*
Jobs available in multiple industries (government, management, research, etc.)*
Traveling abroad opportunities may be available*

Cons of an Economist Career
Strong job competition*
High job preparation (master's or doctoral degree required for most positions)*
May require overtime*
Strict deadlines may cause pressure*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Economists examine practical applications of economic policy, looking at issues such as inflation, interest rates and the distribution of resources to produce goods. As an economist, you can supervise research projects, teach economic theories, compile reports, provide advice and develop economic guidelines. You may study supply and demand decisions made by companies, as well as examine historical trends to forecast future economic trends.

Specializations

Your job duties may be dependent on your economic specialty. For instance, financial economists develop models analyzing investment and risk, while international economists study economic trade. Some areas that the economist can specialize in include microeconomics, macroeconomics, labor, public finance and industrial economics.

Career Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), economist positions were expected to grow as fast as most other careers between 2012 and 2022. Careers in the private sector were more likely to grow faster than the public sector. The states with the highest concentration of jobs in May 2014 included the District of Columbia, Virginia, Massachusetts, Montana and Vermont. As of May 2014, most economists earned from approximately $50,000-$170,000.

Education and Training Requirements

A bachelor's degree in economics can gain you an entry-level position as a research assistant or administrative trainee in federal government, per the BLS. You may find that most advanced positions require at least a master's degree, if not a Ph.D. in Economics or related field. According to the BLS and a sample of job openings, some general skills you may need to possess include:

  • Management
  • Communication
  • Analytic thinking
  • Organization

Job Postings from Real Employers

Real employers often look for someone who has a graduate education, although some accept applicants with a bachelor's degree. Experience is another common requirement. Although these are only a few openings from a vast field, the following details were gathered from a March 2012 job sampling:

  • An analytic company located in Pennsylvania was looking for an economist who had skills writing detailed reports and making conference presentations in front of many people. Qualified applicants must have a graduate degree and 3-5 years of experience, as well as an excellent academic record.
  • An investment-advising company based in Connecticut advertised for an economist who was able to analyze balance sheets and was familiar with world economies. To qualify, you must hold a master's degree and 5 years of experience or a bachelor's degree and 7 years of experience. International travel was required.
  • A government agency located in Washington, DC, was looking to hire an economist knowledgeable in various business practices and who can read tax data. You must be a U.S. citizen to qualify.

How to Stand Out In the Field

Gaining advanced education or specializing in a specific field can boost your resume to potential employers, as evidenced by the BLS and job postings. If you're looking to be employed at a region-focused company, you may want to take educational courses detailing specific economic features in that region. Some education programs may offer you opportunities to specialize in a field related to financial, health, computational or political economics. Your education serves as a means to train you how to read economic trends, use information to find company operation alternatives and suggest financially viable streamlining.

Develop Related Skills

Elective courses are often outlets to earn training in specialized areas. During your education, you may find that courses in international economics, accounting, natural resource management, operations management, industrial operations, banking economics and public expenditures may provide enough additional education to work in tandem with field-required skills. Intensive hands-on work or professional, supervised research opportunities are also a way to stand out in the field; however, these may not be available until you're a graduate student.

Alternative Career Paths

Market Research Analysts

If earning a graduate degree isn't for you, but you're still interested in conducting research and learning about supply and demand, you might consider becoming a market research analyst. Workers in this field are in charge of finding legitimate means to gather consumer feedback and suggest improvements. You can enter this profession with a bachelor's degree. In May 2011, market research analysts earned an average salary of just over $67,000, according to the BLS. Although the average earnings are lower than that of an economist, your career prospects were expected to be much faster-than-average with a projected growth of 41% from 2010-2020.

Financial Manager

Perhaps the high salary is important to you, but you're not willing to earn a graduate degree to appeal to most employers. A career in financial management might be a good alternative. Career titles for financial managers include cash manager, treasurer, risk manager, controller, credit manager, branch manager and finance officer. The main goals for employees in this field are determining company finances and developing a means to accomplish future finance goals. Career roles include keeping track of cash flow, ensuring law compliance, supervising loans and managing financial activity. With a bachelor's degree and 5 years of experience under your belt, you can become a financial manager. These professionals earned an impressive average wage of $120,000 as of May 2011; however, the field was projected to see a slower-than-average growth of 9% between 2010 and 2020, stated the BLS.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Finance
      • Master of Science in Finance
  • Online Programs Available
    2. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Economics
      • Master of Arts in Economics
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA: Finance
      • Master : Business Admin
      • MS in Finance
    Bachelor's
      • BSBA - Investment
      • BSFIN Accelerated MS Finance
      • BS in Finance
      • BSFIN General Finance
      • Bachelor of Business Admin
      • Bachelor: Accounting
    Associate's
      • Associate: Business Admin.
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  • Online Programs Available
    4. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Applied Economics
  • Campus and Online Programs
    5. Judson University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration Online
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration Online
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Virginia International University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA in International Business Management
      • MBA in Executive MBA
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    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA)
    Certificate
      • Undergraduate Certificate in International Business
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • DBA - Management
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      • MBA: Finance
      • MBA
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      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
      • BS in Finance and Economics
      • BS in Applied Management
      • BS in Business Admin.
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    8. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate's - Business Admin
    Certificate
      • Certification - Business Administration
      • Diploma Program - Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
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    10. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Business Studies
      • Associate of Science - Business Management

Featured Schools

Georgetown University

  • Master of Science in Finance

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American University

  • Master of Arts in Economics

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Kaplan University

  • MBA: Finance
  • BSBA - Investment
  • Associate: Business Admin.

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Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Science in Applied Economics

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Judson University

  • Master of Business Administration Online
  • Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration Online

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Virginia International University

  • MBA in International Business Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA)
  • Undergraduate Certificate in International Business

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Grand Canyon University

  • DBA - Management
  • MBA: Finance
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education

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Virginia College

  • Associate's - Business Admin
  • Certification - Business Administration
  • Diploma Program - Business Administration

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