Quick Facts: Economists
2017 Median Pay $102,490 per year 
$49.27 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 21,300
Job Outlook, 2016-26 6% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 1,300

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Economists Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Economists Do

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



Duties of Economists

Economists typically do the following:

  • Research economic issues

  • Conduct surveys and collect data

  • Analyze data using mathematical models, statistical techniques, and software

  • Present research results in reports, tables, and charts

  • Interpret and forecast market trends

  • Advise businesses, governments, and individuals on economic topics

  • Recommend solutions to economic problems

  • Write articles for academic journals and other media

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.

Economists often study historical trends and use them to make forecasts. They research and analyze data using a variety of software programs. They sometimes present their research to various audiences.

Many economists work in federal, state, and local government. Federal government economists collect and analyze data about the U.S. economy, including employment, prices, productivity, and wages, among other types of data. They also project spending needs and inform policymakers on the economic impact of laws and regulations.

Economists working for corporations help managers and decisionmakers understand how the economy will affect their business. Specifically, economists may analyze issues such as consumer demand and sales to help a company maximize its profits.

Economists also work for international organizations, research firms, and think tanks, where they study and analyze a variety of economic issues. Their analyses and forecasts are frequently published in newspapers and journals.

Many PhD economists become postsecondary teachers.

Work Environment for Economists

Economists hold about 21,300 jobs. The largest employers of economists are as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service: 22%

Scientific research and development services: 17%

Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: 15%

State government, excluding education and hospitals: 9%

Finance and insurance: 7%

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.

In addition to working full time at a business or university, some economists consult part-time.

Work Schedules

Most economists work full time. Some perform work that may require overtime hours. About 1 in 4 economists work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become an Economist

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.

Other Experience

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.

Important Qualities 

Analytical skills. Economists must be able to review data in detail, observe patterns, perform advanced calculations, and draw logical conclusions. For example, labor economists analyze the effects of labor policies on employment.

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.

Speaking skills. Economists must be able to explain their work to others. They often give presentations and explain reports to clients who may not have a background in economics.

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.

salaries for Economists

The median annual wage for economists is $101,050. 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 $55,150, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $181,060.

The median annual wages for economists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Finance and insurance: $124,660

Federal government, excluding postal service: $111,310

Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $110,900

Scientific research and development services: $102,000

State government, excluding education and hospitals: $69,170

Most economists work full time. Some perform work that may require overtime hours. About 1 in 4 economists work more than 40 hours per week.

Job Outlook for economists

Employment of economists is projected to grow 6 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as 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.

Job Prospects 

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.

Employment projections data for Economists, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 21,300

Projected Employment, 2026: 22,600

Change, 2016-2026: 6%, +1,300

Careers Related to economists


Actuaries analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty. They use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to assess the risk of potential events, and they help businesses and clients develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk. Actuaries’ work is essential to the insurance industry.

Budget Analysts

Budget analysts help public and private institutions organize their finances. They prepare budget reports and monitor institutional spending.

Financial Analysts

Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions. They assess the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments.

Market Research Analysts

Market research analysts study market conditions to examine potential sales of a product or service. They help companies understand what products people want, who will buy them, and at what price.

Mathematicians and Statisticians

Mathematicians and statisticians analyze data and apply mathematical and statistical techniques to help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, healthcare, or other fields.

Operations Research Analysts

Operations research analysts use advanced mathematical and analytical methods to help organizations investigate complex issues, identify and solve problems, and make better decisions.

Political Scientists

Political scientists study the origin, development, and operation of political systems. They research political ideas and analyze governments, policies, political trends, and related issues.

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They may also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

Survey Researchers

Survey researchers design and conduct surveys and analyze data. Surveys are used to collect factual data, such as employment and salary information, or to ask questions in order to understand people’s opinions, preferences, beliefs, or desires.

Urban and Regional Planners

Urban and regional planners develop land use plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas.

ActuariesBachelor's degree$101,560
Budget AnalystsBachelor's degree$75,240
Financial AnalystsBachelor's degree$84,300
Market Research AnalystsBachelor's degree$63,230
Mathematicians and StatisticiansMaster's degree$84,760
Operations Research AnalystsBachelor's degree$81,390
Political ScientistsMaster's degree$115,110
Postsecondary Teachers$76,000
Survey ResearchersMaster's degree$54,270
Urban and Regional PlannersMaster's degree$71,490


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Economists,
on the Internet at