How to Become an Economist


Career Path Guide

Have you noticed that you possess a knack for numbers? Do you prefer sciences over the arts? Are you fascinated by politics and current affairs? If so, pursuing a future as an economist may be the perfect career path for you! 


If we’ve piqued your interest, let’s take that crucial first step towards entering this field. Firstly, let’s determine the educational prerequisites and personal qualities needed for success in this career - and it couldn’t hurt to have a firm understanding of what an economist’s responsibilities are, where you could be working and what you could expect to earn in this unique career. 


All of the information you'll need is provided below, in this career path guide:



Typical Job Expectations & Responsibilities

The duties and responsibilities prescribed to economists can vary depending on their work environment. The expectations of economists employed by major corporations will differ from those employed by government agencies or non-profit organizations. However, economists should expect their role to include a few general duties, regardless of context:


• Communicate with appropriate stakeholders to define the purpose of your work.

• Develop a research strategy and collect data.

• Create and employ tools for both qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

• Apply econometric models to identify trends and provide economic forecasts.

• Communicate with a variety of audiences and stakeholders in order to share findings.

• Distribute important information through appropriate channels, such as mass media.

• Use data to audit current practices and policies.

• Compose professional reports and presentations, tailoring your language to your audience.





General Job Description

If you decide to pursue a career as an economist, you will be expected to provide expert recommendations and advice within a variety of contexts. This career focuses on statistics, research, and relevant theory. Using scientific research methods and advanced technology, economists are able to understand and identify economic trends.


A significant chunk of the work economists do involves data collection and statistical analysis. Depending on the specific organization you work for, your role may involve advising your employer on the likelihood of situational outcomes or the influence of economic relationships on current findings. To be successful in this career, you must be the type of individual people envy, with your natural organization skills and meticulous attention to detail.


Additionally, you should have a firm understanding of economic theory, a proficiency in scientific research methods and an aptitude for math and statistical analysis. To put it bluntly - an economist researches and predicts. Areas of interest may include (but are not limited to) employment rates, international trade, government policy, business profitability or cultural trends. The opportunities available in pursuing this career are broad in scope, and potential for advancement is limitless. What are you waiting for?



Average Salary in This Field

As you contemplate your future and weigh the pros-and-cons of potential career paths, one of the key factors ultimately influencing your decision is money. Yes, money.


Depending on your personality, the first questions you may have had about your future as an economist may revolve around dinero. While easy to sneak a peek at an economist’s salary in an online job advertisement, this may inaccurately reflect what you would be earning - as there are several factors that influence an economist’s salary:


• Your academic qualifications (higher paid economists generally have a graduate degree or PhD).

• Work environment and role (government employee, international marketing).        

• Communication skills and prior work experience.

• Terms of employment: permanent employee or contract work.

• Geographic location within your country, or internationally. 


Economist Salary Canada: According to the 2016 Wage and Salary Survey (the latest figures available at the time of writing - June 24, 2019), the average salary level of Albertans in the Economists and Economic Policy Researchers and Analysts occupational group is $92,846 per year.


Economist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Economists occupational group is  $91,860 per year.



Work Schedule

Economists generally work full-time in either permanent or contract positions. Economists typically work long-hours and under strict deadlines. 



Work Environment

Typically, the work conducted by economists is primarily be conducted out of an office, however, they might find themselves traveling to collect data and conduct research as needed.





Characteristics of Successful Economists

Now that you have a good idea of what economists do, you need to determine if your personality traits will be compatible with this career. Having the right personality for the job is not only something employers will look for, it is something that will ensure that you are happy in your work. There are a variety of characteristics, which apply to you?

• You are detail oriented.

• You have strong skills in mathematics, and understand the research process.

• You are professional.

• You are a strong self-starter, and are able to work independently.

• You have strong problem solving skills.

• You think critically and outside-the-box.

• You enjoy the idea of a career that offers opportunity for growth.


Education Needed to Become an Economist

The level of education you’ll need to become an economist depends on the level of responsibility you’ll have in your job, and the nature of the duties you’ll be performing.


Undergraduate Degree: A bachelor's degree in economics is usually sufficient for research assistant positions. It will also qualify you for many entry-level positions in industry related to economics. With experience, you can move into positions of higher responsibility, typically in managerial or administrative roles. Without further education in economics however, you won’t have the knowledge base to move into more technical positions.


Master’s Degree: A Master of Arts (MA) degree in economics is usually the minimum requirement for to becoming a professional economist. This includes positions in teaching at the post-secondary level, as well as research and consulting positions, and positions in industry.

Doctoral Degree: A Ph.D. degree will qualify you for most teaching and research positions. Depending on your area of specialty, it will also qualify you for many consulting jobs, and other jobs in various sectors of industry.  


Who Employs Economists?

Many (although not all) economists work for large corporations, colleges/universities, or government sectors. There is always a demand for economists in both local and international trade, and economists are needed to predict trends for a broad variety of industries. Economist jobs are available to those who are just beginning their careers, and to those with a proven track record of success. As an economist, you may find work with the following types of organizations:


• Banks and financial institutions

• Colleges and universities

• Economic analysis groups and organizations

• Economics publications and journals

• Econometric consultancies that specialize in various industries

• Environmental protection agencies

• Financial software solution providers

• Financial and management consultancies

• International aid organizations

• Municipal, provincial/state and federal government agencies

• National embassies and foreign affairs offices

• National treasuries

• Newspapers and other media

• Non-profit organizations

• Oil, gas and energy companies

• Public and private research organizations

• Trust companies

• Utility companies



Current Job Postings in This Field

Our job board below has economist postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, when available:




Career Advancement Possibilities

If you are strongly considering becoming an economist, you may be curious about career advancement. Experience in research and finance is needed to gain seniority with your employer. By showing strong analytical skills and experience in scientific research, you will advance in due time. 



Similar Career Guides in Our System

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to 'economist', as they involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities:


Demographic Researcher: Demographic researchers design, implement and manage demographic research projects.


Eonometrician: In general, econometricians are responsible for the design, development, maintenance, evaluation and replication of short and long-term economic models, for the purpose of developing economic forecasts or simulations.


Financial Analyst: Financial analysts perform in-depth analysis of publicly traded companies based on a number of financial metrics in order to analyze and evaluate investment opportunities.

Regional Development Manager: Regional development managers are responsible for developing new business opportunities within a specified region.




To find out more about what an economist does, how much they earn, and other details of this career, please consult the following resources:


Occupations in Alberta:Economist.” (March 9, 2016). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 11, 2019.

Life, Physical, and Social Science: Economists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 11, 2019.

Explore Careers:Economist.” (n.d.). National Careers Service website. Retrieved November 11, 2019.

Free Exchange - Economics:What makes an economist?” Adam Hayes (October 2, 2007). The Economist website. Retrieved November 11, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming an Economist

Looking for Canadian or American scholarships to help you on your way to working as an economist? We’ve got you covered! Here's how to find the best-suited scholarships:


• On, our scholarship listings are sorted by major

• The “Applicable Majors” section below shows majors that apply to this career

• Visit our All Scholarships by Major page to find scholarships sorted by those majors



Applicable Majors 

The university majors below are applicable to this profession, as they can teach you relevant skills and competencies. Click on the majors to find out what other careers are applicable to them!


Top Banner Image: