Bureau of Labor Statistics

Economists

economists image
Economists interpret and forecast market trends.
Quick Facts: Economists
2018 Median Pay $104,340 per year
$50.16 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2018 21,000
Job Outlook, 2018-28 8% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2018-28 1,700

Summary

What Economists Do

Economists collect and analyze data, research trends, and evaluate economic issues for resources, goods, and services.

Work Environment

Although the majority of economists work independently in an office, many collaborate with other economists and statisticians. Most economists work full time during regular business hours, but occasionally they work overtime to meet deadlines.

How to Become an Economist

Most economists need a master’s degree or Ph.D. However, some entry-level jobs—primarily in the federal government—are available for workers with a bachelor’s degree.

Pay

The median annual wage for economists was $104,340 in May 2018.

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.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for economists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of economists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about economists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Economists Do

Economists
Economists prepare reports, tables, and charts.

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

Duties

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

Economists
Economists typically work with computers.

Economists held about 21,000 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of economists were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service 22%
Scientific research and development services 19
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 13
State government, excluding education and hospitals 9
Finance and insurance 6

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.

 

Work Schedules

Most economists work full time. In addition to working full time at a business or university, some economists consult part-time. Some perform work that may require overtime hours.

How to Become an Economist

Economists
Communication skills are important for economists, since they sometimes present research to colleagues.

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.

Education

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.

Pay

Economists

Median annual wages, May 2018

Economists

$104,340

Social scientists and related workers

$78,650

Total, all occupations

$38,640

 

The median annual wage for economists was $104,340 in May 2018. 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 $58,130, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $182,560.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for economists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service $119,590
Finance and insurance 118,290
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 110,630
Scientific research and development services 109,670
State government, excluding education and hospitals 70,280

Most economists work full time. Some perform work that may require overtime hours.

Job Outlook

Economists

Percent change in employment, projected 2018-28

Social scientists and related workers

11%

Economists

8%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Employment of economists is projected to grow 8 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than 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, 2018-28

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Economists

SOC Code19-3011
Employment, 201821,000
Projected Employment, 202822,800
Percent Change, 2018-288
Numeric Change, 2018-281,700
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of economists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2018 MEDIAN PAY
Actuaries

Actuaries

Actuaries use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty.

Bachelor's degree $102,880
Budget analysts

Budget Analysts

Budget analysts help public and private institutions organize their finances.

Bachelor's degree $76,220
Financial analysts

Financial Analysts

Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions.

Bachelor's degree $85,660
Market research analysts

Market Research Analysts

Market research analysts study market conditions to examine potential sales of a product or service.

Bachelor's degree $63,120
Mathematicians

Mathematicians and Statisticians

Mathematicians and statisticians analyze data and apply mathematical and statistical techniques to help solve problems.

Master's degree $88,190
Operations research analysts

Operations Research Analysts

Operations research analysts use advanced mathematical and analytical methods to help solve complex issues.

Bachelor's degree $83,390
Political scientists

Political Scientists

Political scientists study the origin, development, and operation of political systems.

Master's degree $117,570
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and technical subjects beyond the high school level.

See How to Become One $78,470
Survey researchers

Survey Researchers

Survey researchers design and conduct surveys and analyze data.

Master's degree $57,700
Urban and regional planners

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.

Master's degree $73,050

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Economists,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/economists.htm (visited October 10, 2019).

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