What Economists Do
Economists collect and analyze data, research trends, and evaluate economic issues for resources, goods, and services.
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.
The median annual wage for economists was $105,020 in May 2019.
Employment of economists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2019 to 2029, much 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.
Economists study the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services by collecting and analyzing data, researching trends, and evaluating economic issues.
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.
Economists held about 20,500 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of economists were as follows:
|Federal government, excluding postal service||23%|
|Scientific research and development services||18|
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||17|
|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.
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.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of economists.
For more information about economists, visit
For information about careers in business economics, visit
For information on federal government education requirements for economist positions, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Economists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/economists.htm (visited ).