Economist Careers

How to become economist

What does an economist do?

Economists provide information and advice to government, industry and commercial institutions, helping them formulate operational policies and strategies. Their theoretical knowledge of economic market forces is coupled with research and analysis of raw statistical data to produce written and verbal reports for a wide range of purposes. The work can be very pressurised, and may involve work on several projects simultaneously.

Economic research varies according to the sector in which they work. They may gather information on regional, national and international economic trends in:

  • The labour market
  • Commerce and industry
  • Health
  • Education and social policy
  • Inflation
  • Taxation and other financial issues
  • Consumer spending and political decisions.

Mathematical modelling and other techniques are used to interpret this information and produce forecasts, and the possibilities for economic development are then determined and evaluated.

Based on their findings, economists advise on probable future economic performance and such issues as competition, import and export, interest rates and investment, and the impact of energy and transportation costs. They also highlight the likely consequences of different courses of action. This advice may be used to change the way goods and services are delivered, alter the way businesses operate, and to look at general resource-planning issues.

Economists may work alongside other professionals, senior managers and government officials. Many are involved in academic roles, teaching in universities and conducting research into developing current economic and social theory. A number of economists work in an administrative or technical capacity for international organisations such as the European Union, the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund.

What's the environment like working as an economist?

Economists typically work normal office hours, frequently longer when deadlines must be met. Flexible working arrangements and part-time positions may be available with some employers.

The work is office-based, and conventional business dress is expected. Some travel may be required, perhaps overseas depending on the work being undertaken.


What does it take to become an economist?

To be an economist you should:

  • be thorough, methodical and accurate in your approach
  • have an excellent academic record and a firm grasp of business and economic theory
  • have strong research and analytical skills
  • be able to reach sound conclusions
  • be self-motivated, highly organised and able to work to deadlines
  • have excellent written and verbal communication skills, with the ability to explain complex issues to non-economists
  • have strong interpersonal and leadership skills
  • enjoy working alongside other professionals and with clients
  • be skilled in the use of IT.

Given the array of responsibilities for this job it's essential that you have a degree in economics or a related subject like business studies. It's important that your course also includes both macro and microeconomics. 

In some instances you may be required to have a post graduate qualification in economics. Depending on where you work you may either find yourself starting off as an economic research officer (if you're working in the private sector) or you may find yourself working as an assistant economist (if you're working in the public sector).


Economist career opportunities

There is the chance to progress on to senior level positions or you could end up working within consultancy.

Further information

If you would like to find out more about becoming an economist that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Government Economic Service
Economics in Government
HM Treasury
1 Horse Guards Road
Tel: 020 7270 4835

Society of Business Economists
Dean House
Vernham Dean
SP11 0JZ

Bank of England
Threadneedle Street

Financial Services Skills Council
51 Gresham Street
Tel: 020 7216 7366