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Economics career: is this the right career path for you?


This concise guide explores the basics of an economics career, the fields you may end up working in, and the education and skills you will need.

An economist, just like it sounds, works in the field of economics. They study consumption, production, the distribution of services, goods and resources for a specific society. This role can be found among many different types of organizations, including federal governments, universities, think tanks, research firms, non-profit organizations, and corporations. According to the US Department of Labor, the median pay for an economist is $104,340 per year and the job outlook continues to be strong.

Economists’ job descriptions vary greatly depending on who they work for and what kind of specialized economics career field they work in. They can do everything from write articles that are published in academic economic journals like The Economist to being a skilled economic damages expert in a law firm. Some of the tasks an economist might be responsible for including preparing reports and presentations that show economic research results, forecasting future economic situations and market trends, recommending or designing policies to alleviate economic problems, and advising businesses or governments on economic trends.

Various economics career fields 

Usually, an economist specializes in a particular economics career field in order to focus their expertise and research. There is a wide range of possible fields but the most common include:

  • Financial economists who study financial institutions and markets by analyzing investments, savings, and risk.
  • Labor economists who focus on the supply and demand of workers in specific employment fields, looking at job levels and waves, analyzing how certain policies like unions and minimum wage laws affect the workforce.
  • International economists who focus on many different countries, studying global financial markets, exchange rates, international organizations and study international trade as well as how globalization affects various economies.
  • Public finance economists who study the role of the government in the economy, analyzing the economic impact of laws and the effects of public policy such as welfare and tax cuts, as well as how budget deficits influence the economy as a whole.
  • Economic historians analyze historical institutions like labor and business, and historical situations, using economic statistics and theory. They compile the data, tracking trends to help those who make policies.
  • Microeconomists focus on smaller influences of economies, or decisions made by both firms and individuals as well as how their decision making affects supply and demand, while macroeconomists look at the economy of an entire country, or the global economy, studying things like unemployment, economic well-being, inflation and deflation, and national economic growth.

The education required for an economics career

Generally, you’ll need to have at least a master’s degree in economics, although a bachelor’s degree may be enough for some local economic development or entry-level government economics career path. For higher-level economist positions performing more advanced economic analysis and research, a master’s is a must, and if you hope to teach at the university level or be employed by the Federal Reserve, you’ll need a PhD. The courses you take can provide a significant advantage in some economic fields, for example for either public finance or microeconomics, courses in human behavior and social sciences are beneficial.

Important skills economists should have

Economists must have sharp critical thinking skills to study economic trends and theorize their causes and effects. Strong communication skills are also necessary for presenting findings, on paper or in speeches. This also means strong presentation skills and an ability to write reports are a must for an economics career.

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