Most individuals with economic degrees start careers as economists. A career as an economist is highly quantitative. Economists’ roles differ greatly depending on what area they specialize in. However, basic economic skills are required in all specializations. Most private-sector economic positions require candidates to have a master’s degree or a Ph.D in economics.
Individuals who enjoy mathematics and possess quantitative skills usually thrive in economic careers. Much of what is done in entry-level positions cater around economic research and assisting senior economists. Economists that are in high-level positions enjoy more responsibility in their research and analytical roles. It is important to note that some individuals with economic degrees and the necessary teacher certifications go on to teach economics in high-schools.
The primary factor to consider when calculating economists’ salaries are whether economists are employed by the federal government or private and public firms. Government positions are based on a grading scale. The government pays a higher starting salary for economists with stellar academic records. Economists with master’s degrees earn a higher starting salary than economists who are hired having only undergraduate degrees. Those who are hired having Ph.D. degrees earn the highest salaries.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average median salary was $108,010 for economists working in federal government positions in March of 2009. Geographical locations were a major factor in calculating economists’ salaries. For economists working in the private sector, the median salary was $83,590 in 2009. The highest top 10% earned an average salary of more that $149,110. The middle half of economists earned between $59,390 and $113,590. Economists in the lowest 10% range earned less than $44,050.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Economists receive standard health, medical, and life insurance benefits. They also receive standard 401(k) and annual leave benefits. Economists who are employed by the federal government tend to enjoy more benefits, such as more annual leave and holiday benefits. Many government agencies allow employees to take additional time off for any overtime they have worked.
Job Description and Outlook
Micro-economists research, analyze, and report supply and demand data of individuals and firms. More specifically, the look at how much money consumers are willing to spend for a specific product, and in what ways can a firm’s profits be maximized.
Macro-economist study the economic factors of the economy as a whole. They study historical trends and forecast future trends in interest rates, important economic indices, unemployment rates, economic growth, and inflation. There are others areas that are studied by macro-economists, but these are the major and most highly reported trends.
Industrial economists study economic trends within a given industry. They research and analyze information regarding the number of competitors and the market structure within a industry.
Monetary economists study fluctuations in interest rates and the money and banking system. Their job description is similar to macro-economists.
International economists study the different economic factors of other countries. They research and analyze data regarding interest rates, unemployment rates, inflation, and other factors.
Labor and Demographic economists study the labor market. They thoroughly analyze wages and unemployment rates and how they effect the economy as a whole.
Public economists study the effects of tax cuts, stimulus plans, social welfare policies, imports, exports, and the budget deficit on the economy.
Econometricians use advanced mathematical techniques to study all areas of economics. They specialize in formulating models with these techniques and use them to forecast trends.
Economic jobs are expected to grow slower than the average growth for all other occupations, averaging a modest 6% growth though 2018. Many private-sector firms are filling economic jobs with individuals that specialize in other fields. The federal government has reduced the annual number of economists they hire. These are a some of the factors that are contributing to the decline in economic jobs.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Educational Requirements
The federal government hires economists that have undergraduate degrees, but they have very specific hiring requirements. Candidates must have 21 college hours of economics and 3 hours of statistics, calculus or accounting.
There are several areas of interest that students can specialize in while pursuing their degrees. Courses in statistics, calculus, and econometrics are considered to be helpful in preparing an individual for a position in the field of economics. To further prepare them, many schools help students find internships and part-time economic jobs at government agencies, and sometimes private and publicly-traded firms.
Most private sector positions require students to have post-graduate degrees and several years of work experience. Economists that only possess bachelor’s degrees usually start off as research assistants either for the government or consulting firms.
Economists are not required to obtain any certifications. However, many employers encourage economists to become certified in an effort to hone their skills. Many certified economists receive higher salaries and more lucrative positions.
There are several professional associations that offer economists the ability to become licensed professionals.
- The American Academy of Financial Management USA offers the Certified Chartered Economists (Ch.E) certification.
- The Academic Board of Economic Policy and Monetary Analysis offers the Chartered Corporate Economist (CCE) certification.
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