Economist Career Outlook and Salary

Economists analyze complex data and present it in a way that is understood by the people who need it. They may study particular issues, such as healthcare, education or the environment, or report on a variety of economic issues. Often, an economist’s work revolves around the study of how goods, services and resources are produced and distributed.

These financial experts are employed in a variety of industries, including private-sector corporations, public companies, international consulting and financial firms, and government agencies.

Economic information fluctuates every day – and often throughout the day. Basic economic data, such as exchange rates, employment trends, business cycles, taxes and interest rates, affect business operations worldwide. Economists make sense of such data, and help companies and organizations use it to make decisions and create policies.

An economist’s typical job duties include: conducting surveys and collecting data; researching and analyzing both current and projected economic data; developing models; preparing reports; and interpreting and forecasting market trends. Some economists advise government policymakers, while others help corporate officers understand how the economy and other factors affect their business.

Economists may be required to prepare regular financial reports, develop, test and maintain expense and revenue forecasting models, and recommend service rates or product pricing. They typically present their findings to management and other stakeholders. Depending on the company and industry, these may include clients, government policymakers, elected officials, stockholders or C-suite officers.

Job Outlook and Salary Range for Economists

According to data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2016, economist jobs are expected to grow by 6% nationwide through 2024.

Demand for economists is expected to be strongest in private industry, particularly with scientific, management and consulting services. The BLS further reports that job opportunities are expected to be good for individuals with strong quantitative and analytical skills, related work experience and advanced degrees.

According to the BLS, economists earned a median annual salary of $101,050 in May 2016. The top 10% earned more than $181,060 a year and the lowest 10% about $55,150 or less.

A candidate’s educational qualifications and experience, as well as local market factors, can influence job opportunities and salary potential.

Education and Training for Economists

Economists are expected to have top-level skills in analytics and critical problem-solving, and also to have the ability to observe and make relevant inferences from data. These skills can be obtained through the right education and training. Entry-level economist positions usually require a bachelor’s degree, but some require a master’s or doctorate degree.

According to the BLS, employers may prefer candidates with a degree in economics, although related fields such as finance and statistics could be acceptable. Coursework in international trade and finance, investments, public policy and law may be beneficial. Some employers seek candidates with work experience, which can often be obtained through internships.

With experience and/or an advanced degree, economists may be able to move into higher-level positions. A typical career path may begin with a research assistant job and then advance to market analyst, economist and senior economist.

Military Occupational Specializations

Several military roles share the skills and knowledge required of economists in the civilian job market:

  • Army roles include financial management technician and financial manager.
  • In the Air Force, similar roles include financial management officer and cost analysis officer.
  • Navy roles include administration, finance and accounting, and business management.
  • In the Marine Corps, similar roles include financial management officer and financial management resources officer.


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