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At a Glance

  • Study how people use and share money and materials
  • Are knowledgeable about research, math, and statistics
  • Often travel to meetings and conferences
  • Have a master's degree
  • Work for research firms or the government

Career summary

Economists study laws and market forces to understand and predict changes in business cycles.

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Economists study how people share resources such as land, money, and raw materials. They conduct their own research or read the research of others. Some do research to expand their own knowledge and the knowledge of others. Others do research to develop policies and make recommendations.

Most economists specialize in one area of economics. They may specialize in:

Some economists use mathematical and statistical models to predict economic outcomes. They watch changes in the economy and try to predict what will happen next.

Economists who conduct their own research must determine what they want to study. They plan the methods they will use to collect data. Economists must train and supervise students or research assistants to collect the data for them. Some economists use data collected by the government.

Once they have the data, economists analyze it. They interpret their results and write reports. Depending on the audience, these reports may need to be written in a way that can be understood by people who are not economists.

Some economists develop policies based on their research findings. They may present these findings at academic conferences or to other groups who would find the research useful. Some economists work for businesses. They may make recommendations for the business based on their results.

Many economists are also college and university professors. They teach in addition to conducting research. They may also supervise student research projects.

Related careers

This career is part of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to economists.

Common work activities

Economists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, economists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Economists frequently:

It is important for economists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for economists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Economists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as an economist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most economists have a master's degree in economics. Some research assistants and federal economists have a bachelor's degree. While in college, you should take courses in micro and macroeconomics. You should also study business, finance, and math. It is also important that you take courses in social science and liberal arts.

If you want to teach at a college or university, you need a doctoral degree (PhD). As a master's or doctoral student you can focus on topics such as economic theory or labor economics.

Work experience

Working as a research assistant is good experience for this occupation. It is also good to have experience conducting interviews, collecting data, and writing reports. Look for this type of work while you are in college.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements. Economists need a good background in math so you should take as many math classes as possible.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

A bachelor's degree with a major in economics is usually the minimum requirement for employment. However, few jobs directly related to economic analysis are open to graduates who have only a bachelor's degree.

Many employers, especially in research, prefer to hire applicants with a PhD or at least a master's degree. Universities choose candidates based on their area of research and the quality of their published articles.

Most employers in private industry require a master's degree. They also look for applicants who have good math and computer skills. Public speaking skills may be required.


A position as research assistant during academic training is helpful. University-level coursework in quantitative methods, econometrics, accounting, and finance is helpful for entry-level job seekers. Joining economic clubs and going to related conferences is also helpful. Internships can provide good experience.

Costs to workers

Association dues, reference books, and journals are necessary to keep up with changes in the field. Employers often cover part of these costs.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Economists (SOC 19-3011)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $29.93 $37.30 $44.20 $52.75 $62.61
Monthly $5,187 $6,464 $7,660 $9,142 $10,850
Yearly $62,260 $77,590 $91,940 $109,710 $130,240
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $29.68 $37.14 $48.17 $58.79 $67.78
Monthly $5,144 $6,436 $8,348 $10,188 $11,746
Yearly $61,730 $77,240 $100,206 $122,268 $140,985
    Vancouver Hourly $31.74 $36.35 $46.83 $56.42 $61.99
Monthly $5,501 $6,299 $8,116 $9,778 $10,743
Yearly $66,036 $75,616 $97,415 $117,336 $128,951
United States Hourly $27.95 $37.15 $50.16 $68.16 $87.77
Monthly $4,844 $6,438 $8,693 $11,812 $15,211
Yearly $58,130 $77,270 $104,340 $141,780 $182,560

Wages tend to be higher for economists who have a PhD, and lower for those who have less education.

Economists who work full time generally receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings. 

Economists (SOC 19-3011)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 512 16.6% 16.1% 55
    Benton and Franklin Counties 12 0.0% 15.0% 1
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 170 3.5% 14.1% 13
    King County 246 29.7% 19.6% 34
    Pierce County 13 15.4% 15.2% 1
    Snohomish County 22 18.2% 12.4% 2
United States 21,000 8.6% 5.2% 1,800

National employment

Almost half of all economists work for government agencies. Many economists combine work in industry and government with teaching or consulting work. Some economists write articles or columns for magazines and newspapers.

Major employers:

National outlook

Opportunities for economists should be best in private industry, especially in consulting firms. Many companies turn to economic consultants to help them analyze economic data and make forecasts.

Demand for economists should come from the increasing complexity of the global economy, additional financial regulations, and a more competitive business environment.

People who have only a bachelor's degree in economics will find strong competition for jobs. They will find opportunities as research assistants. Those who have a strong background in math, statistics, survey design, and computer science will fare best.

Job prospects will be better for those who have advanced degrees in economics.

The employment and outlook figures do not include economists who teach at colleges and universities.

Other resources

Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (external link)
American Economic Association (external link)
2014 Broadway, Suite 305
Nashville, TN 37203
National Association for Business Economics (external link)
1920 L Street NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Holland occupational cluster