What is an Economist?
Also known as: Public Finance Economist, Microeconomist, Macroeconomist, Labor Economist, International Economist, Industrial Organization Economist, Financial Economist, Econometrician, Economic Analyst.
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An economist is someone who studies the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services. A generally accepted interpretation in academia is that an economist is one who has attained a Ph.D. in economics, teaches economic science, and has published literature in a field of economics.
How to Become an Economist
What does an Economist do?
Economists apply economic analysis to issues within a variety of fields, such as education, health, development, and the environment. Some economists study the cost of products, healthcare, or energy. Others examine employment levels, business cycles, or exchange rates. Others analyze the effect of taxes, inflation, or interest rates.
Economists typically do the following:
- Research and analyze economic issues
- Conduct surveys and collect data
- Analyze data using mathematical models and statistical techniques
- Prepare reports, tables, and charts that present research results
- Interpret and forecast market trends
- Advise businesses, governments, and individuals on economic topics
- Design policies or make recommendations for solving economic problems
- Write articles for publication in newsletters and academic journals
Economists often study historical trends and use them to make forecasts. They research and analyze data using a variety of software programs, including spreadsheets, statistical analysis, and database management programs. More than half of all economists work in federal, state, and local government. They also project spending needs and inform policy makers on the economic impact of laws and regulations.
Many economists work for corporations and help them understand how the economy will affect their business. Specifically, economists may analyze issues such as consumer demand and sales to help a company maximize its profits. Economists also work for research firms and think tanks, where they study and analyze a variety of economic issues. Their analyses and forecasts are frequently published in newspapers and journal articles. Some economists work abroad for companies with major international operations and for international organizations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and United Nations. Many people with an economics background become professors or teachers.
The following are examples of common economist specialties:
Econometricians develop models and use mathematical analyses to test economic relationships. They use techniques such as calculus, game theory, and regression analysis to explain economic facts or trends in all areas of economics.
Financial economists analyze savings, investments, and risk. They also study financial markets and financial institutions.
Industrial organization economists study how companies within an industry are organized and how they compete. They also examine how antitrust laws, which regulate attempts by companies to restrict competition, affect markets.
International economists study international trade and the impact of globalization. They also examine global financial markets and exchange rates.
Labor economists study the supply of workers and the demand for labor by employers. Specifically, they research employment levels and how wages are set. They also analyze the effects of labor-related policies—such as minimum wage laws—and institutions, such as unions.
Macroeconomists and monetary economists examine the economy as a whole. They may research trends related to unemployment, inflation, and economic growth. They also study fiscal and monetary policies, which examine the effect of the money supply and interest rates on the economy.
Microeconomists study the supply and demand decisions of individuals and firms. For example, they may determine the quantity of products consumers will demand at a particular price.
Public finance economists study the role of the government in the economy. Specifically, they may analyze the effects of tax cuts, budget deficits, and welfare policies.
Economists must pay attention to details. Precise data analysis is necessary to ensure accuracy in their findings. Economists use the principles of statistics, calculus, and other advanced topics in mathematics in their economic analyses. Economists must be able to explain their work to others. They may give presentations, explain reports, or advise clients on economic issues. They may collaborate with colleagues and sometimes must explain economic concepts to those without a background in economics. Economists must be able to present their findings clearly. Many economists prepare reports for colleagues or clients; others write for publication in journals or for news media.
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How to Become an Economist
A master’s degree or Ph.D. is required for most economist jobs, but some entry-level jobs are available with a bachelor’s degree. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree qualify for some entry-level economist positions, including jobs with the federal government. Most who complete a bachelor’s degree in economics find jobs outside the economics profession as research assistants, financial analysts, market analysts, and similar positions in business and finance.
Positions in business, research, or international organizations often require a combination of advanced education and work experience. Students can pursue an advanced degree in economics with a bachelor’s degree in a number of fields, but a strong background in math is essential. A Ph.D. in economics requires several years of study after earning a bachelor's degree, including doing detailed research in a specialty field. Aspiring economists can gain valuable experience from internships that involve gathering and analyzing data, conducting interviews and surveys, and writing reports on their findings.
What is the workplace of an Economist like?
Economists often work independently in an office. However, many economists collaborate with other economists and statisticians, sometimes working on teams. Some economists work from home, and others may be required to travel as part of their job or to attend conferences.
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