Economists prepare advice for businesses and organisations by carrying out specialist research. They uncover trends and produce forecasts of the economic climate based on industry-specific knowledge and theory. Their findings inform policy to improve efficiency and reduce risk.
Economists collect information and conduct research to study issues, such as inflation, energy costs, interest rates, taxes, employment levels and other economy-related issues. Dealing primarily with practical applications of economic policy, economists study such issues as inflation, interest rates, the costs of goods and the distribution of resources to produce goods and services. The economist can specialise in a range of areas including microeconomics - the study of supply and demand decisions made by individuals and companies; macroeconomics - which uses historical trends to forecast economic trends; and labour economics, which looks at labour supply and demand, reasons for unemployment and how wages are determined.
The identification of trends in economic activity and the analysis of their implications form the greater part of the Economist's work in the public service and industry.
They are skilled in areas such as statistical analysis and research methods. Work could involve working on monetary policy or research for multinational companies or be geared to more social aspects, for example the impact of policies on agriculture or poverty levels.
Economists are employed by central and local governments, banks, local consultancies, major companies, financial institutions, investment organisations and higher education establishments. They are skilled in areas such as statistical analysis and research methods. Work could involve working on monetary policy or research for multinational companies or be geared to more social aspects, for example the impact of policies on agriculture or poverty levels.
- Researching, analysing and interpreting information about economic performance, tax, and political decisions according to both national and international factors.
- Studying economic and statistical data in areas of specialisation, such as finance, labour, or agriculture.
- Compiling, analysing, and reporting data to explain economic phenomena and forecast market trends.
- Seeking to determine the implications of their findings and forecasting change.
- Preparing points of view used in forecasting trends and formulating economic policy.
- Advising Government and government-related bodies, industry, businesses, commercial institutions or investors.
Travel: limited; work is typically office based.
Working hours: mainly office hours Monday–Friday with occasional additional unsocial hours around deadlines, for example on Budget Day.
Location: mainly in towns or cities; most major opportunities are based in capital cities.
Opportunities for self-employment: possible.
- Economists are employed in
- Consultancy companies
- Central and local government
- Banks and financial institutions
- Major corporations
- International organisations (such as the EU or the World Bank)
- Universities and other third-level institutes
Experienced economists can also work in the media, in publishing or broadcasting.
Self-employment is also an option.
Career development will very much depending on the employing organisation.
Salaries for economics graduates are among the highest of any discipline. Different research tends to find different starting salary values, however the general consensus is that economics graduates are comparatively very well paid.
The minimum qualification for work as an Economist is a first or second-class honours primary degree in Economics; a business related degree with a high economics content may also be accepted. Work experience in financial institutions and economic consulting firms is invaluable.
Specific degree subjects required
Most economists have a good degree in a relevant subject, such as economics, statistics or mathematics.
Other relevant degree subjects
While a pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not a requirement, to reach the higher grades of promotion it is generally necessary to proceed to a higher degree. Many positions require at last a master in economics.
Training varies depending on the type of employer and sector but will normally involve on the job training under the guidance and supervision of experienced, senior economists.
Tips for applications
Work experience (perhaps during school or university holidays), particularly in an economics department, will aid employment prospects. Proficiency in a foreign language can also enhance employment prospects.
Skills and qualities
- Computer literate, highly numerate and possess a quick understanding of facts.
- Ability to analyse and reason - both deductively and inductively.
- Ability to marshal evidence and to assimilate, structure and analyse qualitative and quantitative data.
- Ability to effectively communicate complex results to a wide audience, especially those not familiar with the underlying theoretical issues.
- Ability to think critically about the limits of one's analysis in a broader socio-economic context.
- Ability to draw economic policy inferences and to recognise the potential constraints in their implementation.
- Ability to apply literary and information-processing skills, as well as interpersonal skills.
- Strong quantitative skills including proven ability to use current statistical and econometric techniques.
- Excellent report writing skills, backed by thorough, methodical research skills combined with excellent attention to detail.
- Excellent interpersonal skills including client relationship management and teamworking skills.
- Ability to work successfully under tight deadlines.
- Interest in current affairs and social issues.