What Is an Economist?

An economist is an expert who studies the relationship between a society's resources and its production or output. Economists study societies ranging from small, local communities to entire nations and even the global economy.

The expert opinions and research findings of an economist are used to help shape a wide variety of policies, including interest rates, tax laws, employment programs, international trade agreements, and corporate strategies.

Key Takeaways

  • An economist is an expert who studies the relationship between a society's resources and its production or output, using a number of different indicators, in order to predict future trends.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for an economist in 2018 was $104,340 per year or $50.16 per hour.
  • A career as an economist has two main requirements: an advanced degree, such as a Ph.D. or a master's degree, and an area of specialization to focus research efforts.
  • The theories of economists can provide a way for businesses and the government to react to the future direction of the economy.

The duties of an economist are incredibly varied: research economic issues; conduct surveys and collect data; analyze data using mathematical models, statistical techniques, and software; present research results in reports, tables, and charts; interpret and forecast market trends; advise businesses, governments, and individuals on economic topics; recommend solutions to economic problems; write articles for academic journals and other media.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for an economist in 2018 was $104,340 per year or $50.16 per hour.

Understanding Economists

There is a good chance that someone interested in a career as an economist will work for the government. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 30% of all economists work for either a federal or state agency. Economists are also employed as professors, by corporations or as part of economic think tanks.

A career as an economist has two main requirements. First, economists generally hold advanced degrees, such as a Ph.D. or a master's degree. The typical entry-level education for an economist is a master's degree. Second, economists typically develop an area of specialization where they focus their research efforts.

Economists Influence Strategic Economic Plans

The role of an economist includes analyzing data that includes economic indicators, such as gross domestic product and consumer confidence surveys. Economists might research the distribution, accessibility, and reach of goods and services, in order to identify potential trends or make economic forecasts.

The work of economists might be commissioned to target specific segments or topics where expert assessments are needed. This could be done for budgeting and planning purposes when the insights of the economists will serve as the basis for a plan of action. For example, if there is a change in spending trends in a particular industry, investors and companies working in that industry might look to economists to provide perspective on what the next evolution of the market may be.

Furthermore, the input of economists can reveal the underlying causes that shape market cycles. Insights of economists can also be to form forecasts for job market growth as particular segments of the economy grow.

Economists may reference factors and elements that provide a new understanding of what drives trends. The assessments that economists provide may draw upon large segments of time and take advantage of large collections of data. Their theories can also provide a way for others to react to the future direction of the economy. Companies could use such perspectives to adjust their strategies, including whether or not to pursue development on particular products or if a product should be discontinued in favor of a different approach.