When researching how to become an economist, it’s important to remember that economists work for companies besides those involved finance or for banks. Top economists have a vast variety of opportunities, if you are thinking 'Hey, how do I become an economist', you might also want to think about what sort of occupation you're most interested in and which path is your best bet.
In fact, one of the keys of becoming an economist is that there are a variety of opportunities available, especially as data analytics become an even larger part of decision making in the new business environment. As a result, economists work in a variety of fields analyzing a variety of data sets.
Here, you’ll discover the steps need to become an economist, different careers in the field, and learn about nine programs that offer a variety of economics degrees.
What Is an Economist?
An economist is someone who studies the relationship between a society’s resources and its production or output. Ranging from the smallest of communities to the entire global economy, this analysis includes combining two features:
- Developing conceptual models to predict responses to change in policy and conditions
- Use rigorous statistical analysis to investigate these changes
Economists combine an understanding of statistics and mathematics, with a thorough knowledge of business principles to acquire, analyze, interpret, and hypothesize how different variables can affect economies in a variety of industries.
5 Steps to Become an Economist
5 Steps How to Become an Economist
Step #1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
Qualifies you for internships and some entry-level careers, usually in government
Step #2: Earn a Master’s Degree
Usually offers a variety of concentrations to tailor your curriculum
Step #3: Gain Professional Experience
Many private sector and leadership positions look for candidates with at least a master’s
Step #4: Earn a PhD
Many in the field believe that only those with a PhD are truly ‘economists’
Step #5: Join Professional Organizations
Some of these are:
What Degree Does an Economist Need?
While some entry-level jobs, especially those in the government, may only require a bachelor’s degree, most economists need a master’s degree or a Ph.D.
Usually, students have a strong background in mathematics, statistical analysis software, and combine graduate education with work experience.i
What Degree Do Economists Have?
In 2016, 58% of economists had a doctoral degree, 29% had a master’s, and 8% had a bachelor’s.ii
9 Schools with Economics Degrees
Below are nine schools that offer a variety of economics degree programs. These schools and programs are in no particular order and include bachelor’s degrees in economics and economics master’s degrees.
Click on any of the sponsored listings below to learn about admissions requirements, curriculum, and how to apply!
As a student-centered research institution, American University has a reputation for creating meaningful change in the world. Their students, who come from all 50 states and 124 nations, distinguish themselves for their service, leadership, and ability to tackle global and domestic challenges.
The Master of Arts (MA) in Economics with a concentration in Applied Economics teaches you how to make an impact as an economist through a curriculum that examines:
- Economic theory
- How policies affect markets
- Ability to translate complexities for a wider audience
For more than 140 years, Johns Hopkins University has believed that teaching and research go hand in hand and that sharing knowledge and discoveries makes the world a better place.
The Master of Science (MS) in Applied Economics at JHU strives to teach skills in economic reasoning and constructing and estimating economic models through the use of econometrics.
The Post-Master’s Certificate in Quantitative Methods in Applied Economics is a four-course program designed for those who wish to expand or update their knowledge in the field.
With a mission to provide high-quality and innovative educational programs, Ashford University offers students a 13:1 student to faculty ratio. Plus, the library and writing center help at Ashford are available 24/7 to meet your needs while you pursue advancement in your life, profession, and community.
In order to prepare you for the global economy, the Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Business Economics teaches the necessary economic skills, such as forecasting various markets and analyzing data.
In addition to the undergraduate program, Ashford also offers a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an Economics Specialization, which analyzes specific topics such as:
- Financial institutions
- International economics
- Managerial economics
- Economic structure
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) has more than 4,300 students at campuses across the country and online. As an innovator in the fields of psychology and behavioral sciences since 1979, TCSPP is a not-for-profit, accredited institution that strives to have a transformational impact on students.
The Master of Arts (MA) in Behavioral Economics is an alternative to the MBA that provides students with a foundation of advanced psychology combined with business applications such as:
- Human decision-making
- Consumer behavior
Founded in 1978 for the specific purpose of preparing students to succeed in their professions and impact the world as Christians, Regent University now consists of seven schools and two colleges.
Regent offers a number of economics programs, including the three listed below that are designed for both graduate and undergraduate students:
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Business – Economics
- Master of Business Administration (MBA) – Economics
- Doctor of Strategic Leadership – Global Consulting
Each of these programs are taught by distinguished faculty with executive leadership experience, explore current theories and models, and teach how expand your analytical and problem-solving skills.
For more than 50 years, Colorado Technical University has been proud to educate career-focused students to advance their education and help them achieve their goals through innovative, real-world learning.
One of the many business programs at CTU focused on developing the skills needed in the modern business environment is the Master of Business Administration – Data Analytics. This program has a core curriculum designed to advance your analytical skills to support data-driven decision-making.
As a comprehensive, independent, private institution founded in 1946, Utica College offers many of the advantages of a large university with the intimacy and high degree of personal attention usually only found at smaller, private colleges.
Utica offers a number of business degrees focused on teaching students the fundamentals of how to become an economist, including two master’s degrees:
- Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Economic Crime and Fraud Management: teaches managers to understand how fraud is committed and how to manage the risk through prevention, detection, and investigation techniques.
- Master of Science (MS) in Data Science: Business Analytics: examines how to analyze and leverage big data to gain valuable insights that can lead to innovative ideas and solutions in a variety of fields.
A co-educational Roman Catholic Institution founded by the Order of Saint Augustine in 1842, Villanova University is a premier institution of higher education that provides a comprehensive education rooted in the liberal arts.
As we’re now able to collect large amounts of quantifiable data and transform it into actionable intelligence, the Master of Science (MS) in Analytics uses the latest analytics technology to teach how to leverage this data through a real-world expertise with a curriculum focused on business, statistics, mathematics, and computer science.
Grand Canyon University, Arizona’s premier private Christian university, has been the gateway to success for countless scholars and industry leaders for more than 65 years. GCU continues to teach the next generation of students and working professionals looking to further their education and their career.
As analytics continues to play an important role in business decision-making, forecasting, and innovation, GCU offers three graduate degrees in the field designed for students who already have a business background and practical industry experience:
- Master of Science in Business Analytics
- Bridge Program (Doctor of Business Administration with Emphasis in Data Analytics)
- Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) with Emphasis in Data Analytics
How to Become an Economist : What Does an Economist Do?
Economists study data, research trends, and evaluate economic issues through qualitative and quantitative methods within a variety of fields to analyze:
- The cost of products, healthcare, or energy
- Employment levels
- Business cycles
- Exchange rates
- Taxes, inflation, and interest rates
- How the economy will affect their businesses
- Consumer demand and sales
- Study historical trends
Based on different issues and by applying different scenarios, economists are able to provide a clear picture to managers and key decisionmakers to create forecasts and models.
This information and analysis helps companies maximize their profits and inform policymakers on how various strategies and decisions can impact the economy or company.iii
Where Do Economists Work?
While many students believe that economists only work in finance, banking, business, and government, as data analytics continues to shape our world, economists have enjoyed careers in a variety of fields, which include:
- Healthcare and disease prevention
- Technology, such as analyzing and applying data
- Teaching and research
In addition, an economics major is one of the many paths to law school because of its emphasis on:
- Reading and library research
- The ability to synthesize large amounts of information
- Logical thinking
Economics and the LSAT
According to the American Economic Association, in 2012-2013, economics majors had the highest average LSAT score of any major.
What Does an Economist Study?
While an important factor, economists study more than just the economy from a business sense. Now, more than ever, various economics degrees focus on econometrics, which is the application of statistical and mathematical theories in order to test hypotheses and forecast future trends.
This type of data analysis, and economics as a whole, combines mathematics, data analysis, and statistics to examine:
- Forecasting models
- Economic theories
- Microeconomics and macroeconomics
- Impact of policies on economics
Each of these, as well as the latest software and technology in the field, allow economists to help shape a variety of policies and decisions for businesses.
How to Become an Economist : How Much Do Economists Make?
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), across all industries, the median annual salary for economists in 2016 was $101,050. However, there are large variations in income for economists based on the industry they are in. For example:
- Finance and insurance: $124,660
- Federal government, excluding postal service: $111,310
- Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $110,900
- Scientific research and development services: $102,000
- State government, excluding education and hospitals: $69,170iv
Keep in mind that most economists are required to have a master’s degree or a PhD, though some entry-level positions, usually in government, may only require a bachelor’s.i
Where Economists Work
According to the BLS, 22% of economists worked for the federal government (excluding postal service) and another 9% worked for the state governments (excluding education and hospitals) in 2016.v
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[i] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/economists.htm#tab-4 [ii] onetonline.org/link/summary/19-3011.00 [iii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/economists.htm#tab-2 [iv] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/economists.htm#tab-5 [v] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/economists.htm#tab-3