Becoming An Economist In The United States: A Step-By-Step Guide

Becoming an economist in the United States can seem like a daunting task. You must meet many requirements before you can even begin to think about pursuing this career.

However, it is possible to achieve your goal with the right information and guidance. This article will outline everything you need to do to become an economist in the United States.

So, if you are interested in this field and are ready to take the next step, keep reading!

What is An Economist’s Job?

Before you decide whether or not becoming an economist is the right choice for you, it is important to understand what the job entails.

An economist’s job is to study and analyze goods and services production, distribution, and consumption. They use this information to help make policy recommendations about improving the economy.

However, economists must have a strong understanding of social science concepts and be able to use data analysis techniques for such crucial tasks.

In addition, economists must be able to communicate their findings to others clearly and concisely.

What Is The Pathway To Becoming An Economist In The United States?

Now that we have answered the question “what is an economist’s job,” it’s time to move on to the second question: “what is the pathway to becoming an economist in the United States?”

Here are the steps that you will need to take in order to become an economist in the United States:

1. Get A Degree In Economics

The first step on the road to becoming an economist is to get a degree in economics.

You can do this by completing a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree in economics.

However, you may also have a bachelor’s in accounting or finance to later pursue a career in economics.

No matter which degree you choose, some common subjects you’ll study in coursework include:

  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Financial Management
  • Business Analysis
  • Project Planning and Appraisal
  • Human Resource Management
  • Investment Analysis
  • Macroeconomics
  • Microeconomics
  • Econometrics
  • Finance
  • Accounting

2. Get Experience

In addition to getting a degree, you will also need to gain some experience in the field.

One way to do this is to complete an internship while completing your degree.

This will allow you to learn about the day-to-day work of an economist and see if it is the right fit for you.

Another way to gain experience is to volunteer your time with organizations that focus on economic policy.

Volunteer work will allow you to learn about the critical issues for economists and how you can solve them.

3. Get A Job

After you have completed your degree and gained some experience, you will be ready to start your career as an economist.

There are a variety of different employers that hire economists.

Some examples include:

  • Government agencies
  • Private businesses
  • Banks
  • Consulting firms
  • Think tanks
  • Research institutes
  • Universities and colleges

4. Join Professional Societies and Get Certified

Once you have started your career, you may want to join professional societies and get certified.

Societies and communities will allow you to network with other economists and stay up-to-date on the latest economic developments.

Some professional societies that you may want to join are:

In addition, you may want to get certified by the AEA or NAEE.

This will show that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to be a successful economist.

What Are The Different Job Titles of an Economist?

Now you must be thinking about the job designation or title you would get after completing a degree in Economics. Well, the job role would not exactly be termed as an economist. In fact, there are different types of economist jobs available in the United States. Here are some of the most common job titles:

  • Economist
  • Financial Risk Analyst
  • Data Analyst
  • Financial Planner
  • Accountant
  • Economic Researcher
  • Financial Consultant
  • Investment Analyst
  • Management Consultant
  • Policy Analyst

As for the industries or sectors, economists are mostly employed in the following sectors:

  • Banking
  • Accountancy
  • Political Administrations
  • Consulting
  • NGOs
  • International Organizations
  • Academia

What Are The Job Responsibilities Of An Economist?

Now that you know what Economists do let’s look at some of their job responsibilities in detail. Here is what economists do on a day-to-day basis:

  • Collecting and analyzing financial, political, and socioeconomic data.
  • Conducting surveys and utilizing various sampling techniques.
  • Researching multiple fields, including politics, healthcare, education, energy, etc.
  • Making use of historical data.
  • Analyzing market trends.
  • Advising businesses and governments on economic decisions.
  • Consulting clients on the efficacy of political policies, products, or services.
  • Studying the economic impact of laws and regulations.
  • Developing statistical and econometric models for economic forecasting.
  • Communicating data in presentations, technical reports, and non-technical reports.
  • Contributing to publications or economic journals.
  • Partaking in think tanks and making policy recommendations.
  • Communicating economic data in accessible ways.

Plus, they are always writing lots of articles and reports on economy and finance-related topics.

How Much Do Economists Earn?

As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics report in 2020, an economist’s national average annual wage is $116,020. This salary is more than double the average yearly salary for all occupations, $51,960.

However, the average economist’s salary swings significantly from this, depending on your state. The worst-paying states for economists pays nearly $55,000 less than the national average.

Here’s a look at the top 10 states where economist salaries are the highest:

  1. New York average economist salary: $127,520
  2. Virginia average economist salary: $126,080
  3. Ohio average economist salary: $125,490
  4. California average economist salary: $124,430
  5. Massachusetts average economist salary: $117,680
  6. Maryland average economist salary: $116,870
  7. Missouri average economist salary: $112,240
  8. Georgia average economist salary: $111,570
  9. Illinois average economist salary: $108,690

Texas average economist salary: $106,480

What Is The Job Outlook Of An Economist?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment of economists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2021 to 2031. This might seem low, but it’s actually a good growth rate as it will create nearly 20,000 jobs!

The competition for jobs will be strong as the pool of job seekers is expected to exceed the number of available positions significantly.

For these reasons, a master’s degree or higher will be necessary to compete for most positions.

In addition, experience in a related field such as data analysis or marketing will be helpful.

So, these are some of the things you should know before planning a career as an economist.


Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander 
(January 2, 1898 – November 1, 1989), was a pioneering Black professional and civil rights activist of the early-to-mid-20th century. In 1921, Mossell Alexander was the first African-American to receive a Ph. D. in economics in the United States.

The Sadie Collective is a non-profit organization that addresses the pipeline and pathway problems of Black women in economics, finance, data science and policy.

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