Economists play an important role in shaping public and private policy decisions. These highly trained experts use their statistical skills to predict the effects of new taxes, fundraising campaigns and financial changes. Without their help, organizations would be unable to make strategic decisions, but this job isn’t for everyone. Here’s an overlook at what economists do on a day-to-day basis, how you can become an economist and where the field is headed.
What Do Economists Do?
At a basic level, economists analyze financial trends, consumer behavior and historical performance to predict future economic patterns. This means gathering psychology data to understand what motivates people to spend money, understanding complex financial decisions, researching the effects of public policy and performing detailed calculations. This is a great field for students who love social science, mathematics and political involvement.
A brief look at the latest issue of The Economist can show the broad range of topics that economists study, but it also shows how many of these areas relate to politics. Although it’s possible to find some jobs in the finance or research fields that have limited exposure to politics, you’ll have the most options if you’re interested in affecting public policy. You can hold any party affiliation or viewpoint as long as you’re passionate about the ways financial choices affect social outcomes.
What Degree Do You Need to Become an Economist?
You can’t find work as an economist without some level of formal academic training. Because you need to understand complex mathematical and statistical concepts, employers want to know that you’ve been trained in this type of analytical thinking. For some entry-level jobs, you can start with a bachelor’s degree in economics, statistics or mathematics. For your long-term career and for most positions, you’ll want a master’s or PhD. You don’t need a specific undergraduate degree to get into graduate school in economics, but you’ll want a strong mathematical background. Some training in computer science or programming can be helpful as you may need to write your own programs to conduct research. You could also study political science or public administration if you want to work in a government position, but don’t skip your mathematics classes.
Is Economics a Growing Field?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the need for economists will grow 6 percent in the next decade. However, this analysis is only for pure economists; it does not include the many other fields where you could find employment with a degree in economics. Because you’ll learn strong quantitative skills in this field of study, you’ll be a strong candidate for a career in finance, biostatistics or data analysis. That gives you many options for long-term stability and success. Industry growth will also reflect regional trends; if you live in a metropolitan area with a growing scientific or government community, you can take advantage of increased demand for economists. Even with increased automation and more sophisticated computer programming, economists will always be needed to direct studies and interpret the results.
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You can make a difference as an economist. If you have the right combination of mathematical and policy interest, consider entering this field.