How To Become An Economist

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How Long Does It Take, What Degree Do You Need, and More

Economists

Economists conduct research, prepare reports, or formulate plans to address economic problems related to the production and distribution of goods and services or monetary and fiscal policy. May collect and process economic and statistical data using sampling techniques and econometric methods.

Salary
$120880
Becoming One
Very Hard
Education
Doctoral degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality
Interest Match




Table of contents
  1. Summary
  2. Steps to become one
  3. Popular degree levels
  4. How long does it take

Summary

Degree Most Economist jobs require at least a Master’s Degree while research positions often require a PhD.
Degree field The most common Master’s degree for Economists is Economics.
License or certification Economists do not need any licenses or certifications but may obtain voluntary certifications to improve their resumes.
Duration to become one 6 to 10 years
Difficulty to become one Very Hard

Most Economist jobs require at least a Master’s Degree while research positions often require a PhD. The most common Master’s degree for Economists is Economics.

Economists do not need any licenses or certifications but may obtain voluntary certifications to improve their resumes.


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Economists Requirements

Step 1: Study Economics and Math in High School

Aspiring Economists can start developing the required skills and knowledge for this career by taking classes in economics and math.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Economists start their post-secondary school education with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics. Aspiring Economists typically earn a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Economics.

The BA programs are devoted to the theory of Economics and the application of Economic principles in the social sciences.

BS programs in Economics are designed to teach students the application of Economic theories to solve real-world programs. Mathematics and statistics are important parts of a BS in Economics program.

Students who plan on earning a Master’s degree may choose a different major instead of pursuing a BA or BS in Economics. However, most Master’s programs require the completion of specific coursework, including Mathematics.

Students may also choose to enroll in a dual-degree program that leads to a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and another field of study, such as Political Science or Statistics. Even with a single-degree program, some students choose to add a concentration in related or unrelated fields, such as Finance, Behavioral Economics, or Environmental Policy.

Dual degrees and additional concentrations provide a broader education. However, they are not a requirement.

Step 3: Earn a Master’s Degree

A Master’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for most Economist jobs. Master’s programs typically last two years. As with the Bachelor’s degree, students may choose between a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS) in Economics.

Some Master’s programs require students to choose an area of specialization within the field of Economics. Subfields of Economics include Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Monetary Economics, and Public Economics.

Step 4: Complete an Internship

Many Economists complete internships to gain real-world experience before finishing their college education. Students may start looking for internships after earning a Bachelor’s degree or choose to wait until after finishing their Master’s degree.

Most internships are related to research projects and may be unpaid. An internship typically lasts one to two years. If the internship overlaps with the intern’s college schedule, the company offering the internship may cover a portion of the tuition.

Step 5: Earn a Doctoral Degree

Earning a Doctoral degree in Economics leads to a PhD. A PhD in Economics is typically only required for academic positions. Depending on the PhD program, students may need to earn a Master’s degree before enrolling. However, some programs only require students to hold a Bachelor’s degree.

The path to earning a Doctoral degree in Economics often involves two to three years of research. You get to choose the focus of your research.

PhD candidates are also typically required to teach courses or assist professors. The amount of work, research, and studying are far more intense compared to earning a Bachelor’s degree or a Master’s degree.

Step 6: Look for Work as an Economist

After finishing college and an internship, Economists begin looking for entry-level positions in their chosen field. The greatest job opportunities for Economists are often found in major cities. Common employers include utility companies, real estate firms, universities, and financial institutions.

Governments, think tanks, and nonprofits also hire Economists. Federal government jobs tend to have lower educational requirements, making them a common choice for those just starting their careers. While most jobs will require at least a Master’s degree, government jobs may only require a Bachelor’s degree.

Step 7: Obtain Voluntary Certifications

Economists are not required to earn certifications or licenses but may choose to earn voluntary certifications. One of the most common certifications is the Certified Business Economist (CBE) credential, which is offered through the National Association of Business Economics (NABE).

Earning the CBE and other certifications typically require specific educational and work requirements. Applicants often need at least a bachelor’s degree and two or more years of work experience. Qualified individuals may apply for NABE membership and take an exam to earn a credential.

Along with earning voluntary certifications, many Economists join professional societies and organizations. The American Economic Association (AEA) and the Association for Social Economists (ASE) are two of the largest organizations.

Joining a society provides access to useful resources and invitations to lectures and seminars. Many Economists also use membership in national organizations for networking opportunities and job searches.

What degree do most Economists have

Doctoral degree

We did a survey to ask other Economists what degree they had when they first became one. Here are the results.

Doctoral degree
60.87%

Master’s degree
30.43%

Post-Master’s certificate
4.35%

How long does it take

6 to 10 years

Most Economists have Master’s degrees in Economics, which typically takes six years to earn. However, academic and research positions may require a PhD, adding another four years of study to the path to becoming an Economist.


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