An economist applies specialist knowledge to real-world events and developments, providing vital insights into their financial, political and social impact.
Economists research and analyse data that affects the fiscal and monetary policies of governments across the globe, and explain and forecast economic trends based upon that data.
If you’ve ever seen Robert Peston looking gloomy on the BBC, that’s basically what he’s doing: explaining and speculating based on his research and analysis.
Economists are employed in both the public and private sector, by governments, commercial enterprises, consultancy firms, universities, and think tanks. It always pays to be ahead of the game, so a good economist is sought after in pretty much any industry.
You can find current vacancies on our Jobs page in the Banking, Finance and Accountancy sector.
Salary & benefits
Entry-level graduates receive starting salaries in the range of £25,000 and £40,000. Economists with up to ten years of experience can earn salaries between £30,000 and £50,000, and those with more than ten years of experience earn upwards of £50,000.
Salaries offered in the private and commercial sectors are usually higher than those offered in the governmental and public sectors. Selling out is pretty lucrative, after all.
It is generally a nine-to-five job, though hours may increase significantly in project-based assignments or at times when publishing deadlines are fast approaching.
Frequent travel is required for attending seminars and conferences where economists may present their work or collaborate on international projects.
Developing a solid reputation and significant experience is crucial for economists who wish to work independently.
Entry requirements are off the charts, so to speak, with a preference for advanced degrees – masters and PhDs – though some employers accept an undergraduate degree if supplemented by relevant research, work experience or a postgraduate qualification added subsequently.
Grade requirements tend to be a 2:1 or first-class honours degree in economics/econometrics, or a joint-subject course with a strong focus on economics, and a second subject from the following: mathematics, political science, business or management studies, finance, law and international relations.
Training & progression
The first few years on the job is mainly comprised of in-house training. Junior economists are paired with a senior and experienced colleague and complete work assignments under supervision. The level of responsibilities increases as the former builds personal and professional skills and work experience.
Economists also spend a large part of their initial years attending external learning programmes and courses, including conferences, seminars and workshops.
They also join professional associations to gain additional credentials and build their portfolio of research and published works.
Career growth mainly depends on the place of employment. In the UK, graduate economists can enrol for the civil service through the Government Economic Service (GES) or apply for graduate programmes offered by the Bank of England, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and other statutory and regulatory authorities in the banking and financial services sectors.
Alternatively, one can choose to join companies and consulting firms in the private sector, with companies such as Accenture, KPMG and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Grants and endowments are available at universities for exceptional scholars and researchers.