How to Become an Economist in 3 Simple Steps

What is an Economist

Economists study data. They collect information, research, analyze, monitor current trends, and predict new ones. They study trends in inflation, rates, taxes, employments, consumer trends, and much more. Some economists specialize in a particular area.

Macroeconomists study historical trends and predict new ones for sales, employment, investments, and productivity.

Financial economists study trends specific to the banking industry.

Labor economists focus on trends regarding employment.

Finally, there are econometricians who combine advanced mathematics in their economics studies.

Have you ever wondered how to become an economist? Is it the right field for you? If you enjoy statistics and formulas, it just may be. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, economists earn an average of $104,340 per year.

Top Five Duties of an Economist

The duties of an economist include:

  • Advise businesses, governments, and the public on economics trends
  • Gather data and conduct surveys for research
  • Write articles for trade journals and the public discussing findings
  • Prepare charts, reports, and models
  • Make recommendations for solving economic problems


Most economists work full time. They often work long hours under deadlines and tight schedules. Some economists work part time and supplement their income by consulting and teaching. The majority of economists are employed by the government. Others work for consulting services and in the banking industry.

They usually work independently in offices, but some work in teams. They may work from home or be required to travel for work or to attend trade conferences.

Economists work structured schedules, but their routine may be interrupted by requests for data, research, or to attend meetings. They’ll spend their days doing research, building charts, and writing reports. They do a lot of work on the computer.

Top Five Skills an Economist Needs:

Economists need many different skills to be successful. Truity lists skills such as:

Computer skills

Since the use of the computer is a big part of an economist’s daily activity, they should be skilled in using the computer and many different programs. Economists should know how to use advanced programs similar to or including Microsoft Excel because you will design charts and formulas.

Math Skills

Economists need to be skilled in math and statistics. They need to know calculus, game theory, and many other advanced mathematics skills to be successful.

Communication Skills

While many economists do a lot of their work independently, they need to communicate their findings to executives and the public. Some economists work in teams in tight quarters, so they need to know how to work with others. You are required to give presentations, attend conferences, or consult clients.

Writing Skills

Economists have to write reports in news journals or publications. You will need to present your findings to others. Good writing skills will make sure that you can present your findings clearly.

Critical Thinking Skills

As an economist, you will need to use logic in determining your findings. You will review and interpret data, find patterns, and draw conclusions. You will need to determine how your findings will affect a particular organization or group.

What is an Economist

Becoming an Economist

Step 1: High School Requirements

High School Courses for Economists

If you want to be an economist, you should start your training as soon as possible. Many of your high school courses will help you in your career prospects. Collegeboard suggests courses in:

Math and Economics

The best way to start is to take as many math courses as you can. You should particularly look for courses in statistics and calculus.

Not all high schools offer courses in economics, but some do. Definitely take this course if your school offers it so you’ll get some industry-specific practice.


More high schools are requiring students to take courses in computer. Learn as many programs as you can, particularly Excel or something similar. To give yourself a bigger challenge, try courses in programming.

History, Government, and Current Events

By paying attention in history class, you’ll understand past trends and how they influenced historical events. Many economists are employed by the government, so taking this course will help you understand how government works and relates to the field of economics. Finally, current events often relate to economics.

Formal Education Requirements

Most, if not all, economists have a master’s degree or higher. The most successful ones have a Ph.D. The positions you’ll be applying for in government, research or international companies will want you to have an advanced degree and work experience.

At the graduate level, economics students can specialize in different areas such as labor, micro or macroeconomics, or econometrics.

A Ph.D. will make you an expert in your field and open up the most job prospects. You should strongly consider a Ph.D., especially if you want to work in academia or research. While you’re earning a Ph.D., most of your time will be spent working on a dissertation.

There are a few positions that will hire you with only a bachelor’s, but many of these are assistant or entry-level positions. You’ll have little chance for advancement without an advanced degree. Still, you can use these positions to gain experience while you pursue an advanced degree.

Step 2: Get an Undergraduate Degree

Bachelor’s degree in Economics Program 4 years

For a bachelor’s degree in economics, you’ll have to complete general education requirements which will include courses in English, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Mathematics. Once you begin your economics major courses, you’ll take courses in different areas such as labor economics, micro and macroeconomics, statistics, and business.

Most colleges offer a major in economics. When you’re investigating schools, look for coursework that will fit in with where you want to go in the field.


General Education Courses (45 Credits)

  • Arts
  • Humanities
  • Health and Physical Activity
  • Natural Sciences
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Writing and Speaking
  • Quantification

Major (58 Credits)

  • Introductory Microeconomic Analysis and Policy
  • Statistical Foundations for Econometrics
  • Introductory Macroeconomic Analysis and Policy
  • Introduction to Econometrics
  • Intermediate Macroeconomic Analysis
  • Intermediate Microeconomic Analysis
  • Introduction to C++ Programming
  • Techniques of Calculus I
  • Labor Economics
  • Introduction to Spreadsheets and Databases
  • Money and Banking
  • International Economics
  • Economics of Public Expenditures
  • Decision Making and Strategy in Economics
  • Advanced International Trade Theory and Policy
  • Environmental Economics
  • Growth and Development
  • International Finance and Open Economy Macroeconomics
  • Quantification
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences

Electives (26 credits)

  • Intermediate accounting i
  • Intermediate accounting ii
  • Quantitative & qualitative methods for decision making
  • Business ethics for leaders
  • Global business issues
  • Communication ethics
  • Organizational communication
  • Economics internship
  • Special topics in economics
  • Foundations of entrepreneurship
  • Advanced financial management
  • Business & professional writing

The average cost of a bachelor’s degree in economics program is $53,280 – $177,272.

Step 3: Get a Graduate Degree (Optional)

Master’s Degree in Economics Program 2 years

You don’t have to have an undergraduate major in economics to pursue a master’s degree in economics, but you will need a strong math background. The average time to complete a master’s degree is two years or less. A master’s program will often allow you to specialize in an area of economics that interests you.

Master’s programs will prepare you for doctorate study and may or may not require a thesis. If you plan on pursuing a Ph.D., select a program with a thesis option.


Core Courses (45 Credits)

  • Math Methods for Economists
  • Core Courses
  • Microeconomic Theory
  • Macroeconomic Theory
  • Statistics
  • Econometrics
  • Forecasting in Organizations
  • Practicum in Applied Economics

Electives (15 credits)

  • Environmental & Resource Economics
  • Economics of the Labor Market
  • Political Economy
  • Industrial Organization
  • Law and Economics
  • Public Economics
  • Development Microeconomics
  • International Trade (Open Economy Micro)
  • Regional Economics
  • Urban Economics
  • Economics of Health Care

The average cost of a master’s degree in economics program is $20,446 – $48,664.

Doctoral Degree in Economics 3 -5 years

You don’t need a master’s degree in economics to pursue your Ph.D., but it will help since many master’s programs will prepare you for doctorate programs. However, many Ph.D. students have only a bachelor’s degree.

Many economists who are interested in teaching and research pursue a Ph.D. The majority of your time will be spent in residence completing a dissertation.

Your coursework will include advanced study in micro and macroeconomics, quantitative analysis, and econometrics.


Core Courses

  • Core Microeconomics
  • Core Macroeconomics
  • Econometrics

Research Fields

  • Behavioral & Experimental
  • Development Economics
  • Econometrics
  • Economic History
  • Environmental, Resource and Energy Economics
  • Finance
  • Industrial Organization
  • International Trade
  • International Finance
  • Labor Economics
  • Market Design
  • Microeconomic Theory
  • Macroeconomics
  • Public Economics

How Long Does it Take to Become an Economist and How Much Does it Cost?

Option 1 : Bachelor’s Degree

Degree Time Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$53,280- $177,272
Total 4 years$53,280- $177,272.

Option 2 : Master’s Degree

DegreeTime Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$53,280- $177,272
Master’s2 years to 3 years$20,446- $48,664
Total6 years to 7 years$73,726- $225,936

Option 3 : Doctoral Degree

DegreeTime Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$53,280- $177,272
Master’s2 years to 3 years$20,446- $48,664
Doctoral Degree3 years to 5 years
Total9 years to 12 years$73,726- $225,936

Economist Training Video

Noel Griffith, Ph.D.
Noel Griffith is a Doctor of Philosophy with a strong interest in educational research. He has been an editor-in-chief of since 2014. Noel is an avid reader (non-fiction), enjoys good food, live theatre, and helping others make wiser career decisions.

2 Responses

  1. I’m interested in learning more about economics and i want to be an Economist and I’m currently doing grade 12 but my problem is that im not so good in maths, so can you advise me what can i do ?.

  2. I have just given my x th board exams, I am good enough in maths but not good in social science , I am interested to make my carrier in economics but I m little confused due to social science involved in it.
    Should I take economics as my carrier , please guide me

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