How to Become an Economist

To become an economist, you will need to pursue a graduate degree in economics. Economists study the distribution of resources in an economy and the choices that are made to distribute the resources and 

Education

Though there is no certification or licencing requirements to become an economist, most economists have either a masters degree or a PhD in economics. Graduate degrees are likely to be requirements for applying to positions with the government and you will need an PhD to teach economics at the post-secondary level.

Tips and Advice

Economists work with statistical and financial data so it is a good idea to take basic statistics courses while in college. It will also be helpful for you to learn how to use software for economic analysis, such as Excel, ADePT, and ECONPACK, though the type of software and statistical problems that you will explore will depend on the area of economics that you specialize in.

Economists need to use mathematics, statistics and software, but they also need to be able to write effectively. Almost all economists will need to produce written reports or analysis of their work, either for other professionals or for the general public, so they need to be able to take complex information and translate the information into a coherent argument. If you are not a great writer, you should look for assistance at your college or university writing center or take a composition or business writing course. Poor written communication skills could remove you from a job competition, no matter how superb your math and stats skills are.

If you are planning on working on macroeconomic issues, a good background in history, international relations and the effects of globalization are assets. If you want to work in international development, learning a language other than English will also be helpful for you in the job search.

Different Types of Economist Jobs

There are two broad areas of economics: microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics studies individuals, households and corporations. Macroeconomics studies historical trends within major economies. Within these fields, economists can specialize: they can analyze labor market data, public finance, international economics, monetary economists and organizational economics.

The majority of economists are hired by government, where they would work on projects related to demographic data, such as the labor market, or on monetary policy or public finance. In this area, economists would spend a great deal of time analyzing and organizing statistical data.

Economists also working banking and the financial industries and these industries are prime employers for people who have their undergraduate degree in economics. Working in these industries, you would analyze statistical and financial data, and produce reports, usually about macroeconomic conditions, for the benefit of clients and investors in the bank. Many economics grads will also find customer service positions, working as financial planners, loan officers and mortgage brokers at banking institutions.

Non-profit organizations that perform international work, NGOs, local "think tanks" or supra-national organizations, such as the United Nations, also hire economists to perform data analysis, write reports and conduct studies, sometimes in the field, about economic conditions in that region or area. There are some opportunities for persons with an undergraduate degree in economics, but organizations like the UN will prefer to hire advanced degree holders that have international experience.