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What does an economist do?

Economists do research. They prepare surveys to collect data, and then figure out what the data mean. They also do forecasts of what may cause the economy to change and how it may change in the future. They study topics such as prices, wages, employment and unemployment, taxes, interest rates, and the stock market. Other economists study money and banking system or trade with foreign countries. Doing reports on their research, so that the average person can understand it, is a very important part of their job.

Some economists work for Federal, State, or local governments. They help governments figure out policies related to taxes, the minimum wage, safety and health in the workplace, how much to charge foreign countries to sell goods in the U.S., and many other topics.

Economists should like working with numbers. They also need to be able to work with detail.

Economists have regular work schedules. They often work alone writing reports and using computers. However, they also may be part of a team. Most must meet deadlines. They may work overtime. Some may travel.

How do you get ready to become an economist?

A master's or Ph.D. degree in economics is required for many jobs in private industry. Courses in math, statistics, economics, and computer science are helpful. Some schools help graduate students find jobs working part time.

In the Federal Government, entry jobs require a bachelor's degree with at least 21 hours of economics and 3 hours of statistics, accounting, or calculus.

In most colleges and universities, one needs a Ph.D. to become a teacher.

Economists must be able to write clear reports telling about their findings.

How much does an economist make?

The middle half earned between $50,560 and $90,710. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $38,690. The highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $120,440.

How many jobs are there?

Economists held about 16,000 jobs in 2002. Over one-half work for private industry, including consulting firms, research firms, banks, and other businesses. Some work for themselves.

Most work in large cities. Some teach at colleges and universities.

What about the future?

Employment of economists should grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2012. More economists will be needed in the private industry to do research. Governments also will need some economists to help determine new policies.

Persons with a master's or Ph.D. degree and strong math, statistics, and computer skills should have the best chance of getting a good job. Bachelor's degree holders may face competition for jobs.

It will be hard to land a job as a teacher at a college. But teaching jobs will be easier to get at the high school level.

Are there other jobs like this?

Where can you find more information?

More information about economists can be found in the Careers Database.

Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics

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