Economists research and analyse a wide range of facts, figures and statistics on economic and financial issues. They predict future trends and give advice to government ministers and to senior managers in industry, commerce and the public services. They are sometimes called economic advisors, analysts or forecasters.
Some economists work in macroeconomics. They consider the economics of a whole country. Other economists work in microeconomics. They look at smaller scale subjects, such as the future of one company, or the level of retail sales over the next few months.
You could be:
researching and collecting information from databases, the internet, newspapers or government reports
using specialist software to analyse data
creating and using economic modelling techniques to develop forecasts and trends
analysing the effectiveness of policies, products or services, for example, taxation, health services and transport
giving advice based on your conclusions
explaining the research methods used
working out patterns of income or employment for the future
assessing the risks of investing money in new companies
writing reports and giving presentations.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Graduate entrants would normally start on a salary of £25,000 to £27,000 a year. Starting salaries for assistant economists in the Government Economic Service (including the Scottish Government) are around £28,000 to £32,000 a year with additional pay for a relevant postgraduate qualification. After 4 to 5 years of experience you may earn around £55,000 a year. Experienced economists can earn over £68,000 a year.
You would be based in an office, working either on your own or as part of a team.
You would do much of your work on a computer.
The work might be stressful, particularly if there are deadlines to meet. You might need to work extra hours, including evenings and weekends.
You would normally require a first or upper second class Honours degree (SCQF Levels 9-10) in economics or a related subject.
Entry requirements for degree courses are usually 4-5 Highers, with at least English and Maths at National 5.
The Highers required vary, depending on the university, but Higher Maths is often recommended.
A specialist postgraduate qualification or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree may be preferred by some employers.
Previous work experience in business is an advantage.
You should have good IT skills.
You could enter through the Civil Service's Government Economic Service (GES) Fast Stream programme as an assistant economist, or an economic adviser, or through a student placement. You need either a first or upper second-class Honours degree in economics, or a postgraduate degree in economics to get in. See their website for further information.
Economists work in banks or in industry, for example the oil industry. Economists also work for global organisations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The Government Economic Service (GES) Team, part of the Civil Service, is the UK’s largest recruiter of economists with over 1,500 professionals in more than 30 departments and agencies.
What Does it Take?
You should be able to:
work both on your own and as part of a team
work under pressure
analyse figures and statistics and explain them simply to others
develop clear recommendations and give evidence to support them
explain complex arguments well to senior managers.
You should have:
an enquiring mind
good research skills
excellent attention to detail
a logical approach
good judgement in order to give sound advice
good communication and presentation skills
You would train and gain practical experience on the job with an employer.
The Government Economic Service (GES) Team, major banks and some large companies run structured training programmes for trainee or assistant economists.
You are likely to attend a variety of short courses on subjects such as presentation skills or report writing.
You may also get the chance to study part time for a postgraduate qualification if you do not already have one. Your employer may be prepared to help with the costs.
You would probably start as an assistant economist and aim to develop your career through promotion.
In large organisations, there is a clear promotion structure with well-defined grades.
If you start work for a smaller organisation, you may want to take a variety of jobs and work for different organisations to gain wide experience.
You might also have to move around the country for the same reason.
After gaining enough experience, you may be able to set up your own business as a consultant.
This is a small profession and entry can be very competitive. You could work for the GES, major financial institutions such as banks, building societies and insurance companies, major industrial and commercial firms, oil companies, management consultancies and certain public authorities. The GES is the largest employer of economists in the UK. In Scotland, GES jobs are in Glasgow and Edinburgh. There are increasing opportunities overseas. The Economist magazine has a vacancies section.