National Careers Week: Become an Economist

In honour of National Careers Week 2018, we’re profiling some of the latest jobs from Careers 2018.

Next in the list of roles is Economist – download a PDF of this job profile here:

Economist job profile

Qualifications and courses

Candidates with only a Foundation degree or HND will not be able to enter this profession because a 2.1 Honours degree or higher, preferably in economics, is essential.

A joint Honours degree in economics and another related subject, such as finance or maths, is also often acceptable, however you should ensure that the majority of your modules are in economics and that you study both microeconomics and macroeconomics. Many employers are also increasingly requiring candidates to hold a postgraduate economics qualification. A good Honours degree in a subject other than economics may be accepted if it is followed by a postgraduate economics degree.

Entry onto a degree course usually requires at least 2 A levels/3 H grades, including Maths and preferably Economics, and 5 GCSEs/National 5s, including passes in Maths and English. For entry onto a postgraduate degree you will need a 2.1 Honours degree. If you meet the above criteria, you can apply to the Government Economic Service’s Fast Stream Economist programme. This is designed to develop your economic, managerial and communications skills to prepare you for early promotion to more senior jobs.

On top of academic achievement, knowledge of a foreign language may aid employment prospects (particularly for candidates who wish to work on secondment), as would relevant work experience. The Government Economic Service and the Bank of England offer work experience placements, internships, sandwich placements, gap year placements and vacation work placements for students and graduates.

What the work involves

Economists play a vital role in a country’s financial stability; they use their specialist knowledge to advise government, financial institutions and major businesses to help develop financial policy and strategy.

Economists research and analyse a variety of mathematical modelling techniques and data, with the information received being used to identify and predict economic changes. The work is diverse as research projects can cover a wide range of subjects – from the economic impact of major national events, to analysing company performance for fund managers and investors.

Many economists work alone, although much of their work will be through consultation with statisticians, civil servants and marketers.

Type of person suited to this work

Strong economic, business and financial understanding is essential as you will be required to analyse and apply economic theory to a variety of subjects. The work of an economist takes into  account many factors and so it is also necessary for you to have an awareness of current affairs, politics and social welfare.

Much of the job centres on the research, analysis and prediction of market trends, so a good eye for detail and methodical nature is essential. Economists must be able to communicate their understanding of a situation in a clear and concise way as you will often be explaining complex economic procedure to non-economists.

Working conditions

Economists tend to work regular office hours, 9am–5.30pm, Monday to Friday. However, some related sectors could require extended hours due to the work topic being unpredictable. For those that work in the civil service and similar sectors, flexibility may be allowed in relation to hours worked, with part-time work and job sharing being an option.

Economists are mostly office based, with the occasional need to travel to meet clients or to be present at conferences and seminars, to which they may need to contribute.

Future prospects

This profession holds many exciting opportunities, such as the chance to progress to an economic adviser after 3–4 years, based on your ability and drive. Many economists choose to become self-employed or to work abroad with multinational companies after gaining experience and establishing a reputation.


This job offers fantastic career prospects, with there being opportunities for progression in a short amount of time once training has been completed.

The salary is highly competitive, when compared with other professions, and the working hours are relatively average. Tight deadlines, political pressure and the need to juggle different projects can make the job a demanding one.

Money guide

Economists will usually have a starting salary of £25,000–£28,000, rising to in excess of £55,000 with a few years’ experience.

Those at senior level, with 10–15 years’ experience, can achieve earnings of £60,000–£80,000 with potential earnings for the top economists in finance and consulting reaching six-figure sums.

Salaries vary greatly, with economists working in banking, consulting, industry and financial services sectors, and those working in London usually earning more.

Further information

Bank of England
Government Economic Service
Royal Economic Society


Find out more on a whole range of jobs in Careers 2018

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