Economists research, analyse and interpret economic information. They analyse the current economic situation and forecast how factors such as unemployment and inflation levels will change in the future. Economists use their findings to advise people in government, business and industry on economic conditions, trends and the implications of specific policies.
Video: - Jennifer: Public Sector Economist
As a Government Economist, you will advise the government and parliament on issues such as taxation, housing benefits, local government funding, public health and criminal justice. For example, you might study specific proposals, such as plans to increase spending on housing, and use your findings to advise Ministers on the eventual costs, the projected impact of existing trends, and implications for other areas of the Budget.
Government Economists analyse national expenditure, such as health spending, benefits and defence budgets, and recommend investment or cuts in particular areas. You will also research the difference in value between payments into and out of the country (the balance of payments), assessing the strength of the export market.
Economics is not just about money - it is to do with all types of resources, including raw materials, goods, services and people. As a Government Economist, you could be studying the availability of a particular resource around the world, for example.
Apart from central government, you could work as an Economist in regional and local government, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as local development agencies.
Here, you will usually work to help stimulate your local economy - to make it work better. You'll analyse local trends, such as investment in tourism or particular industries, and keep policy-makers up to date with potential new sources of funding for local areas, from both the UK government and the EU.
If you work as an Economist in the Bank of England, you will provide research to the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), for example, on inflation trends, forecasts for the performance of sterling, the outlook for major trading partners, and the information needed to set interest rates.
In business and industry, you will study markets, advising on investment opportunities and alerting decision-makers to significant changes in the economy that could affect the company.
Economists also work in areas related to finance, for example, in insurance companies, banks and accountancy firms.
Other areas of work include international organisations such as the World Bank, United Nations and International Monetary Fund (IMF). There are also Economists in journalism, education and trade unions.
Wherever you work, you will gather their information from sources such as databases, published statistics, the internet, libraries and newspapers. You'll present your findings, for example, in verbal or written reports, using graphs and charts.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become an Economist, you'll need:
- to enjoy research
- a thorough, methodical approach to collecting and analysing information
- strong problem-solving skills
- an interest in current affairs
- the ability to work well in a team
- maths and computer skills
- the ability to apply your knowledge to real-world issues
- the ability to explain things clearly and concisely, including in written reports
Some Economists need to be persuasive, to convince Managers of their arguments.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £33,000 - £38,000
- With experience: £41,000 - £51,500
- Senior Economists earn £55,500
Hours of work
Economists usually work office hours, Monday to Friday. In the financial sector, hours can be longer.
Where could I work?
Employers include central government, where Economists work in more than 30 Civil Service departments and agencies. Financial institutions, such as the Bank of England and other large banks, building societies and insurance companies, are major employers.
Economists also work for global organisations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Other employers are accountancy firms and private consultancies.
Opportunities for Economists occur in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies for Fast Stream entry to the GES (graduate entry is as an Assistant Economist) are posted for online application on the Civil Service Fast Stream website. The GES scheme comes under the Analytical Fast Stream.
Vacancies for other employers are advertised on the Bank of England's website, The Economist website (Economist.com), on financial and general recruitment websites and in national newspapers. Specialist job boards include economistjobs.com and Econ-Jobs.com.
GreenJobs is a job board aimed at people interested in green careers:
Entry Routes and Training
A good first (undergraduate) degree in economics (or a subject with a substantial economics content) is the minimum entry requirement.
However, many posts also need postgraduate qualifications, and these are increasingly necessary.
Economics is available as a single subject degree, or in combination with a range of subjects, including accounting, history, politics and marketing.
Fast Stream entry to the Government Economic Service (into an Assistant Economist role) is with a degree (at least a 2:1 honours) or postgraduate degree in economics. Joint or mixed degrees are acceptable, as long as the economics content of the degree is 50% or higher. You must have studied macro- and microeconomics to qualify.
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article '
Training can be on-the-job, through short courses and by going to conferences and seminars. Some employers enable Economists to gain postgraduate qualifications.
The Fast Stream programme involves a series of postings, each lasting 12 to 18 months. You can specify the area of economics you would like to work in. Many people end up in their preferred area, although there is no guarantee of this. Although most Fast Stream vacancies are in London, it's possible to work in several other cities around the UK.
If you would like some more training, then the London School of Economics and Political Science offer economics courses. Their courses include:
- an introduction to microeconomics
- financial markets and the global economy
- international economics
- an introduction to macroeconomics
- an introduction to econometrics
- environmental economics and sustainable development
- public finance
- money and banking
Check the websites for dates and availability.
Other courses could be available in your area.
Fast Stream Economists can expect to be promoted to Economic Adviser posts within three to five years.
In other areas, promotion could be into a Senior Economist role.
Previous experience working in accountancy, mathematics or banking would be really useful for this career.
For entry to a degree in economics, the usual minimum requirement is:
- 2/3 A levels where some universities specify maths, economics and business studies
- GCSEs at grade C/4 and above in your A level subjects where economics is useful but not essential for entry to degree courses
- a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 and above, often to include English and maths
Alternatives to A levels include:
- BTEC level 3 qualifications
- the International Baccalaureate Diploma
However, course requirements vary, so please check college/university websites carefully.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Some entrants have a background in accountancy, mathematics or banking.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter a degree course, you might be able to start one after completing an Access course, for example, Access to Science. You don't usually need any qualifications to enter an Access course, although you should check this with the course provider.
Part-time postgraduate courses covering economics and economic specialisms are available.
The Open University offers a degree in Economics and Mathematical Sciences by distance learning.
A number of universities offer postgraduate programmes in economics, by distance learning.
Civil Service Jobs
Open University (OU)
Tel: 0845 3006090
Specialists in graduate careers
Address: Unit 6, The Quad, 49 Atalanta Street, Fulham, London SW6 6TU
Tel: 020 7565 7900
Getting into Business & Economics Courses
Author: Carly Roberts Publisher: Trotman
University of London International Programme
Tel: 020 7862 8360
Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA)
Address: Catherine Richards House, 16 Nelson Street, Southend-on-sea, Essex SS1 1EF
Tel: 01702 354020
Bank of England
Address: Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8AH
Tel: 020 7601 4878
Society of Professional Economists (SPE)
Address: Dean House, Vernham Dean, Andover, Hampshire SP11 0JZ
Tel: 01264 737552
Government Economic Service (GES)
Publisher: Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA)
Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)
Address: 3rd Floor, 7 Ridgmount Street, London WC1E 7AE
Tel: 020 7291 4800
Civil Service Fast Stream
Address: HMRC Civil Service Resourcing, Room LG69/70, 100 Parliament Street, Westminster, London SW1A 2BQ
Tel: 020 3514 1304