What is an economist? Definition and examples

An economist is an economics expert, i.e., somebody who specializes in economics. An economist may also study, develop, and apply economic concepts and theories and write about economic policy.

Economists are people who study the production and distribution of resources, products, and services; in other words, the economy. Economics is a social science that describes the factors that determine the production, distribution, and consumption of products and services.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has the following definition of economist:

“Economists study the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services by collecting and analyzing data, researching trends, and evaluating economic issues.”

“Economists apply both qualitative and quantitative economic analysis to topics within a variety of fields, such as education, health, development, and the environment. Some economists study the cost of products, healthcare, or energy, while others examine employment levels, business cycles, exchange rates, taxes, inflation, or interest rates.”

An economist may study historical trends. He or she may subsequently use those trends to make forecasts. They use a variety of software programs to research and analyze data. In many cases, they present their research and findings to audiences.

Economist - definition and examples
Wikipedia says the following regarding the profession of an economist: “In contrast to regulated professions such as engineering, law or medicine, there is not a legally required educational requirement or license for economists.”

Where does an economist work?

An economist may work in a company, non-profit organization, or education. They may also work in banking or a government department.

Best Value Schools says the following regarding an economist’s career:

“A career as an economist offers a wide selection of job titles and settings. You may find the field of economics appealing if you are research-oriented, analytical and a problem solver.”

“There are countless ways in which you can combine economics with another area of interest, and an economics degree can provide a strong base for future study in business, law, healthcare or public policy.”

Corporations or for-profit organizations

A company whose principal goal is to generate profit is a for-profit organization.

Corporations require people who can develop, analyze, and promote economic data and ideas. According to Forbes magazine, technology companies are particularly keen on hiring economists.

Companies that focus on professional services, such as PwC and Ernst & Young have economists in their workforce. So do multinational companies, market research organizations, newspapers, and other news organizations.

Non-profit organizations

A non-profit agency may need an economist for a variety of reasons. Non-profits need financial projections to keep themselves alive. They depend on individual, public, and private funding.

When applying for funding, they need economists to gather and analyze data and present it.


The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that there are economists in local, state, and federal government.

A federal government economist may, for example, gather and analyze data about the US economy. They will look at all types of data, including employment figures and trends, prices, productivity, and wages.

Economists in government also project expenditure needs and inform lawmakers and policymakers on the impact of laws and regulations. Specifically, their economic impact.

Britain’s Government Economic Services (GES) is the professional body for economists in the UK public sector.

According to the UK Government:

“GES encourages the good use of economics in government and maintains high standards of Fast Stream entry. There is an externally moderated continuous professional development scheme.”

“For government, economics is about decision-making on the basis of analysis and evidence, using explicit weightings on both ethical considerations and expected outcomes.”


An economist may be part of a bank’s markets and investment research team. One of the major roles of an economist in banking is to analyze all the economic data that countries, companies, agencies, etc. publish.

After analyzing the economic data, they then explain what the implications might be. Specifically, what the impact might be on the markets.

In banking and finance, economists may present their research, findings, and suggestions to investors, sales teams, traders, and others.

The heads of large financial institutions need to understand economics. They also need to have the latest economic data. They rely on economists for that data.

Education and academia

An economist in academia can focus on teaching and research. An economics professor’s time may be split equally between teaching students and carrying out research.

However, this ratio can change, depending on the institution and the interests and preferences of the economist.

According to American University in Washington DC, positions at universities and four-year colleges typically require a Ph.D. degree.

Are you an economist who is interested in working in academia? American University suggests you consider the following before taking the next step:

“Do you want the freedom to research subjects and topics that are most interesting to you? Do you want to help shape the minds of future economists?”