If you are wondering how to become an economist, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of finance and banking, as well as financial services job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Economists use knowledge of economic theory to advise government departments, businesses, banks and other organisations. Economists’ research helps governments to develop economic policies and businesses to plan financial strategies.

    As an economist, your work might vary according to whether you work in the government or business sector.

    Typical responsibilities:

    researching information from computer databases, journals, the press and other professionals
    monitoring past and present economic issues and trends
    creating mathematical models to predict future economic developments
    analysing statistics
    producing reports and presenting findings to their employer or client
    writing reports for the press
    examining how effective current policies are
    advising on the economic impact of alternative ideas.
    In some jobs you may also be involved in university teaching or research.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good economists include:

    an excellent understanding of business and economic theory
    good research skills
    the ability to analyse complex information and statistics
    good mathematical and computer skills
    good communication skills, with the ability to explain complex issues to non-economists
    report writing skills
    organisational ability, for working on several projects at once
    the ability to build good working relationships with a range of professionals.

    How to become an economist
    To work as an economist you will usually need a good degree in economics or a related subject. Some employers may prefer you to have a postgraduate Masters degree in economics as well as a first degree.

    To become an assistant economist in the Government Economic Service you must have at least a class 2:1 degree in economics, or a degree that included at least 50% economics.

    Other employers may accept degrees in related subjects, such as:

    business studies
    finance and accounting.
    To start an economics-based degree course, you will usually need at least five GCSEs (A-C), plus two A levels including maths or economics. You should check with colleges or universities for exact entry requirements.

    You will find it helpful to have work experience in business, accountancy or finance.

    Training and Development
    You will usually develop your knowledge on the job, learning from more senior economists. Your employer may also provide training in skills like report writing, presentations and using specialist statistical computer software.

    If you join the Government Economic Service (GES) as an assistant economist, you will be trained through a structured fast-track development programme. You are likely to progress from assistant economist to economic adviser after three to four years. See the GES website for more information.

    You may also be able to study for a postgraduate qualification that is relevant to your employer’s work. Your employer may provide funding towards this.

    You may find it useful to join the Royal Economic Society or the Society of Business Economists, for professional development and networking opportunities.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Starting salaries are usually around £25,000 a year.
    Government economic advisers with three years’ experience earn between £35,000 and £45,000.
    Senior economists may earn between £60,000 and £80,000 a year.
    Private companies may offer higher salaries than public sector or government organisations.

    Job Prospects
    Most economists in the UK work for the GES – there are around 500 in around 30 government departments, mainly based in London. Other employers include:

    financial institutions such as the Bank of England
    commercial banks, investment and insurance companies
    management and economic consultancies
    international organisations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund or European Union
    trade unions
    media and publishing
    university teaching and research.
    Government departments usually offer a clearly-defined promotion structure, whilst in private companies you may need to change employers to progress. With experience, you could also become a self-employed independent consultant or researcher.

    Useful banking and financial services resources:
    Society of Business Economists
    Dean House
    Vernham Dean
    SP11 0JZ

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