Economists do research, analyze statistics and predict future trends in employment, finance, energy and many other areas. Economists often concentrate on a specific field, such as financial economics, labor economics or industrial economics. Most jobs for economists require a master's degree or PhD, although some candidates secure entry-level work with only a bachelor's degree. The average economist earns more than $95,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and many earn much more.
Average and Range of Wages
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly wage for an economist came to $96,320 as of 2009. The BLS included 13,160 economists throughout the country in this study. Those at the 10th percentile in earnings received $44,720 per year, while those at the 90th percentile earned $153,210 per year.
Industries with High Employment
The largest employer of economists, the federal executive branch of the government, had 4,200 economists at the time of the 2009 BLS study. Its economists received an average annual income of $106,170. State governments were the next-largest employer, with 2,340 economists earning an average of only $56,940 per year. The third-largest employer, management and scientific consulting, paid an average of $123,710 per year to 1,850 economists.
The highest-paying industry for economists in 2009 was scientific research and development, with 1,270 economists earning an average annual wage of $128,920. Depository credit intermediation paid a similar average wage of $128,790, but only employed 60 economists. Management and scientific consulting came in third.
Wages in D.C. and the Surrounding Area
A large proportion of economists work for the federal government, with a resulting concentration of jobs near the nation's capital.The 2009 BLS study showed that 4,080 economists working in the District of Columbia had an average annual wage of $117,670. In addition, 440 in Virginia earned an average of $113,550 per year, and the 240 in Maryland earned an average of $110,100. These are the highest-paying district and states in the nation for economists.
In addition to government or private work, PhD economists also often work as college or university professors. According to Salary.com, the median salary for an economics professor comes to $99,009 per year as of March 2011. The 10th percentile salary is $69,553, and the 90th percentile salary stands at $243,195.
The BLS expects the number of jobs for economists to increase by only 6 percent from 2008 to 2018. Because competition will be strong, economists with PhDs and good skills in quantitative analysis and communication will have the best chances for jobs as actual economists or as tenured professors. However, training in economics will qualify applicants for many other jobs in public policy, finance, marketing, purchasing and other areas of business.