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Career as an Economist

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Economists study the use and organisation of the world’s productive and financial resources. Economics is not a science in the same way as the physical sciences (physics or chemistry). It includes the study of political, industrial and social relationships and interactions. The field of investigation is very wide and may include the study of such topics as reasons for the balance of payments crises, the effects of different forms of taxation, international trade or business economics. Economics is not a precise science; it is only possible to forecast degrees of probability of a particular economic model having certain results. Economics therories are not classified as correct or incorrect-rather they are either applicable or inapplicable depending upon the situation and circumstances.

Nature of Work

Economists study the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. Their work is mainly in analysis of data and the practical applications of economic policy in a particular area such as finance, labour, agriculture, transportation, energy, and health. Others develop therories to explain economic phenomenon such as inflation or unemployment.

Economists use mathematical models to develop programmes predicting the nature and length of business cycles, the effects of inflation on the economy, or the effects of tax legislation on the unemployment levels.

Economists who work for the government (such as the Indian Economic Service)
Or apex financial institutions like RBI,IDBI, SEBI,EXIM Bank etc.,assess economic conditions nationally and internationally to estimate the economic effects of specific changes in legislation or public policy .

In the government economists are in structured work schedules preparing reports, often working alone though under pressure of deadlines and prone to interruptions with meetings and conferences.

The primary task of economists is to give advice on the probable consequences of a course of action. For example, in the corporate sector, they may advise a company on the effects of a rise in the price of its products. Economists may also work as advisers with all types of employers. In that role they are not expected to implement decisions, and should be prepared for their advice to be ignored. For those economists who would like to play a more active role in an organization should go in for management positions.

Work Environment

Economists work in the corporate, industrial, government and financial environment. They may be in academics, with international organizations, in banking, stockbroking and pure research. The work is essentially conducted in the typical office environment though there may be business travel at middle and senior levels of management. The work being more in the nature of research and analysis, economists are involved in a lot of paper work, study of data and need to work long hours on the computer.


Economists may specialize in economic research and analysis, economic development and planning. Economists may specialize in financial analysis and management. Many economists work only in market research and analysis while a few specialize in urban and regional planning. Economists may be involved in equity research, in the financial services sector, in rural development, in demographic studies and in the formulation of economic analysis and policies. Their services in various capacities are utilized by government organizations as well as the public and private sectors.

Physical and Psychological Requirements

An analytical mind, skill in quantitative techniques, interest in political and social affairs, analytical powers, resilience to persevere even when suggestions are being ignored, ability to communicate complex research findings to lay people, patience and persistence. Economists must be able to present themselves, both orally and in writing, in a clear, meaningful way.


Most universities offer Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Economics either in the Arts discipline or in the Science discipline, usually the former. Economics is taught as a part of undergraduate and graduate studies and may be chosen as the subject for specialization with honors/major in the subject. In the usual three-year honours curriculum, students are exposed to economic theory,monetary theory, public finance, taxation, business organization, international trade, financial systems and banking, economics of growth, welfare and planning, economic thought and economic history-all aspects of economic activity, processes, systems, etc., with special emphasis on the Indian economy. Most of recognized universities in the country offer an honors programme in Economics at the graduate level.

In the postgraduate programme in Economics, which is usually a two-year programmes, the syllabus deals with the above mentioned topics and areas in greater depth and more analytically. Students get an opportunity to specialise in a specific branch such as rural economics, agricultural economics, welfare economics, public finance, monetary economics, business economics, applied economics, economic analysis and policy, developmental economics, econometrics, mathematical economics, etc. Although postgraduate courses in the subject are offered at most universities, not all of them offer facilities for specialization in all spheres. It is best, therefore, to assertain the course curriculum/structure before applying. Doctoral studies are also offered at most of the universities, which offer the master’s degree.

Graduate level courses are open to students who have completed Plus Two or equivalent level of education on the basis of marks secured, generally. The post graduate programmes are usually open to students who have completed their graduation with honours in economics. Admission to the top universities is through an admission test that evaluates the candidate’s understanding and knowledge of this subject. Because of the importance of quantitative skills to economists, students should ensure that they have adequate exposure to mathematics and statistics from their school years into undergraduate study. AT the higher levels, knowledge of econometrics and computer science becomes essential.

A Bachelor’s degree with a major/honours in Economics is not enough to obtain positions of economists either in private industry or in government and allied institutions. A Master’s degree with 55% and above marks/equivalent grade is the minimum requirement though a PhD is ideal for those who aim to have a long innings as also to capture the top positions in industry, commerce and government.


Employment Prospects

Post graduate degree holders in economics find placement from the campus of central universities in equity research and other financial services in the corporate sector. Market research organisations also offer middle management jobs to start with.

Economics postgraduates may also opt for research fellowships and after completing their thesis apply for teaching assignments in universities and management institutions.

Openings in government (for example, Indian Economic Service, discussed in a separate chapter) and apex financial institutions like the Reserve Bank of India [Refer Chapter: Apex Financial Institutions] are challenging and competitive options.

In industry, business and commerce, there is always a high demand for experienced economists. Aspiring economists should gain experience gathering and analyzing data, conducting surveys, writing reports on their findings while still in college. Trying for an internship in industry could be a good idea during vacations, Joining a specialized research institution is an excellent career move.

While economics may be a specialist qualification, there are also options for economists to get into the Civil Services, in banks and other financial institutions, in operations research, market research, securities and financial services, financial analysis and credit analysis too.

Career Progression

Demand for qualified, experience economists is very high in competitive market conditions. Advancement opportunities for economists with requisite qualifications and wo4rk experience are very good both in the private sector and in the government. Senior economists can be at the helm of affairs at the national level. They may also be taken on in advisory postions in international organizations.

Constant reading and updating is an essential aspect of any successful economist’s life.

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