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Economists use economic concepts, theories and analytical techniques to provide advice and practical information that will aid managerial planning and decision-making tasks.

The Government Economic Service (GES) is the UK's largest recruiter of economists, with over 1,400 professionals.

What does an economist do? Qualifications and training | Key skills

Economists undertake research of data and statistics that will then be analysed to generate forecasts of economic trends. This will be used to help clients improve their operating efficiency.

Economists are employed by local and central government, economic consultancies, major companies, banks, financial institutions, higher education establishments and investment organisations. Responsibilities of the job include:

  • providing economic advice and recommendations
  • monitoring and forecasting UK and foreign economic performance
  • making presentations
  • analysing and interpreting complicated numerical and financial information
  • undertaking relevant research and writing reports of your findings.

Responsibilities can be slightly different depending on whether you work in the business or government sector. In government, work could also include assessing the economic effect of major UK events; advising on the potential implications of new policies; analysing the effect of exchange rates on UK trade; and examining the performance of large organisations with scarce resources, eg the NHS.

Presenting results that are easily understood in a diplomatic and persuasive manner is an important part of the work, ensuring that arguments and outcomes will be readily accepted. Promotional prospects are excellent for employees willing to take managerial positions or to change employer, and a formal career path exists within the Government Economic Service.

Most jobs are based in London and other major towns and cities. Vacancies are advertised by careers services, in TARGETjobs Finance and in national newspapers - specifically The Financial Times and The Economist plus their respective websites. Networking, job shadowing and speculative applications are advisable. Find out more about how to make speculative applications.

Qualifications and training required

You will need to be a graduate to enter this profession. You will normally start as an economic research analyst if working in the private sector, or, if in government, as an assistant economist via the Civil Service Fast Stream. You will need a good degree (2.1 or higher) in economics or joint honours including economics; some employers also expect a relevant postgraduate qualification, and this is usually necessary if your degree is not in economics. All candidates must have a sound understanding of economic theory. As there is huge competition for vacancies, relevant experience gained via placements or vacation work can be advantageous.

Key skills for economists

Appropriate attributes such as self-confidence, commercial awareness, good interpersonal skills and the ability to cope with pressure are highly valued by employers. Analytical skills are essential, as are communication skills: you will need to explain complex ideas to people who lack technical knowledge. IT and time management skills are also important.

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