A Day in the Life of an Economist
The field of economics rewards creative and curious thinkers. Economists study data and statistics in order to spot trends in economic activity, economic confidence levels, and consumer attitudes. They assess this information using advanced methods in statistical analysis, mathematics, computer programming; finally they make recommendations about ways to improve the efficiency of a system or take advantage of trends as they begin. While economists were previously relegated to the academic and government communities, they are now finding employment in significant numbers throughout the private sector. These firms offer advice to and predict economic scenarios for individuals and large corporations, and occasionally act as consultants to branches of the government. However, universities and research groups remain the largest employers of economists, followed by the government. “I love being an economist. I get a glimpse of the future, or what we think it’s going to be,” raved one economist we surveyed. High levels of satisfaction are found throughout this field, which encourages discussion, detailed examination, and lively disagreement. Economists work closely with each other and share ideas fairly easily, which leads to a strong sense of community within the profession. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the profession is its highly theoretical nature. One ex-partner of a private advertising and economics firm wrote, “It’s all numbers which assume perfect market behavior. People don’t work that way. They don’t buy according to their optimal strategy; they buy because they feel like it.” The lack of a clear-cut relationship between theoretical modeling and reality eats away at some economists’ belief in what they do. The daily routine of each economist is determined by the specialty chosen. Financial economists meet with government officials to predict the movement and pace of global financial markets. International economists may spend as much as 30 percent of their time traveling and 40 percent of the time on the phone researching current trends in foreign economic systems (for this subgroup, language skills are important). Other fields include agricultural economics, labor economics, and law and economics.