Education and Training Requirements

High School

A strong college preparatory program is necessary in high school if you wish to enter this field. Courses in other social sciences, economics, mathematics, computer science, and English are extremely important to a would-be economist, since gathering, analyzing, interpreting, and expressing one's informed opinions about many different kinds of data are primary tasks for someone employed in this field. Finally, since you will be heading off to college and probably postgraduate studies, consider taking a foreign language to round out your educational background.

Postsecondary Training

A bachelor's degree with a major in economics is the minimum requirement for an entry-level position such as research assistant. A master's degree, or even a Ph.D., is more commonly required for most positions as an economist. Visit https://www.aeaweb.org/resources/students for a list of graduate programs in economics.

Typically, an economics major takes at least 10 courses on various economic topics, plus two or more mathematics courses, such as statistics and calculus or algebra. The federal government requires candidates for entry-level economist positions to have a minimum of 21 semester hours of economics and three hours of statistics, accounting, or calculus. Graduate-level courses include such specialties as advanced economic theory, econometrics, international economics, and labor economics. Both undergraduate and graduate students typically participate in at least one internship and possibly a fellowship as a means to gain practical experience in the field.


The National Association for Business Economics offers the following certificates: Applied Econometrics, Business Applications of Statistics and Data Analytics, Communication and Presentation Skills for Business Economists and Analysts, Economics of Strategy and Managerial Decision Making, Economic Measurement, Machine Learning & Data Science for Economists, Time-Series Analysis and Forecasting, and Writing Skills for Business Economists and Analysts. Contact the association for more information.

Other Education or Training

Keeping up with economic theories and practices is key to success as an economist. Many professional business and economics associations provide continuing education opportunities, including the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association, American Economic Association, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, National Association for Business Economics, and the Society of Government Economists. Contact these organizations for more information. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The National Association for Business Economics (NABE) offers the certified business economist credential to "bridge the gap between what is learned in an academic setting and the knowledge needed to succeed as a practitioner." Candidates must possess a four-year college degree, be members of the NABE, pass an examination, have two years of work experience in applied business economics or in a related field, and complete the association's Communication and Presentation Skills for Business Economists and Writing Skills for Business Economists certificate courses or equivalent courses.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Students should obtain as much experience in the field as possible by participating in internships and fellowships—especially those that involve collecting and studying data, conducting surveys, and writing reports on their findings.

Economists' work is detail oriented. They do extensive research and enjoy working with abstract theories. Their research work must be precise and well documented. In addition, economists must be able to clearly explain their ideas to a range of people, including other economic experts, political leaders, and even students in a classroom. Other important traits include excellent analytical and critical thinking skills, curiosity, and an openness to new ideas and other points of view.