What is an economist?

Economists can have a real impact on the wellbeing of others. Let’s take a closer look at this fascinating and important profession. 

What is an economist


Economists are needed in a huge range of contexts—whether that’s advising on aid and development programs for the United Nations (UN) or helping to set interest rates at a central bank. 

They are a special breed, able to both analyse data and skilfully communicate its importance to others. Their job is varied and may involve making financial forecasts, analysing markets, or even providing expert economic analysis in the media.

If you’re considering pursuing a career in economics, here’s a little more info on where you may end up. 

Why is economics important?

Economics is a fascinating and important field, but it can sometimes feel confusing to outsiders. 

A social science, economics looks at the production, consumption and distribution of resources. Essentially, it analyses the behaviour of people and entities within an economy. This could be at a macro level, for example, understanding currency inflation rates or at a micro level, such as looking at household spending patterns.  

When advising governments or corporations, economists are often called upon to make financial predictions. Economies are always in flux—so there’s always more for economists to analyse and discover.

What does an economist do?

Your precise tasks will vary based on your role—for example, whether you’re advising government, conducting research within a university, or working within a business context— but they might involve: 

  • Analysing data and research
  • Running surveys to collect data
  • Using models to forecast economic trends
  • Preparing reports, graphs and charts
  • Giving presentations of your findings 
  • Providing expert analysis in the media. 

What kind of economists are there? 

There are many distinct types of economist roles that you may be interested in pursuing. Here are just a few examples. 

Financial economist 

Financial economists are interested in financial markets and how they impact the world. In this role, you may find work in a commercial or central bank or within a government or university. 

Behavioural economist 

Behavioural economics draws on principles from psychology to understand why people make the financial choices that they do. In this stream of economics, you may find work within a corporation, bank or government department and investigate questions such as why people buy certain products or take up government programs. 

Labour economist 

A labour economist specialises in understanding what’s happening in a labour market. In this role, you might analyse unemployment trends or wages growth to help governments decide how best to allocate resources and grow the economy. 

Development economist 

Economists are also needed to help improve living standards across the world. As a development economist, you may find work in a government department, non-governmental organisation (NGO) or an international agency like the UN and help understand how aid programs are working and how to make people’s lives better. 

Health economist 

As an economist who works in the health industry, you will use your skills to influence better health outcomes. You may work in the public or private sector and help assess healthcare programs and policies—and advise on how to improve them. 

Environmental economist 

If you’re passionate about the environment and helping the world address climate change, you could use your economic expertise to investigate important questions as part of an environmental organisation, think tank or government department. You might, for example, consider how to incentivise people to take up more environmentally friendly practices or adapt to global warning. 

How to study economics

There are many entry points into studying economics, whatever your level of study. 

If you’re a first-time university student, you may be keen on a general business degree, which will give you a solid grounding in economics, alongside other topics such as management and marketing. A Bachelor of Business or a double-degree such as a Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Psychological Science could be a great way to go if you’re interested in the field of behavioural economics. 

If you just want a taste of economic theory to see if it interests you, you could start with a short course or single subject, such as Principles of Economics or Why Money Matters, which will provide a perfect starting point to learn about this fascinating field. 


Keen to explore more economics courses? Browse the Open Universities Australia marketplace today to access online study options offered by leading Australian universities. 


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