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An economist is a professional in the social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts from economics and write about economic policy. Within this field there are many sub-fields, ranging from the broad philosophical theories to the focused study of minutiae within specific markets, macroeconomic analysis, microeconomic analysis or financial statement analysis, involving analytical methods and tools such as econometrics, statistics, economics computational models, financial economics, mathematical finance and mathematical economics.
The professionalization of economics, reflected in academia, has been described as "the main change in economics since around 1900." Economists debate the path they believe their profession should take. It is, primarily, a debate between a scholastic orientation, focused on mathematical techniques, and a public discourse orientation, which is more focused on communicating to lay people pertinent economic principles as they relate to public policy. Surveys among economists indicate a preference for a shift toward the latter. However, these preferences expressed in private often differ with what is actually acted out in the public eye.
Most major universities have an economics faculty, school or department, where academic degrees are awarded in economics. However, many prominent economists come from a background in mathematics, business, political science, law, sociology, or history. Getting a PhD in economics takes six years, on average, with a median of 5.3 years.
The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, established by Sveriges Riksbank in 1968, is a prize awarded to economists each year for outstanding intellectual contributions in the field of economics. The prize winners are announced in October every year. They receive their awards (a prize amount, a gold medal and a diploma) on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death.
Economists work in many fields including academia, government and in the private sector, where they may also "...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 [and] they make recommendations about ways to improve the efficiency of a system or take advantage of trends as they begin."
In contrast to regulated professions such as engineering, law or medicine, there is not a legally-required educational requirement or license for economists. In some job settings, the possession of a Bachelor's or Master's degree in economics is considered the minimum credential for being an economist. However, in the US government, a person can be hired as an economist provided that they have a degree that included or was supplemented by 21 semester hours in economics and three hours in statistics, accounting, or calculus. Also, a person can gain the skills required to become a professional economist in other related disciplines, such as statistics or some types of applied mathematics, such as mathematical finance or game theory. It also includes writing articles mainly research based on economics and economy and getting them published in highly accorded journals or magazines. Generally, the most respected economists have obtained a PhD in the field (though this is not a necessary requirement for being a successful economist).
A professional working inside of one of many fields of economics or having an academic degree in this subject is widely considered to be an economist, and any person within any of these fields can claim to be one. Economists are also employed in banking, finance, accountancy, commerce, marketing, business administration, lobbying and non- or not-for profit organizations.
Economics graduates are employable in varying degrees, depending on the regional economic scenario and labour market conditions at the time for a given country. Apart from the specific understanding of the subject, employers value the skills of numeracy and analysis, the ability to communicate and the capacity to grasp broad issues which the graduates acquire at the university or college. Whilst only a few economics graduates may be expected to become professional economists, many find it a base for entry into a career in finance – including accounting, insurance, tax and banking, or management. A number of economics graduates from around the world have been successful in obtaining employment in a variety of major national and international firms in the financial and commercial sectors, and in manufacturing, retailing and IT, as well as in the public sector – for example, in the health and education sectors, or in government and politics. Small numbers go on to undertake postgraduate studies, either in economics, research, teacher training or further qualifications in specialist areas.
According to the United States Department of Labor, there were around 15,000 non-academic economists in the United States in 2008, with a median salary of roughly $83,000, and with the top ten percent earning more than $147,040 annually. About 135 colleges and universities grant about 900 new Ph.D.s in economics each year. The type of academic degree — bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree — has significant influence on an individual's job outlook and salary. Incomes are highest for those in the private sector, followed by the federal government, with academia paying the lowest incomes. Median salaries range from $45,000 for those with a bachelor's to $85,000 for those with a Ph.D. in economics. A recent and continuous study by PayScale.com showed economic consultants with a Ph.D. had the overall highest median income for any group, at $116,250; the median salary for an assistant professor was $63,500, for an associate professor $67,000, and for a full professor $85,000 . The overall median income for doctorates in academia was $75,000 compared to $125,000 in consulting and $87,000 in banking.
Policy advising and analyzing of economic current trends are among the main responsibilities of economists in the United States. A recent survey of U.S. economists by Daniel B. Klein and Charlotta Stern found that most economists are supporters of safety regulations, public schooling, and anti-discrimination laws. They are evenly mixed on personal choice issues, military action, and the minimum wage. Most economists oppose government ownership of enterprise and tariffs.
Analysis of destination surveys for economics graduates from a number of selected top schools of economics in the United Kingdom (ranging from Newcastle University to the London School of Economics), shows nearly 80 per cent in employment six months after graduation – with a wide range of roles and employers, including regional, national and international organisations, across many sectors. This figure compares very favourably with the national picture, with 64 per cent of economics graduates in employment.
Current well-known economists include 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences winner Paul Krugman, a public intellectual and advocate of modern liberal policies; Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve; Ben Bernanke, the current Chairman of the Federal Reserve; Joseph Stiglitz, an American economist, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics winner, critic of inequality and the governance of globalization, and Chief Economist of the World Bank; the Hungarian Laszlo Garai who has founded (together with the American George Katona and the French Gabriel Tarde) the Economic psychology