Economists are concerned with the question of how the material needs of people can best be satisfied using available resources of labour, capital, technology, and those derived from nature.

An economist analyses and describes the relationship between the supply and demand for goods and services - what is to be produced, how it is to be produced and for whom. They use their expertise to describe, analyse and advise on a wide range of economic issues: tax or wage problems; economic policies; explaining the causes of unemployment and of inflation.

Economists serve as consultants to businesses, individuals, and government departments.

Economists in Business: Organisations provide valuable information concerning strategic vision and they comment on fluctuations in the economy. They interpret government economic policies and their effect on the economy and on sectors in which business operates. They also undertake investment analyses and advise portfolio managers. Economists attached to private manufacturing organisations, advise management on issues relating to the supply, production and marketing of products.

Economists in Public Service: Government bodies employ the majority of specialist economists to tackle such issues as development, inflation, pollution and the availability of food and housing resources, taxation, subsidy structures, budgets, macroeconomics, transport and energy policies, international trade, tariffs, surcharges and foreign loan negotiations. Government economists assess economic conditions in the country and abroad and recommend changes in government policies, if necessary.

Economists in Journalism: specialist magazines such as financial posts and newspapers, employ economists to inform their readers about financial issues.

Economists in Education: Teaching and research institutes need academic economists with specialised knowledge to teach economics, and they can also act as consultants to firms or government bodies.

Economists can work in a wide range of interesting areas such as inflation, participation in international trade, promotion of economic growth and development, taxation, monetary and fiscal problems and many other aspects of immense importance to individuals and society.

A thorough knowledge of economic theory and economic politics is necessary, as well as a vision within the framework of specific environmental factors.

Normal office hours, interesting problems, pleasant conditions and working with people of like interests make this profession rewarding on the whole. Depending on which field is entered, there is an enormous amount of data to assimilate and market research facts and figures to digest. In order to make accurate assessments of problem areas, travelling might be necessary to see what could be done to improve matters.

Personal Requirements

  • broad interest in social and economic matters
  • creative, thorough and analytic approach to problem-solving
  • accurate and objective
  • enjoy detailed work
  • mathematical ability
  • reliable and patient
  • interested in trade and industry
  • able to think clearly and logically
  • able to analyse and interpret information
  • have abstract reasoning ability

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: No compulsory subjects
Recommended subjects: History, Economics
Pass in Matric with a Bachelor's pass
Check the university admission requirements.

What to Study

Degree: The following degrees with Economics, Econometrics (economic modelling), Business Economics, Banking or Statistics as major subjects can be acquired after 3 years’ full-time study or 4 years’ part-time study:
BCom (all South African universities).
BEcon (UFH, RU, UV)
BEconSc (Wits).

Most universities also offer a BA degree with Economics as a major subject. Specialised courses such as BSc (Agriculture) and BSc (Animal Science) have Agricultural Economics and Economics as major subjects.

Post-graduate study is recommended for promotion and in order to qualify for research, administrative positions and permanent teaching positions in universities and universities of technology.


  • universities and universities of technology
  • research organisations
  • manufacturing firms
  • financial institutions
  • consulting firms
  • government departments
  • self-employment, as a consultant

Further Information

The South African Institute for Management Scientists 
Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences
University of Pretoria
Pretoria, 0002
Tel: (018) 299-4140

Getting Started

  • arrange to speak to an economist about this type of career and the possibility of vacation work
  • take a course in economics and read a leading financial newspaper daily, if possible

Programmes by Study Institutions

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