There is a widespread misconception that the main career opportunities for Economics students are in finance or related sectors, usually requiring relocation to London. However, there are many organisations that hire economists and economic/policy analysts in Scotland, within the public, private and third sector.  

Typically, students think economists are hired for roles that explicitly state ‘economist’ in the job title. But, often, economists work as knowledge exchange assistants/associates, research assistants/associates, research officers, policy analysts and economic/policy advisors.

This page highlights the range of opportunities available to economics graduates. The list of employers included on this page are employers that, as of 2021, were employing economists or policy analysts (relating to economics). This list may change over time.

Public and third sector economist careers - Scotland

The table below shows an overview of some economist/policy analyst opportunities in the public and third sector in Scotland. Click on the logo to open the employer’s career webpage.

There are also a range of local government economist roles across Scotland’s 32 local authorities, and researcher roles across Scotland’s universities.

Private sector roles and graduate programmes - Scotland

The table below shows an overview of some of the private sector jobs and graduate programmes at consulting/research firms with offices in Scotland. Please note that not every firm with a presence in Scotland will also offer its graduate programme there. Click on the logo to open the employer’s career webpage.

Economist Earnings

In terms of expected earnings, the prospects for Economics graduates are bright.

Economics is among the undergraduate degrees with the highest median earnings for graduates in both the UK and Scotland. In 2017/18, economics graduates, five years after graduation, had the second-highest median earnings after medicine of all graduates from Scottish universities.

Figure 1: Median earnings 2017/18, selected degrees in Scotland

Source: Graduate outcomes (LEO)

Figure 2: Median earnings 2017/18, selected degrees in the UK

Source: Graduate outcomes (LEO)

Career progression in economics

The lists above highlight just a proportion of opportunities for Economists in Scotland. Many professional economists have an interesting array of experience in consulting, government and academia.

Economic Futures ran a survey at the end of 2020 of UK economists, asking them questions about life as an economist - the average experience of the respondents was just under 8 years.

One of the questions we asked each economist was about their first role as an economist. The list below shows some examples of the first economist positions held by the respondents, highlighting a variety of roles in consultancy, government and academia –

BiGGAR Economics, Research Economist/JuniorConsultant
PwC's Economics and Policy team, Associate
Fraser of Allander Institute, Research Assistant
Segal Quince Wicksteed, Research Economist
Ofgem, Economist
Department ofTrade and Industry, Govt. Economic Service
Office Of Rail & Road, UK Civil Service, Assistant Economist
Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Rwanda, ODI Fellow
Scottish Government, Assistant Economist (on the civil service Fast Stream)
University of Trento (Trento), Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Strathclvde, Research Assistant
University of Stirling, Research Assistant
Trinity College Dublin, Research Assistant

We also asked respondents about their career progression. The average number of years between promotions was around 2-3 years – some respondents have gone on to start their own economic consultancies, after earning around a decade of experience. The list below highlights some of the more senior positions held by respondents, again spread across consultancy, government and academia –

Genoa Black, Senior Management
4-Consulting, Senior Management
Cavan Holdings, Business Analyst
BiGGAR Economics, Senior Management
Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Senior Economist & Senior Management
Economist at the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service
Department for Education, Economic Advisor
Scottish Government, Economic Adviser
Ofgem, Senior Economist
Fraser of Allander Institute, Research Fellow
Queen's University of Belfast, Senior Lecturer

Advice for aspiring economists

Choosing a career path is a difficult decision for any graduate but, as we have shown, there are an abundance of opportunities for economists across the UK and in Scotland.

Although economists are in high demand and there are ample and varied opportunities out there, making the choice of what career path best suits your interests and goals is still difficult. Therefore, as part of the Economic Futures survey, respondents were asked what advice they had for aspiring economists –

"Make sure vou have a good proficiency in Excel. Learn what are the most important data sources and where to find the most up to date datasets. Stay curious, it is important to keep learning as the economic situation we live in evolves — and learn how to explain these difficult concepts in a simplified way"

"Practice explaining your essays or projects to non-economists. The best analysis in the world can sit on the shelf if it has not been communicated clearly"

"Think about the specific type of economics you are most interested in pursuing as a career. You learn a lot of different things in university but knowing where your individual interests lie is important to choosing and applying for a job that you will enjoy"

"Choose an area or role that really interests you within economics, as you'll be better at your job if you are intellectually interested in it. But also, don't worry too much about finding the perfect job for you initially. Once you are an economist you can move around different sectors and roles to find out more about what you like in a job"

"l would recommend considering a masters straight out of undergrad if you are certain that you want to work as a professional economist. I would also recommend trying to work out whether you are interested in a more applied or theoretical masters and the types of career that these lead to"

"l would recommend civil service for a good work/life balance. The work you can get involved with is really interesting and the people are great. The pay is also similar to consultancies at the more junior levels; like an Analyst or Economist. So, this is suitable for people leaving Uni"

"Don't worry too much about salary or prestige early on in your career but rather if vou're working with good people, supportive mentors and have interesting projects to work on. That all builds up to things that can leverage a better career later on"