Career earnings

What economists can expect to earn in different fields

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook (online in 2022) reports annual wages for economists. For economists of all educational levels, the median earnings in 2020 were $108,350 with $59,220 at the tenth percentile and $198,230 at the 90th percentile.

Median Annual Wages for Economists in May 2020 in the Top Five Industries Employing Economists (from the Occupation Outlook Handbook)
Industry Annual Wage
Finance and insurance $129,060
Federal government, excluding postal service $125,350
Scientific research and development services $122,220
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services $111,340
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals $73,510

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Economists. (Visited April 4, 2022).

Payscale.com reports its survey of people with Baccalaureate degrees (and no more) who are employed full time, showing starting salaries (typically with two-years of experience) and mid-career annual earnings.  Here are selected occupations for the 2021 report.

College Major Starting Salary Mid-career Salary
Petroleum Engineering $93,200 $187,300
Operations Research & Industrial Engineering $84,800 $170,400
Electrical Engineering & Computer Science $108,500 $159,300
Interaction Design $68,300 $155,800
Public Accounting $59,800 $147,700
Operations Research $83,500 $147,400
Applied Economics and Management $66,100 $146,400
Business Computing $73,000 $143,600
Actuarial Mathematics $64,300 $143,400
Electrical Power Engineering $76,100 $142,600

Source: Majors That Pay You Back, Payscale.com

For more information about academic salaries in economics, check out the Universal Academic Questionnaire (UAQ) published each year in the AEA Papers & Proceedings. The UAQ is a survey of U.S. economics departments taken each fall. One survey is addressed to the chair of the Department of Economics of each institution.