Career earnings

What economists can expect to earn in different fields

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook (online in 2019) reports annual wages for economists. For economists of all educational levels, the median earnings in 2018 were $104,340 with $58,130 at the tenth percentile and $182,560 at the 90th percentile.

Median Annual Wages for Economists in May 2018 in the Top Five Industries Employing Economists (from the Occupation Outlook Handbook)
Industry Annual Wage
Finance and insurance $118,290
Federal government, excluding postal service $119,590
Scientific research and development services $109,670
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services $110,630
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals $70,280

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Economists. (Visited February 22, 2020).

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 2019 report.

College Major Starting Salary Mid-career Salary
Petroleum Engineering $94,500 $176,900
Electrical Engineering & Computer Science $88,000 $142,200
Applied Economics and Management $58,900 $140,000
Operations Research $77,900 $137,100
Political Economy $57,600 $136,200
Actuarial Mathematics $63,300 $135,100
Electrical Power Engineering $72,400 $134,700
Business Analysis $57,200 $133,200
Pharmacy $79,600 $132,500
Aeronautics & Astronautics $73,100 $131,600
Econometrics $60,100 $131,000

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.