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Data Scientist vs. Economist: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Data scientists and economists are both professionals who work with data, but their day-to-day responsibilities and career outlooks are quite different. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in data science or economics, it’s important to understand the key differences between these two fields. In this article, we compare and contrast data science and economics, and we provide information on job outlook and salary expectations for each profession.

What is a Data Scientist?

Data Scientists are responsible for extracting meaning from data to help organizations make better decisions. They use their skills in mathematics, statistics and computer science to clean, organize and analyze data. Data Scientists also develop predictive models to forecast future trends. They present their findings to company leaders, decision-makers and other stakeholders to help them understand complex data sets and make informed decisions. Data Scientists typically work in fields such as healthcare, finance, marketing and retail.

What is an Economist?

Economists conduct research and analyze data to help solve economic problems. They use their findings to advise businesses, governments and individuals on economic policy. Economists collect data on topics such as inflation, interest rates, employment and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). They use this data to develop theories about how the economy works and to predict future economic trends. Economists also develop models to simulate different economic scenarios. They use these models to test the effects of economic policies and to make recommendations on how these policies should be implemented.

Data Scientist vs. Economist

Here are the main differences between a data scientist and an economist.

Job Duties

A data scientist and an economist both study large amounts of data to identify patterns, but their jobs involve different duties. A data scientist uses the information they find to develop algorithms that help them make predictions about future events. An economist uses the information they find to make recommendations for policy makers about how to improve a country’s economy.

A data scientist typically works closely with engineers and other IT professionals to ensure that the systems in place to collect data are working properly and efficiently. An economist usually works closely with policymakers, such as government officials or members of Congress, to communicate findings to those who can implement economic policies.

Job Requirements

Data scientists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, mathematics or another related field. They also should be proficient in programming languages like Python and R. Some employers prefer candidates to have a master’s degree or higher in data science or a related field, but it is not always required. Data scientists should also be able to effectively communicate their findings to people who might not have a background in data analysis.

Economists usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in economics, although some positions may require a master’s degree or higher. They should be proficient in statistical software programs and economic modeling. Economists should also be able to effectively communicate their findings to people who might not have a background in economics.

Work Environment

Data scientists and economists typically work in different environments. Data scientists often work for companies or organizations that collect data, such as technology firms, pharmaceutical companies or government agencies. They may also work for consulting firms that help clients use data to make decisions.

Economists usually work for the federal government or state governments. Some economists work for banks or financial institutions. Economists who work for the government may travel frequently to visit businesses and communities where they can gather information about economic conditions.


Both data scientists and economists use analytical skills to examine data and draw conclusions from their findings. They also both need to be able to communicate their findings clearly, whether that is in writing or verbally.

Data scientists tend to use more technical skills than economists. For example, they may use programming languages like R or Python to clean, manipulate and analyze data. They may also use statistical software to run tests on data sets. Economists typically use less technical skills and instead focus on using economic theories and models to interpret data.

Economists are more likely to use their skills to predict future trends while data scientists are more likely to use their skills to find patterns in data. Data scientists may also use their skills to develop new products or services while economists are more likely to use their skills to advise businesses or governments on policies.


Data scientists earn an average salary of $118,822 per year, while economists earn an average salary of $94,244 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the level of education you have, the type of employer you work for and the location of your job.


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