Thursday, April 23, 2009

Can I Call Myself an Economist?

Ever since I got my Master's in Economics I've wondered, can I called myself an economist if I don't have a Ph.D? Here's Brendan Nyhan, a Political Science Ph.D. candidate at Dartmouth on the subject:

Today, the Wall Street Journal editorial board refers to the "economist Michael Darda [...] but it turns out that Darda's academic credentials consist of a [undergraduate] degree in economics, journalism and public relations [...]

One other example -- despite having only an undergraduate degree in economics, the actor, game show host, and conservative pundit Ben Stein describes himself as "an economist" and even attacked the qualifications of Princeton economist Paul Krugman

His main complaint is "economists" with bachelor degrees in economics. He does suggest that maybe I could be included in the club:

Typically, the phrase "economist" means someone with a Ph.D. (or at least a master's degree) in economics

Unhappy with the "at least" part of that I emailed Mike Munger, economist, blogger, and former Libertarian candidate for Governor of NC. Here's what he had to say:

I'd say you would need a Masters in Econ to call yourself an Economist, and not get hooted at. But you may not care much about hooting!

I do care about hooting, but I don't think I have anything to worry about. I found this pretty difficult AP Macroeconomics quiz from the New York Times and made 15/18. Not too bad for being out of school for over a year (and Macro never really was my thing). However, I may hold off on labeling myself until after I start my AP Microeconomics course next semester. It just seems inappropriate for a history teacher to call himself an economist.


  1. I made a 13/18, but I gotta admit most of it was educated guessing.

  2. Dang Justin that's pretty good. Now you're making me doubt my econ skills. Or maybe, just maybe, I've influenced you (and Bryan, who has a Phd, too I'm sure)

  3. I'll call you an economist. But I will not call you a Grammar Nazi. Or even a good typer. :-P

    Ever since I got my Master's in Economics I've wondered, can I called myself an economist if I don't have a Ph.D?

  4. It seems I've been corrected by KevLar, a masked vigilante who trolls the internet correcting grammatical errors on personal blogging websites. Wherever there are run on sentences, he'll be there.

    Should there be a colon there? Maybe a semi-colon? Maybe one of those doubly long dashed lines? I can never figure those things out.

  5. I tend to agree with the PhD argument. I wouldn't call myself a historian, and I wouldn't call myself a historian if I had a masters in history. Thus, I would hold an "economist" to the same standards.

    But I would absolutely call you someone who knows a fair amount about economics. So what should the title for that be?

  6. Perhaps an Armchair Economist?

  7. Anonymous9:25 PM

    Ha! I googled this question and stumbled on here - getting my MA in econ soon.

    I didn't know if it's about a degree or if you have to have a job as an economist. In that case, no one with a BA in econ is an economist - I TA these kids and there's no way any of them will get a job as an economist. The BA in econ is just taught so much differently than the MA or PhD, whereas the PhD and the MA usually have the same base of knowledge, even take the same first 2 years at my university.

    Obviously this isn't a formal definition, but I thought you had to have a job as an economist to be an economist. But the merriam-webster dictionary says it's "a specialist in economics," which can be just a degree, although the BA probably doesn't meet the definition of "specialist."

    Although my BS is in biology, and I know people with just a BS in that subject who call themselves biologists if they get a job in a lab.

  8. Anonymous11:51 AM

    I "only" have a Bachelor's Degree in Economics. But I currently conduct research, collect and analyze data, monitor economic trends, and develop forecasts for the firm I co-founded. I directly supervise my firm's resource and capital usage, I lead the in house cost-benefit analysis team for 90% of our projects, and I handle most of the government correspondence our firm has. Our firm has posted a net profit of $6.43 million as of last quarter. Oh, and I scored a perfect eighteen on your macro test. I'm gonna call myself whatever I want.

  9. It sounds like you currently get paid to "do economics". That sounds like an economist to me!


You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.