Business Economist

Business economists study the ways that society distributes scarce resources and conducts research. They research various issues such as inflation, interest rates, employment levels, energy costs, imports, etc. They advise all sorts of organizations, banks, industrial and trade associations, unions and agencies.

They perform research by making use of surveys, and then compile reports to make the information understandable to non-economists. Some work for large organisations, lecture at universities or universities of technology or work for research companies. For example, they may do research on economic aspects that concern the financial position of an organisation and be the financial adviser for top management. The scope of their research can vary from economic methods of crop cultivations to the growth of prison or school-aged populations or rates of crime or unemployment.

There are four basic kinds of economists:

Business economists who are permanently employed by large organisations. They do research, collect information and evaluate the business economic aspects that influence the growth and development of the organisation. They are directly answerable to the top management and act in an advisory capacity. They are then known as business economic advisers.

Business economists at universities of technology and universities are involved in the introduction, elaboration and implementation of Business Management as a subject, and in activities such as applied business economic research, continuous literary study, liaison with business economists in practice, attending seminars and conferences, presenting short courses and lectures and training students in Business Management. Sometimes these business economists are approached by businesses to advise them on matters relating to specific functions in the business.

Business economists at institutions such as the CSIR, are usually known as techno-economists. Apart from formal training in Business Management, they also have a qualification in a technical or scientific field. Techno-economists are particularly research-orientated.

Business economists who are full-time professional managers is the career group where most come and work as employees. They are especially in demand for management posts in middle-sized and large organisations and are often appointed as financial managers, marketing managers, production managers and general managers.

Their task is to identify areas that could be profitable to the organisation, to develop them further and to identify problem areas and transform them into opportunities and challenges, so that the organisation as a whole benefits.

Business economists must always take into account the influence of environmental factors, which include the economic, social and political aspects of the country and abroad, as well as internal factors.  They analyse the system within the organisation and suggest a programme of action to top management.

Personal Requirements

  • broad interest in the business world
  • creative, analytical, systematic and critical approach
  • strongly research-orientated
  • ability to communicate easily and effectively
  • good people handling skills
  • accounting skills
  • leadership and decision-making skills
  • conceptual thinker
  • interest in world politics

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate (matric), or equivalent with a Bachelor's Degree pass
Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics
Recommended subjects: EconomicsAccounting.

In addition, check the university admission requirements to see if you qualify for the programme you want to do.

What to Study

Degree: A thorough academic training in Business Management and other economic sciences (at postgraduate level), as well as sufficient practical experience are required.

The following degrees with Economics, Business Management or Statistics as major subjects, can be acquired after three years’ full-time study or four years’ part-time study:

  • BCom (all South African universities)
  • BEcon (UFH, RU, UV)
  • BEcon.Sc (Wits)
Some universities also offer a BA degree with Business Management as a major subject - UJ, US, UZ, NMMU, UNISA, UFH, UFS, NWU, UV. A course in Business Management is available at FET Colleges.

Employers prefer post-graduate qualifications - NMMU, RU, UCT, UJ, UNISA, UZ, Wits.


  • management positions within various business enterprises
  • top management of any business, with experience
  • large financial institutions
  • self-employment, own consultancy business

Further Information

Business Management Departments, South African universities and universities of technology.

The Director:
The South African Institute for Management Scientists
University of Pretoria
Pretoria, 0002
Tel: 018 299 4140

Getting Started

  • develop your mathematical and accounting skills
  • find part-time or vacation work as a clerk for an accounting firm
  • gain experience by volunteering to serve as treasurer for organisations at school or in your church or community
  • read business and economic magazines

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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