Economist careers in the Scottish Government

We are the largest employer of professional economists in Scotland.

The Scottish Government

The Scottish Government is responsible for most issues that affect Scottish people's daily lives – including taxation, economic policy, health, education, justice, culture, rural affairs and transport. It lies at the heart of Scotland's public services and institutions, and has an annual budget of about £30 billion.

We employ more than 5,000 people, at 79 locations across Scotland. Most are civil servants, and we are accountable to Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament.

Economists in the Scottish Government

There are over 80 economists working across a range of policy areas in the Scottish Government, located in our offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

As an economist working in government you will put your skills to good use directly influencing high profile public policies.

Recent examples of projects which economists have worked on in the Scottish Government include helping to design a new income tax system for Scotland, minimum alcohol pricing, student funding, setting rail fares including the new Borders railway, providing the evidence underpinning Scotland's climate change targets, producing Scotland's economic strategy and advising Ministers on the potential impact of Brexit.

Our work is wide and varied – you are likely to use your skills to model economic impacts of new and existing policies on the economy and businesses, and for the people of Scotland, work closely on designing and influencing policies and brief Ministers and senior colleagues on your work; and design and manage research projects.

Assistant Economist Recruitment

Our Assistant Economist positions are open to you if you're eligible to work in the UK and have, or are expected to achieve, at least a 2:1 degree or a post-graduate degree in an economic subject. We also welcome mixed degrees, but ask that at least 50% should be in economics. We welcome applications for part-time and non-standard working patterns.

We are looking for people with a good grasp of economics, an ability to apply their economic knowledge to practical problems and communicate it in an accessible way.

You may not think that you have all these skills now, but what we are interested in is people with potential, enthusiasm and a drive to learn. We will give you the support and training you need to thrive and to broaden your expertise through both continuous on the job training and bespoke courses.

Due to the range of economist positions across the Scottish Government, you will also have the opportunity to move roles every 18-24 months, allowing you to broaden our experience and expertise in different parts of government. Career progression normally takes 4-5 years to move into a more senior Economic Adviser position.

We're ambitious about diversity. We want to reflect the make-up of modern Scotland in the people we employ and the work we do. This means:

  • we aim to treat everyone – staff, colleagues from other organisations and the public – fairly, and with respect
  • we believe our workforce should reflect the diversity, character and culture of the people of Scotland
  • we treat all staff equally, irrespective of sex, marital/civil partnership status, age, race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, religion or belief, working pattern, gender identity, caring responsibility or trade union membership
  • we employ people on the basis of their merit – their skills, aptitudes and attitude. Nothing else.

Rewards and Benefits

From a competitive pension scheme, generous holiday allowance and highly regarded flexible working options, childcare vouchers, season-ticket loans for your travel to work and our Employee Assistance Programme offering advice on a variety of issues, we'll ensure that you're well looked after. Key benefits include:

  • starting salary of £28,891, rising to £33,094 after 3 years
  • choice of pension
  • flexible working patterns
  • 25 days' annual leave, plus public and privilege holidays.

Government Economic Service

As a Scottish Government economist you will also be a member of the UK wide Government Economic Service (GES).
The GES comprises of over 1,400 economists working across more than 30 organisations, such as HM Treasury, Foreign Office and the Office for National Statistics.
As a member of the GES you will have the opportunity, if you wish, to move between organisations as your career develops and to work in other parts of the UK, and potentially oversees.

Working as an economist in the Scottish Government

There are over 80 economists in the Scottish Government working on all areas of public policy. Many of our economists join direct from university, whilst others join later in their career. Below is a snapshot of the stories behind some of our team.
Does this sound like a career for you? We are currently recruiting for Assistant Economists - our graduate level economist positions. You can apply using our online recruitment portal Work for Scotland

Adele - Economic Adviser, Transport Scotland

I never really thought of myself as a government economist type. I come from a working class background, left school aged 16 and worked as a bartender. However, in my 20s as I watched all my colleagues trade in their cocktail shakers for professional careers I decided to give education another shot. I did a degree in Applied Social Sciences where I discovered Economics as a subject. I loved it! I went on to do a Masters in Economics and, once out of university, I worked as an economic consultant and then as a labour market researcher. Eventually I found my way into the Scottish Government working as an economist. I'm now an Economic Advisor in Transport. So if I can do it, you can too! In terms of the job itself, I really like the variety. I've had postings in Education, Agriculture, Macroeconomic Analysis, and Transport. They're pretty diverse topics but my job essentially boils down to applying what I learned in university to help answer real-life policy questions. What's the best way to fund universities and colleges? How can we incentivise people to cycle and walk more? Can we use people's feelings about the economy to predict GDP growth? What happens to the environment if we change the way we support farmers? Although I wasn't sure I would fit into the civil service world, it turns out there's more diversity than I expected. In fact, the people are one of the things that make the job for me. I get to work with really clever and fun people who care about making a difference to society. Some of my closest friends are fellow government economists and analysts. The final thing that I like is the work-life balance. I love travelling and in Scottish Government you get a really good holiday allocation. I've even had a couple of short career breaks so that I can do long trips to South America! SG is really leading the way in allowing people to work flexibly so that they can pursue their passions both inside and outside of work.

Kelly – Assistant Economist, Energy and Climate Change

Whilst completing my undergraduate economics degree at University of Glasgow I started researching graduate schemes that I considered would provide me with an interesting, rewarding career. Prior to applying for the fast stream I had completed an internship and received a job offer to train and work as a tax accountant, however when the application opened I knew I was better suited to the civil service. Coming from a public sector oriented family I knew the many benefits of working for the government, and felt that I would be happier working for the public's interest than for a company's profits. When I finally received the job offer it was an easy decision to make. Happily, having been in my current role for nine months, I have not once regretted my choice. Whilst it can be daunting to watch figures you have worked with and analysed be sent to the Minister or published in a government document, I have not felt out of my depth, a testament to the great support system in place and the freedom to ask for help or advice. Working as part of an Energy and Climate Change team I've had the opportunity to contribute to plans that will benefit the country, and have watched as data and statistics are used to construct an argument that informs government policy. The Scottish Government has been a fantastic place to start my career. I've had the opportunity to work as part of a dedicated and welcoming team of analysts, and have spent time building relationships with policy colleagues to better understand their requirements. Working for the Scottish Government feels like being at the heart of something much bigger than myself, and I look forward to developing my career here.

Michael – Assistant Economist, Economic Strategy

After completing my undergrad degree at Strathclyde University I worked for a few years in financial services, however, I soon realised this wasn't the career for me! So I decided to do a master's degree at the University of Glasgow in economic development where I found out about the chance to work for the Scottish Government as an economist. I've been at the Scottish Government for 18 months now and have already had the chance to work in a range of areas. I started out in the employability division where I helped provide analysis for the newly devolved employment-support programme Fair Start Scotland. It was great to work closely with a policy team to see an idea come to life, and the programme now helps people furthest from the labour market into work. My second and current post is in the economic strategy division where I work with colleagues across the Scottish Government to deepen understanding of and deliver the ambitions set out in Scotland's Economic Strategy. This role is less technical than my previous experience, however, I've been able to use a lot of what I picked up at university and apply it in practice. One of the central themes of the economic strategy is to deliver inclusive growth in Scotland, and being able to spend time tackling the issue of inequality is something that brings me great satisfaction. I'm glad I made the switch to the Scottish Government as the work is challenging, provides me with greater work-life balance and I feel the work I do has a real, positive impact on the lives of others around me.

Cornilius - Head of Marine Analytical Unit

I joined the Scottish Government as an Economic Adviser in 2006, after 2 years of health economics research at University of Aberdeen. Since then it has been an exciting and rewarding experience of professional development and working on various policy issues to deliver real change. My first post was in agriculture and rural development, and I lead programmes of work to provide Scottish Ministers with economic analysis and advice on agriculture, climate change and management of the farming environment. My early training in leadership and public value creation gave me a very good orientation and tools for working in public policy environment. The Scottish Government has supported me to broaden my experience across the UK Civil Service. In 2010, I left the Scottish Government to join the Department for International Development, where took up various roles in economic growth policy, finance, organisational performance management and international public health, including coordinating the UK Government's efforts to reform the World Health Organisation emergence response following the outbreak of the West Africa Ebola virus epidemic (2013-2016). It was an opportunity to explore and enjoy the versatile nature of economist roles in Government. I returned to the Scottish Government in 2015 to head the Marine Analytical Unit, where I am leading programmes of work to provide evidence, analysis and advice to shape policies for fisheries management, aquaculture industry development, marine environment protection and marine planning. I am enjoying being at the interface of economics and various marine sciences, and being part of international networks to tackle global challenges like climate change, marine litter and sustainable growth of the marine economy.

Economist Careers in the Scottish Government - 11 June 2018 (2) - Final.pdf

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