Frisch received a degree in economics from the University of Oslo in 1919 and studied in Paris and England before gaining a Ph.D in mathematical statistics in 1925. He was appointed Assistant Professor of the University of Oslo in 1925, Associate Professor in 1928 and full Professor in 1931. He founded the Rockefeller-funded Institute of Economics at the University of Oslo in 1932 and became its Director of Research.
He received the Antonio Feltrinelli prize from the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in 1961 and The Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 1969 (awarded jointly to Jan Tinbergen) for analyzing economic processes and developing dynamic economic models.
He made a number of significant advances in the field of economics and coined a number of new words including econometrics. His 1926 paper on consumer theory helped set up Neo-Walrasian research. He formalized production theory (1965). In econometrics he worked on time series (1927) and linear regression analysis (1934). His 1933 work on impulse-propagation business cycles was one of the principles behind modern New Classical business cycle theory. He also played a role in introducing econometric modelling to government economic planning and accounting. He was one of the founders of the Econometric Society and editor of Econometrica for over twenty years.