What Can You Do With an Economics Degree?
By Surya Ramanathan
Johns Hopkins University, B.S. in Applied Mathematics and Statistics, B.S. in Economics, and M.S. in Applied Economics
7 minute read
Are you captivated by the intricate movement of markets, the forces that shape global economies, or the dynamics of resource allocation? Economics, the heartbeat of modern society, unravels the intricacies of how individuals, businesses, and governments navigate the complex web of scarcity and choice.
Many people believe that economics is solely related to finance. In reality, it is around us in every aspect of our lives, and completing an economics degree can reshape how you look at your everyday life. In this post, we’ll delve into the numerous doors that an economics degree can open, providing insight and guidance for your future endeavours in this dynamic and influential discipline.
You can choose to study pure economics and complete a higher degree if you are interested in being an economist, or pair it with another major of interest, opening up a new realm of opportunities. In all, an economics degree is one of the most flexible degrees you can pursue when it comes to what you can do with it.
An economics degree is one of the few degrees you can graduate with that can open up a world of job opportunities post-undergrad. A degree in economics also opens a gateway to pursuing advanced studies that some specialized careers will require.
Economics degree career trajectories
Depending on how economically inclined you are, you can explore job opportunities ranging all the way from a pure economist to consulting. Typically, those who complete an undergraduate degree in economics and decide to immediately join the workforce will not join pure economics jobs. It’s also very common to see economics paired with another degree when your intention is to immediately join the workforce. Job opportunities that open up when you complete an economics degree include:
Jobs in finance
Market research analysis
Personal finance advisor
This is nowhere near an exhaustive list, but it’s clear that you have many opportunities in many fields after getting a degree in economics. Some jobs will more likely require an economics major along with another subject (e.g., to be a product manager you will most likely need to double major in computer science and economics), but a pure economics major can carry you quite far.
Advanced studies in economics
The other option you have after completing an economics undergraduate degree is to continue your schooling journey. This is a very common path taken by those who know they want to be in a pure economics job. Pure economics jobs, such as an economist for the government, require high levels of understanding of economics concepts that cannot be completed in four years. Furthermore, you cannot receive the level of specialization required without a more advanced degree. For this reason, individuals who know that they want to stay in economics for the majority of their careers commonly pursue a Ph.D. in economics and conduct research.
Before pursuing an economics degree, it is imperative to have foundational mathematics and statistics knowledge. Most economics degrees will require some level of calculus and statistics. I had to take Calculus II and Introduction to Statistics to satisfy many of the course requirements for later in the program (this was not a problem though due to my applied math double major, which we’ll get into later).
The core requisites of an economics degree are virtually universal across schools, as these are concepts that have been set in stone for decades. To start your economics degree, you will take Introduction to Microeconomics and Introduction to Macroeconomics. Both of these classes center on understanding decisions and how they are made, but the distinction lies in the scale at which analysis is conducted. Microeconomics looks at the decisions of individuals and businesses, whereas macroeconomics looks at the decisions of governments and countries (hence the prefix micro vs. macro). These two classes will introduce you to the economic way of thinking and allow you to understand key terms that are imperative for success throughout your economics degree.
From here, you will learn about microeconomics and macroeconomics in more detail through intermediate micro and macro courses. These courses will build upon your knowledge from the introduction courses and introduce more complex concepts. Where introduction courses typically focus on theory and drilling concepts, expect much more calculation-based problems in an intermediate course. The final core requirement you will most likely need to fulfill is econometrics. Econometrics takes everything you learned in the previous four core courses and applies statistical methods to describe economic systems. This is the most mathematically intensive course you will take, and you will also be introduced to programming in software such as STATA.
Once you complete these five core courses, the economics degree becomes very flexible. The rest of your courses will be electives, and there are plenty of options to choose from depending on what interests you. Economics is an ever-changing field, and the electives tend to reflect this. At Johns Hopkins, there are new electives in the space of behavioral and neuroeconomics, two fields within economics that have gained traction in recent years. I knew that I wanted to go into finance, so I planned my electives around this and took classes such as Monetary Analysis and Introduction to Financial Derivatives. However, the beauty of the flexibility offered by an economics degree is that you can explore other potential areas of interest, so I was able to take electives such as Public Economics and Gender Economics to learn about other fields within economics.
Students interested in getting an Economics degree in college can begin setting the foundation for their own success by deepening their understanding of math, statistics, and history topics. This can be accomplished by taking advantage of courses offered by your high school and seeking out additional opportunities to explore math, statistics and history.
Working with a mentor on a research or passion project gives high school students the chance to learn directly from experts in their field. Polygence programs are designed to provide this opportunity for students. In the Core program, high school students are matched with an economics research mentor to work with one-on-one as they explore their interests.
Work with an expert mentor to explore your passion
At Polygence, we precisely match you with a mentor in your area of interest. Together, you can explore and deepen your passions.
Economics research and passion projects completed by Polygence students
Here are three examples of Economics projects that Polygence student alumni have completed with research mentor guidance and support:
Andrew’s project: What Variables Predict Ticket Prices of NBA Franchises?
Interested in pursuing your own unique research project through Polygence? Check out these Business, Economics, and Finance Passion Project Ideas For High School Students for inspiration!
An economics degree teaches you the way the world works and the way decisions are made, and these are concepts that are extremely relevant in the real world. In my eyes, economics can be paired with any other college major and present amplified value. It is not uncommon to see people graduate with double majors in economics and something else. The most common combinations I see are computer science, math, psychology, and philosophy.
As mentioned previously, I knew that I wanted to break into finance, so the combination of an applied math and economics major made the most sense for me. Applied math offered me the quantitative aspects of finance that I wanted to delve into, while economics offered me more traditional finance electives to understand the intricacies of financial markets.
Through Polygence, middle and high school students can work with research mentors to learn about the variety of avenues they can choose to take with a degree in economics. For instance, economics research mentor Brian W has expertise in economics and the political economy; economics research mentor Caylee O has expertise in public economics; economics research mentor Henry L has expertise in behaviorial finance; economics research mentor Keana R has expertise in statistics; and economics research mentor William G has expertise in sports analytics and economics.
The Polygence Pathfinders career discovery program is designed to help students explore career paths they are interested in. Program participants meet 1-on-1 with three expert mentors to receive personalized advice and guidance.
The Polygence Pathfinders Program
Pathfinders is a career discovery mentorship experience designed to help you explore different career paths and gain more clarity about your future. Learn from three world class mentors in the fields of your choice and discover your passions!
Embarking on a journey with an economics degree opens a world of possibilities and opportunities. Whether you’re drawn to unravelling economic mysteries, influencing policy, or making impactful business decisions, this versatile field offers a plethora of career pathways. An economics degree equips you with the tools to navigate and excel in a diverse array of sectors by changing the way you think about and see the world.
Middle and high school students can get a head start in economics studies before applying to college by pursuing a research project with a mentor or enrolling in a career discovery program to explore specific interests. These experiences will help you better understand whether pursing an economics degree is an ideal fit for you and how you want to focus your future educational and professional endeavors.
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