Is An Economics Degree A Good Value? Important Things to Consider About An Economics Major

Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson
Reading Level: Grade: 8
Original Publication Date: July 2015
Updates: 5

Is Economics a Good Degree to Get?

If you’re asking yourself, “Is economics a good degree?” you can rest assured that it can very well be. In fact, a recent Forbes article named economics degrees as #10 in their list of best master’s degrees. An economics major can offer a great deal of value and a solid base for a variety of professions. Let’s look at what makes economics a valuable field of study.

Is An Economics Major Good?

What Can You Do With A BA In Economics? Lots Of Things!

An economics degree can provide college students with many career options. Students will gain a broad understanding of economic principles such as:

Featured Programs

  • Financial Management
  • Markets
  • Consumption
  • Risk Management
  • Economic Trend
  • Resource Allocation

Such knowledge is useful for positions in:

  • Business Management
  • Nonprofits
  • Government

An economics degree can lead you down any number of career paths. A master’s degree in an economics course of study can take you even further.

The Versatility Of An Economics Major

You might be wondering, “What jobs do economics majors get?” Many people aren’t aware of the kinds of jobs and career paths a person with an economics major can pursue. The degree offers great versatility for graduates. An economics degree can prepare you for a broad range of positions, including:

  • Economic Development
  • Financial Economics
  • International Trade

The most obvious position for economics majors is, of course, economist.

There are many career opportunities for these economics professionals. Economists are employed in areas of:

  • Business
  • Academia
  • Government Agencies
  • Private Industry

The level of degree you will need depends on the position’s specifications. However, most economists require undergraduate majors. Advanced positions will require a master’s, and teaching positions at the higher education level often call for a PhD.

Since the core of economics is human life, a versatile degree can lead to a range of careers. Some of these occupations include:

  • Public Policy Analyst
  • Research Assistant
  • Investment Analyst
  • Consultant
  • Financial Analyst
  • Data Scientist
  • Market Research Analyst

Some management consultants may have also studied economics in their MBA programs. Understanding economic issues makes you a valuable commodity in the public and private sectors. These issues include:

  • General economic growth and financial solutions
  • How markets work
  • Supply and demand
  • The effects of fiscal policy on society
  • Portfolio management
  • Data analytics
  • Economic models
  • Other theoretical perspectives

Of course, emphasizing practical skills like analytical and problem-solving won’t hurt, either. These are valuable skills for a range of industries and organizations.

Challenge Of Pursuing An Economics Degree

Whatever college you choose, economics is not an easy degree choice. It requires a great deal of critical thinking and analysis for economics students. As you advance, the subject matter gets more thought-provoking and challenging. This is not meant to deter you from an economics major. It’s actually a very good thing. That’s because you will graduate with a sense of self-worth, knowing you rose to the challenge. Plus, employers will see that you have completed a very tough major. They can see that you follow through on things and can bring that determination to their company. You’ll be able to give concrete examples of how you solve problems or make financial decisions. This is particularly true if you completed a thesis or an internship during your program. Your hands-on research and challenging programming can lead to a lucrative career.

These are a few examples of how studying economics can benefit the lives and careers of students. The field is diverse. Some opportunities go beyond the scope of this article. An economics degree is a good value that gives you a strong foundation for your future.

Many people take microeconomics and macroeconomics in college. They then retire from their studies without a better understanding of the field. They might think they are experts because they can read a demand curve to chart economic growth. Economics majors know that this field, birthed by Adam Smith, contains much more than this. Serious students also know that the discipline touches every aspect of our lives, from the current economic picture of the world to a simple household budget. If you are interested in pursuing this highly relevant field, consider the following common questions and answers about economics majors.

economics student working online

Frequently-Asked Questions

What can you do with an economics degree? 

To answer this question, consider a brief economics major description: The field of economics focuses on how to make the best decisions when allocating limited resources. And who doesn’t want to make better decisions? Who wouldn’t benefit from this kind of study? Also, many facets of economics are studied in an economics degree program, whether pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree. Healthcare economics degrees, for instance, deal with life and death decisions when allocating limited resources if a global pandemic breaks out. Maybe you don’t want that kind of pressure. Perhaps entry-level positions in infrastructure would suit you better. Such a role requires deciding how to plan civic projects and in what order. Regional economic experts dig down into the economic impacts of geography and culture. Behavioral economics is fascinating stuff. Additionally, the importance of personal finance needs no explanation. Like accounting majors, economic experts are vital in just about every field you can think of. Thus, finding a match between your work and your interests is not only possible but likely. Economics majors train you to think outside the box. You may even end up questioning the necessity of the box as an aid to thinking in the first place.

What do you study as an economics major? 

Besides microeconomics and macroeconomics, other fields you will encounter include behavioral economics, financial markets, risk management, environmental economics, public economics, personal finance, consumer behavior, mathematical economics, labor economics, and development economics. You may also come across classes in data science or research various business economics practices and economic theories. As you progress beyond basic economic principles, you will find your niche and specialize in your course of study. Your first step on this path will be choosing between a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science (see below). Once you have made this choice, your path will become clearer, and your future will be easier to shape. 

What graduate degrees are worth pursuing with a bachelor’s degree in the “dismal science?” 

There are several good master’s programs for individuals with a bachelor’s in economics. For instance, a master’s of public administration (MPA) is a good choice for econ majors interested in civic planning. A master’s in finance can be rewarding for aspiring financial analysts and those with a strong grasp of mathematics. And, of course, a law school degree is always an option for those interested in teasing out knotty legal business issues in the private and public sectors. Future data scientists may also want to pursue an advanced degree in this growing field. Graduate work in economics is ideal for those who wish to specialize in their studies. It’s also perfect for those who wish to pursue the academic lifestyle through an economic education. 

What is the difference between a BA and a BS degree in the field if my program offers both? 

Many prospective economics majors ask, “What can you do with a BA in Economics versus a BS?” Both degrees have their place in the field. Neither is “better” than the other. In reality, economics is a social science that requires scientists and people from the humanities. The bachelor of arts in economics pursues the social sciences aspects of the field and takes a deeper dive into economic history, though. Many of the best universities for economics also offer a BA track in economics education for those interested in working with youth. BA students often require a foreign language component (like most BAs), whereas the BS will not. Like other liberal arts students, the BA student will complete standard liberal arts coursework during their first two years of study. Generally speaking, these students will only earn 36 of the 120 semester hours of the typical economics degree directly studying economics. The bachelor of science in economics requires more than 54 hours in the major and pursues a more science (and math) based approach to economic study. This includes direct applications in the financial markets. Both types of economics majors have their strong points, but conventional wisdom says that a graduate in economics with a BA is ready for the job market. A similar graduate with a BS is ready for graduate school. Most economics degree programs require an internship-style experience for both tracks, so students can gain real-life experience.

How much math does a typical undergraduate economics program require compared to other majors? 

Economics majors do not, per se, require intense math skills. Still, the job titles with the highest salaries (i.e., statistician, actuary, etc.) are the ones that lean into the math skills. That is, a BA degree in economics will require less math than a BS economics degree, but the job prospects for a BS may be more lucrative. The math required in general economics courses will be basic 100-level university math. This is similar to what you could expect to encounter in other courses like 100-level chemistry. Advanced-level electives in economics may involve skills learned from courses like multivariable calculus. Because many departments offer a BA and a BS economics degree, the 300-level general economics courses are often offered as two separate tracks (one with calculus and one without). Econometrics, or the process of turning economic analysis into economic policy, is often advised for students as a core field of study. Since the math involved in this area of economics can be complex, this course is usually not a required class. If these facts about the econ degree do not daunt you, read on. Then, prepare to conquer as you study economics at the higher education level.

economics degree coursework

Where can students of economics find jobs? 

A career for economics majors isn’t hard to find. With an advanced economics degree, economists can find jobs anywhere. That’s why economics is one of the most popular majors alongside business majors. With their focus on critical thinking and their eye toward the bottom line, economics students are like the business world’s English majors. An economics degree is versatile and, in the right hands, well-compensated. Like a major in English, economics majors don’t need to apply their studies directly to the profession to see benefits from a degree in economics. The problem-solving, critical thinking, and quantitative skills you learn will serve you in many leadership roles, not just as a professional economist. 

What does an economics major do?

Private sector work is the obvious draw for talent. That’s because high-tech companies are currently offering new-hires every amenity imaginable. Academic work is also a draw, though the market is not what it once was. Some more entrepreneurial economists have found a home offering hot takes on the internet, but this is not the path for a new graduate, but rather something to consider once you’ve established a reputation. Some professionals trained in economics have found good results as ethics officers and policy analysts in the private and public sectors. The ability to see the far-reaching and unintended effects of policy is endlessly applicable.

Government sector work is a good option to consider for anyone interested in pursuing economics as a career. After all, no one has a bigger interest in the prevailing economic picture than the people in charge of it. The government sector hires economists in almost every department and at every level. This includes municipal, county, state, and federal. Don’t overlook these steady (and well-compensated) employers in pursuit of the next big flashy tech giant or stock on the run-up.

What is an economics degree worth? How much do economists make?

Your bachelor of economics salary will vary, depending on the job you land after graduation. The national average salary for an economics teacher at the high school level is $62,420. Statisticians make $95,570 per year on average. Economists can bring in an average yearly salary of $105,630, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Hiring notices for economics professors report salaries in the $100-200k range. This includes seniority and publishing history, so your mileage may vary. Market research analysts make about $63k a year. Financial analysts round out our round-up of salaries, with a yearly take-home of $95,570. So you can see that this is a well-compensated field. All these positions show at least a 5% growth outlook for the next 5-10 years. As an economics aficionado with superior critical thinking skills and knowledge of economic data and trends, you can predict the future job market about as well as anyone.

An economics graduate at work

Conclusion 

You might be wondering, “Is an economics degree worth it?” The answer is simple. Economics is a field that is worth pursuing by those who desire to do so. The monetary rewards are there, as well as the potential to benefit the larger society through knowledge of economic theory. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that demand for economists will grow by 6 percent between now and 2031. The BLS goes further, stressing that job prospects in this area are best for those with experience with applied economics, data analysis, statistical analysis software, strong quantitative skills, and advanced degrees in the field. One caveat for nontraditional students is that economics is a somewhat conservative field. Still, with a data-driven field, there is always the possibility that if you can quantify the costs of any errors, you may be able to bring about real change. So, if economic theory is where your passion lies, saddle up and prepare to put in the work towards this versatile degree. Welcome aboard, and good luck on your search for the best school for economics!

Sources

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook
  • Forbes: The 10 Best and Worst Master’s Degrees for Jobs Right Now