Mac or PC: What’s Better for Economics Students?

Many students who decide to major in economics ask one question that seems to be impossible to find the answer to: Is a Mac or PC better for economics? Being an economics major who has learned from personal experience, and much research, I have decided to actually answer this question so that other economics majors can start their college career right. If you’re currently an economics major, know an economics major, or if you’re contemplating majoring in economics, you should take some interest in this.

Mac or PC?: Not the Right Question

The question really has nothing to do with  The biggest question that should be asked when thinking about getting a new computer for economics really boils down to: How much money are you willing to spend?

What it all comes down to is what you’ve already got. I would say that the best thing in the long run would be anything that runs Microsoft Windows. You’re going to find that a lot of classes and workplaces will want you to use the latest version of Microsoft Office (especially Excel). When I said to ask yourself how much you were willing to spend, it’s because it really depends on whether or not you want to buy an entirely new computer.

Windows can run on Macs with no problems. In fact, it can sometimes be better on a Mac because of what’s inside. It’s also cheaper to just purchase Windows, Microsoft Office, and whatever else you might need if you already have a Mac. If you need to purchase a new computer because your Mac is outdated, then consider this option if you really want to have a Mac for your personal use. I most definitely would.

If you don’t want a Mac whatsoever, then you’re stuck with Windows on a PC. This option can get a little pricey, but you shouldn’t have much of an issue if you use a student discount wherever applicable. When I say pricey, I mean that it can be nearly as expensive as buying a Mac. Just remember: Cheaper isn’t always going to be a safe bet and more expensive doesn’t always mean better.

Whatever you get, make sure that you check with your school before you purchase any software. I’m not sure if any other schools are like BYU-Idaho. But if they are, then they may supply you with Windows and Microsoft Office for FREE.

Screen Size

Before you think that a bigger screen size will hinder you, please consider what I have to say. Microsoft Excel is an amazing program and you will learn to love it in your economics career. However, if you have a small screen, it will be very unforgiving. 13 inches isn’t a bad way to go, but if you can get a bigger screen (say, 15 inches) you will be much better off. I currently use a 13-inch MacBook Pro. It’s wonderful and fast! But I wish that I had more screen space for my cells. It gets frustrating to have to scroll back and forth (not to mention, it wastes time).

Microsoft Office. Not Apple iWork.

I don’t care what anybody is telling you. iWork isn’t the same as Office. If you want to become proficient in both, that’s completely fine. However, if you’re going to work in economics, you might want to make sure you know how to use Office pretty well.

When it comes to spreadsheets, use Excel. Apple Numbers is great and similar to Excel, but it doesn’t have all of the same functions Excel does. You will also need the Data Analysis Toolpak, which doesn’t even exist for Mac OSX. This is why I said you should use it on Windows. Either way, Apple Numbers isn’t going to work exactly the same as Microsoft Excel. The Data Analysis Toolpak will create reports of statistics and linear regressions; something the Mac version doesn’t have unless you download StatPlus.

You will also have to write papers, no doubt. You may use Apple Pages, but again, it’s not the same as Word. While some people swear by it, there are some very annoying things to it. For starters, if you were to include an equation, you wouldn’t be able to like you can in Word. Pages might have the option to insert a MathType equation, but what they don’t tell you is that MathType is $57 if you’re a student. If you’re not a student, it’s $97. Think that’s the end of it? Think again.

When you need to create citations and a bibliography in Pages, you will end up having to purchase EndNote, a program made for citations, separately. If you’re not a student, be prepared to sacrifice $249.95 for the download of it. If you want it shipped to you, it’s more around $300. If you’re a student, it’s $113.95. Either way, if you’re using Apple Pages, you will need to spend over $200 to get anywhere near the basic functionality of Word. It’s all fancier, sure. But you really only need what Word has to offer.

Microsoft Office has a subscription base with an option for students who don’t qualify for Office for free. It’s only $80 and it’s a four-year subscription. This is a better deal than the regular option for home, which is $9.99 per year or $99.99 per year. There’s a personal subscription for $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year, but the university version is a much better deal.

PC Users Who Don’t Want a Mac

If you’re a PC user, there’s nothing wrong with that! Don’t think that I’m completely on Apple’s side. If you don’t want to get a Mac, but don’t want to spend the money on a new computer, you should see if it’s worth it to you to upgrade your current computer. If you want a bigger hard drive, then you’ll have to think about the cost of software. Don’t forget to think about the CPU as well.

Don’t be fooled by all the hype of Microsoft and Lenovo! They want you to think that their computers are better because of a touchscreen and that they’re just as good as a Mac because of their graphics. In the long run, you will end up spending more on a PC once you realize that the CPU isn’t as good. Be careful about your choices.

Here’s what I’d get if I were to get a PC:

  • Touchscreen
  • Minimum 8 GB of RAM
  • Minimum 2.5 GHz CPU
  • Minimum 256 GB Hard Drive

If you can try it out, see how many tabs of webpages you can have open. Push it to it’s limit. Open more then two or three applications and run them with the webpages. If it can’t multitask very well, you’re not going to want it. This is especially true because you’ll be going back and forth between Excel and many tabs in your internet browser. I would recommend a

Bottom Line

Whatever you get for college, make sure you have a laptop, not a desktop. I would still spring for the MacBook Pro. When it comes down to it, it will be much cheaper in the long run to just get Windows and Microsoft Office if you have a MacBook Pro already. If you get Microsoft Office, be sure to get Office 365 University.

Are/were you an economics major? What computer are you using and why? Please feel free to post in the comments below.



  1. Hi..i am an economics first year student from india.i am really interested in buying a mac but the problem is that most of the students in india work on windows.people have told me that if i buy a mac i will face compatibilty issues with the windows laptops and i also heard that software like ssps don’t work on this true?
    And also would it be practical to buy an apple 3rd generation laptop (macbook pro) in 2016 whrn i can get a 6th gen windows laptop from other companies at the same price range?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great question! As a MacBook owner, I, too was concerned about this issue. It’s true that some statistics softwares aren’t compatible with Macs. However, SSPS is compatible with Macs ( I would advise you find out which programs you will be using in your studies. Look into the system requirements and then see if any of them aren’t compatible. That’s a good start. If one or two programs aren’t compatible, then I would consider partitioning the hard drive on the MacBook and installing Windows. I’ve done this and I have MacOS and Windows 10 on my MacBook.

      As for your question on practicality, it really depends on your needs and preferences. Macs are usually more expensive because of what’s inside rather than the brand name. My Mac is powerful. Lots of RAM, HDD space, and a decent CPU. Personally, these are what I would look for while making a comparison. I also try to determine how long it will last. I have heard stories of MacBooks lasting 7-10 years. In my experience, a PC will tend to have some issues after a few years. My wife bought her MacBook in 2013 or so and its still working great. She should update some of the hardware, but it’s still in good condition and everything.

      I hope I was of some help. Let me know if you have any other questions I may be able to answer. Good luck!


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