Want to Study Economics?

Economics is a fun and exciting subject with broad applications to everything, so it’s understandable that you might be interested in it. The thing is, economics isn’t for everybody. Like engineering, there’s a lot of math. In fact, many people major in engineering or math because it helps them go to law school, medical school, and graduate school. Economics is a subject just like that. You can do almost anything with a degree in economics if a job requires a degree in finance, accounting, and, sometimes, mathematics.

Ask Yourself: What is Economics?

Before you jump right in and join the ranks of economics majors, but you might want to know what economics is first. What it isn’t is probably more important to know first: It’s technically not the study of the economy. Economics is a social science that analyzes decisions people make based on resources. Knowing this, it’s understandable to see how prices are affected by new legislation or why people make certain decisions in legal settings. It has many useful applications to more than just the economy. There are plenty of doctors and lawyers who studied economics as an undergraduate.

Is Economics Right For You?

I know this might seem like a contradiction to my advocating that people study economics, but it’s not. I believe that everybody in the United States should take personal finance and economics in high school. However, I don’t believe that everybody should major (or even minor) in economics, even though I’ve written an article about why everybody should. Sometimes, it’s not going to help you a whole lot to get a degree in economics. For example, if you’re going to be a musician or an artist, the math you learn in there might not be as useful to you as if you were a finance or accounting major.

The best way to figure out if economics is a good fit for you is to ask yourself if it’s relevant to what you want to do later. The next best way to figure out if economics is a good fit for you is to take microeconomics and macroeconomics. These are the two basic courses that will give you a very broad and general view of the subject. If it lights a fire in your belly and you want to learn more about it, you know it’s a good fit. You might want to consider your love for math. If it’s non-existent, you might want to develop one.

What Can You Do With Economics?

This is a question that I love and despise at the same time. I love it because I can explain to people all of the different applications of economics and how diverse it is. I despise it because sometimes you will run into someone who doesn’t think it’s very practical to study economics. Economics is great for preparing for graduate school (Econ PhD or MBA), law school (JD or Econ Phd/JD Joint Program), or medical school.

One thing that many employers love about economics majors is that they’re generally good at analytical problems. Economics majors tend to think about the scarce resources that their employers have and how to use them more efficiently. This is why many economics majors make amazing managers of stores and restaurants. If you decide to work for the state or the Federal Reserve System, you will learn a great deal about the economy and how labor and tax policies affect your state or the nation. Those in the healthcare profession can see how their prices are affected by health policies. Lawyers can sometimes use economics to explain why some legal decisions were made.

Bachelors, Masters, PhD: Which One is Right for Me?

This is probably going to be the hardest thing you will ask yourself is what you want to do. Take a look at job qualifications for jobs you think you may be interested in. If you want to work at the Fed, you’re probably going to need a master’s degree to get your resume looked at. In Oregon, a tax economist only needs a bachelors degree with a few years of economic research and econometric forecasting experience. Maybe you want to run the Fed; Fed leaders usually have PhDs in Economics.

Another thing you can do with a PhD is teach at a college or university. If you have a master’s in economics, you can still teach, but the highest level you can find yourself teaching at is community college. Of course, this is if you don’t have applicable experience elsewhere; a former professor of mine holds a master’s degree and teaches at BYU-Idaho after working for a couple decades for the Federal Reserve. Word of the wise: If you’re dead set on going to grad school for economics, and you have any interest in the PhD, just apply to the PhD program. Oftentimes, the PhD program will have the same admissions requirements as the master’s program. The big difference (other than an extra three years) is that PhDs usually get funding while master’s students don’t (unless the master’s is the highest degree in economics offered).

Which Schools Offer Economics/How Do I Pick a School?

If you’re an undergraduate student, then most schools will offer a bachelors degree in economics. The thing you ought to ask yourself is, “Should I get a BA or a BS?” One is not better than the other, however, it is going to be different. If you’re thinking about graduate school, then life gets a lot harder when it comes to which schools have it. A good example of this is Oregon. Almost every undergraduate program in the state has economics. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to the UO, OSU, EOU, WOU, SOU, Willamette, Reed, Lewis & Clark, or PSU. They all have economics as an undergraduate program. But only PSU, OSU, and the UO have graduate schools options for economics in Oregon.

More importantly, you’re going to want a general idea of what you want to study. You should most definitely look into things you’re interested in. I’m personally interested in labor and taxes. So I’m going to want to make sure that wherever I choose to go to graduate school has labor economics and public economics as fields. If you want to work for a bank, financial economics is a great field to have. It’s also a very hard field to find. If you’re only wanting a masters degree in financial economics, you’re going to want to look to Columbia University and Utah State University. It doesn’t usually matter where you go. You just need to do some research and figure out what schools have what fields.

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