Economics is a social science that analyzes the distribution, consumption, and production of goods and services. One of the main focuses of the subject is how economic agents interact or behave and how economies work. For example, microeconomics looks at the behavior of basic elements in the economy (such as markets and individual agents) and how they interact, while macroeconomics analyze the entire economy and the issues impacting it, including inflation, unemployment, and economic growth. Other broad distinctions include positive and normative economics, economic theory and applied economics, and rational and behavioral economics. Undergraduate degrees in economics require a combination of political science, advanced math, and economics courses.

Program Information

Stanford University has one of the top economics undergraduate programs in the country. The Economics major is extremely popular at Stanford. It provides a rigorous toolkit for thinking about economic policy and the economy. While undergraduate economics falls under the liberal arts field, the training provides good preparation for careers in education, law, government and business. Many Economics majors choose to attend graduate school but some do enter the labor market following graduation. The major requires 80 units of approved economics coursework, and you are eligible to declare Economics as your major after you complete Econ 50 with a grade of B or better. It is recommended that students complete the Core Economics Courses (35 units) before undertaking the rest of their program. MIT also offers an excellent economics program. MIT graduates in economics hold distinguished positions in business, academia, and government worldwide. The program begins with a 2 semester introductory sequence that explores applied and theoretical topics in macroeconomics and microeconomics, with additional training to follow. Majors have a choice of additional advanced and applied courses drawn from a menu that includes industrial organization, public economics, labor economics, government regulation, economic theory, monetary economics, health economics, and other courses. The undergraduate curriculum in economics provides the essential fundamentals in modern economic theory, develops the capacity for quantitative research and self-sufficient thought about economic problems and policies, and gives descriptive knowledge about the global economy.

economics student

Pros & Cons

Many undergraduate economics programs offer several specialization tracks, which allow you to pursue your own interests in the field. These tracks are beneficial because they still provide you with the basic fundamentals in all economics, but also tailor your education to a specific field which can be a huge asset when looking to apply for a job in that field. The bachelor’s degree keeps open doors to other careers in the field as well. According to the BLS, the job growth for market research will be 41% over the next decade, which is way above average. A master’s degree may be required for some positions however, which means more schooling and more tuition money. The coursework can be challenging and will involve a lot of reading and studying. The pressure of a busy work schedule and deadlines may create a significant amount of stress, which can lead to health problems down the road.

Graduate School & Career

According to the U.S. News rankings, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, and the University of Chicago are all tied for the best graduate economics program in the country. The following are possible careers in the field of economics:

  • Econometricians – they are economic statisticians, and use math to explain economic events. They may also attempt to predict how the economy will change using game theory and regression analysis.
  • Labor Economists – they study certain trends in the economy and how they affect employment. Some specialize in worker compensation, while others look at how demographic changes like aging population may affect the unemployment rate.
  • Policy Advisors – they work for various government branches and advise politicians on what laws to pass or policy to implement to help improve the economy.