What Can You Do with an Economics Degree?
As the world keeps spinning, an education in economics will continue to be in high demand. Economics majors are needed to make policy recommendations, develop strategies and understand context in order to make informed and effective decisions. From corporate entities to banks, nonprofits to the federal government, economics is a good major for those with analytical and communication skills – just to name a few.
So, is economics a good major for you? Keep reading for a deep dive into what you’ll learn during your studies, what you can do with an economics degree and how Furman will prepare you for the best possible future post-graduation.
What Is Economics?
Economics has many practical definitions. Merriam-Webster defines it as a social science concerned chiefly with describing and analyzing the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services.
More broadly, economics is about people — the decisions they make as individuals, the social institutions they create, and the complex interactions between them.
Some key concepts and commonly known terms learned in economics are supply and demand, market structures (like monopoly and oligopoly), gross domestic product, opportunity cost, comparative advantage, efficiency, inflation and economic policies such as monetary policy (interest rates and the money supply) and fiscal policy (tax and spending policies).
Economics studies many different aspects of society using an analytical approach to understanding how the world works. Because of its impact on society, economics is a fundamental practice. Therefore, economics graduates are in demand, making economics a good major for those interested.
Is Economics a Good Major?
Economics is a good major because of the versatility in job opportunities for those with an economics degree. Economics majors can find jobs in various fields, such as government finance, banking, law, accounting, nonprofit, marketing, sales, healthcare and consulting, just to name a few.
Economics majors are especially in high demand in the finance, government, and consulting fields. Employers in these fields search for job candidates with economic knowledge and an understanding of market dynamics to help make informed investment and business strategy decisions.
Is Economics a Hard Major?
Just as any major has its challenging courses, economics requires the study of complex concepts that don’t often have black-and-white solutions. Within the discipline there is a wide range of topics from macroeconomics (the study of economy-wide issues) to microeconomics (the study of individual behavior). Economics also benefits from the concepts and contributions of other disciplines like sociology, psychology, political science, environmental science, and philosophy, among others. In addition to the breadth and interdisciplinarity, upper-level economics courses also benefit from the integration of mathematical tools and quantitative methods from statistics and calculus courses.
That said, whether economics is considered a “hard” major is subjective and can vary from person to person. Students excited to explore a range of interesting, important questions with critical thinking, analytical reasoning and empirical tools will be intellectually fulfilled.
Furman supports all of its students with resources available throughout their college careers. Our Department of Economics is filled with expert faculty members and helpful advisors and administrative support, and has incredible facilities to aid your studies.
Career Opportunities with an Economics Degree
Economics is a good major for those searching for job opportunities in various industries, such as the corporate world, government and policy and the nonprofit sector. The economics major also prepares students to go to graduate school in other areas such as law, operations research and health-related fields.
Economics majors are highly desirable in the corporate world, as their majors have generally studied demand theory and estimation, production and cost theory, analysis of market structure, antitrust policy, government regulation of business, capital budgeting, inflation theory, unemployment, the determination of interest rates, and international economics. Employers know that this knowledge will enhance their performance in decision making. Two examples of corporate careers for economics majors include financial analysts and management consultants.
- Financial Analysts analyze market trends and business data to advise companies or investors on business decisions related to finances. They may work in banks, investment firms or corporations. A financial analyst gathers data, interprets results and makes projections to deliver recommendations. In 2022, financial analysts made a median salary of $96,220.
- Management Consultants help businesses problem solve and provide strategies to improve various business issues, such as manufacturing, marketing, labor or pricing strategies. Consultants can focus on one major area, such as compliance, or one industry, such as healthcare. Management consultants made a median salary of $95,290 in 2022.
- Market Research Analysts study consumer preferences, business conditions, and other factors to assess potential sales of a product or service. Market researchers collect and analyze market information and identify market trends and market segmentation. Researchers do this through the use of quantitative data, statistical analysis packages, surveys, focus groups, and product testing. Market Research Analysts made a median salary of $68,230 in 2022.
Government and Policy
A degree in economics is easily transferable to a position in government and policy – not only in federal government but also in state and local governments. Working in public policy allows you to play a role in the decision-making that affects certain issues you are passionate about, decisions that can affect your community, both locally and globally. You may find work with policy making in the following areas: education, government, environment, health, immigration, housing, taxation, social policy, water, employment, economic development or agriculture.
- A Policy Analyst evaluates policies related to social issues such as healthcare, education and environment by conducting surveys or analyzing existing statistics. As the world evolves, new and adjusted rules are necessary, and Policy Analysts are responsible for helping guide decision-making. In 2023, the average yearly salary for a Policy Analyst is $63,855.
- Government Economists research, analyze and evaluate economic data, such as budgets, to assist in federal, state and local government policy-making. A Ph.D. is often required for work as an economist in the government. In 2022, the average yearly salary for an economist in the federal government was $134,776.
There are opportunities for economics majors to make a difference in the nonprofit sector. Because of the close connection between economics and social issues, economics is a good major for those who want to enforce positive social and economic change. Working for a nonprofit organization means that a passion for the organization’s mission and a genuine desire to contribute your time and effort toward helping others are absolutely necessary. Recruiters and employees say it’s crucial to be a versatile, Jack- or Jill-of-all-trades type because you’ll likely be expected to pitch in on a variety of responsibilities, from fundraising and organizing volunteers to tracking expenses and completing paperwork. You’ll need to be able to work collaboratively, but also be a leader because nonprofits don’t always have the funds to hire more staff if workloads increase.
- Economics majors contribute to global development initiatives, such as mission-driven international organizations like the Red Cross or UNICEF. These organizations seek to change specific issues and advocate for social or economic groups worldwide.
- Economics majors are crucial in providing unbiased research and data to assist in social and economic change. Many nonprofit organizations seek economics majors to research and disseminate data to fight for policy change.
Skills Developed Through an Economics Degree
An economics degree teaches students broadly transferable skills in analytical reasoning and empirical methods that explain historical trends, interpret today’s headlines and contribute to solving the most pressing human problems in an ever-evolving world.
One set of skills economics students develop are analytical reasoning and empirical skills. Analytical reasoning focuses on the ability to think critically, logically, and conceptually about economic concepts and problems.
Economics majors will practice using economic theory, models and frameworks to understand, interpret and analyze economic issues. While these analytical reasoning skills can be developed from a more theory-oriented perspective, they can also be applied to data and used alongside empirical skills.
Students will develop empirical skills by considering the data collection process, performing statistical analysis, and using econometric techniques to draw conclusions using real-world data. Undergraduate economics majors will benefit from developing proficiency in both areas as they complement each other and enable students to address and analyze a wide host of issues comprehensively.
Other than analytical skills, economics students also develop crucial communication skills, especially those related to writing reports and explaining data and models. Economics majors learn how to communicate the most essential details in the most clear and concise way. This also translates into excellent presentation skills, as students will practice presenting their findings to various audiences.
Personal Growth and Societal Impact
Not only is economics a good major for learning hard skills such as analytics and communication, but it also provides impactful personal growth opportunities to develop soft skills such as teamwork and understand complex societal issues.
Soft Skill Development
While many might associate an economics major with technical skills like working with data or analyzing models, coursework also offers students the opportunity to develop soft skills like teamwork, leadership, and professionalism.
Economists tackle serious societal problems, such as poverty, job loss and distribution of wealth. They can have a significant impact on policies through using models and data to predict how policies might impact the decisions of individuals and firms. Thus, they have the opportunity to impact real societal change. Their analysis of data and trends turns into policy recommendations that shape communities and inform decision-makers.
Economics can be a good major for students who enjoy analyzing data, presenting recommendations, and improving processes, policies and decision-making. The degree’s versatility affords graduates opportunities in many different areas, including government, nonprofit and corporate entities.
Studying Economics at Furman
Studying economics at Furman means you’ll learn the hard and soft transferable skills needed to succeed in various job opportunities and sectors, such as problem-solving, analytical reasoning, critical thinking, research and communication skills.
Economics students can pursue the area of study that interests them; Furman offers three economic-related majors, including Economics B.A., Mathematics-Economics B.A. and Mathematics-Economics B.S. The adaptability of these majors allows students to add a second area of study – something 46% of our economics students choose to do.
Opportunities for study abroad, internships and research experiences are available and encouraged for all students. The faculty in the economics department help students access these opportunities throughout their studies.
The views and opinions expressed in the Furman Blog are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Furman University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.