Are you thinking of studying Economics?
If you’re looking for a degree with genuine relevance to the real world, look no further than Economics.
It’s the study of the production and distribution of wealth, and it’s critical to policy making and the running of both businesses and governments. It’s a subject that has major relevance in the solving of problems such as recession, unemployment, global warming and sustainable development, but it also has the potential to land you a lucrative career in banking and finance. This makes it competitive, but it’s a degree very much worth having on your CV.
What kind of things can I expect to study?
What you study as part of an Economics degree depends on what course you choose, to a greater extent than in other subjects. Some universities offer Economics as a BA degree, others as a BSc; this means that the content may be very different between one degree and another, so choose your course carefully. A BSc Economics degree is generally considered the more worthwhile and respected degree; it will involve a lot of Mathematics, including statistical theory and techniques. The less competitive BA course involves much less Mathematics and is more essay-focused, requiring more qualitative analysis; you may be able to study other social sciences alongside this degree. Note that Oxford, Cambridge and Durham call the degree a BA through their own convention, but at these universities it’s similar in content to a BSc elsewhere and highly respected.
Microeconomics and Macroeconomics
Respectively, Microeconomics and Macroeconomics deal with economics on an individual scale and whole economies. The former involves learning about things like customer decision-making, how companies maximise their profits, individual markets and so on. The latter looks at the bigger picture, covering things like interest rates, taxation, the reasons for fluctuations in the economy, and so forth.
Money, banking and trade
You’ll usually be taught about the ins and outs of money, banking and trade, supported by the learning of economic models derived from statistics and mathematics (a discipline known as econometrics).
Economic theory and history
You’ll learn about the history of Economics, and the theory behind different aspects of the subject, such as behavioural economics or the economics of industry.
Management is often combined with the study of Economics, as in the case of Oxford’s famous Economics and Management course. It involves studying theories and models of management and how different methods and styles of management can influence the success with which a company meets its objectives.
As mentioned, the amount of Mathematics you’ll have to do depends on whether you’ve chosen a BA or a BSc degree. There will be a fair bit of Maths even for the BA, and for the BSc you can expect to be studying how to apply statistical techniques to the analysis of economic and financial data.
What do I need for an Economics degree?
A-level Mathematics will be essential for this degree, especially for the BSc course; if you’re applying for a BA course, you may find that GCSE Mathematics is sufficient. A-levels in Statistics or Economics would be useful, but these are not offered by many schools and so are not essential (if your school doesn’t offer them, you might want to mention this in your personal statement to justify their absence from your UCAS form). Further Mathematics would come in handy, particularly for the top universities, for which many other applicants will have this A-level.
What skills will I acquire?
An Economics degree gives you well-developed statistical analysis skills in addition to the subject-specific knowledge you’ll acquire. Transferable skills developed during an Economics degree include data analysis, problem-solving, teamwork, communication, numeracy and decision-making.
Will I get to travel as part of my degree?
It’s not a degree that naturally gives rise to many travel opportunities, but some universities may allow you to spend a year studying abroad, and others may include a work placement as part of the course.
What careers are possible with an Economics degree?
An Economics degree is the ideal preparation for numerous interesting careers in the banking and finance sector (accountancy, insurance, investment banking, consumer banking and such like), as well as other areas such as government, management consultancy, journalism and such like. Investment banking is a particularly popular career choice for Economics graduates, but it’s a degree that also paves the way for plenty of other jobs, such as teaching, working for an international think tank, and many more. It proves strong numerical skills, which are useful for countless jobs.
Many graduates end up working in London, as it has a high density of suitable jobs; the average starting salary for those who do is £28,000, which has the potential to rise dramatically and fairly quickly. Some careers, such as accountancy, will require you to take professional qualifications once you leave university, so be prepared for the possibility of further study.
If you’re thinking about studying Economics, you might also be interested in the following degrees:
- Business Studies – this might be of interest if you can see yourself as a business leader of tomorrow, as it will teach you about more than just the financial side of running a business.
- Mathematics – this might be a better option for you if you’re interested more generally in Mathematics, in particular Statistics.
- Politics – if you’re intrigued by the policy-making aspects of Economics, a degree in Politics would enable you to learn more about other aspects of government, such as foreign policy, structures of power, and so on.
- Politics, Philosophy and Economics – it’s not just Oxford that offers this course; many universities do, because it develops an in-depth understanding of the human and social world around you, thereby providing excellent preparation for a career in government.
A final thought on Economics
Prospects for Economics graduates worsened slightly during the recession, as many such graduates go into banking and finance, which naturally suffered as a result of the Credit Crunch. However, with the economy now picking up again, this looks set to change. It’s worth noting that the BSc degree is likely to open more doors career-wise, but the BA degree has the benefit of combining the humanities and sciences to a greater extent, keeping your options more widely open for those who don’t yet know what they want to do for a career.