Michelle Foley 6 min read 12th Grade, Academic Tips and Info

Should You Major in Economics?

Put simply, economics is the social study of the production, consumption, and transfer of wealth. More specifically, the economics major can be mostly understood as the study of macroeconomics, the mass behavior of the overall economy, and microeconomics, which covers small-scale and individual decision making.

 

The wide range of interesting and high-paying jobs after graduation is certainly a draw for many students, but most will have to do a bit more research to decide if it’s truly for them. In this post, we will cover everything you need to know about the econ major, including preferred skills and personality traits, the best colleges for this degree, and your post-grad prospects.

 

Overview of the Economics Major

 

Econ majors will take an introductory class or two on macro and microeconomics to learn the basics of general market rules, modeling fundamentals, and fiscal and monetary policy. If possible, we recommend taking AP Micro or Macroeconomics in high school, as high scores can often get these introductory class requirements waived for you in college. At the very least, an AP background will provide a strong background in the course material.

 

Your classes will increase in specificity, depth, and rigor as you progress. Additionally, they may get smaller as you take on more specific material in comparison to broad introductory classes. 

 

Expect to do a lot of number-crunching in this major, especially within the fields of algebra, calculus, and statistics. Still, don’t neglect the importance of developing strong writing skills. Econ majors will unpack complex economic theories and effectively communicate their statistical thoughts and findings.

 

Successful economics students possess a deep, indiscriminate interest in the world around them, particularly within the fields of history, politics, sociology, and psychology. As natural problem-solvers, econ aficionados are struck with a desire to understand how things work on a societal level. 

 

While your homework will involve a lot of individual data analysis, economics is still a highly collaborative field. Econ majors often work towards careers based on collaborative communication, and it takes lots of teamwork to effectively collect data, analyze it, and work practically with its findings.

 

Your specific major path will differ based on your chosen college and degree path. Bachelors of Science students will take more quantitative classes like calculus and econometrics. In contrast, a Bachelors of Arts education is more theory-based, and B.A. students receive a more “real-world” understanding of economics. Consequently, B.A. econ majors tend to go straight into the workforce after graduation, while B.S. students oftentimes delve into a Master’s for a higher-paying job or a Ph.D. program for a career in research and academia. 

 

What Can You Do With an Economics Degree?

 

1. Market Research Analyst

Median Salary: $64k

Projected Growth: 18%

 

In keeping with many of the analytic principles explored in your pursuit of an economics degree, market research analysts, well, analyze market data to determine which products consumers want, what the consumer will be willing to pay for the product, and who the consumer base is. In essence, they research data to best aid their company in their marketing efforts. They often analyze their competitors to compare prices and marketing methods.

 

This position requires strong analytical skills and a detail-oriented brain, paired with the ability to pick up on statistical patterns. Additionally, they pair a deep interest in psychology and the mind with strong communication skills.

 

2. Economist

Median Salary: $77k

Projected Growth: 14%

 

In perhaps the most obvious career path for many econ graduates (after all, it’s in the name) economists analyze current economic issues and trends using data and statistics. They often work in conjunction with news outlets and politicians to make forecasts and design policies. They possess skills in analysis and communication, necessary ones for a career based on formulating reports and presentations.

 

Economists are genuinely curious about the dual worlds of math and social science and are skilled in understanding complex systems. Diligent and hardworking, they possess strong organizational skills. Economists are also highly open-minded, which is essential to a career in which uncertainty is common.

 

3. Financial Analyst

Median Salary: $61k

Projected Growth: 5%

 

Financial analysts work in the investing industry, recommending to clients—businesses or individuals—when to buy, sell, or hold investments. Analysts may also advise for business decisions as a whole. They’re highly technical and math-oriented, using complex mathematical procedures to analyze financial information. The in-depth knowledge of economics-based math may be acquired through pursuing an economics degree.

 

It’s no easy job, so those looking to break into this highly competitive field must come equipped with high stress and time management skills. Additionally, they should be strong, efficient communicators in order to best present their ideas.

 

4. Financial Advisor

Median Salary: $59k

Projected Growth: 4%

 

Financial advisors work to help clients make well-informed financial decisions. Advisors meet client financial needs and goals through guiding them into smart insurance, tax, and investment choices. Please note that “financial advisor” is a broad term, and many professionals specialize as financial counselors, wealth managers, tax professionals, and more. Overall, though, they universally work to build their clients’ financial health and literacy.

 

Given the highly interpersonal nature of this job, strong people skills are a must. In keeping with the requirements of most financial jobs, advisors are detail-oriented, organized, and highly mathematically proficient. While there is no specific major required for this field, economics provides the mathematical and analytical foundation needed to succeed.

 

5. Corporate Lawyer

Median Salary: $111k

Projected Growth: 4%

 

Law is a wide-ranging field, but lawyers can almost universally count on using their analytical and logistical skills to build strong arguments for their client’s cause. They work with clients to draft documents, negotiate deals, and provide legal counsel. After undergrad, prospective lawyers must receive a juris doctorate degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association.

 

In law school, economics majors tend to perform very well in comparison to other popular pre-law majors, like political science and English. Corporate lawyers in particular benefit from an undergraduate degree in business and economics, as much of their future work entails a strong understanding of the business world. 

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Best Colleges for Economics Majors

 

1. University of Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Acceptance Rate: 6.2%

Undergrad Enrollment: 6,552

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1510-1560 SAT, 34-35 ACT

 

The University of Chicago, located in Chicago, Illinois, is a private research university well-known for its academic rigor and intellectual vitality.

 

Only B.A.’s are available to economics majors at this school, but there are still ample opportunities to pick up the necessary technical skills. In addition to the standard economics path, students can elect to specialize in either Business Economics—through a partnership with the Booth School of Business—or Data Science. There are plenty of research opportunities, and students have the option of completing an Honors thesis. 

 

Learn more about the University of Chicago and what it takes to get accepted.

 

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology | MIT

Location: Cambridge, MA

Acceptance Rate: 7.3%

Undergrad Enrollment: 4,602

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1520-1580 SAT, 35-36 ACT

 

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, otherwise known as MIT, is known for its spot in icy Boston and the rigor and selectivity of its famed STEM programs.

 

Given MIT’s STEM-heavy reputation, many are justifiably surprised by the strength of its economics programs. Double-majors are encouraged, as is research experience. A small number of students are actually enrolled as economics majors, despite its strength, allowing for close relationships with professionals.

 

Learn more about MIT and what it takes to get accepted.

 

3. Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, MA

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Undergrad Enrollment: 6,788

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1460-1580 SAT, 33-35 ACT

 

Harvard is one of the oldest, best-known, and most-selective universities in the United States. It’s facilities and faculty have been a consistent contributor to the academic world.

 

The Harvard econ core course requirements are largely math-based, but students are still required to take a writing class, a theory class, and two electives. Students can choose to go down the Honors track, which may take you down two paths. One is the Thesis track, which requires a Senior Thesis and honors exam, qualifying the student for summa, magna, or cum degree status. The Advance Course Track offers just a cum degree, which requires a few additional courses and the honors exam.

 

Learn more about Harvard and what it takes to get accepted.

 

4. Stanford University

Location: Palo Alto, CA

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Undergrad Enrollment: 7,087

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1420-1580 SAT, 31-35 ACT

 

Stanford’s modern campus in sunny Palo Alto pulls in students for more than its academics. 

 

Students who like variety will appreciate Stanford vast economic course offerings and the diversity of its available tracks. Econ majors can choose from any of the following specialties: Behavioral & Experimental, Finance, International & Development, Policy, Research, and Strategy. Like UChicago, Stanford only offers a B.A., but its strong course offerings ensure that students will have no problem developing the necessary quantitative skills.

 

Learn more about Stanford and what it takes to get accepted.

 

5. Princeton University

Location: Princeton, NJ

Acceptance Rate: 5.5%

Undergrad Enrollment: 5,267

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1460-1570 SAT, 33-35 ACT

 

Princeton is a private research university in Princeton, New Jersey. Though the university stresses the importance of a liberal arts education, students generally have little trouble receiving adequate pre-professional preparation.

 

Econ majors at Princeton often pick up finance certificates, as many economics course requirements overlap with those of the finance certificates. Students may choose one of three paths: one of the basic sequence “more math” or “less math” tracks, or the faster “more math” sequence. Economics students may apply for Internship Milestone Credit, meaning that they receive academic credits for an economics-based internship lasting at least 6 weeks.

 

Learn more about Princeton and what it takes to get accepted.

 

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Michelle Foley
Essay Breakdown Writer at CollegeVine
Short bio
Michelle Foley is currently taking a gap year before starting at Yale College in Fall '21, where she is considering majoring in Art, English, or Cognitive Studies while earning her Spanish certificate. In her free time, she likes to paint, run, and read!