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Economics Major Overview

Want to learn more about how money impacts the world? As an economics major, you’ll study the ins and outs of topics such as economic theory, commerce, investment strategy, and much more. In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about majoring in economics. 

Read more: Finance major overview

What is an economics major?

Put simply, economics majors study the forces that drive the economy. They examine labor markets, industry trends, investment strategies, and economic theories such as capitalism. They also learn how buying and selling can be complicated by factors such as taxes, interest rates, inflation, and labor disagreements. 

Perhaps most importantly, though, students learn how economics can be used to solve real-world problems. Not only do they analyze issues and propose solutions, but they develop the skills needed to communicate their findings to others. They learn how to translate complex information into reports and presentations that everyday people can understand. 

Related: Accounting major overview

Coursework to expect

Starting out, economics majors typically take one or two introductory classes that focus on the principles of micro and macroeconomics. Students are also usually required to take a calculus course. After completing prerequisites, students can decide the path they’d like to take. Some schools allow students to choose between a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in economics. B.S. programs require more math classes, in which students learn how to calculate interest rates, annuities, and returns on investment. Students in B.A. programs focus more on the history and theory of economics, receiving a broad overview of the financial world. 

Below are some potential courses you may encounter as an economics major:

  • Economic Theory
  • Statistics
  • Applied Calculus
  • Money and Banking
  • Government and Industry
  • Labor Economics
  • International Trade and Finance
  • Environmental Economics
  • Economic Growth and Development
  • Public Finance

Opportunities after graduation 

A degree in economics provides an excellent foundation for a variety of post-graduate paths. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in economics can obtain entry-level jobs as financial analysts, credit analysts, market research analysts, and research associates. While some students choose to immediately enter the workforce, others pursue graduate degrees. Postgraduate study isn’t essential, but it opens doors to a broader range of job opportunities. 

Jobs you can get with an economics degree

Economics majors develop skills that are transferable to a variety of fields. They can gather and interpret data, create models to predict outcomes, and present complex information to others. Below are some popular professions for economics majors, along with median annual salaries according to the 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

1. Market research analyst

Market research analysts study industry trends to examine the potential sales of a product or service. They do this by gathering data on consumers (through surveys and polls) and measuring the effectiveness of marketing strategies. Market research analysts are employed in nearly every industry. 

2020 Median Pay: $65,810 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 18% (Much faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

2. Economist

Economists advise businesses, governments, and individuals on economic issues. They carry out studies regarding economics scenarios, using their findings to recommend solutions to economic problems. Economists work for organizations in a variety of fields, including business, finance, healthcare, education, and government. 

2020 Median Pay: $108,350 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 14% (Much faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

3. Compensation and benefits manager

Compensation and benefits managers develop and oversee programs to pay employees. They study trends in the labor market to determine their company’s pay and benefits structure. They work closely with senior management and sometimes the human resources department. These professionals are employed in nearly every industry. 

2020 Median Pay: $125,130 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 3% (As fast as average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

4. Financial analyst

Financial analysts advise businesses and individuals regarding investment decisions. They study economic trends and prepare written reports for clients, who use that information to make decisions regarding investments, stock/bond offerings, and mergers/acquisitions. Analysts may specialize in areas such as financial risk, fund management, and ratings analysis. 

2020 Median Pay: $83,660 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 5% (Faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

5. Lawyer

Lawyers advise and represent clients on legal issues and disputes. Clients range from individuals and businesses to government agencies. Graduates with a degree in economics are particularly suited for areas such as corporate law, tax law, antitrust law, personal injury, and medical malpractice.

2020 Median Pay: $126,930 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 4% (As fast as average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

6. Business reporter

Reporters research and produce news stories for television, newspapers, radio, and websites. They keep the public informed on important local, national, and international stories. Graduates with an economics degree are particularly suited to cover stories about business leaders, companies, industry trends, economic developments, and financial markets.

2020 Median Pay: $49,300 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): -11% (Decline)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Also read: What are the fastest growing careers?

Advanced degrees you can pursue with an economics degree

Many graduates use their bachelor’s degree in economics as a stepping stone toward an advanced degree. Graduate programs allow students to either adjust their career focus or gain the qualifications needed for certain jobs. For instance, advanced degrees can allow students to become lawyers, economists, management consultants, and much more. Below are some popular graduate degree options among economics majors: 

  • Master of Business Administration 
  • Master of Arts in Economics
  • Juris Doctor (law)
  • Master of Finance
  • Master of Accounting

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How do I know if this major is right for me? 

If you’re considering a major in economics, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do you enjoy solving problems? 
  • Are you curious about business, finance, and the economy? 
  • Do you value logical thinking and reasoning? 
  • Do you gravitate towards numbers and calculations? 

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then an economics major could be right for you!

Also read: How to pick a major