If you like to crunch numbers, analyze information, and write, consider majoring in economics. It’s more than just studying stocks, bonds, interest rates, inflation, or unemployment. You’ll apply what you study to deal with societal problems, like world poverty. Majoring in economics prepares you for all sorts of careers and can help you become a well-rounded lawyer or a policymaker.
What you’ll be doing
As an economics major, you’ll learn how to apply data and research concerning societal problems and apply it to real-world situations. While most majors focus on math and science or writing and arts, economics marries math and writing.
After graduation, you’ll know how to analyze data, think critically about economic trends and patterns, and report on those trends. You’ll take basic macroeconomic and microeconomic classes, but you can also learn how public health relates to economics or game theory. In short, economics studies how people use resources to meet human needs.
The classes you’ll take
After you take your beginning and intermediate level macroeconomic and microeconomic courses, at most schools you’ll choose from a variety of economics electives. One class will teach you about game theory, AKA the theory that people act based on how they expect others to act. This theory applies to auctions, firm competition, and voting, and can be used to study potential conflict.
You can also take political economics, where you’ll learn about theories and applications of political economies like Marxian economics, feminist economics, and Institutionalism economics. If you hate sales taxes, you can learn about taxation, public expenditure, and fiscal policy in a public economics class. You can compare fiscal institutions of different countries and study the way that governments approach income redistribution and poverty.
A class on international economics will focus on international trade and finance and open economy macroeconomics, so you can understand what your high school history teacher meant when he talked about the U.S.’s open-door policy. You’ll also discuss trade policies and exchange rates.
If you like history, try economics history, which will relate all the best moments of history to economics, like the founding of the United States and the economic conditions that led to the Civil War. Economics history will also look at economic development and apply economic theory that led to the modern service economy.
Internships for the Econ Major
As an economics major, you can intern at a variety of places to get that all-important experience. For instance, you could work as a bank teller, where you can gain knowledge about mortgages and loans and experience with numbers. If you’re interested in policy, an internship with a lobbyist group like the CATO Institute will provide you with an idea of what it’s like to lobby for economic policy.
At the Federal Reserve, you can spend time working in economic policy, economic law or financial analysis for the U.S. Government. If you’d rather keep the government accountable, an internship for The Economist might lead to you analyzing economies or help a business journalist write a piece. If you’re more interested in credit rating, a place like Moody’s Investors Services or Fitch Ratings might be the place for you.
After your experience at a bank, you might try investment banking at a place like Goldman Sachs. You can also find experience in policy and working with the government at secondary mortgage marketers like the Federal National Mortgage Association or the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporations, both sponsored by the government.
1. “The analytical mindset you develop as an economist is applicable in a broad range of vocational applications. One thing I feel like some students don’t realize is that almost all government agencies employ economists to assist in regulatory work that goes on. While the internship in the investment firm may be flashy, doing regulatory work as an economics student can propel you into a stable government career, a major employer of economics majors.” –Luke Mendelsohn, University of Mary Washington Class of 2014
2. “The economics major offered me the opportunity to pursue my passion to better understand and address various challenges faced around the world including poverty, inequality, and environmental justice, while applying and strengthening my mathematical skills.” –Gezime Christian, University of Tampa Class of 2013
3. “Economics is one of the most flexible majors because the “economic way of thinking” is useful for understanding a wide range of behaviors. You can take the insights of economics to work anywhere. Advanced statistics, combined with the “way of thinking,” let economists turn data into useful information.” –Mary Hansen, Associate Economics Professor at American University