What do you think Economics is? The study of money? Wealth? According to the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, Economics is the ‘study of the factors that influence income, wealth and well-being’. It is a social science which incorporates maths and statistics as well as having connections with the physical sciences (biology, medicine and physics) and many other disciplines (politics, law, geography, psychology etc).
What makes Economics different from other social sciences?
An economist’s approach follows these 5 steps:
- Abstract and simplify to find the problem
- Analyse and reason
- Organise, absorb, build, analyse and evaluate both qualitative and quantitative data
- Criticise the data by looking at its real-life context
- And finally create a policy for the problem, realising the limits as well as its productivity
How much maths is there?
Economics does deal with statistical and mathematical problems. The role they take within a degree depends on the institution and your choices. It is worth noting that economists do use information which is of varying numerical types (tables, graphs) and skills to handle this information are required not only through maths and statistics but also computer software.
Economics is not only about maths. It is a social science so its application into real life is visible and constant through many streams; politics, education, the environment, health care or simply your living costs.
So what skills will I have after graduating?
After graduating you should:
- Understand economic concepts and principles
- Understand economic theory and modelling approaches
- Apply quantitative methods and computing techniques across a range of problems
- Understand data, its source and content as well as methods that could be used to analyse it
- Be able to critically apply economic reasoning to policy issues
- Be knowledgeable in a number of specialised areas of economics and be well read within these areas
- Understand that a range of approaches can be used for one economic problem resulting in more than one solution.
Great, but how can I apply this to the real working world?
During your undergraduate degree you will come across key concepts (such as opportunity cost, incentives, the relevance of marginal considerations). These key concepts will re-appear not only through your economics education but also when problem-solving in the real world.
Surveys of Economics graduates and their employers reveal the ways in which an Economics degree makes you valuable in the workplace. These include:
- An analytical way of thinking
- Problem solving
- Recognition and clarification
- Problem analysis
- Identifying and comparing solution to problems
- Scepticism over the possible misuse of data
The subject-specific skills are:
- Abstraction (finding the problem and simplifying it without losing its relevance)
- Analysis, deduction and induction (looking at the problem and tracing its core ideas while drawing logical conclusions)
- Quantification and design (using data and presenting it in an appropriate, usable form)
- Framing (knowing which bits of a problem should be fixed or given in order to solve it).
So what do you do with all of your skills?
What is brilliant about an economics degree is how flexible it is when looking for jobs. Everyone will imagine that you are interested in finance and making lots of money in the City and, with economics, this is definitely a feasible option. However, there are also other options. The private sector offers numerous consultancy, actuary, auditing, trading, finance or banking jobs (the list is endless) along with numerous public sector jobs, HM Treasury, the GES, education (again, another endless list). NGOs also look for Economics graduates to help with their policy implementations. For more information, keep reading.