Should I Study Economics or Business Administration? | Top Universities

Should I Study Economics or Business Administration?

By Felix von Wendorff

Updated July 24, 2021 Updated July 24, 2021

If you are reading this article, you are probably trying to decide between majoring in economics or business administration. Well, this isn’t an easy decision to make (I can say that from personal experience) and at the end of the day you will have to take a leap of faith on one or the other. But there are a few questions I can offer to help you decide whether to study economics or whether to study business administration.

1. Big picture or detail?

Probably the most important thing to ask yourself is if you are a ‘big picture’ person or a detail-oriented person. If you want to understand what makes the whole economy move, then study economics. If you are only interested in being able to manage or work within a specific company, then business administration is for you. Of course the fact remains that in order to study either economics or business, you will need a little bit of both.

2. Theory or hands-on experience?

Are you a theoretical person or a hands-on person? Economists get to juggle numbers and discover theories that might be earth-shattering in the field of economics, but have little impact or interest for anyone not closely following the subject. Meanwhile people who study business administration will probably spend the vast majority of their time dealing with practical, often pretty tedious problems that have to be overcome to keep a company functioning.

3. Want to fix things yourself?

At some point, all economists have to realize that economic policy is ultimately decided by politicians, for whom all their beautiful economic models and theories don’t really matter. That is probably the most frustrating aspects when you study economics: you can really see how easy it would be to fix most of the problems we have, but you know it’s never going to happen. On the other hand, those who study business administration have the opportunity to make a real impact – albeit within a fairly limited context.

4. How realistic are your expectations?

Business administration is the most studied subject in the US. And if you hope that your degree is going to land you a spot on an executive training program at a Fortune 100 company, and you are not studying at an Ivy League college, you got another one coming. The reality is that most business administrators have boring, paper-pushing 9-to-5 jobs for a long time before they get a really interesting position. The good news is that whether you study economics or business, you can expect some of the highest starting salaries around.

5. Want practical skills?

The single biggest problem when you study economics is that it can be too broad, and too theoretical. It gives you very few skills that are immediately applicable within the workplace. Meanwhile business degrees specifically give you the skills need to help run a business. But as anyone with real business experience will tell you, university education does not really prepare you for leading a business – you need to learn on the job.

At the end of the day, economics and business degrees are likely to lead to a very similar set of career options. In this sense, they are almost interchangeable. I’d say the biggest issues to consider are whether an economics degree will be too broad, and whether there are already too many other people who study business administration. If you are not sure yet, don’t panic. Chances are that the first two years of classes are going to be almost identical and it will be really easy to switch into the other subject.

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This article was originally published in January 2014 . It was last updated in July 2021

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