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Economics Degrees: Why so Popular?

By Staff Writer

Updated March 5, 2016 Updated March 5, 2016

The University of Manchester’s Dr George Bratsiotis sheds some light on the popularity of economics degrees, and the bright graduate career prospects they could lead to.

There are few degree courses out there which draw in as many students as FAME subjects – finance, accountancy, management and economics – and there’s one very good reason for that: the subjects which largely deal with money are the ones which are likely to make you the most after you graduate.

Research conducted by the University of Kent shows that one subject in particular can bolster your wage packet: economics (the research, by Yu Zhu, measures how much more graduates of various degrees can expect to earn as compared to high school graduates in the UK). Certainly not something to be sniffed at!

The most popular social science

Dr George Bratsiotis, Director of Undergraduate Studies in the University of Manchester’s economics department confirms the popularity of economics degrees: “In most universities, economics is usually the most popular subject of all social sciences. At the University of Manchester, for example, one of the largest universities in the UK, around a thousand students every year join one of our various economics programs, be it as a single degree or combined with another subject.”

Combining economics with another subject, Dr Bratsiotis continues, is an increasingly popular option, with students opting to combine their studies of the markets and the interactions of the forces which determine their course with a more academic and theoretical social science, or perhaps widen their expertise with another FAME subject.

“Most reputable universities nowadays offer a wide range of options that student can take as part of their economics degree. Popular combined degree qualifications include economics with either politics, or finance, or business, or accounting, or even sociology and history.”

Is an economics degree for you?

So the idea of earning a lot of money might have caught your interest, and perhaps the idea of combining other studies with a understanding of what, in essence, makes the world go round fits in well with your agenda. The question is, is an economics degree for you?

Well, it’s a social science subject, so calls for the skills and qualities that you’d expect for such subjects – an analytical mindset, the ability to understand and balance a wide range of arguments, essay writing skills, and the ability to apply theories to reality, among others. It will also, it perhaps goes without saying, require you to have a head for figures.

“Economics is at its core a technical subject calling for the use of maths and stats,” Dr Bratsiotis verifies. For this reason, he goes on, before a student can specialize or diversify, they must pass a range of core modules which will furnish them with skills that are essential for a scholar of this discipline.

By this point, anyone who’s been near a newspaper in the past three years will have noticed there’s something of an elephant in the room. How has, you might wonder, the economic chaos of the past few years (which is still very much continuing) affected the study of economics?

“Never in its modern history has economics, as we so far understand it, been more challenged than in recent years,” Dr Bratsiotis declares. “The devastating financial and banking crisis that started around 2007, followed by the sovereign debt crisis of developed economies in more recent days have led us to question our whole approach to how we think about economics.”

However this high drama means that it is an extremely exciting time to be involved with the subject. “For the first time leading economists, from both the main schools of economic thought, agree that there is an urgent need for fresh ideas to understand in more depth how our economy works, so that we can avoid future economic crises.

"The explosion of the world population growth, combined with the slowing down of economic growth, leaving huge amounts of accumulated debt in many advanced economies will occupy economists for many years to come, making economics more exciting and important than ever.”

Employment prospects with an economics degree

But excitement aside, talk of the economic crisis will most likely make you think about your own employment prospects, and so we asked Dr Bratsiotis how he thought economics graduates were likely to fare in the jobs market, remuneration aside?

“Very few qualifications offer the various career opportunities that an economics degree does," Dr Bratsiotis states. “Economics students can find employment in teaching and research/postgraduate studies finance, central banks and high street commercial banks, higher education and research, government departments, international organizations, industry, and really any type of company or enterprise small or large. Economics students have one of the highest employability records of all subjects and one of the highest incomes.”

This article was originally published in October 2012 . It was last updated in March 2016

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