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How studying a top economics degree can lead to a career in data science

By Aisha K

Updated May 24, 2022 Updated May 24, 2022

Labelled the “sexiest job of the 21st century” by Harvard Business Review back in 2012, data science has become one of the most lucrative and highly sought professions for obvious reasons. The abundance of big data (with a market size projected to grow to US$103 billion by 2027) means that an increasing number of organisations are looking to leverage the power of data to boost their businesses and develop better practises.  

There are plenty of perks to entice anyone considering a career in data science - according to Glassdoor’s list of best jobs in 2022, data scientist has ranked third among the 50 best occupations in the United States. This year, the job had a satisfaction score of 4.1 out of five and a median base salary of $120,000.  

While a degree in economics might not seem like an obvious choice for an aspiring data scientist, graduates are well prepared for careers that require numerical, analytical and problem-solving skills, all of which are essential in a data scientist role.  

In addition, many degrees include courses on statistical theory and mathematics, meaning that students will have some understanding of machine learning models. Graduates can bolster their job applications by taking advantage of the plethora of coding courses online, such as Codecademy, selecting from a wide range of programming languages to suit their needs and interests.  

Aside from building algorithms, data scientists also require strong presentation skills when communicating their findings. During their degree, economics students learn how to present a topic and argue for or against a given argument with clear evidence, developing a confident manner to express their insights.  

Although economics graduates may not have gained the breadth of technical skills taught in other subjects such as computer science, their understanding of commercial awareness and international perspective enables them to think beyond the numbers. 

Also, many universities have now adapted their degree programmes to reflect the demand for graduates who can use data science in today’s digital’s economy.  

Read on to find out about the top universities for economics offering combined degrees with data science, or the option to specialise in data science.  

QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022: Top economics programmes for careers in data science 

Subject rank 

School 

Location 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

United States 

University of Chicago 

United States 

39 

Imperial College London 

United Kingdom 

41 

Nanyang Technological University 

Singapore 

62 

University of Manchester 

United Kingdom 

University of Manchester 

University of Manchester

The BA (Econ) in Economics and Data Analytics degree teaches students data analytics and data science techniques to evaluate the effectiveness of economic policy. Students can boost their employability through taking part in a paid Professional Experience Year and have this added to their degree title, showcasing their work experience when applying for jobs.  

Graduates have gone on to work in industries such as accountancy, finance and banking, and government. Examples of employers include Morgan Stanley, BBC, Thomas Reuters and the Royal Bank of Canada.  

The University of Manchester is ranked 62nd for economics and eighth highest in the UK.  

Nanyang Technological University  

Nanyang Technological University

The newly launched Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Economics and Data Science is a four- year degree programme, covering foundations in economics and applying knowledge to modern, large- scale data analysis. 

Students are also required to complete academic units from the Interdisciplinary Collaborative Core, such as Sustainability: Social, Economy & Environment and Ethics & Civics in a Multi-Cultural World.  

Common job roles for graduates include data analyst, data scientist and economist, and there’s also the option to work as an industry analyst, analysing big data.  

Nanyang Technological University is ranked 41st for economics, making it the second-best institution in Singapore for the subject.  

Imperial College London 

Imperial College London

Imperial’s undergraduate degree in Economics, Finance and Data Science enables students to develop analytical skills and coding capabilities through in- depth study in all three subject areas. The curriculum has been designed with input from industry and public policy leaders, with emphasis being put on essential skills such as effective communication, emotional intelligence and corporate social responsibility.  

Students will have access to Imperial’s specialist career service, as well as linking them to an established network of top employers and alumni.  

Imperial is ranked 39th globally for economics and seventh in the UK. 

University of Chicago  

University of Chicago

The BA in Economics with specialisation in Data Science provides advanced training in computation and data analysis beyond core quantitative knowledge. Examples of courses available include Time Dependant Data, Data Construction and Interpretation in Economic Applications and Big Data Tools in Economics.  

Job and internship opportunities can be found through the university’s office of Career Advancement, which also provides students with interview preparation.  

The University of Chicago is ranked fourth for economics.  

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

MIT’s Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Economics and Data Science is a new major where students learn computing fundamentals and gain a multifaceted view of data science from machine learning to econometrics. The major also covers economic concepts such as game theory, incentives and multiagent systems.  

The course has attracted students from diverse backgrounds. Around 40 students chose the major in 2017, which grew to 135 students by December 2021, with more than half identifying as female.  

Graduates have explored a variety of careers, with tech giants such as Google and Microsoft represented, as well as careers in finance and management, consulting companies, logistics and data analytics.  

MIT is ranked second for economics, in addition to being the top university in the world according to the QS World University Rankings 2022.  

This article was originally published in April 2022 . It was last updated in May 2022

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Written by

Aisha is Content Editor for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, creating and publishing a wide range of articles for an international student audience. A native Londoner, Aisha graduated from the London School of Economics with a degree in Philosophy and has previously worked in the civil service. 

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