Economics is an exciting major because it’s the study of both people and numbers. It can lead to a wide variety of interesting career choices, many with abundant opportunities and high salaries.
Of course, the idea of a “good” major is relative. A good major for you is one in an area that you enjoy and excel in. You may also want to consider what you’ll study, which courses you’ll take, and your future career and salary prospects.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to decide whether economics is a good major for you!
What Is Economics?
Economics blends social science and mathematics. It’s the study of how people make decisions; use resources; and produce, distribute, and consume goods and services. It often involves topics like finance, scarcity, and wealth.
Often, economics is hard to define because it affects so many aspects of life. It’s used to make predictions and understand historical trends, and it informs both the big picture (public policy) and personal choices (household financial decisions). It’s at the heart of understanding and potentially solving many of the world’s biggest problems, including poverty, unemployment, and inequality.
What Careers Can I Go Into with an Economics Major?
Earning an economics major opens the door to a wide range of careers. You can work in banking, business, politics, law, research, or academics. You can help individuals, families, and organizations make financial decisions. You can even help predict economic trends on a much bigger scale.
Although many of these jobs will accept an undergraduate degree, some require you to pursue graduate study. Here are a few careers you can go into with a background in economics:
- Credit analyst
- Data scientist
- Economist (e.g., macroeconomist, microeconomist, public finance economist, organizational economist)
- Economic consultant
- Financial manager
- Financial risk analyst
- Financial planner
- Market research analyst
- Management consultant
- Policy analyst
- Business journalist
Earning a major in economics also builds a firm foundation for careers in law, politics, business, and public affairs. Some students choose to earn an undergraduate degree in economics, then pursue graduate school in these areas. So, if you’re interested in working as a lawyer, politician, or CEO, a major in economics is one potential path.
How Is the Job Market for Economics Majors?
As you pursue an economics major, you’ll gain extremely valuable workplace skills, such as:
- Critical thinking
- Data analysis (huge in the digital era)
- Quantitative reasoning
- Mathematical skills
- Knowledge of business and markets
These skills make you an excellent candidate for more jobs than you might expect. And as you can see from the list of jobs above, many of these don’t have “economist” anywhere in the job title. The job market is good for economics majors because you’re qualified for numerous careers related to business decision-making, finance, and data analysis. Most companies have a need for experts in at least one of these areas.
But let’s get more specific. Here’s the job outlook for a few of the most common careers for economics majors, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Economist: 14% projected growth rate through 2029
- Actuary: 18% projected growth rate through 2029
- Financial Manager: 15% projected growth rate through 2029
- Market Research Analyst: 18% projected growth rate through 2029
- Financial Analyst: 5% projected growth rate through 2029
As you look at these numbers, keep in mind that the average projected growth rate for all occupations is 4%. For each of the economics-related careers listed here, the job growth rate is higher than average. In most cases, it’s much higher than average!
Every business needs to understand consumers, money, and how to leverage this knowledge to become more profitable. And individuals and families want to make better financial decisions too. The skills and knowledge of an economics major are extremely valuable to almost anyone, from individuals all the way to major organizations and even the federal government. It’s safe to say the job market is great for economics majors!
What Salary Does an Economics Major Earn?
Since an economics major can choose from a wide variety of careers, there’s also significant variation in the salary you might earn. To give you an idea, let’s look at the same five common jobs for economics major listed above. This time, we’ll focus on the average salary.
- Economist: $105,020
- Actuary: $108,350
- Financial Manager: $129,890
- Market Research Analyst: $63,790
- Financial Analyst: $81,590
Several of these jobs can earn you six figures, and the rest offer solid salaries too. Similarly, data scientists earn an average of $117,345 annually, and management consultants bring home about $105,461 per year. When it comes to salaries for economics majors, there’s quite a range—but there’s plenty of opportunity to earn a high salary.
What Do I Study as an Economics Major?
Economics majors study mathematics and statistics, business and finance principles, and—of course—economics. This includes supply and demand, taxation, trade, unemployment, inflation, competition, monetary policy, exchange rates, and an understanding of markets.
You’ll learn about various theoretical models, which economists use to draw conclusions and make predictions. In addition, you’ll develop your analytical and logical thinking skills, as well as your ability to understand and explore complex relationships and variables.
What Classes Does an Economics Major Take?
The classes you’ll take will depend on the requirements at the school you attend. However, here are a few sample courses to give you an idea:
- Principles of Microeconomics
- Principles of Macroeconomics
- Micro and Macro Theory
- Analysis of Economic Data
- Economics History
- Money and Banking
- Behavior and Strategy
- Data Analytics and Economics Analysis
- International Macro-Finance
- Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy
- Decision Making
- Industrial Organization
- Comparative Economic Systems
- Energy Economics
- Public Finance
- Transportation Economics
- Economics of Education
- Economics of Human Resources
- Futures and Options Markets
- Economics of Global Poverty
- Economic Development
- Behavioral Economics
Of course, you won’t take all of these courses. In college, you have some flexibility in choosing classes that interest you and directly relate to the career you’d like to pursue. You will likely be required to take Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, classes in statistics and calculus, and additional courses related to economic theory and modeling.
After that, you’ll narrow your focus to a specialty or specialties. As you begin to take higher-level courses, you can choose the topics that seem most relevant to you. These might include international economics, personal finance, public finance, business economics, economic development, population studies, economics in education, or something else entirely. The choice is yours!
What Schools Offer an Economics Major?
Most colleges and universities offer an economics major or a closely related degree. According to U.S. News, some of the best schools for students interested in economics are:
- Harvard University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
- Princeton University
- Stanford University
- University of California-Berkeley
- Yale University
- Northwestern University
- University of Chicago
- Columbia University
- University of Pennsylvania
- New York University
- University of California- Los Angeles
- University of California- San Diego
- University of Michigan
- University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Cornell University
- Duke University
- University of Minnesota
- Brown University
- Carnegie Mellon University
- University of Maryland
- University of Rochester
- Boston University
- Johns Hopkins University
- Boston College
- Pennsylvania State University
- University of Texas- Austin
- Washington University in St. Louis
- Michigan State University
- Ohio State University
- University of California- Davis
- University of Illinois- Urbana-Champaign
- University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill
- University of Virginia
- University of Washington
- Vanderbilt University
Since economics is a fairly broad degree, it’s likely available at most of the colleges you’re currently interested in. Visit each college’s website to see if they offer an economics degree, then click around to learn about the program in more detail. You can also talk to current or former students or find online message boards to learn more about whether the program is a good one.
How Do I Know if Economics Is a Good Fit for Me?
You’d make a great economics major if you’re interested in using analytical thinking to understand behavioral patterns, solve policy problems, or make business decisions.
Some helpful skills for economics majors include:
- Critical thinking/reasoning
- Logical thinking and problem solving
- Interest in people, society, and math
- Curiosity about how the world works and/or how to improve it
You don’t need all of these skills to be a successful economics major. But if you have most of the skills mentioned here, you’re more likely to excel at economics and enjoy it!
What Steps Can I Take in High School to Prepare for an Economics Major?
If an economics major is sounding great to you, you’re probably wondering: What can I do now to prepare to major in economics?
It’s never too early to start preparing for your future career. Here are a few steps you can take in high school:
- Take advanced courses, especially in mathematics. Sign up for calculus, statistics, and perhaps a course or two related to business, psychology, or sociology. If your high school offers economics courses, definitely take those too! You can even learn about economics in most courses related to history or politics.
- Earn a high GPA and excel on standardized tests, including AP/IB exams.
- Participate in extracurricular activities related to business, finance, or mathematics.
- Read books or watch videos about economics and relevant careers to learn more information independently.
- Develop communication and leadership skills in class and through extracurricular activities.
These steps will set you up to get into a good economics program and hit the ground running. Once you’re studying economics in college, build your network by forming relationships with professors and peers. Consider looking for an internship related to economics (particularly in a career field you’d like to pursue). You may also want to minor in business, public policy, finance, or another area you think will be useful in your future career.
After earning your degree, leverage the network you’ve built to continue your education in graduate school or to begin your dream career.
Final Thoughts: Is Economics a Good Major?
If you’re interested in people, society, and numbers, pursuing an economics major is a great way to blend your passions. You’re likely a good fit for the major if you have solid critical, analytical, and logical thinking skills and you’re good with numbers.
And no matter how you classify a “good” major, economics is certainly a solid choice. Job prospects are plentiful and varied, you have the potential to earn a high salary in the six figures, and economics is a key factor in solving many of society’s most pressing issues. Earning a major in economics can lead you to an interesting career, plenty of money, and the ability to change the world.
So, if all of this sounds interesting to you, then an economics major is definitely worth considering!