T Nation

Economics Major

Hello my fellow T-men and women.

First a little background:
I worked construction for 2 years out of high school. I developed a pretty good work ethic and I won’t be taking college for granted. I just finished up my first semester at a community college and will be transferring very soon.

I’ve been contemplating majoring in economics. I’m eventually going to law school.

Are there any economics majors out there and could you spare some advice? I’m basically looking for more information about this major. What are classes going to be like? Whats the level of difficulty compared to other majors? Any good books that I can read to prepare me for this major? Etc., etc.
Really, any info about this major would be helpful.

Carter,

I was an accounting major with a minor in economics. Today, I am a senior tax manager/CPA at a public accounting firm. Comparing the two, accounting was the more difficult subject.

I took Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Econometrics and American Economic History to name a few.

The concepts you will learn in these courses have widspread applicability and I still refer to the many topics I learned to reflect on current day events.

Any decent economics textbook will give you a good survey of the materials.

I don’t know what you plan on doing with the degree, but study hard and who knows, maybe you’ll be the chief economic adviser to the President one day.

Best wishes

Carter12,

I did Economics/Philosophy as a Dual Major and a dual Masters: Economics/MBA-Finance. At the undergrad level, econ is fairly simple stuff: a lot of graph work, some algebra and a lot of reading. At the grad level, that changes radically. You need a solid understanding of Statistics, Calculus and Matrix Algebra. You don’t need to do Engineering Calc, but if you can do it, the better off you will be. It will make so much of the stuff easier to understand.
You do alot of resolution of dynamic systems in the advanced courses. That is what most undergrads get: the finished solutions to apply some algebra to.
Not to turn you off to the stuff. It was great. I really enjoyed it. Dry to say the least, at times.

I’m doing an Accounting/Applied Finance degree here in Australia (nrly finished), but I’m sure that the basics are pretty much the same. Economics is basically a social science, so although you’ll find that it’s quite precise in its treatment using graphs and formulas at many times, you’ll also find that it does not give definite answers to every scenario. (Basically there is a fair degree of subjectivity).

Unless you’re thinking of doing Economics at a post-grad or MBA level, you won’t need too much in depth mathematical knowledge. Basic knowledge of calculus should suffice. You’d probably have to do an econometrics subject in your degree, but trust me it’s very easy. Just to end, sooner or later you’ll have to decide whether you focus on macro or micro-economics, the choice will ultimately impact on your career options.

Cheers mate,

San.

I just graduated in May with a political economy degree, for which I had to take Macro and Microecon I and II, Econ Stats, Public Finance (taxes), and Econometrics. If I had to do it over again, I’d probably focus a lot more on the mathematical side to it…although I really didn’t use too much in my advanced classes, it gives you a better understanding of how more advanced principles are derived. Midlevel classes required a lot of application and, consequently, these were my hardest classes of college bar none.

While I focused my studies more on the ways political situations affected economic policy, I had friends who studied econ and sociology together, and looked at how individual/group characteristics affect economic changes from low levels to very high levels. So there is some variability within the major, it won’t shuttle you down one path, which is nice.

thanks for the replies.

gdp and john p.:
what are you doing with your degrees? I obviously want to be comfortable financially and even more importantly, have a rewarding career that I can enjoy every day.

carter12- for what it’s worth, I have a BA and an MS in the dismal science. My MS program wasn’t heavy into the math, so I can’t speak to that angle. At the undergraduate level, I am of the opinion that an Econ degree gives one a unique and valuable viewpoint on what people actually do. It taught me, or example, to pretty much hate politicians and trial lawyers, although not intentionally.

My advice- sounds like you are bent on being a lawyer first. Talk to a few different kinds of lawyers about what they do, how they got there, and probably most important, would they do it again if given the chance.

If all of that’s a go, then pick the best path to get you lawyered up. I think that Econ would be a great background for a lawyer, but since I’m not one, I can’t speak with any cred on that.

It may not seem like it at present, but you are still very young. Don’t think that because something looks good starting out it will continue to do so down the road. If you lose a year or two trying a thing or two to find something that grabs a hold of you and compels your interest and you are good at, don’t worry. It’s alot easier to explain that than bad grades from lack of interest or poor aptitude at the wrong choice.

As to an overview of economics, Thomas Sowell has written two books, one on basic principles and the other on basic applications. Lots of the ‘right’ people don’t like him, which to me is good, and the man has some balls, big ones, which is good too.

Hope that helps.
Schrauper

Just finished my masters degree in economics.

I advise you to get a decent background in math just in case you decide not to do the law thing. I too was on the law track and decided to do something else first. With my graduate degree and some work experience, I hope to be able to do some more specialty law in the future rather than just being a lawyer.

Econ is a great degree as it is so versatile. The only problem is that depending on the school you go to, it doesn’t necessarily give you a job right away.

So to make a long story short leave your options open. Everyone says they want to go to law school. Doesn’t always work out that way.

I happen to be an Economics Minor as part of my Dual Degree (B.A. in Political Sci and Comm)…As such my econ course work is more steered to understanding components of political economy.
I too eventually want to go to law school, and you should know that for the past few years Econ majors have consistently done in the upper tier of students who took the LSAT, b/c the course work forces you to think in an analytical and logical process.
I took a course called “Law and Economics,” and increasingly, litagation and other areas of law are relying more heavily on understanding the economic impact in cases, especially torts, to reach fair decisions.
Good Luck!

One last thing - make sure you have a good mathematical background - basic calculas is essential to a lot of upper level courses.

Yeah, a math minor is almost a requirement for higher level econometris. All your calc, differential equations, maybe some linear algebra, probabilty and stats, and a couple other little ones and you’ll have a minor. Which is great for snagging a job. Since most people can’t do math… They assume you have to be a genius to do it :wink:

I have a degree in Finance, but I took a ton of economics classes, just because I found the subject so damn interesting. It was the only business degree with a lot of substance at my university. Accounting classes, which I also had to take a lot of, were just number crunching, no real “meat” if you will. A good understanding of mathematics is essential, but your prereqs. should cover this. A good book to read would be “Wealth of Nations” by Adam Smith who is regarded as the father of capitalism. Most of my econ. teachers were a little conservative in there thinking. I found out that this is usually not the case, so be aware of the fact that many professors will push their political views on you through economics. Keep your mind open and draw your own conclusions. Good luck, it is a fascinating subject.