Major 101 — Economics
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By Chen Liu

What if I’m not into computer science? What if I don’t want to become a doctor in the future? What if I’m not interested in anything that’s too humanity? What if I want to work for big companies? What if…

It’s not unusual that a high school student doesn’t have a direction; there are students that know clearly what they are heading for, and there are those who are exploring. Sometimes, students fall for a major because of a class while sometimes, it’s just because the subject doesn’t seem too difficult.

Many of my students have mentioned Economics to me. Indeed, AP Economics might be relatively easier than others. The activities at FBLA are hands-on and practical. But do students really know what they are getting into?

What It Is & What It Isn’t

Wherever there is production and consumption and exchange, there is Economics. It is not limited to the “market” we are referring to everyday (aka selling and buying); Economics exists even in the seemingly childish game such as Travel Frog.

While Economics is closely related to Business, they are ultimately different. During the first two years of college, students from the two majors basically take the same classes. However, in junior and senior years, Business focuses on the behavior and strategy of the particular organization during a certain time period or even a single campaign. In comparison, Economics studies the long-run effect; it’s more theoretical and broad. You may say that Economists are interested in the long-term effect of many businessmen behaving in the same way.

The fields

Like how computer science can be narrowed down to AI, big data, machine learning, and many other fields, there are many research directions under Economics. It’s a big plus for the applicants to show colleges their knowledge of the exact field in addition to the major itself. A few popular fields under Economics include:

  • Economic Theory: The study of “why.” It provides rigorous proof and reasoning of the theories such as carrot-and-stick. It’s extremely heavy on math.
  • Industrial Organization: Strategy-oriented. Why the price of this particular car model increases by this amount? How this chain-restaurant maintain their market share? What if there is a new regulation on the minimum wage?
  • Macroeconomic: The study of the lump–a region, nation, or even the globe. It includes many sub-categories such as money & banking, development economics, etc. You will have a lot of talks about money in this field, but first of all, make sure to familiar yourself with GDP, GNP, inflation, deflation.
  • Econometrics: Frankly speaking, it’s the application of Statistics in Econometrics. If you are interested in a particular trend or phenomenon, what data do you need to support your guess? How do you acquire the data for your analysis? Which model do you use? What can you tell from a giant set of data?

Colleges that offer good Econ programs

Of course, we all want to get into one of the Ivy’s or top 20’s, but are there more reachable choices?

  • USC
  • UCB
  • UCLA
  • UCSD
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Virginia
  • Georgia Tech
  • Boston College
  • Boston University
  • CMU
  • NYU
  • University of Washington
  • University of Wisconsin
  • UIUC
  • Purdue
  • Ohio State
  • University of Maryland
  • Penn State
  • University of Minnesota
  • UT-Austin
  • University of Florida

Prep for the major

Yes, Economics is a part of social science, but math is crucial. Though it is not one of the STEM subjects, for a few fields and graduate studies, a solid foundation of Calculus is necessary. Depending on your research interest, some fields (for example, Economic Theory) even require knowledge of advanced math analysis. Nowadays, economists conduct research using different software, especially statistical programs, so basic knowledge of programming will be very helpful if you decide to go to graduate school. And don’t forget the ability to read graphs and charts. You know what’s the first challenge in a lower-division microeconomics class? The supply-demand curve!