In the modern age of consumerism, people’s needs are increasing day by day, while the availability of resources is not keeping pace. While it isn’t really an easy task to understand how the allocation of resources should take place, studying economics can definitely give one a significant headstart. Reason? Well, an economics major during his graduation years studies key concepts related to the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, which explore the fundamentals of resource allocation. This learning can then be quickly and regularly put to the test in real world scenarios in day-to-day life or in one’s newspaper and other readings.
So, are you planning to pursue Economics after Class 12? Without further ado, go through this in-depth comprehensive guide to understand what economics means, eligibility to pursue an economics undergraduate degree, the career prospects after graduating, the top places to study economics and much more.
What is Economics?
The English term 'Economics' (short for economic science) was derived from the ancient Greek term 'Oikonomia', which means prudent management or housekeeping. Today, it has evolved into a field which studies the question of the prudent, or efficient, allocation of resources for every category of decision-making agents in an economy – broadly classified into households, firms, the government and the rest of the world.
It explores questions of the production, consumption and distribution of goods and services, including money, labour and foreign currency. These are studied through the tools of supply and demand, interacting in the market for each good or service.
Why study Economics?
By studying how various agents in an economy behave, a student of economics aims to eventually understand how the economy as a whole behaves, so that she/he can make beneficial policies and offer incentives to steer it in the right direction.
At a more micro level, this will enable you to form sound corporate strategy for a firm you may work for, since you are able to understand government policies and the direction in which they are likely to take various markets. If you have a business venture of your own, then too, a knowledge of economics can help it navigate the economy’s business cycles.
Even if you aren’t thinking that far ahead, studying the behaviour of individual consumers and households will help you make better decisions yourself, including with regard to managing your personal budget more efficiently.
What is the eligibility criteria to pursue a Bachelor’s in Economics?
Students who want to pursue graduation in economics must have completed Class 12, in any stream, from a recognized board Indian or international Board, e.g. CBSE, ICSE, State Boards, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge A Levels.
Most top colleges and programmes in India as well as overseas will require students to have studied Mathematics up to Class 12, since knowledge of Calculus and Statistics comes in very handy when pursuing undergraduate studies in economics. In fact, Economics will get more and more mathematical as you progress through the undergraduate degree, and from it to a postgraduate one, so it is best to pursue an Honours degree purely in Economics only if you don’t dislike Mathematics.
What are the types of degrees: BA (Hons) Economics vs BSc (Hons) Economics?
For ages now, whether economics is a science or an art has been debated, and the jury is still out on that one! This has led to a duality and created confusion among students about which type of degree qualification to choose. Both BSc (Hons) Economics and BA (Hons) Economics, being bachelor in economics degrees, can be pursued after completing 10+2 years of schooling. The difference in the nomenclature of the finally degree awarded comes only because of different academic institutions’ belief about whether economics is an art or a science, and in turn because of slight differences in curriculum and learning outcomes.
For example, in the UK, most institutions in London, including the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) award a BSc (Hons) degree for an Economics undergraduate programme, while Oxford and Cambridge award a BA. Even within India, this dichotomy persists, with University of Delhi awarding a BA (Hons) and University of Calcutta awarding a BSc (Hons) to Economics graduates. In terms of the curriculum and learning outcomes, the BSc (Hons) generally takes a more analytical or quantitative approach than the BA (Hons) does. Where this holds true, a BSc (Hons) graduate also becomes better placed to progress to a top Master’s programme in Economics around the world.
What are the subjects taught at the undergraduate level?
In a degree programme, the exact course structure may vary from one university to another, but introductory and then intermediate microeconomics and macroeconomics, mathematics, statistics and econometrics are the absolutely essential ingredients a good programme would have. These will form the majority of one’s first two years of study in a 3-year programme, or most of the second and third years of study in a 4-year programme where the first year is comprised mainly of General Education courses which are of a basic level and are discipline-agnostic.
For the remainder of credits on the Economics undergraduate programme, most reputed colleges and institutions will then allow students to choose electives from a range of specialisations within Economics, such as international economics, monetary economics, further mathematics, development economics, behavioural economics and public policy, or in related fields such as Finance, Management or Data Science. In 4-year programmes in the US, the “liberal arts” approach to undergraduate education means that the electives can also be in completed unrelated fields, ranging from Physics to Music and Theatre.
How long does it take to get a graduate degree in economics?
Globally, there are two broad paradigms with regard to the length of an undergraduate programme in general, including in Economics. In most institutions in the UK and in India, as well as in many other parts of the world, a full-time degree programme is three years long, during which time one must earn 120 credits. The emphasis here is on rigorous, specialised study to hone skills in the field of Economics, or related to it.
On the other hand, in the US, Canada and some other countries, an undergraduate programme is typically four years long, even though the requirement here too is to complete 120 credits. These credits may be divided in such a way as to earn a major in Economics, along with another major, or minor, in any related or unrelated subject (the former is called a double major or double degree programme). The emphasis is on imparting a broad-based, liberal arts education, with the major subject being the core of one’s knowledge, possibly complemented by the other major or minor.
Which are the prominent places to study Economics?
Based on the QS University Rankings 2019, 18 of the top 20 universities for economics are situated in the US or the UK. Harvard, MIT and Stanford lead the pack in the US, and LSE, Oxford and Cambridge rule the roost across the Atlantic. Even if one looks at other ranking systems or follows popular perception, the list would remain largely unaltered. What this means is that an undergraduate education in Economics from these institutions truly helps one stand out among the crowd, by equipping students with deep, application-oriented learning and an ability to apply these to diagnose and attempt to solve complex real world problems. This gives their careers a proper head-start, by making graduates attractive for employers and postgraduate colleges alike.
The other countries and regions featuring prominently among the top 50 include Singapore, Canada, continental Europe and Australia. By comparison, even the highest placed Indian university for studying economics – University of Delhi – is ranked between 201 and 250, with the other top options being University of Calcutta, IIT Bombay and University of Mumbai. This reflects the general lack of quality research and teaching in India for the subject, compared with the top institutions in the world. This in turn leads to outmoded course curricula, which, coupled with poor capacity-building and pedagogy, inevitably means that aspirational students are unable to apply what they learn to tackle real world problems after graduating.
This is where institutions such as Indian School of Business & Finance (ISBF), a Teaching Institution of the University of London, bridge the gap and play a crucial role in helping the best Indian undergraduate students gain access to the LSE’s world-class and cutting-edge education in Economics.
Check out to know Career Prospects after Economics (Hons) from University of London
What are the career prospects after BSc in Economics?
The job market is evolving faster than ever. Yet, an economics graduate’s analytical skills, the ability to interpret data and make forecasts, and understand consumer behaviour, make her/him attractive to prospective employers across a wide gamut of roles and sectors, including corporate, government, non-government, development and academia. Whether an economics graduate takes to work after undergraduate or postgraduate study, she/he can certainly look to carve a career in the following fields.
A degree in economics offers students with keen analytical, logical reasoning and communication skills, which are highly sought after by corporate employers across the board.
Economics graduates can therefore dream to work for top consulting companies such as Boston Consulting Group (BCG), McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company, Accenture, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and KPMG. They could also find employment in banking and financial services, including cutting-edge areas like investment banking, financial market trading, structuring and research, and also the more traditional areas of investment management, stock broking and mutual funds.
Economics graduates are also very well placed to take up a professional career in actuarial science or risk management, which is both lucrative and intellectually rewarding. Another very promising career at present, and one where economics students have a natural edge, is data analysis, also known as business analytics, data science or Big Data analytics. In fact, with most firms moving online to varying degrees and thus collecting unprecedented amounts of data, many other functional areas of corporations are becoming data-driven. One such area, which has also traditionally been a top recruiter, is marketing, where data analysis is becoming imperative to improve the efficiency of corporate decisions and spends.
Given their attractive “base” skill-set, economics graduates can also look to branch out into areas such as corporate finance, human resource, operations, accounting and many others.
Government and Non-government Policy sectors
Economics graduates can explore career options at research institutes like National Council of Applied Economic Research, Indian Council of Social Science Research and Institute of Economic Growth in different capacities due to their ability to analyze, devise and predict economic trends. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) hires economists in the banking domain via their different recruiting examinations. Students may also opt to write the Indian Economics Service (IES) examination, to become part of public economic policy either with the government or the central bank. There is an extensive demand for economic majors by the government bodies due to their subject matter expertise and ability to strategise and creative incentive structures.
Economists can also contribute to policy in the non-governmental space, by working with policy think-tanks, international foundations, impact evaluation agencies and other developmental organisations. The pinnacle in this sector could be considered to be employment with a UN agency, including the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. This inevitably requires a Ph.D. in Economics, and continued involvement in research, generally as part of some eminent educational institution or university.
Studying economics is one of the obvious choices for those who are planning to become an entrepreneur or to grow the family business. Reason? Economics teaches a budding entrepreneur about the optimal utilisation of resources and equips her/him with the ability to understand the dynamic economic and policy environment in which the venture will operate. These learnings are extremely useful when strategising to drive market share, investor value, top-line and bottom-line. Besides, the “base” skill-set of strong analytical and communication skills are also very handy with day-to-day problem-solving in one’s business enterprise.
Is further study needed after majoring in Economics?
An Economics undergraduate degree in enough to get one a strong placement from one’s college, in any of the corporate sectors mentioned above, and also in think-tanks and select development organisations. In fact, this is a very good way to evaluate one’s career choices, for working in the real world helps clarify many misconceptions and pre-conceived notions. However, from a long-term career perspective, it is advisable to complete postgraduate study at some point in one’s journey, especially after the work experience has helped one understand what one wants to study and specialise in.
The Economics undergraduate degree can be a gateway to a host of related Master’s programmes, aside from Economics itself. These could include Business Administration (MBA), Finance, Management, International Relations, Political Science or Public Policy. While the MBA is a great platform from which to launch/re-launch one’s career in the corporate sector, other Master’s programmes emphasise on developing more specialised knowledge and exposing students to research in the chosen field.
After the latter, one can choose to go back into the world of work straightaway, or specialise further by pursuing a Ph.D. Backing the Master’s up with a Ph.D. makes one eligible for teaching positions at prestigious institutions around the world, and also makes one a very strong candidate for policy-making at all levels – national, international and corporate.
How much does an Economics graduate earn?
If one chooses to work after a quality undergraduate degree in Economics in India, one can expect to earn an average of Rs. 5 to 8 lakhs per annum in a strong, well-defined role with good growth prospects. This number rises to about Rs.10-15 lakhs per annum after completing a top Master’s programme within India, and can be significantly higher after a Ph.D.
If completing one’s degree overseas and working there, the average remuneration would, of course, depend on the country in question, but will always be very competitive. For instance, according to raw earnings data compiled from tax records by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), economics degree holders are the highest earners in the UK. It is worth mentioning in this context that graduates of the LSE curriculum are eminently employable, with an economics graduate from LSE usually earning the most by the age of 29 years.
Famous people who studied economics
Extremely successful and globally renowned individuals from myriad careers and fields come from the background of an undergraduate education in Economics. There are, of course, thhe eminent economists themselves, of whom India has produced several, such as Amartya Sen, who taught at LSE, Urjit Patel and Kaushik Basu, who studied there, Raghuram Rajan, Jagdish Bhagwati, Manmohan Singh and many more.
Other famous people who studied economics include world leaders such as former US President George W Bush, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, business tycoons Warren Buffett, Elon Musk and Chanda Kochar and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley , to name a few.
In a nutshell, Economics is one of the most promising undergraduate degree options in today’s globalised world dominated by market incentives. It also lends itself very well to inter-disciplinary study thereafter, combining with politics, business, finance, history, geography, law, sociology, psychology and many other areas. I am, therefore, hoping that those of you who were sitting on the fence have, after reading this guide, decided to take the plunge.