What do you think Economics is? Is it a hard science used by bankers to make money? Like alchemists who conjure gold? Is it about politics and accounting? Though its ancient etymology defines it as “the science of wealth” its meaning has expanded over time, and it is now a social science of the factors influencing “well-being” as formally described by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.
How is economics different from other social sciences?
Economics borrows from multiple sciences e.g. sociology or law, to explain why and how people act to improve their well-being and wealth, e.g. behavioural economics borrows from psychology and history to analyse how past experiences may shape expectations about the future. This may lead to bad decisions.
Economist typically solve problems by:
1. Abstraction: breaking down a problem into its various components, as any one thing has various factors influencing it, e.g. any big business is run by numerous people, each with an important role.
2. Analysis: observing past data, the context, as well as what theory predicts, to investigate which choices are being irrationally made, and why.
3. Correction: tweaking or removing the source of a bad choice, potentially through policy.
Is there Maths?
This can be intimidating, but economic math is relatively simpler to that being taught to Maths undergraduates at university. While economics deals with understanding and interpreting our society, it also falls back heavily on concrete, numerical proof of what works in the economy and what doesn’t. This will involve observing numbers (as graphs or tables) to make sure mistakes are identified, and not repeated.
Communism seems like a good idea on paper until numbers prove that it doesn’t work in real life!
What skills will I have after graduating?
It goes without saying that you’ll learn the general bits everyone does when they go into university: submitting assignments on time (punctuality,) pulling all-nighters in a caffeine-induced haze (dedication and resolve) as well as interacting with a diverse and interesting crowd (breadth of knowledge and a sensitivity to others’ opinions). However, an economics degree will help you mature at university in a unique way:
● Abstraction and simplification: You see any problem as having multiple smaller components, like the cogs and wheels to a malfunctioning machine. This microeconomic perspective allows you to solve any large problem easily: it’s like lubricating a gear to get the whole machine to work.
● Innovation: Discovering the problem can take a bit of creative thinking, as may crafting the solution for that problem.
● Analytical skills: In economics and otherwise, you’ll know exactly what to look at when making a choice, and this will help you arrive at the best possible outcome to maximise your welfare. Your best friend may have told you they loved Frosted Flakes, but does that mean you should buy them too? It is only one person, after all, and it doesn’t amount to a general consensus.
● Comfort with Numbers: You’ll be at home with numbers so you can easily pick apart anything suspicious the data tells you.
● Economic Awareness: You’ll develop a deeper appreciation and understanding of how the world works when interpreting it through an economic lens.
● Bragging Rights! Not everyone is as lucky or smart to complete an economics degree at university.