The Major

Economics is a popular major that attracts successful students on many college campuses around the wotld.

Why Major in Economics?

1. Economics deals with vital current issues.

Economics drives the most important issues of the day.  How can we fix the current financial crisis and recession?  It's economics.  Will the job you want be outsourced to Bangladesh?  It's economics.  Can we provide affordable medical care to all Americans?  It's economics.  Can we shift away from fossil fuels quickly enough to forestall global warming?  It's economics.  Even such "non-economic" issues as terrorism and changing family values come down to basic economics. Economics is splashed across every front page every day.  It fills our newspapers and pervades our politics.  The relevance of economics to vital social and individual choices attracts many students.

2. Economics is a successful social science.

The accomplishments of economics have established it as the most successful social science.  We have developed and pushed competitive policies leading to unprecedented levels of output and wealth.  In recognition of our scientific success, the Royal Swedish Academy of Science awards an annual Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, the only social science to be so honored.  The President of the United States maintains a Council of Economic Advisors; no such permanent agency exists for any other social or natural science.  Economic thought literally has transformed society.  As John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1936, "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist."

3. Economics has a rigorous and successful theoretical structure.

For students who become impatient with the many conjectures that often characterize social sciences, economics can provide refuge. Economists develop rigorous scientific models to organize facts and think about policy alternatives.  We make behavioral assumptions, work out the logical implications of those assumptions, and use sophisticated statistical techniques to test these implications with real-world data.  Developing theories with predictive content is a goal of every science, and economics leads the social science pack.  The rational choice model underlying economic theory has proven to be so successful that we now are busily exporting it to other social sciences.

4. Economics opens a variety of future options.

Some majors are dead-ends or lead to relatively few alternative futures.  Not economics.  Alternatives for economic majors are unusually varied.  They include business, finance, journalism, policy research, education, administration, politics, government service, labor relations and many types of graduate study.  In the eyes of many employers, economics majors are a preferred employment risk.  Employers know that economics is not a major for students seeking an easy ride.  They know that the analytical rigor and demands of economics attract better students seeking a challenge.  To be a graduate in economics is itself a valuable credential and explains why salaries of economists are higher than those earned by other social scientists.

More importantly, because economics stresses analysis rather than facts, economists are well placed to meet the changing needs of modern jobs.  What matters in today's world is not what you know.  Information becomes outdated quickly.  Facts change.  Issues change.  Jobs change.  What matters is your ability to think.  Employers need people who can think, who can analyze new issues and solve new problems. That's what economics is about.  Economics is not a body of facts; it is a way of thinking.  In the words of a vice president for a multi-billion dollar investment firm, "Economics teaches us to confront problems, to size them up, and wrestle with creative solutions.  That is what firms hire you to do."

5. Economics is fun.

That's right, it's fun. Where else can you interlace analyses of oil prices with theories of love and marriage?  Economics is not just about stock markets and unemployment rates.  Economics is about choice - all kinds of choice. The same economic way of thinking that can analyze Microsoft's pricing strategies can shed light on law and crime, on love and marriage, on biological evolution, on life and death, and even on religious faith. Economics is everywhere.

Some of the best minds in the world study economics.  A list of those who have majored in economics includes former Presidents, Supreme Court justices, and Secretaries General of the United Nations; and a host of other fun and interesting people including Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, Rolling Stones star Mick Jagger, Actor Paul Newman, NASA Shuttle Commander Eileen Young, Rapper Young MC, and golfer Tiger Woods.

The American Economics Association has excellent web pages describing undergraduate education and careers in economics.

Students at Winthrop may choose to pursue a B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in Economics.