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Why Economics?

Economics is a great major for getting a high-paying job after graduation or applying for law school, medical school, business school and PhD or MA programs in economics or public policy. A recently published paper, "Will Studying Economics Make You Rich? A Regression Discontinuity Analysis of the Returns to College Major", by Zachary Bleemer and Aashish Mehta, (forthcoming, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics) finds that undergraduates with an economics major earn 46% higher early-career wages than similar undergraduates who major in a different field.

Why study economics as an undergraduate? Heading link

Economics is the study of how societies, governments, businesses, households, and individuals allocate their scarce resources. Our discipline has two important features. First, we develop conceptual models of behavior to predict responses to changes in policy and market conditions. Second, we use rigorous statistical analysis to investigate these changes.

Economists are well known for advising the president and congress on economic issues, formulating policies at the Federal Reserve Bank, and analyzing economic conditions for investment banks, brokerage houses, real estate companies, and other private sector businesses. They also contribute to the development of many other public policies including health care, welfare, and school reform and efforts to reduce inequality, pollution and crime.

The study of economics can also provide valuable knowledge for making decisions in everyday life. It offers a tool with which to approach questions about the desirability of a particular financial investment opportunity, whether or not to attend college or graduate school, the benefits and costs of alternative careers, and the likely impacts of public policies including universal health care and a higher minimum wage.

The complementary study of econometrics, the primary quantitative method used in the discipline, enables students to become critical consumers of statistically based arguments about numerous public and private issues rather than passive recipients unable to sift through the statistics. Such knowledge enables us to ask whether the evidence on the desirability of a particular policy, medical procedure, claims about the likely future path of the economy, or many other issues is really compelling or whether it simply sounds good but falls apart upon closer inspection.

Alternative approaches to economics at UIC Heading link

Our department structures its courses in order to serve students with diverse interests. Some students may only want to take one or two courses in order to learn the basics, while prospective majors might want to explore the field in much greater depth.

Students interested in 1 or 2 economics courses

Those planning to work in the health care sector may want to learn health economics, and we have a course that focuses on that field. Similarly, we have courses on law and economics, economics of education, and economic history for students in other departments or schools who would like to explore the economics perspective as a complement to their main field of study. These courses require only one semester of introductory microeconomics as a prerequisite and are well-suited for non-majors who seek to supplement their major with related courses of study or simply have interest in these areas.

Students interested in minoring in economics

Other students might want to minor in economics. Economics offers a good complement to finance majors and others in the CBA, as well as LAS students majoring in political science, sociology, mathematics, and other areas. Premeds and College of Engineering students also often find the minor both interesting and valuable.

Prospective majors

Of course economics majors can also take the courses described above as part of their plan of study. Majors gain a much deeper understanding of economic theory and have the opportunity to apply economics principles to a number of areas including finance, urban economics, labor economics, and international trade. We have a mix of mathematically intensive courses for those who enjoy the challenges of formal modeling and more applied courses that do not require calculus and focus on public policies and business.

Students who major in economics graduate with skills that are highly valued in the job market. Heading link

These include:

  • strong background in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory
  • knowledge about economic institutions
  • knowledge in various applied areas of economics
  • ability to use the analytical tools of economics in problem solving
  • knowledge of relevant mathematical and statistical techniques
  • expertise in the use of computers for the analysis of data

The economics major prepares students for careers in banking, insurance, service and manufacturing firms, real estate, consulting, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.

A major in economics also provides an excellent foundation for students who intend to continue their studies beyond the bachelor’s degree. In particular, it is a very good preparation for law school, MBA programs, programs in public policy and administration, master’s and PhD programs in economics, and graduate school in other business and social science disciplines.