Benefits of Majoring in Economics

1. The Economics major provides the preparation for understanding economic issues of great importance: Economics students learn to think creatively and deeply about some of the most important economic concerns facing the world today. You learn to apply a variety of theoretical perspectives to issues of economic efficiency, economic growth, globalism, social justice, wealth and poverty, power, individual freedom, discrimination, cultural values, and environmental concerns. Every day we hear about economically related problems on a global scale:

  • Computer engineers in the United States lose their jobs as a Silicon Valley research lab closes its doors and relocates its facilities in India where engineers are willing to work for half of what engineers get paid in the U.S. Do decisions such as these have on balance positive or negative economic outcomes and for whom?
  • The President places a tariff on imported steel from other countries to protect the domestic steel industry which is claiming unfair selling practices by other countries. What constitutes unfair selling practices in international markets and are protective tariff policies good ones?
  • Famine is reported in the Sudan while a recent study shows that obesity is a growing problem in the United States. What are the causes of global hunger and poverty, is it a production and/or distribution problem and what can or should be done about it?
  • Students, labor activists, environmentalists, and other social activists demonstrate and protest around the world in Seattle, Washington, D.C., Genoa, Prague, and Pittsburg against the World Trade Organization and other international economic organizations. Is economic globalization good or bad? Who benefits and who loses from the global economic policies of organizations such as the WTO, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank?

Domestic economic concerns are also prevalent in daily news reports:

  • The financial and economic crisis  which began in 2007 came dangerously close to a complete breakdown of the U.S. financial system in 2008 and it is causing widespread economic hardship in 2009 for millions of people who have lost their homes and their jobs.  What are the causes of this crisis and who is to blame? Are government bailout policies to shore up the financial sector and stimulate the economy good policies and are they working? Critics claim that they are just giveaways to the corporate wealthy and will ultimately saddle government with huge deficits. Who is right and what kinds of government policies might promote healthy economic growth, put people back to work, and restore faith in financial markets?
  • Corporate management practices at some of our premier corporations such as Enron, WorldCom, General Electric, and Tyco have had dramatic and sometimes devastating consequences for employees and stockholders. How should we deal with such practices? Do competitive market forces provide sufficient correctives or do we need more public oversight of corporate practices?
  • Many if not most Americans believe that the Social Security Program  is unsound and some believe the privatization of social security will solve the problem. What is wrong with the social security program, is there really a crisis and if so will privatization fix it?
  • Women and people of color in the U.S. continue to make considerably less income on average than white men, even within the same occupation. How do we account for such differences, is it the result of discrimination or is it the result of fundamental differences in individual skills and abilities or preferences? If discrimination is the problem, then what kinds of anti-discrimination policies should be adopted?

Economics is very much concerned with policy issues such as these and the major in Economics provides students with the analytical and critical thinking skills necessary for understanding these and other troubling problems facing the world.

2. The economics major provides substantial intellectual depth and interdisciplinary breadth as well as critical thinking. The Economics major allows exploration of a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary views on economic questions and policy. The Economics faculty represents an unusually wide range of specialties as well as a variety of traditional and non-traditional approaches to economics. Our courses are part of and the economics faculty participate in most all the interdisciplinary programs at Dickinson including American Studies, Environmental Studies, Latin American Studies, International Studies, International Business & Management, Policy Studies, and Women's Studies. As a result of this intellectual depth and breadth, Economics majors learn to think critically about economic issues and problems.

3. A major in economics offers students hands on learning opportunities. Economics courses offer students the opportunities to do computer simulations, economic experiments, create economic web pages, and participate in field work research projects. For example, in a recent Economic Analysis of Policy course students engaged in a faculty supervised project to measure the economic impact of Dickinson College on the local economy. In another course, students were engaged in a faculty supervised research project on labor market outcomes for Dickinson graduates. In other courses, student created web pages on a particular research project. In all cases, you get the chance to apply what you are learning and you gain valuable research experience in research design, gathering and analysis of data, and computer skills.

4. An Economics major is good preparation for graduate school in Economics. Graduate study in economics requires a strong foundation in economic theory and mathematics, both of which are integral parts of the economics major. Many top graduate programs recommend as a minimum four semesters of college mathematics. Courses in mathematical economics and econometrics also provide valuable preparation in the quantitative skills that graduate students usually need. With an adequate mathematics background, a Dickinson economics major can compete successfully at any top economics program. Dickinson graduates have successfully completed Ph.D.'s at top graduate economics programs such as Notre Dame, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Brown, among others.

5. The Economics major is good preparation for Law School. An economics major is viewed favorably by law schools and many of our economics majors go on to law school. Law and economic principles are often closely related, and the concepts and tools of economics are used with frequency by legal scholars to analyze problems in law, focusing on contracts, property, torts, and legal process. Additionally, majoring in economics will provide you with the intellectual discipline and analytical abilities necessary to succeed in top law schools. Past economics majors have attended law schools at Harvard, Michigan, and Chicago.

6. An Economics major is good preparation for a Masters in Business Administration program. MBA programs look with favor upon the records of applicants with undergraduate majors in economics and many of our majors have gone on to MBA programs. Economics gives you the analytical skills along with the quantitative and computer skills valued in business and finance. The ability to apply economic theory to business decision-making is also valued. Note that MBA programs give preference to those who have two or more years of experience in business, public administration, or non-profit organizations. Be aware also that skills of clear and organized thinking, writing, and speaking, all skills that are developed in the economics major, are highly valued in MBA programs. Our economics majors have attended schools such as Harvard, Penn, Duke, and Michigan.

7. The Economics major provides an excellent foundation for any career or graduate study in pubic policy analysis. Economics is one of the keystones of public policy analysis, and both employers and graduate schools in public policy and administration require a strong foundation in economic analysis. The emphasis placed on policy analysis, applied economics, and quantitative skills makes Dickinson economics graduates particularly well prepared for careers as policy analysts in many different fields such as environmental policy, health policy, labor policy, community development, and social services.

8. An Economics major is good preparation for many private and public sector jobs and careers in managerial, administrative, or sales positions. Employers look with favor on college graduates with economics majors. The ability of economics majors to apply economics can enhance the kinds of decisions people make and is therefore of value to a wide variety of different employers. Studies of Dickinson graduates reveal higher average incomes for economics majors. Although higher income is only one consideration when choosing a job, economics provides students with a broad range of analytical, quantitative, and communication skills that are useful in many different occupations in management, finance, banking, public administration, non-profit organizations, and community service.