Is Economics a Hard Major? 

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

People checking financial trends

Is Economics a Hard Major?

As a student, you might wonder why economics is considered a challenging major. In the United States educational system, economics is a major that consistently ranks among the most sought-after in schools and universities. The high number of students interested in economics makes this field one of the most competitive.

Studying economics gives you an understanding of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. It impacts everyone and serves as the cornerstone of how organizations operate, earn, and profit. However, if you have reservations about studying economics as a major, your feelings are entirely valid. The subject might seem particularly challenging if you’ve never studied economics before or if mathematics intimidates you.

Writing in a paper using a pen.

Economics courses at the college level can be challenging since students are expected to understand new concepts such as supply and demand, scarcity, diminishing returns, and opportunity costs. To succeed, you’ll need to develop both your critical thinking skills and your vocabulary. However, each concept, hypothesis, and term builds upon the previous one. As you progress through the course levels at your college, you’ll advance up the ladder as your level of comprehension and expertise grows. Insight into economics can benefit you in both your professional and personal lives.

How Hard is Economics as a Major?

Economics is challenging at the undergraduate level because it encompasses various disciplines, including business, mathematics, accounting, sociology, and psychology.

To the question of whether economics is a hard major, the answer varies. Some aspects of economics are undoubtedly challenging, while others are more straightforward. For instance, understanding the relationship between supply and demand, which causes prices to fluctuate, is relatively simple. However, there is a common misconception that economics revolves only around statistics and that economists solely use equations and graphs to determine prices. This isn’t the case.

Economics is multifaceted, leading to numerous career avenues. Obtaining a robust foundation in all its diverse subfields can be daunting given its interdisciplinary nature. A successful student typically exhibits critical thinking, mathematical aptitude, and stellar writing abilities, and a keen interest in the subject matter.

A student paying attention to lecture in classroom.

One challenge students face is the breadth of subjects they must grasp concurrently, often seeming unrelated initially. For instance, understanding macroeconomics requires a grasp of the entire economy, whereas microeconomics delves into individual behaviors. One could alternatively focus on foreign versus domestic trade, or delve into financial subjects such as management, accounting, and banking. This diverse coursework provides a comprehensive view of economic systems.

Economic theories encompass concepts like supply and demand, price elasticity, inflation, unemployment, interest rates, and fiscal policy, especially within macroeconomics.

Several factors determine the difficulty of an economics degree:

  • The institution attended.
  • Geographical location of study, as academic rigor varies by country.
  • Specific area of interest necessitating certain elective courses.
  • Future career aspirations, be it in academia or industry.

A typical economics degree comprises at least 15 prerequisite courses and eight or more advanced courses, with some universities requiring additional electives. Course availability and prerequisites vary by institution, so prospective students should consult university websites for specifics.

Economics is notably theoretical, and abstract topics can be challenging. As students progress, especially in the latter half of their undergraduate years, the underlying logic of economics might become more intricate. Course selections in advanced years are flexible. Those inclined towards psychology or history might opt for electives like behavioral economics or economic policy. Conversely, math enthusiasts might lean towards mathematical economics or statistics. The university’s reputation and ranking can also influence course depth and difficulty, with higher-ranked institutions often being more rigorous.

What are the Ways to Make Economics Less Difficult to Learn?

Economics can be a challenging subject to study. Therefore, it’s prudent to seek methods to simplify the learning process. Here are strategies that can make your journey in economics more manageable:

Avoid Multiple Challenging Classes Concurrently

It’s advisable not to enroll in many tough courses in the same semester. This might not always be feasible, especially in the later years of your studies. However, if you do decide to take on multiple demanding classes, prepare to dedicate substantial time to self-study, which might lead to stress and potentially impact your GPA negatively. Plan your academic path in consultation with an advisor to space out rigorous courses.

Consider the Professor

The difficulty of a course often hinges on its instructor. They determine the pace, workload, exam weightage, and content. Before committing to a class, you can check student reviews on platforms like ratemyprofessors.com. As you advance in your studies, you might find limited choices in professors; in such cases, weigh your options carefully.

Plan Your Semester Early

Organize your academic calendar as soon as you get the syllabus for each class. This proactive approach helps you avoid missing deadlines, prepare for exams, and identify potentially busy weeks.

professor teaching in class

Always Give Your Best Effort

Consistently performing well in assignments not only bolsters your GPA but also preps you for exams. Although exams might hold more weight, regular coursework can significantly impact your final grade.

Review Chapters Before Tackling Problems

Instead of jumping directly to assignments, first, review the corresponding chapters. This approach provides context to problems and deepens your understanding.

Seek Help When Necessary

If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. Before seeking help, make a genuine effort to understand the problem yourself by revisiting lectures, and chapters, or utilizing online resources.

Prepare in Advance for Tough Classes

If you anticipate difficulty with a specific course, consider pre-studying using platforms like Edx, Coursera, or YouTube. Complementary books with good reviews can also be beneficial.

What are the Best Schools to Study Economics?

Various factors, including faculty expertise, research facilities, opportunities for experiential learning, and overall academic reputation often determine the best schools for studying economics. Here’s a list of some renowned institutions known for their economics programs, alongside an explanation for their esteemed reputations:

Harvard University

Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard is often at the top of global rankings for economics. Its faculty includes numerous Nobel laureates and noted scholars. The university’s resources, combined with a rich tradition of academic excellence, make it a prime location for economics study.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Known for its rigorous curriculum and world-class faculty, MIT’s economics department has made significant contributions to various subfields, especially macroeconomics and econometrics.

Stanford University

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford combines strong academic rigor with a unique position close to tech industries, providing ample opportunities for research and real-world applications.

University of Chicago

With a history of producing numerous Nobel Prize winners in economics, the University of Chicago is known for its unique economic theories and rigorous analytical methods.

Princeton University

With a focus on both theoretical and applied economics, Princeton offers a comprehensive study experience, bolstered by a strong faculty and commitment to research.

Yale University

Yale’s economics department is noted for its contributions to development economics and econometrics, providing students with a holistic understanding of global economic issues.

University of California-Berkeley

UC Berkeley’s economics department is renowned for its research, especially in labor economics, economic history, and econometrics.

To conclude, while economics might initially seem daunting, persistence and passion can make it accessible. Your commitment and the above strategies can significantly streamline your learning experience.

Want to learn more about studying economics? You’ve come to the right place. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.


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