The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

Why study Economics abroad?

Find out everything about studying economics abroad, from entry requirements to career opportunities and more!

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Economics... what is it?


Economics, at a very basic level, is the study of how humans distribute scarce resources. From this simple starting point emerges a fascinating area of study, one which is at the basis of everything we do – everyday things, like going to the supermarket to buy milk, are bound by a web of connections and interactions that can only be explained by Economics: who produced the milk, why is it the price it is, and where did you get the money to buy it from – what even is money? 


This may or may not fascinate you, but Economics isn’t simply a study of buying and selling things: as the famous British economist John Maynard Keynes said of the ideas of economists, “the world is ruled by little else” – to study economics is also to understand, for example, the 2008 financial crisis and the responses governments took to it, these responses engineered by economists.


Economics is also global in scope, making it an ideal subject for students who wish to study abroad: in a globalised world, universities recognise that subjects like Economics are enriched by the experiences and knowledge of students from acrosss the world, just as the future of our economies rely on their skills.


That makes it a pretty big deal.


What to expect from an Economics degree... and what will be expected from you?


An Economics seminar


OK, you’re not going to be drawing up plans to save the world from the next financial crash if you choose to study Economics (not just yet, anyway), but you won’t be bored. 


Economics is a very broad discipline – there is so much to be covered, so much to learn. It’s arguably a science, and you'll need to be good with numbers, but you’ll also be dealing with theory and philosophy, politics and history, so it’s certainly not all graphs and figures – at the London School of Economics, ranked 25th on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-2017, undergraduate Economics degree requires applicants to have A Levels in Mathematics, but also an essay-based subject like History, for example. 


There’s labour economics, and econometrics; you’ll need to know the difference between micro and macro, and orthodox and heterodox; a module on the economics of business will not be the same as one on the economics of development. Economics certainly isn’t a one-track course.


All of these factors lead Dr Dean Garratt, Senior Economics Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, to say that a student of Economics should have a very particular approach to their studies. They must be analytical, yes, but also able to “engage with an audience effectively and … willing to embrace ideas and solutions from different viewpoints and, where necessary, from outside of economics,” showing a “willingness to embrace a range of issues and opinions.” 


Indeed, Dr Garratt suggests that students are often surprised by just how much they study on their courses – but after all, “anything involving a consumption or production choice is of interest to economists.”


There is of course a difference between Economics at the level you study it. As is to be expected, studying economics at an undergraduate level will give you an expansive overview of the various aspects of the subject, while developing you in interrelated areas, for example mathematics and statistics. As you progress in your studies, you will have the option of specialising in more specific areas of interest, especially if you decide to go on to further studies.


Where you study will make all the difference...


Different universities will have different focuses


It should be pretty clear by now that economics isn’t a dry study of stats and numbers, but it still might come as a surprise to hear it’s a subject rife with controversy. Yet it makes lots of sense: Economics seeks to explain the world we live in, with all its inequality and poverty, whether income disparity or the gap between developed and undeveloped nations. This makes Economics inherently political. Economists can get a share of blame for the state of the world, too – consider the financial crash, which economists were blamed for not adequately ‘predicting’.


Within the subject, too, there are plenty of disagreements. While the dominant branch of economics – mainstream or orthodox economics – is predominantly taught at universities, there are many strands and schools of economics that are critical of mainstream economic thinking. You may have heard of Marxism or Keynesianism, but did you know, for example, that there are feminist or environmentalist economics? One university that specialises in non-mainstream, or heterodox, economics is the University of Sydney.


The point is that where you study will effect what you study, so it’s important to choose a university with a department where you interests are reflected, either by the academic staff or the module choices. This will make your time studying a lot more enjoyable, and will also allow you to focus on areas you think will be most beneficial to your future developments.


Will you be able to study it?



If all this sounds promising to you, it’s important to make sure you’ll be eligible to study Economics before you apply.


Requirements for international students will vary from university to university, and country to country, but most courses will require you to have a grounding in Mathematics, Statistics, and possibly a Humanities subject, for example history. It is also likely that you will be required to demonstrate your understanding of the English language, for example with an IELTS qualification.


Where will it take me?


Just some of the words associated with the careers taken by Economics graduates.


So will studying Economics get you a job on Wall Street or at the World Bank? Maybe. But there are also many other options.


For Dr. Garratt, the “beauty of economics is that it gives students a passport to a variety of careers” in which they are “highly valued and well financially rewarded as a result.” In particular, employers value the “analytical rigour they bring to a problem” and “ability to get to the fundamentals of problems and provide solutions.” This combination of skills has lead Dr. Garratt’s students “to work in the areas of consultancy, finance and public service,” while Nottingham Trent University also has “a long tradition of students going on to undertake further study.”


The appeal of Economics students for employers is clear, with a degree in the subject often preparing students with experience of “many of the real-world issues that both academic and professional economists tackle” and requiring them to “be regularly working with economic, business and financial data specialist software” and “economic tools and techniques to analyse the important issues of the day,” according to Dr Garratt. Whether you decide to join an NGO to help develop models of sustainable growth, or simply want to work in a high-street bank, you will develop numerous transferable skills.


How much will I earn?


How much money will studying Economics earn you?


These specialist skills mean that not only are the options for employment abundant, they pay well. A study by the Complete University Guide in 2013 suggested that the average starting salary for an Economics graduate in the UK was £26,630, while the average starting salary across 61 other subjects was £22,057. This is a pattern that is repeated across the world, with some variation: for example, in Australia the average starting salary for an economics graduate in 2013 was $52,500, roughly £32,500GDP. 



Economics is at the basis of everything we do, and the functioning of healthy societies requires people who understand how the economy works. After studying Economics abroad, whether you choose to return home, or find that home is somewhere else entirely, the skills you develop will be vital anywhere. Start this journey by finding your ideal Economics course today.

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About Author

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Ben Conway is a content intern for Hotcourses Abroad and WhatUni. He’ll be writing lots about why students should consider studying everything from Anthropology to Physiotherapy. If he looks distracted he’s probably deep in thought about what words should go where. Outside of work he enjoys weird electronic music and weirder books.