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Study abroad : Subject Guides

What to expect when studying an economics degree

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

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An economics degree is a popular choice for international students. The subject offers the potential to specialise in numerous related fields. From a career perspective, a degree in economics is popular because of the range of work opportunities it provides for graduates in several sectors. We’ve taken an in-depth look at what you’ll encounter when studying economics, what the subject involves and your potential career options if you choose to study economics.


What is economics?

Economics is the study and analysis of the distribution of resources. It covers many areas of human activity, from the exchange of goods for money to the provision of services. Economics focuses on the interconnections that exist in a system of resource exchange and how humans interact with this. For example, when you buy milk from a shop you’re connected to who produced the milk, the company that sells it, the price set by the store or government, the producer of the container and where you got the money to pay for it.


Economics is definitely for you if you’re interested in exploring this web of connections and it certainly extends much further than simply buying and selling goods. When studying economics you’ll understand the policies of governments, organisations, banking and even why you pay what you do for rent or university fees.


Studying economics will give you a global perspective and is an often followed path by international students studying at universities around the world. In some cases, economics is taken as a major subject in a business or commerce degree, or it can be taken as a full degree. You’ll pick up key skills and knowledge that will help you enter many careers. 


What are the entry requirements for an economics degree?

To apply for and study a degree in economics you’ll need to tick a few boxes. You must have a qualification that includes mathematics and a good mark associated with the subject. This would need to be the equivalent of a UK A-Level A (minimum B) or a good International Baccalaureate qualification (or equivalent), with maths for study in the USA. In addition, you will need to have taken a social sciences subject such as sociology, history or politics. This shows that you can take on written and research-based assignments. In addition, if you’ve taken statistics as well, that will help your application.


It’s also important that you have evidence of your English language level. This may differ between countries and destinations but a general rule is that you will need to have an IELTS score (or equivalent) of 6.0 to 7.0 with no single band less than 5.5. In some cases, you may be able to take a pathway course or a pre-sessional English course to help you meet the entry requirements.


What will I study for an economics degree?

Perhaps you have visions of trading on the stock market floor in New York or working out how you’ll save the world from a financial crash. While there are elements of these that you may cover, economics is an extensive discipline and it’s unlikely that you’ll be bored.


Naturally, you will need to have an excellent ability to work with and understand numbers with a high level of mathematical literacy. You’ll be working with graphs, sets of figures and equations. Some of the subjects and modules you could find yourself studying include economic theory, statistics, economic mathematics, investment analysis, finance (corporate, investment and international), macroeconomics, and market analysis. That’s not all, however, you’ll also tackle areas such as philosophy, politics, sociology and history. Economics can be offered as both a bachelor’s BA and BSc qualification, depending on the university.


You could also explore the different types of economics courses on offer at universities such as economics and management, business and economics, economics and marketing and so on. These programs focus on a particular area of economics which might be better suited to your career aspirations and interests.


Studying economics also means you’ll likely have a combination of lectures, seminars, assignments and examinations. It is also possible that you will be involved in group work and collaborative projects. Your assessment for the course will be a combination of your coursework and examination results over a semester and year.


What are the best universities to study economics in the UK?


Here are some of the best institutions in the UK for studying economics:



Is an economics degree the right fit for me?


To study economics you should be a person who can combine an analytical approach with an understanding of how economics operates within the wider world. It is about being open to new ideas, solutions and viewpoints that take into account numerous issues and opinions. You may be surprised by how much you study in an economics degree and the variety of areas and disciplines you’ll consult.


At the undergraduate level, you will get a more overarching view of the various aspects of economics with a focus on related areas, such as mathematics and finance. As you possibly progress to an honour’s, master’s or PhD degree the level of complexity and specialised focus increases. You may find yourself as a specialist in financial markets, taxation or even investment banking.


How important is the university choice I make?

The short answer is, it can be critical. Not all institutions will adopt the same approach to teaching economics. The university and country you choose to study in can play a role in what you learn and the lens through which you view the operation of economics. As with any field, there are many debates, new theories and disagreements. This is especially true of economics as it is so political as it deals with the distribution of resources, which in turn relates to inequality and poverty.


You could find yourself on a program that seeks to develop solutions to inequality through the development of entrepreneurial and microeconomic activity or perhaps you will be taught in line with more mainstream thinking and consensus. Some courses may give attention to alternate economics models such as Marxism, socialism or environmental economics.  


The point is that where you study will affect what you study, so it’s important to choose a university with a department where your interests are reflected, either by the academic staff or the module choices. It’s so important to do your research and talk to a university before you apply. Ask the international office questions and find out what you can expect.


What are the top universities for economics in Canada?

Here are some of  top the institutions offering economics in Canada:



What are the career options for an economics graduate?


Just as the subject of economics is broad and varied, so are the potential career options that are available. This could be everything from working at the World Bank to working in the not-for-profit charity sector. Much will depend on your interests, abilities and outlook.  Studying economics does give you a good chance of earning a decent salary, particularly as employers value the analytical and detail-oriented skills graduates of economics can bring.


You will be well-placed to provide solutions and problem-solving skills. Additionally, you’ll be ideally prepared to take on some of the real-world issues you’ll encounter in the workplace.  Having an economics degree will give you skills that can be applied to numerous fields and industries. Having studied economics you may go on to work in a number of fields including:


  • Data analytics

  • Actuarial science

  • Risk management

  • Investment analysis

  • Statistics

  • Banking

  • Stockbroking

  • Auditing

  • Economic policy

  • Quantity surveying

  • Civil service


What salary can I expect with an economics degree?

Here are the salaries you could expect in 2022 around the world:

Salaries for Economics graduates around the world

  UK Canada Australia USA
Master's in Economics GBP 39,000 CAD 68,000 AUD 81,000 USD 84,000


Now that you have more knowledge of what to expect when studying for an economics degree you may want to start looking for your perfect programme with our course matcher tool.

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