A Brutally Frank Assessment of an Education in Economics

I’ve long believed this to be the case, but it’s nice to hear it from someone who teaches the subject, one France Wooley who, in her spare time, writes at the Worthwhile Canadian Initiative blog:

It’s hardly a secret to anyone who’s worked in an economics department: some students enroll in economics because they want to study something that seems vaguely useful, but they don’t have the grades, or the mathematics and language skills, to make it in business or engineering.

Economics programs typically have relatively few essay requirements, and require little by way of verbal skills. Relative to traditional arts and humanities subjects, the reading lists are short and manageable. The math gets challenging at more advanced levels, but most of undergraduate economics requires nothing more than high school level calculus. My third year course (open to non-majors) requires about grade 10 or 11 level algebra.

As a result, at most Canadian universities, economics attracts some students who are not strong academic performers (if they were, they were be in their first choice, business), and who don’t have much intrinsic interest in economics. They just want a qualification that will help them to get a job.

I was expecting some push-back in the comments, but after reading just the first few, this turned up:

Nice post Frances, this basically sums up my academic career. Went into mathematics originally and couldnt hack it, dropped out for a bit, went back for economics because it was “easier” and it was something I was becoming more interested in. Around third year I realized it was going to be a tough job market coming out with just a BA in economics for the exact reasons you state, I had no technical skills that would make me stick out from an average arts BA (not many businesses need mediocre econometricians). Luckily I made it into grad school and am now working doing policy analysis in an economic unit for the government…

Not what I was expecting - apparently they’re brutally honest at that blog too…

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