For the High School Student – A Career in Economics?

What are you going to do after studying economics? This is a common refrain. One does not ask this question to someone who is studying Medicine or Engineering. Why? – Because the answer is obvious – one becomes a Doctor or Engineer! Well after studying Economics, one can certainly become an Economist, but the truth is that the vast majority of students, who join for the BA Economics, do not pursue a career in Economics. Many serious students view the degree only as a stepping stone to the Civil Services. Like in other spheres of education, after a basic degree, one can specialize in various branches of economics too. The options include monetary economics, fiscal economics, international economics, development economics, labour economics and so on and so forth. With a degree in Economics one could become an actuary, financial analyst, investment banking analyst or labor relations specialist. Various employment opportunities exist in international organizations such as IMF, IBRD (World Bank), UN, etc. However my personal feeling is that none of these jobs give as much satisfaction as being a pure economist pursuing research.

What is there to study in economics? (A common question which all those who study economics at school level have!). From my exposure to Economics at school, I thought that this involved only a lot of theory. I was really surprised to find that I was terribly wrong, for I soon came to know that the subject is in fact all about mathematics! So if you have a deep hearted liking for Economics make sure that you like math or start liking it before it’s too late. I have come across students who were desirous of studying Economics, but then changed to other subjects, due to their lack of knowledge or apathy toward math. One reason for this is that in school we have no clue to as to why a lot of set theory, binomial theorems, calculus, and coordinate geometry are taught! Actually these topics are used quite extensively in Economics too. There is a lot of statistics involved too. Generally the teaching of economic theory at the Plus II level is sufficient, but there is inadequate emphasis on Math as applied to Economics. As you progress in Economic studies there is a substantial increase in math. Therefore keep in mind to take up as many quantitative math papers as possible during your Undergraduate degree course in Economics. This will ultimately help you in your quest for the highest degree in economics, namely a Doctorate degree. The alternative is to take a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics or statistics, and then proceed to an MA/MSc Economics degree before a Doctorate in Economics.

Even in the present day, the trend among most students in South India, is to try for a seat in either Engineering or Medicine. Hence there is a clamour for seats in the science stream at the Plus II level. Consequently there is great pressure to obtain a high percentage of marks in the Class X, Final exam so as to obtain admission to the Science stream. Generally admissions to the non science do not require such high marks. Therefore it is usually the students with relatively less marks (which can by no means be equated with less ‘brilliant’) who opt for the Arts and Commerce streams. This is the dismal reality! I for one would like to see more toppers in the School finals opting for Economics!

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