Is your heart leaning towards an economics degree, but your head is still holding you back?

Maybe you’ve been interested in economics for a while now, but worried whether an economics qualification will be worth the time and investment? Will you do an undergraduate economics degree at a university or a diploma in economics and how will you choose the best place for you to study at?

Your curiosity around economic issues is the spark that will hopefully ignite a passionate career in economics. Completing graduate course of study in Economics can open doors for you in government or business, but landing the perfect job means you’ll have to aim to be the best in class.

Here’s why we believe an undergraduate degree in economics is a great decision with some tips and tricks on how to make your graduate studies a giant leap towards your future job.

Getting a job
A formal qualification in Economics will significantly increase your chances of landing a job - Image from pexels by Andrea Piacquadio

Why Study Economics?

The study of Economics is a fascinating, ever-changing world. It’s a study of how we as humans deal with the complexities in managing scarcity. How we strike the careful balance of resources to best maximise production output as we produce goods and services.

Economics will remain relevant as long as we continue to create better lives for individuals, companies and countries.

Natural sciences, like physical science and chemistry, are factual in nature. Economics is however classified as a social science because of its direct relation and inclusive study of human behaviour.

This causes much debate as economists continue to combine quantitative methods usually related to mathematics with social issues. Applied economics and economic problems are solved through highly scientific econometrics, quantitative modelling or statistical analysis. But economic consultants also have to consider human issues like the supply of labour, political influences and behavioural economics that influence the socio-economic climate.

For this reason, a lot of scholars feel that every young economist has to explore and discover their own definition of economics.

Regardless of whether you believe it remains part of the social sciences or a natural science, Economics has continued to make valuable contributions to humanity. To date 52 Nobel Memorial Prizes in Economics have been awarded and economists created ground-breaking work like the game theory and ways to try and alleviate poverty around the world.

Economic Scarcity
Economics combines social, ethical and political issues with the sometimes conflicting financial and capitalistic objectives - Image by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Economists are easy to employ as they not only have the experience in economic data, economic research, forecasting and analytical skills, but they’re also able to look at an issue from various perspectives. Applying critical thinking and problem-solving skills comes easily to them. They are also important contributors to the financial and banking sectors as they guide and consult for government around monetary and fiscal policies to drive strategic objectives.

The relevance of economics at university, employability of graduates and contributions economists make to societal well-being are only some of the reasons why it’s a great degree to study. Economics will also benefit the student directly as it provides them with a wide range of skills and tools required not only for future careers, but for life in general.

What You Can Learn When You Study Economics?

An economics degree in South Africa will expose you to world-class professors. The departmentS of Economics at our prestigious universities offer diverse, practical economics programs to prepare economics graduates with a variety of skills for a professional business or economics career.

Economic courses will give you a solid introduction in economics if you choose to major in economics. General economics, economic history, economic principles and economic theory will cover things like macroeconomics and microeconomics. You can venture into financial economics or apply economics as more business orientated in a BCom Economics programs. Universities also have options for those with an aptitude for maths and science in degrees like BSc Economics.

If you are more interested in humanitarian issues and politics, you can study an economics degree program like BA Economics. This is a great option if you do not have mathematics at matric level. You can also chase your dream by first doing a diploma in economics as bridging course towards graduate studies. Be sure to read our other article advising on the degree admission requirements.

Elective courses like accountancy, calculus, transport economics, international economics or health economics will not only keep your studies interesting, these courses will also allow you to discover different specialisation fields for your future career in Economics. To do this, most economists continue their studies to complete a Master in Economics or an Economics PhD.

Is Economic a passion
Is Economics your passion? Choosing the right degree will enable you to learn and explore it before making up your mind - Image by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

You will discover a lot about your interests and potential options for a career during your graduate studies, but it’s always good to have a general idea in mind. Here are some questions you can explore:

  • What are your career-goals?
  • Do you have an interest in Business and Economics, economic research or public economics that can address issues like inequality?
  • If you are majoring in economics, what job are you aiming for?
  • What other related interests do you have and will a double major appeal to you?

The great thing about degree studies is the fact that you will also learn valuable transferrable skills. These are skills you can use and utilise, regardless of the job or workplace. Ensure you consider whether the university degree or college course you plan to study include development of skills like these:

  1. Communication and listening skills
  2. Negotiation skills
  3. Presentation skills
  4. Approaching and debating issues from various perspectives
  5. Emotional intelligence
  6. Professional Conduct
  7. Business and Economics writing
Discovering the right career
Studying something you are passionate about will open up a whole new world for you - Image by Josh Hild on Pexels

Choosing the Best University for You

South Africa comes out on top when comparing the best universities across the African continent. The university you choose will not only be influenced by your financial situation, but also the quality of study and the degree program you choose to study.

Here are some tips to help you choose the university that is right for you:

  1. The best location – Are you looking for an affordable stay at home option? The cost of study might mean you have to work while studying and lodging with family. If you can and want to study in the city, Pretoria and Johannesburg are good options. Cape Town universities are ideal if you want to experience the beauty the Western Cape has to offer.
  2. Quality of the faculty – Researching the faculty and where famous economists in South Africa studied will give you an insight to the universities who create employable graduates. Researching the faculty, their studies, papers and popularity might also help you in your decision on who you prefer to learn from and don’t be afraid to ask about the faculty credentials and achievements.
  3. Focus area of study – Every university has their own syllabus and courses from one economics degree might differ from the next. Ensure you follow a study path that gives you the electives and courses that interest you, but also qualifies you to specialise in the field in economics you plan to pursue.
  4. The campus life – What does campus look like and would you be excited to study there? Do you think you will fit into the culture of the university as this will determine greatly whether your studies will be enjoyable and successful?
  5. Cost of study and scholarships – How expensive is the university and how does the cost and quality compare to other universities offering the same degree? Include the cost of living like your food, rent and transport, especially if you are planning to go to an out of town university. Most universities offer scholarships so be sure to enquire and find out about the best student loans to assist you.
  6. Duration of degree – How long will you have to study and how does this link back to your financial planning? Acquiring an Honours or Master’s degree in economics means additional years of study, but this might be worth it in the long run if it gets you into the company where your dream job is.
  7. Contact hours and degree assessment – How are they making up the contact hours of study? Will you be doing a blended learning approach, online or classical classroom style approach? People have different learning needs and you need to find the one that matches you best.
  8. Job-prospects – Does the university you consider deliver students that are employable? Ask or find online the percentage of their graduates who are employed within a year of leaving university as this is a good indicator.

The minimum admission requirements and competitive nature of graduate studies can make it quite challenging to get accepted. It would be wise to apply to more than one university, but we also recommend you remain open to an alternative course of study towards your dream career and remember to speak to career counsellors or academic advisors if you need some guidance.

University utilities
Not all universities have the same facilities. Visit the universities you plan to attend before you apply - Image by Davide Cantelli on Unsplash

Will It Be Easier to Get a Job?

Only one third of students currently continue to land a job in the career they qualified for. This is however mostly out of choice as students tend to be a bit impatient and most universities report that the majority of their students find employment within 6 months from leaving university.

The best strategy to ensure you land a job is to be in the top percentile of your graduation class. Companies seek out fresh new talent by selecting the best graduates from universities, while the government is always on the lookout for smart, kind and politically savvy graduates to add value to communities in the public sector. Be on the lookout for internship programs as you might be adding more value to your degree by gaining some practical experience.

The earning potential, according to Business Tech, for South Africans is generally much greater if their qualification type is a Bachelor of Commerce or Bachelor of Science. There is however constant movement in the demand and related renumeration within the job market. The best would be to follow your passion for Economics and the world of economics will open up as you go.

Study options
Take some time to consider your passions and write-down the questions you can ask an academics advisor ahead of your university visit - Image by Ketut-Subiyanto on Pexels

Making the Most of Your Studies

Yes, you are entering a new phase of your life, making new friends and possibly discovering a new city for the first time, but to study a degree is an expensive exercise and we want you to make the most out of it.

Becoming an A-level economics graduate will take hard work and commitment. Your willingness to learn and the ability to adapt and apply your skills in a ‘can-do’ attitude will not only help you rise to the top of your class; it will also get you recognised by future employers.

 To ensure you maximise your learning also ensure you do the following:

  • Attend lectures, make studying daily a habit and remain disciplined
  • Utilise experts and professors by asking as many questions as possible. You can also contact a Superprof tutor who can help you with a study plan and exam preparations.
  • Become a subject matter expert in economics. An economics tutor will explore economic theories and challenge your perspective around current events to ensure you remain curiously engaged with economics
  • Most of all, don’t forget to have fun. Reward yourself with something social or relaxing weekly.

We need smart and informed future economists like you to become our future leaders. Good luck with the application process and your first years of study. May you soon be one of the valuable economists who contribute to a thriving South African economy.

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Writer and qualified yoga instructor, who is passionate about health and well-being.