Accounting is just one of several disciplines found in the field of business. Another business subject that has some similarities with accounting is economics. Both degree pathways can be valuable fields of study for aspiring business professionals, but they both equip graduates with slightly different skills and prepare them for slightly different career paths. While both areas of study have advantages, the benefits of choosing accounting over economics include a more specialized curriculum, an easier career path and clearer opportunities for advancement.
More Specific Curriculum
Although economics courses are often offered within business schools, economics itself is usually considered a social science. Economics deals with resources such as money, land, labor, raw materials, and consumer goods and how individuals and societies make decisions to deal with scarcity of these resources. There are two main specializations in economics, macroeconomics and microeconomics, but there are also many subspecialties within economics . Macroeconomics deals with the workings of the national or global economy, whereas microeconomics focuses on the decision-making of individuals, families, businesses and organizations.
As a broader field of study that emphasizes human behavior, economics is generally a less specialized and more theoretical field of study than accounting. While accounting students study the principles and practices of financial reporting, taxation and auditing, economics students complete courses in public policy, labor markets, trade and monetary theory, and game theory. Economics majors cultivate an overarching perspective or framework they can use when thinking about a number of topics, from finance to politics and even the arts. However, they have developed less technical skills, such as the practice of applying accounting principles to making balance sheets and tax forms, than their counterparts in accounting programs.
Some colleges offer specialized dual degree study programs that allow you to dual major in accounting and economics , while others prohibit students from pursuing both majors.
A More Straightforward Career Path
It is clear that many graduates of accounting degree programs usually go on to become accountants, although some have instead sought jobs in business related fields, such as auditing or finance. Economic student career paths are less clear. While economists are job titles, these jobs are small, comprising just 21,300 workers across America, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports. Nearly a third of all economists in the US work for the government at either the federal or state level. To get one of these somewhat rare jobs, you’ll usually need at least a master’s degree, if not a Ph.D.
That does not mean that economics students are not constantly looking for work, rather, that the opportunities they find may require more searching. Many of the most desirable jobs for economics majors are actually in accounting. However, having an economic degree doesn’t give you preference in finding work for accounting roles. Many entrepreneur accountants are looking for candidates with the specific technical skills and knowledge that differentiate accounting degree programs from economics degree programs. If you do not have an accounting background, you may find it difficult to compete with candidates who have accounting backgrounds.
Other jobs for graduates of undergraduate economics programs include financial manager , financial analyst , personal financial advisor or, with special postgraduate education, urban or regional planners . The median salary for this job ranges from slightly higher to much higher than that of an accountant. However, there could also be competition for this role from candidates with backgrounds more directly related to the field, such as finance.
Despite a focus on social science decision-making, economics programs require students to develop quantitative and qualitative skills. At a minimum, economics students will usually have to complete courses in calculus and statistics.
Accounting Advancement Opportunities
In accounting, the options for career advancement are often very clear. Earning a master’s degree, obtaining professional certifications such as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license and simply gaining enough work experience to qualify as a senior-level accountant can all increase your salary, marketing, and the complexity of your job duties.
Since the career path to majoring in economics is not very easy, it may be difficult for these students to develop plans for an eventual career advancement. During much of their undergraduate studies, they may not know what their career will be like. They have to make difficult decisions, such as whether to go to graduate school and what subjects to study if they do.
Accounting students often take internships at accounting firms. Internships can also be useful for economic majors, and can include research or business opportunities at banks, think tanks, academic institutions, and government entities.