On the surface, the subjects of economics and business are quite similar – they both involve the exchange of goods and services. And for the most part, professors agree that students who earn a bachelor’s degree in one of these subjects go on to pursue the same type of work. However, these two subjects are taught very differently in academia. To begin with, business degrees are usually taught at separate business schools, whereas economics degrees tend to come under social science schools. So how do you pick another one if the results are the same?
It all depends on your interests, what career path you want, and how special you want to be.
Difference # 1: The concepts taught in economics degrees are more pervasive than those studied in business degrees, because business schools are more devoted to teaching skills that are directly related to the business career path.
“Generally I would think of our business degree, and any business degree as more of an interdisciplinary degree than an economics degree,” said Maia Young, Associate Professor in the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine.
Young explained to him that this interdisciplinary aspect of business school shows how there are people from various disciplines who come together to teach about the way they view business.
“For example, we have people in business schools who have psychology training, sociological training, economics training, or [information systems], so there are many different points of view that come together in business schools.”
On the economic side, there are more “big picture” concepts of how business and commerce work, and how to determine the optimal solution.
“Economics is thinking about what is socially optimal, so the problem of how markets work and how markets fail, and the social implications of tremendous pollution, or inequality or monopolies or infrastructure, things like that,” said Mark Witte, Study Director. Bachelor of Economics at Northwestern University .
Based on the general structure taught, different orientations of economic and business studies are evident.
“Business is about what will make things profitable and viable, whereas economics is more about the big laws we think society works for, how they can give us bad results or good results,” said Witte.
And of course, these two groups of students found interesting different things that apply more at one level than the other.
“If you’re really into real estate or accounting, then business is definitely the direction to go. But, if you are more interested in social issues about inequality or market failures or fishing in the oceans or destroying the climate, or you are more interested in thinking about how social choice mechanisms work to decide what policies we pursue, then economics is the more way to go. , “Said Witte.
Difference # 2: Economics studies are broad, and more theory-based, while business students typically become specialized in a particular area of business school. This difference in specialization is clear when you look at some of the main subdivisions of the business school: accounting, finance, marketing, management, etc., in contrast to the less part economics degrees.
“Generally economics is considered a pure discipline and in business schools [courses] are more applied, so that the things students can take from a business degree more directly reflect the functional units in business,” Young said. “So its application in the workplace is more evident because the curriculum truly reflects the challenges of delivering products and services to people and also reflects the type of work people do in business.”
Business skills teach hands-on and marketable skills in a specific area of business. However, this means that students must decide what they want in order to narrow their focus at the start of their academic career.
“Someone who is majoring in economics has more options, while someone who is majoring in accounting wants to become an accountant. So you have to know from the start that that’s what you want to do. The openness of [the economy] is attractive to students, ”said Brian Jenkins, Assistant Professor of Economics and Director of the Department of Undergraduate Studies at the School of Social Sciences at the University of California, Irvine.
Jenkins therefore describes how many students who know they want to dive into the general fields of business and economics, but are unsure which path they want to take could benefit from the theory and broad scope of business studied in economics.
“It leaves a lot of doors open, but at the expense of not specializing early,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins suggests that if a student wants to apply these theories to a specialization to bring about both benefits, that student must double the major or minor in the free subject.
Difference # 3: Although the initial career prospects for the two types of degrees are quite similar, the knowledge brought in and therefore the career trajectories differ. Professors on both sides said many former students went to work for financial consultants or firms, in sales or data analysis, or other entry-level business jobs after college. However, students’ learning curves and desires for their long-term career paths vary between degrees.
One of the main differences in students graduating from these different schools is that business students usually want to jump right into their career.
“People who choose business anticipate that they will be able to jump right in and apply what they have learned from school into their work environment,” says Young.
Business students are eager to start the professional world, while Jenkins shares that quite a number of economics students go on to earn masters or Ph.D. Those who are not, are well equipped to learn quickly and think critically, and choose from a variety of first jobs. However, they may have to do more job-specific learning and training on the job.
“There are a lot of economics courses that have no immediate relevance, but you have to be creative, have the ability to think abstractly, and learn things independently and employers find those things valuable,” says Jenkins.
People graduating from college with economics or business degrees can start similar jobs, but their accumulated knowledge is unique to one another in the themes and skills that are prioritized in their classes. Hence, these students have unique strengths and weaknesses as they enter the job market as well as further in their careers.