What is economics?
Money makes the world go around. It plays a big part in politics, society, law, geography, and almost everything else in life. Understanding how people, companies, and countries control their money is one of the most valuable skills to any employer.
But, economics is much more than pounds and dollars. It’s a fascinating study of psychology, of why people make the decisions they make, and how resources are spread out around the world. Economics is studied in two main strands:
- Microeconomics is the study of how individual parties (people, groups, and businesses) use their wealth.
- Macroeconomics looks at entire economies. The unemployment, inflation, and monetary challenges of cities, countries, and continents.
Economics course entry requirements
Not many colleges or sixth forms offer the option to study economics. So, you’ll be looking for good grades in maths, mainly. Subjects like statistics and business will also be useful in your application. Expect to face some steep grade expectations in your conditional offers, as competition for economics degrees can be high.
A levels – Entry requirements range from BCC to AAA, with the universities and colleges most commonly asking for AAB.
Scottish Highers – Entry requirements for Highers (the most common qualification) range from BBBB to AAAAB, with universities or colleges most frequently requiring AAABB. Occasionally, universities ask for Advanced Highers to supplement Highers. If Advanced Highers are requested, universities or colleges typically ask for AAB.
Vocational courses – Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma, or an SCQF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative to A levels/Highers by some providers. It’s essential that you check alternative entry requirements with universities or colleges.
As for skills to demonstrate in your application, universities will be looking for analysis, data handling, problem-solving, critical thinking, and research ability.
- Apply by the January deadline
- Personal statement
- Submit a portfolio
- Audition for a place
- Attend an interview
- Pass an entry test
- Show work experience
I really want to study economics, but maths isn’t my best subject.
Why study economics at university?
Economics is a huge subject. It teaches you so many interdisciplinary skills that you’ll be an attractive applicant for almost any job, in any sector. The 96% of graduates who are in work or further study can expect to be earning around £26k in their first position.
As so much of economics is based in business, and so much related to the wider world, many degrees offer the opportunity to spend a placement year in industry – sometimes abroad. This kind of experience is extremely attractive to governments, banks, and international companies.
Some modules you may study are:
- Economic policy
- Legal studies
- Money and banking
- Global finance
- Economic history
- International trade
- Collective decisions
Perhaps the most obvious career choice, becoming an economist, involves a deep understanding of how various issues relate to each other. As a kind of consultant and researcher combined, economists are hired to advise on the impact of changes in anything from healthcare to education, business to energy, and law to the environment.
Of the hundreds of other jobs an economics graduate might apply for, these include accountant, banker, actuary, political adviser, analyst, insurer, statistician, and many more.
What’s the difference between finance and economics?
What can you do with an economics degree?
An economics degree can lead to hundreds of different careers, with the most common being:
It will also put you in good stead for a career as:
- policy officer
- political adviser
- business development
- data scientist
What’s it like to study economics?
The nature of an economics degree means you’ll be covering lots of different subjects, and then linking them back to economics. This is where those transferable skills will be learned, as you’ll gain an appreciation of politics, law, finance, geography, history, globalisation, and much more.
Most economics degrees are three years long, studies as a BSc or BA. The BSc will be more technical, with a greater degree of mathematics, statistical analysis, theory, and techniques. The BA will still focus on these core elements, but will branch more into sociology, psychology, and other social sciences. Both will teach and require skills in investigation, big-picture thinking and problem-solving.
Like many degrees, you will master the essentials of economics in your first year, and then begin to choose modules to suit your interests and specialisms. These might include development economics – which relates to the improvement of society and wealth, labour economics – which studies employments and skills, or urban economics – which looks at how cities are designed and developed.
Economics undergraduates can expect to be doing the following during their studies:
- writing reports and essays
- attending lectures and seminars
- hearing from business speakers
- placements and industry experience
- project and team work
You’ll spend a little less time in the classroom than most students, with around nine – 15 hours of tutor time each week. This is in keeping with the kind of jobs you might find yourself in, which can feature a lot of independent working, and require motivation and determination to manage your time effectively.
Are you considering an accelerated degree? Click here to read more about the possibility of completing your undergraduate course in two years rather than three.
If you want to combine work and study while earning a salary, you could consider an apprenticeship. Which apprenticeships are available, and how you apply, depends on where you live.
Find out more about apprenticeships across the UK.
There are nearly 40 apprenticeships in the legal, finance and accounting sector available in England, with more in development.
Each apprenticeship sets out occupational standards for specific job roles, designed by employers. The standards outline the skills, knowledge, and behaviours required to demonstrate that an apprentice is fully competent in the job role.
Higher apprenticeships (Level 4)
Degree apprenticeships (Levels 5 – 7)
- Accountancy/Taxation professional
- Professional economist (degree)
- Relationship manager (banking)
- Senior investment/Commercial banking professional
- Senior professional economist
Discover more about apprenticeships in accounting and finance
Our guide has all the info you need to know about doing an apprenticeship in this industry. Find out what it's really like from current apprentices and decide if it's the right route for you.
Accounting and finance industry guide