1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Ecnomics or physics degree?

  1. Jul 12, 2011 #1
    Which will be better to have for a job, physics or economics? I know on the undergraduate level that there are not many high paying jobs, but I have interests in both fields. I like physics because it is heavily math based and it is good to have a good knowledge of science, but economics opens the door for careers in business which is what I find may be worth-while because of what the company may turn into it. As well, it is good to know economics to invest in things like stocks.

    What do you think or recommend?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 12, 2011 #2


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    It depends on your preference. Now, if you only care about money, probably a business degree then it's better for you. The problem with an economics degree is that only if you get a PhD in Economics you'll be earning a high salary. I am talking ON AVERAGE, of course. On average, an economist with a PhD earns more than an economist with just an undergraduate degree. Thus, it requires quite a bit of effort to study for about 10 years just to start earning significant amount of money.
  4. Jul 12, 2011 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Have you considered engineering? They earn fairly high salaries with just a bachelor's.
  5. Jul 12, 2011 #4


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    This is true, especially for Petroleum Engineers. However, I think the OP should focus on exploring those two fields, and perhaps some engineering fields first before deciding only on salary.

    I think salary is important, but should not be the reason for choosing a specific degree.
  6. Jul 14, 2011 #5
    To me salary and how much you like the job is important. However, I want to have a good knowledge of the investments and I know that I will not get that with a physics degree. Does anyone know that studying economics will benefit the my knowledge of investments?
  7. Jul 14, 2011 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I suppose specializing in the field of "econophysics" is out of the question, eh?

  8. Jul 14, 2011 #7


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Are you willing to go to graduate school in economics? What level of depth are you looking for? how many years are you willing to spend?

    It is not unheard of in economics for mathematicians, physicists, and engineers to apply to graduate school in economics with no economics background whatsoever.
  9. Jul 14, 2011 #8
    In the UK, economics has one of the highest starting salaries at the undergraduate level, only behind dentistry and medicine... although most of the jobs that economics graduates do can also be done by physics grads too. So you do decide on economics, move to the UK. :tongue:
  10. Jul 14, 2011 #9


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Is this true? I doubt this statement is accurate. Economists salaries are high, but only for economists with ample knowledge of quantitative methods which is obtained at the graduate level (at least a Master's). Economics undergraduate degrees are for the most part not really that mathematical in comparison to graduate degrees. For example, multidimensional integrals is a topic usually not presented to undergraduate economics students.

    In fact, open a undergraduate book on econometrics, and compare it to a graduate level. The focus is so different. At the undergraduate level the use of canned software packages and interpretation of results as well as common diagnostic tests are emphasized. At the graduate level, the whole mathematical modeling machine is explored along with econometric specification and estimation of a student's own econometric models. This requires programming, and in some cases advanced knowledge of Monte Carlo Simulation, and other similar methods.

    This doesn't mean that there are no jobs for economists with undergraduate degrees, but an engineer at the undergraduate level on average will have a higher starting salary.
  11. Jul 15, 2011 #10
    While we don't keep entry-level salary stats back home, I can confirm for at least one more EU country that those who have finished an Economics degree don't get paid peanuts when compared to other fields. And from what I heard, yes, their salaries usually higher than those of engineers, although I'm not willing to put my money where my mouth is there :biggrin:
  12. Jul 15, 2011 #11
    The best degree is the degree you finish.

    Curiously enough, this isn't true.
  13. Jul 15, 2011 #12
    You won't get it with an economics degree either. Everything that you need to know to do personal finance, you can read on the internet or take a class on personal finance at a community college.

    Not really. Just like learning to pilot a 747 won't help you plan a vacation to Hawaii. Different skills.

    Curiously enough a lot of advanced economics is based on the mathematical principle that you *can't* consistently beat the market.
  14. Jul 15, 2011 #13
    It's also quite common for people with physics Ph.D.'s with no formal economics training to get jobs on Wall Street.

    It's a dead field. One of the problems with using advanced physics math to model economics is that it's not that useful if you can't get large numbers of people to understand that math, or if it turns out that the process can be understood with less advanced math.

    One problem is that "so what?" question. For example, it turns out that there is a very deep connection between general relativity and currency trading. You can think of currency trading as a change in coordinate systems (i.e. measure something in dollars, then major something else in euros). If you try to impose a condition that things remain symmetric in one coordinate system, you get an extra term which in general relativity is called "gravity" and in finance is called a "quanto correction."

    It's pretty cool. But you tell a trader that and he'll look at you and ask "so how do I make money from that fact?"
  15. Jul 15, 2011 #14
    Does it matter? In the first two years you can take both the physics and economics courses, and only then decide which one to pick. There's no rush. You can always change your major. You can even double major, it's very hard work, no doubt, but it's doable.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2011
  16. Jul 15, 2011 #15
    I know. I will be taking economics and physics first year. However, I don't want to double major. If I want to get a physics degree I want to get a specialist physics degree and a minor in mathematics. This is to prepare me for grad school
  17. Jul 15, 2011 #16
    British economics degrees are extremely quantitative - probably much more so than engineering degrees. Statistics certainly show that in the UK economics degree holders have some of the highest starting salaries, only behind dentists and doctors. Engineering here typically pays very low; what inflates the figures for engineering is that many engineering graduates will go into finance - particularly accountancy - banking, consultancy, etc.
  18. Jul 15, 2011 #17
    I suppose you mean Quantitative Analysts, but how common is it? And there are no requirements which you usually don't obtain by just following a Physics academic path (B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D.)? Would you mind to elaborate a little further? I'm quite interested in the subject.
  19. Jul 15, 2011 #18


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    I have no doubt about that. However, you may be grouping Economists with graduate degrees vs. Economists without graduate degrees. Economist students are more likely to go to graduate school in comparison to engineers (that is the expectation). The reason is Economists must handle quantitative tools. The reason Economist exist is to analyze data and compare it versus theory (established or new mathematical economics model). For example, revising for vertical integration of activities, is it less costly to integrate or separate activities in the production, also about scale production, does the produce increase above proportionally given the inputs?.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2011
  20. Jul 16, 2011 #19
    I'm definitely not. In the UK the best economics students won't even bother with postgraduate degrees because they'll already have jobs lined up in the banks, insurance firms etc. Economists here are least likely to do a postgraduate degree because it's a subject that tends to attract a high amount of the people who are "in it for the money" and there is no premium for postgraduate degrees here except in very rare circumstances.
  21. Jul 16, 2011 #20
    I don't have any first hand experience with any of those people but I am inclined to agree based on what I have read around on the internet. Especially certain parts of a certain UK-based forum.

    Another interesting thing is that, in many of the "big universities", Mathematics and Further Mathematics are required subjects to study Economics.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook