Asked by ShaanEconomics 📈

A few days ago I was having a debate with my aunty if economics is a good subject to take at university. She said economics is a generalised subject and doesn’t involve any specialisation, in comparison to jobs like medicine and law so during recessions economists are most likely to become redundant due to their usefulness. I was wondering what careers economics can give you after graduation and whether this statement is true?

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Ismail Jeilani

BSc Political Economy | Ex-Google | 7 years Teaching Experience

This is probably my favourite question. There's a lot I'd like to say but I'll try and keep it brief! The first thing is, your aunty is coming from a good place. Traditionally, that was the mindset. A specific degree gives you a specific job. That's why subjects like medicine can be appealing. The problem is, things have changed a lot in the past 15 or 20 years. For one thing, there are way more graduates. This means that now, it is a lot less likely that a degree will give you *any* specific job. Wha matters most is transferable skills, which most degrees provide. A good indicator is to look at graduate jobs. When you look at the job descriptions, very few places ask for specific degrees. It's actually quite common to see companies request "a degree in any subject or equivalent". This is because employers are less concerned with what you studied, but more with the transferable skills that you gained. At best, they may request a 'numeric' degree. On a more sociological perspective, I've found that there is a generational difference around the purpose of degrees. In my opinion, low income and instability (usually driven by war or migration) from a previous generation usually drive 'safe' degrees like medicine and dentistry. Perhaps subconsciously, they would like their children to have a level of stability that they themselves couldn't have. At least I found that to be true from my own personal experiences, and it's definitely something that I empathise with. The logic is this: since you are doing a degree to get a job, choose a degree that is most likely to give you a job. What you're finding more and more today is that the subject itself holds significantly less value than it used to. As a result, you find engineering graduates who become bankers, English Literature graduates who become photographers and Political Economy graduates (like myself) who end up working for tech companies and startups. I'm definitely grateful for my degree as I enjoyed the subject. I never chose my degree because I thought it would get me a job. Any job offer or position I've held has been because of the skills I've developed in my life. The degree was just a cherry on top 😊

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