If you’ve ever heard me talking about my degree I am normally complaining about the maths involved or about the sheer amount of seminar sheets I have been avoiding. But an economics degree is a lot more than that, and truthfully I know this and I do actually enjoy it, I’m just an unreliable narrator.
I often wonder how I will manage to link my two main interests: economics and writing, in the future. Ideally after I graduate I will be able to do just that, and someone will want to pay me millionz n millionz for it (I’m looking at you @TheGuardian @TheEconomist, but they keep ignoring my tweets). But that’s the future. Now I thought it would be best to bridge the gap by writing about economics, specifically my degree and what I have learned this year.
When I began my degree I honestly did not expect there to be much maths, as the requirement for most BA Econ degrees, including my own, is merely a B in GCSE Maths. I was wrong. This means that despite my best interests, I ended up having to learn quite a lot of maths for this degree.
It’s been useful though, I now know how to calculate things that I didn’t even know existed like the Internal Rate of Return and multiple regressions. However the process in learning these things was less of a smooth walk and more of an aggressive tumble down a hill. Almost everyone on my course did A Level maths so I was very behind, I still am very behind. But I’m having a pretty good time nonetheless.
The moral of this story is: if you didn’t do A Level maths before your Econ degree then you need to spend all summer learning it. Or at least get to grips with simple fractions because I had to go all the way back to GCSE bitesize to learn them. Seriously.
Understanding current events is the best thing about economics as a subject in general, not just the degree. Before A Level Economics I had no idea what inflation was (it’s pretty simple I don’t know how I couldn’t grasp it lol) but now I know everything (Queen of Inflation).
I can acknowledge that part of this comes with growing up and just coming to grips with understanding current events because you’re a little smarter and a little more interested than you were before. It’s not like economics students are the only people who know how to understand the news. But being able to look at economic policies and have the ability to properly understand and evaluate them is pretty cool, especially with all of the manifestos being released. I can safely say that I actually know what I’m talking about during this election (most of the time).
For example, in one of my exams this year I had to write about the effects of Brexit upon UK trade, whether a free market for student loans is a good idea and about the implications of environmental economic policy. These are three pretty pressing issues in which I now have a wealth of knowledge (Did you know you can get low sulphur coal? Right? Who knew!) and that is something I would not have without this degree.
Some sad stuff
Unfortunately doing Econ can also be a bit of a downer. While it’s a nice degree title to say to people at parties, the actual knowledge that comes with the degree makes you low-key depressed. I suppose you could say that about a lot of degrees, like it probably sucks to learn about the casualties of the world wars in your History degree and it’s not great when you find out that Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for “indecency” when you’re doing your English degree, but at least there is some consolation that these things happened in the past and hopefully wont happen again.
However some of the worst economic inequality is happening right now. For example, I had to write an essay in March on increasing income inequality in the UK. Obviously you can’t just write pure theory so a lot of this essay included some meaty facts about the rising income inequality. For instance, while the median household weekly income in the UK for 2013-14 was £453, the household weekly income for those in the bottom decile of the population was roughly half of the median. Then compare to this to the top decile, whose income was around double the median. That shit is sad man. That’s not right.
It feels useful
While I truly believe every degree has lectures that you walk out of and you say “honestly what was the point of that”, econ is actually pretty useful. While sometimes the theory or the statistics becomes so dense that your head feels like it’s full of spiders, you usually find a way to apply to it to real life eventually.
It’s like when you’re sat in a maths lesson and you are learning what to do, and you know that you have to do something to get the answer right but you’re not entirely sure why you have to do it? Sometimes education in general just feels like that, but I can say that it’s rare that I will walk out of a lecture and think “the knowledge I just gained is completely useless” and I think that’s probably a mark of a pretty good subject.
I hope this hasn’t felt too much like an advertisement for economics degrees because it was really meant to be informative. Now you guys know what I’ve been doing all day (or what I’ve been avoiding doing) for the last year of education, and what I will be doing for the next two years. Wish me luck for finding a job afterwards lol.