Finance and economics: what should you study?

The lines between finance and economics degrees are often blurred and the cause of confusion to students looking to choose their degree. Both include the study of money and the economy, and both can offer students a significant return on the investment in their education – but which is the right option for you?

What you will learn?

Finance classes will focus on specific aspects of the market and how it affects client finances, with students expected to learn about interest rates, market fluctuations, price trends, and risk quantification, alongside discussions about accounting, assets and liabilities, and company financial statements.

Economics classes, meanwhile, will focus more on the macro economy – the overall market and how government policies can affect how it grows (or declines). Students will learn about gross national products (GDP) and how taxation, employment rates, and technology investments can impact the wider economy and inflation. Students will still learn about the underlying financial products and regulations, but the focus is more on larger and longer-term trends.

What jobs could you get?

Whilst many people choose careers outside of their field of study, finance students have an obvious route into jobs at banks and financial firms where they help customers keep on top of their finances by investigating loans, company statements, and investment opportunities. Career titles could include roles such as loan officer, credit analyst, insurance agent, or bank manager.

For those that chose economics, many of the same jobs could be available, but the degree would be more help at jobs that oversee the economy from above, such as working with government or other institutions, where they can help a country or sector thrive by evaluating and implementing policy options from around the world.

How much could you earn?

People’s pay checks can vary hugely depending on the job they decide upon, but both areas of study can deliver significant rewards.

Finance degrees tend to channel people into the private sector, where the rewards can be greater, but often with less job security. For those working with international firms on mergers and acquisitions take home pay can be well into six or even seven figures, but at the same time people could choose a less stressful role as a bank teller where the median income is more like mid-five figures.

For those that studied economics, many choose to work for government or other publicly funded institutions, where there are often impressive benefits packages on offer, but income tends to be more limited. Only a handful of professional economists earn seven figures, with positions like being the Governor of the Bank of England, while many more of those working for local government or at academic institutions would be on mid-five figures.

So which should you choose?

Both degrees offer interesting topics and can be used to help you begin a rewarding career, but the right one for you depends on what you want to do. Do you like focusing on clients and helping specific companies grow or would you prefer to look at the larger picture with less detail and try and help an entire economy grow? Or you could be like an increasing number of students and study both at the same time!

Photograph by Steve PB

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