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About Economics

Reasons to Choose Economics as a Major 

What Is Economics?

Economics is a science of choice: of how choices are made, why choices are made, and what impacts those choices have. Although undergraduate courses emphasize economic choices such as whether to produce steel or aluminum, or whether to raise or lower taxes, the same principles can be applied to choices and decision making in general. The analytical methodology behind a decision to regulate milk prices is quite similar to that behind decisions to eat spaghetti for lunch or to wash the car Saturday morning. All such choices involve comparisons of costs and benefits and a consideration of alternative available opportunities. Efficient decision making involves what economists term marginal analysis, which is at the heart of the discipline and is emphasized in almost every course.

Economics can be thought of as a method of analysis or a way of thinking that can be a valuable adjunct to any field, regardless of subject content:

  1. It deals with vital current problems. As a problem-oriented social science, economics deals with inflation, unemployment, monopoly, economic growth, pollution, free enterprise, health care, poverty, and many other important topics. Not only is economics relevant to the big problems of society, but it also relates to personal problems such as wages, employment, the cost of living, and taxes.
  2. Students are attracted to a successful course of study. The accomplishments of economics have established it as the most successful social science. For example, you are the second generation never to have experienced a major depression, thanks, in part, to the application of economics to shaping humanity’s destiny.
  3. Economics is attractive to some because of its theoretical structure and scientific models. Students sometimes become impatient with the seemingly endless conjectures that characterize some courses of study. In contrast, economics has developed models to organize facts and to think about policy alternatives. Because many economic magnitudes are measurable, economic theory is more fully developed than most social theory. Many students find this attractive.
  4. Economics gives students who are proficient in mathematics an opportunity to apply their talents. Sometimes students view mathematics as a fascinating game or language but are impatient at not being able to apply it to important human problems. While mathematics is increasingly used by all social sciences, economics has long been in the forefront in this regard. Students will find economics to be an area in which they can make productive applications of their mathematical skills. For those who want to combine mathematics and economics, we have initiated an economics/mathematics B.A. degree in cooperation with the Department of Mathematics. This degree may also be taken through the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
  5. An economics major opens future options. Alternatives for economics students are unusually varied, including business, law, journalism, teaching, educational administration, politics, finance and banking, government service, public and private overseas service, labor leadership, or graduate study.

The content of economics is itself complementary to many other fields. Economics is easy to combine with other academic programs. Economics majors often choose a minor or a second major in a related field. Students majoring in other areas frequently choose Economics as a second major or minor as well. Our students have successfully combined economics with such diverse fields as psychology, foreign languages, and theater. Other examples of fields that mix well with economics are biology, geography and regional planning, journalism, political science, computer science, and, as has been noted, mathematics.

IUP also offers a program for law school preparation and preparatory training for paraprofessionals who will work in law offices without completing a degree in law. The IUP pre-law program is designed to help students obtain admission to and be successful in law school. Economics majors score very well on law school entrance exams. A foundation in economics is critical for many legal specialties and prepares students for the rigor of legal analysis and reasoning. Legal issues of the future (e.g., one’s relating to pollution, resource scarcity, pension rights, personal security, and social security) are so largely economic in basis that the lawyer equipped with an economics background is certain to have a real advantage in litigation and in efforts to find better solutions to problems.

A student entering any Department of Economics program will be assigned a faculty advisor. The student will retain the same advisor as long as he/she is in the program. The Department of Economics places a high value on good student-faculty relationships and encourages close interaction between students and faculty members through the advisory system.

What Can Economics Majors Do?

Most people working as professional economists have earned advanced graduate degrees, but there is a wide variety of employment opportunities available to those with only a B.A. degree. Most students use economics as an entry to other professions. Some possibilities include banking and finance, economic journalism, business, government service, and non-university teaching.

Currently, about one-third of our graduates enter graduate programs of some sort. Some take Ph.D. or M.A. programs in economics, others enter law school, while still others enroll in graduate programs in such fields as business, international affairs, labor relations, and public administration. A partial listing of schools in which our students have entered graduate programs in recent years includes Boston University, Carnegie-Mellon University, Case Western School of Law, Cornell University, Dickinson School of Law, George Washington University, Harvard University, University of Georgia, University of Illinois, Indiana (Bloomington), London School of Economics, University of Maryland, Ohio State University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State University, Rice University, and Louisiana State University.

A sampling of actual entry-level positions obtained by recent graduates with only an undergraduate degree includes management trainee, S&T Bank Corporation; executive trainee, Bon-Ton; insurance underwriter, Firemen’s Fund Insurance; economist, Internal Revenue Service; investment broker, Federated Investors; cost estimator, Pittsburgh Industrial Diamond Company; economic consultant, Glassmen-Oliver; coordinator, Indiana County Recycling Program; research assistant, International Monetary Fund; management trainee, Sharon Steel; marketing researcher, National Food Brokers Association; sales director, Midland Angels (AA minor league baseball club); cash operations manager, ARA Foods; management trainee, Cooper Industries; assistant trust officer, National Bank of the Commonwealth; budget analyst, U.S. Department of Education; and venture-capital assistant, Castle Group.

Famous Economists 

The following are, to the best of our knowledge, holders of undergraduate degrees in economics:

Scott Adams

Creator of Dilbert

Mose Allison

Jazz Musician

Dick Armey

U.S. Congressman (University of Oklahoma)

Donovan Bailey

100m 1996 Olympic Gold Medal winner (Sheridan College)

Bill Belichick

Super Bowl Winning Football Coach

William F. Buckley

Journalist (Yale University)

Warren Buffet

American Investor, Businessman, Philanthropist

Jim Bunning

U.S. Senator/Member of the Baseball Hall of Fame (Xavier University)

George Bush

Former U.S. President (Yale University)

Sandra Day-O'Connor

U.S. Supreme Court Justice (Stanford University)

John Elway

Denver Broncos Quarterback (Stanford University)

Danny Glover

Actor

Phil Gramm

U.S. Senator (University of Georgia)

William Isaac

Former Chair of the FDIC

Mick Jagger

Rolling Stones (London School of Economics)

Bernie Kosar

Football Player/Executive (University of Miami)

Mike Mussina

Major League Baseball Player (Stanford University)

Merlin Olson

Actor/Former NFL Player

Ronald Reagan

Former U.S. President (Eureka College)

Lionel Ritchie

Singer/Songwriter

Roy Romer

Governor of Colorado (Colorado State University–Ag Econ)

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Actor/Producer (University of Wisconsin–Superior)

George Schultz

Former U.S. Secretary of State

Ben Stein

Former Speechwriter for President Richard Nixon/Host of Win Ben Stein’s Money (Columbia University)

Richard Trumka

President of the United Mine Workers (Penn State University)

Ted Turner

CNN/Atlanta Braves/Hawks (Brown University)

Mario Van Peebles

Actor/Director (Columbia University)

Hines Ward

Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers (University of Georgia)

George Wendt

Actor (Rockhurst College)

Lenny Wilkens

NBA Coach/Hall of Famer

Young MC

Rapper

If our information above is incorrect, or if you can expand on the information above, or if you know of other famous economics majors, please let us know!

  • Economics Department
  • McElhaney Hall, Room 213
    441 North Walk
    Indiana, PA 15705
  • Phone: 724-357-2640
  • Fax: 724-357-6485
  • Office Hours
  • Monday through Friday
  • 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • 1:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.