Alfred Marshall defined economics as “a study of mankind in the ordinary business of life; it examines that part of individual and social action which is most closely connected with the attainment, and with the use of the material requisites of wellbeing”. Even today, a large part of economics is concerned with understanding human experience and behaviour. But now extensive research and study have evolved sophisticated methods to study how people react and behave under normal to difficult circumstances. Modern economics has grown to include in its purview aspects of other disciplines such as sociology, philosophy, and even anthropology. It is a rich and vast area of work and students of economics have the advantage of finding something that can be best suited to their interests and abilities.
What is economics?
At the time of its inception, economics was mainly a study of the means of production and the relation between scarce means and their utilisation. Early economists understood economy to mean practising optimum use of the resources at hand. Gradually economics started to study the creation of wealth. As Adam Smith put it “an inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations”.
But the subject grew to include a wide range of problems and started to delve deeper into human behaviour and the causes that drove people to take certain decisions.
Scholars and academics have tried hard to find an all-encompassing definition of economics that does justice to the scope of the subject. But a universal definition of economics that succinctly states all the areas that come under the study of economics is yet to be put out. This is because the subject is, at its heart, a study of human behaviour. And as human behaviour keeps evolving, and including wider experiences, so does the subject of economics.
This is a great upside to being a student of economics. Since the area of study is so complex and vast, students who take up economics studies can acquire a number of skills which have versatile applications.
Economics-the useful skills it imparts
Due to intensive research and study, economics can now make use of detailed mathematical and statistical models to accomplish its objectives. This is why students of economics become well versed in mathematical and statistical skills. They are able to practically use their learning in areas of management, finance, business, public policy, even social welfare. Real-life application of principles learned in a classroom is satisfying for any serious scholar.
Economics shapes the way people analyse and react to real-life situations. Through the study of this subject, a person can develop advanced problem-solving skills and it helps one discover efficient means of dealing with financial problems. Economic principles facilitate the understanding of the logic that underpins complex data, they provide the ability to see the context in which everyday situations affect the macro level, and they also clarify relations among complicated factors. But to be specific there are some things which students of economics acquire by default because of the nature of the subject they study. They are as follows:
- Problem-solving skills: Economics essentially is the study of the problem of making scarce resources fulfill the demand. Most studies undertaken in economics are studies relating to some question of scarcity or demand. Thus the study of these problems helps its students develop mental algorithms attuned to seeking solutions.
- Numerical ability: Economics deals with vast numbers. Several studies and principles have been the result of vast and complicated mathematical and statistical data. It is natural for students of economics to develop an affinity for numbers.
- Analytical skills: There is a wide and ever-evolving range of problems and questions that economics has to contend with. As the world grows and makes room for new ways of social interaction, as technology introduces novel ways of living, economics has to revise and provide solutions for the problems that arise with this constant change. So students of the subject get to acquire great analytical skills.
- Communication: When all is said and done, the main purpose of economics is to provide coherent ideas and principles which form the basis of the solutions for modern-day problems of economies. This requires clarity in communication. A well developed, lucid style of communication is a by-product of studying economics.
Economics provides a varied range of professions where students can find that their skills as economists are in demand. Careers in banks, governments, accountancy, insurance, etc. are some places where economics learning can find direct application. The work may involve analysing financial risk, evaluating prospective investments or markets, studying trends and coming up with business models, formulating public policy based on economic surveys and data. All these roles provide great outlets for individuals to use their classroom learning along with all their acquired skills.
Careers that require analytical skills along with numerical ability and problem solving such as business management, marketing, research, business planning, are always looking for people well versed in economics. One way to give yourself the edge is to study economics in conjunction with finance. This way it becomes easier to make a fruitful career in banking and the financial sector.
What the future holds
‘Big Data’ is an upcoming field that involves the analysis of vast amounts of complex data to glean patterns and trends that help make accurate predictions about the behaviour of people. This helps governments and businesses take better decisions and to optimise their policies in accordance with the needs of the people. Several areas can benefit from studying big data. These fields can include the study of the spread of diseases, customer behaviour, trends in financial markets, and even crime patterns.
Students may need to follow up their bachelor’s degree with a master’s course or courses in specialised fields in order to find roles in governments, financial services, or in other specialised areas such as insurance, public health, regional development, or banks and consultancies.
Economics has expanded to such an extent that today it provides relevant studies and methodologies for such areas as law, politics, health, education, and management. Economics itself makes use of the findings of behavioural sciences such as psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology, etc. Such a vast array of studies requires students who are interested in studying widely different concepts and have a bent for analysing data and are skilled in mathematics. But other than this, a primary requisite for studying economics is being interested in the world at large, and the people who inhabit and shape this world. Economics is a rich and rewarding subject. Studying it can lead to fulfilling careers and a productive life.