If you are deciding between majoring in economics or chemical engineering, you might want to know more about what each major has to offer. This post will show you the key facts about each major and help you to decide which would be a better degree for you.
|Types of jobs
you can qualify for
|Difficulty of the
|Key things to note
There are only around 32,600
chemical engineering jobs in
the US. This could make it
difficult to find a job and you
will likely need to relocate.
Average predicted job growth.
Good reported job satisfaction.
Can be difficult to
get a job with just
Many of the more
jobs require at least
a master’s degree.
Becomes a lot more
you combine it with
data analysis skills.
Source for economics salary and jobs
There are a number of things to consider when choosing between the two degrees. Below, are details about each major, their differences, and reasons to choose one or the other.
Details about a chemical engineering degree
Below are some details about a degree in chemical engineering.
According to Payscale, the average pay of someone with a degree in chemical engineering is $81,140. This is similar to the average pay you will find with most other engineering majors and it is higher than most other majors including economics. Also, according to the BLS, the median pay of a chemical engineer is $108,770.
The predicted growth rate for chemical engineering jobs is 4%, in total, over the next decade and the number of chemical engineering jobs is said to be 32,600 (source). This means that chemical engineering only has average predicted job growth. Also, compared to other engineering majors, 32,600 is not a lot of jobs. This means that it is more likely that you will have a hard time looking for a job in chemical engineering and that you will be more likely to have to relocate.
However, as mentioned above, the median pay of a chemical engineer is high, so when you do get a job it can pay well. Also, they tend to be relatively secure jobs so you should be able to keep your job for a decent amount of time once you get one. Also, most people find them to be interesting jobs with good job satisfaction.
According to Payscale, common jobs for chemical engineering majors includes:
- Chemical engineer
- Project engineer
- Process engineer
- Manufacturing engineer
- Production engineer
- Environmental engineer
Chemical engineering is a difficult major. It will include a lot of math and physics and the chemical engineering classes themselves can be difficult. Overall, you can expect chemical engineering to be more difficult than an economics major due to the much heavier math and physics involved.
Some classes you can expect to take in chemical engineering can include:
- Linear algebra
- Differential equations
You can look here to see an example degree sequence of chemical engineering.
Things to consider
One thing to consider is that chemical engineering is not the same as chemistry. In chemical engineering, you will be focusing more on creating systems to create chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and other products (source). Whereas, a chemist will be more focused on things such as studying substances at the atomic and molecular level in a lab (source).
While other engineering degrees will pay a similar amount and often have a wider job pool available to you, you might prefer chemical engineering because of the types of jobs you can work in. It would help to do a lot of research the types of things you could be working on and to see if it is something you would enjoy.
Details about a degree in economics
Below are some of the key details of the economics major.
According to Payscale, the average salary of a person with a bachelor’s degree in economics is $71,173.
Types of jobs you can get
With a bachelor’s degree in economics you can expect to qualify for jobs such as:
Since economics makes use of a lot of statistics, you can qualify for many different types of “analyst” roles. Many of these roles will require the knowledge of programming in programming languages such as R and Python. While doing an economics degree, it would help a lot to make sure to learn R and Python and to be able to show projects that show that you are able to make use of those languages in a useful way.
The difficulty of an economics degree will depend a lot on the specific program. Some economics programs will be very math heavy and focused on statistics and its use in economics. Whereas, other programs will not even require calculus and will be more focused on broad economic theory.
If you do decide on an economics major, it would help a lot to consider what you want to get out of it and the jobs you are interested in so that you can choose an economics program that is suitable for you.
Types of classes you’ll be taking
As mentioned above, economics programs can vary significantly. However, there are some classes that you can expect to be taking including:
Principles of microeconomics
Principles of macroeconomics
Statistics and probability
Topics in money and finance
Topics in banking
Depending on the program, you might also be required to take mathematics classes including:
Important things to be aware of
An economics degree, by itself, can be difficult to get a job with. As a result, it would be very important to take classes related to the job that you are interested in getting.
It is common for economics majors to end up in programming type roles after graduating. It would help you a lot to make sure to take some programming classes as electives and a CS minor would likely be a very good option. Doing this would open you up to good-paying roles such as software engineering.
In addition, if you are interested in going to graduate school for economics, it would help a lot to make sure to take more advanced mathematics classes since they are often required for graduate economics.
As mentioned above, the classes in an economics degree can vary a lot. It would help to look at the degree sequence for the economics degree program at your university and to make sure the required classes are suitable for the types of jobs you are interested in.
More details about the economics major
Reasons to choose a chemical engineering major
A chemical engineering degree can qualify you for chemical engineering jobs which are very well paid and you will not need to combine the major with more applied classes for chemical engineering jobs. Whereas, an economics degree needs to be combined with something more applied in order to make it as employable as a chemical engineering degree for specific job roles.
Also, chemical engineering jobs tend to be very satisfying jobs that people enjoy doing.
However, a chemical engineering degree will require a lot of study time. There are some alternative degrees that can also give good job prospects that do not require as much study time such as computer science. If you are not sure that you would actually find the material in a chemical engineering degree interesting, it might be the case that an alternative would suit you better. Also, there is not a lot of chemical engineering jobs available. Whereas, there are a lot of analyst type job roles.
Reasons to choose an economics degree
While chemical engineering can qualify you for higher paying jobs by itself, there are some reasons why economics can be a better option.
If you are more interested in getting an analyst type role, an economics degree can be better suited than a chemical engineering degree. In this case, it would help to make sure to learn how to program in R and Python, to take some data analysis classes, and to emphasize more on statistical classes in your major requirements.
Regardless of the degree that you choose, it will be very important to make sure that you choose classes related to what you want to do after graduating. It is also important to consider what type of job you are most interested in and to choose your major accordingly.