If you are deciding between majoring in economics or civil 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.
At a glance:
|Types of jobs|
you can qualify for
Water resources engineer
|Difficulty of the|
|Key things to note|
A relatively secure field
once you are able to land a
Employable with just a bachelor’s
High-stress work environment
in the early years.
High job satisfaction and fulfillment.
Low predicted job growth
over the next decade.
The work environment can
be more physically active than most
jobs since you’ll need to go to the construction
locations occasionally. However,
there is also a lot of meetings and
design work using computer software.
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 important things to consider when choosing between the two degrees since they can take you down very different paths. Also, there are some things to consider if you do choose either of them such as which classes you should take.
Details about a degree in civil engineering
Below are some details about the civil engineering major.
According to Payscale, the average pay for a person with a degree in civil engineering is $70,508. This is higher than the average pay for most majors. However, it is a lot lower than alternative engineering majors such as computer engineering ($87,000) and electrical engineering ($92,000). It is also roughly equal to the reported pay for an economics major which is $71,000.
On one hand, civil engineering could be seen as a safe major because there will always be buildings, dams, highways, stadiums, etc that need to be built. As a result, once you are able to get a job in civil engineering, it is typically seen as a relatively secure job to have.
However, it can be tricky to find a job at the entry-level and the price of the job security is that the pay is slightly lower than alternative majors such as computer engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science. Also, because you will be building structures that many people will be using and that cost millions of dollars, it can be a very stressful job, especially in the early years. Although, it is also typically a very interesting field to work in, and completing a project successfully can be very fulfilling.
Jobs that you can get with a civil engineering degree include:
- Civil engineer
- Project engineer
- Structural engineer
- Transportation engineer
- Geotechnical engineer
- Water resources engineer
- Construction engineer
Civil engineering has a number of sub-fields and you will need to specialize in one of them before getting a job.
The subfields include:
Construction engineering. This involves managing the project as it is underway and building the temporary structures that are used while constructing the actual structure.
Geotechnical engineering. This involves ensuring that the foundations of the structure are well built.
Structural engineering. This involves designing the structure and ensuring that it will be able to support itself.
Transportation engineering. This involves building and maintaining streets, highways, airports, docks, and harbors.
Water resource engineering. This involves managing water resources by designing new equipment and facilities.
Civil engineering is a difficult degree that will involve a lot of mathematics including calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations. It will also involve some physics and the engineering classes themselves can be difficult. There will also be a lot of lab classes that will involve a lot of projects. When compared with most economics majors, you can expect civil engineering to be more difficult.
Classes that you can expect to take in a civil engineering degree can include:
Introduction to programming
Introduction to civil engineering
Civil engineering materials
Mechanics of structures
Water resources engineering
You can also expect to take more specialized classes related to the specialization that you choose.
Things to consider
Before choosing civil engineering and the university that you want to go to, it would help to research the type of civil engineering you are most interested in. This is so that you know what to specialize in and so that you know what university to choose because some universities will only offer certain specializations.
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 civil engineering major
The key advantage that a civil engineering degree has over an economics degree is that it is a very employable degree by itself. This is because the degree directly applicable to a number of high-paying jobs at the bachelor’s degree level. Whereas, an economics degree needs to be combined with something more applied in order to make it as employable as a civil engineering degree.
Also, civil engineering jobs tend to be very satisfying jobs that are also very interesting and important to society.
However, a civil 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.
Reasons to choose an economics degree
While a civil engineering degree does have the better employment opportunities, there are still some reasons why you might want to consider an economics degree.
If you are more interested in getting an analyst type role, an economics degree can be better suited than a civil 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.
Overall, my recommendation would be to major in civil engineering due to better career prospects when compared with an economics bachelor’s degree.
However, 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.