If you are deciding between majoring in economics or applied mathematics, 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.
|Ease of finding a job||Moderate||Moderate|
|Types of jobs|
you can qualify for
|Difficulty of the|
|Key things to note||Can be difficult to|
get a job with just
a bachelor’s degree.
Many of the more
jobs require at least
a master’s degree.
Becomes a lot more
you combine it with
data analysis skills.
|Generally more employable|
than an economics
degree by itself.
But, still not as
employable, by itself,
such as a CS degree.
Very employable if
you combine it with
a more applied minor
such as computer
Also employable if
you combine it with
data analysis skills.
Source for applied math salary and jobs
As you can see from the table, there are many similarities between the two degrees. However, there are many things to consider when choosing between the two degrees. There are also alternative degrees that you might want to consider and there are some things you should consider doing when you choose either of the degrees.
Details about an applied math degree
Below are details about the applied math major.
According to Payscale, the average salary for someone that has an applied math degree is $76,007.
Jobs you can get with an applied math degree
Since applied math is used in many different fields an applied math degree will open you up to many different job opportunities.
With that being said, something to consider is that many of the more lucrative jobs will require a master’s degree.
However, there are many jobs that an applied math bachelor’s degree will qualify you for.
Also, the jobs you will qualify for will depend a lot on the classes that you choose to take. The reason for this is that, while an applied math degree will qualify you for many jobs, having knowledge for that specific domain will be very useful.
For example, if you want to get into data science then taking lots of statistics, computer science and data analytics classes will help you a lot. It would also help to complete data science projects so that you can showcase your skills.
Also, while it is true that many data science and machine learning jobs often require a master’s degree, it is also the case that many people have gotten those jobs with a bachelor’s degree. If you can showcase your ability in data science or machine learning with projects, you should be able to make yourself competitive for these roles with just a bachelor’s degree.
In addition to taking classes relevant to the field that you want to enter it would be very helpful to try and get some internships in that field while you are an undergrad.
You’ll likely be taking a number of computer science classes as part of an applied math degree. Many applied math majors go on to become software engineers since it is a highly rated job for people with a bachelor’s degree.
Jobs that you could get with a master’s degree in applied math could include:
- Data scientist
- Quantitative researcher
- Math teacher
- Machine learning engineer
Jobs that you could get with a bachelor’s degree in applied math could include:
- Business analyst
- Financial analyst
- Insurance underwriter
- Data analyst
- Software engineer
- Market researcher
Classes you will be taking in applied math
An applied math degree will allow you to take a number of classes from a number of different fields.
There will be a number of math classes that you will likely be required to take which could include:
- Linear algebra
- Discrete math
- Differential equations
- Partial differential equations
- Graph theory
- Number theory
- Abstract algebra
- Real analysis
However, the specific math classes you will have to take will depend on your specific program.
For most applied math degrees, you will be able to take classes from other related fields and count them towards your major.
Classes from other fields that you might take could include:
- Computer science
- Big data
- Machine learning and data science
Difficulty of the major
An applied math degree can have some very difficult classes but this will depend on what classes are required in your specific program. In some programs, there are a lot of proof-based math classes that are required including real analysis and abstract algebra. These classes can be a lot more difficult than computational classes such as calculus or linear algebra.
Overall, you can expect an applied math degree to be significantly harder than an economics degree.
Alternatives to an applied math degree
If you are thinking of getting an applied math degree then there are a number of other degrees that you might want to consider which can include:
You can click on their links to see what I have written about them as majors themselves.
Is an applied math degree marketable?
How marketable an applied math degree will be will depend a lot on what you do in your time in the major and the classes you take.
If you take classes relevant to the types of jobs that you want to get upon graduating then it will be a very marketable degree. It will be especially marketable if you also can get some summer internships and do some projects in the field that you want to enter.
If you just take the traditional courses, while in the major, it will still be marketable for many different jobs such as data analytics. But you will have to do some extra work to increase your skills in that particular area. It will also be important to learn things such as programming in your own time.
Details about an economics degree
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 an economics bachelor’s degree will make use of some statistics, you can qualify for many different types of “analyst” roles. Many of these roles will require the knowledge of 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. It would also help to be able to show projects that show that can make use of R and Python languages in a useful way.
The difficulty of an economics degree will depend a lot on the specific program. Some economics programs will be more 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.
However, an economics bachelor’s degree will almost always be less difficult than an equivalent applied math degree. Also, even the more math-heavy econ majors will not involve many or even any proof-based math classes unless chosen as an elective.
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
Introductory 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
It is common for economics majors to end up in programming type roles such as with data analytics after graduating. It would help you a lot to make sure to take some programming classes as electives and a computer science minor would likely be a very good option. Doing this would also open you up to high-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. At the very least, it would be necessary to take a class in differential calculus, integral calculus, multiple variable calculus, linear algebra and discrete mathematics.
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
I have written more about the economics major here and I have written more about how hard you can expect the major to be here.
Differences between a degree in applied mathematics and economics
Below are some of the key differences between the two degrees.
An applied math degree is usually more demanding
An applied math degree will be heavier on mathematics than an economics degree at the undergraduate level. The more advanced math classes will also be proof-heavy. As a result, you can expect a math degree to be a lot more difficult and time-demanding than an economics undergraduate degree.
An applied math degree should involve more programming
Also, most applied math degrees will require that you take some classes from computer science. As a result, a math degree can better prepare you for programming related job roles, such as software engineering, than an economics degree.
However, it would still be important to make sure to take additional programming and computer science classes as electives if you want a programming type role.
A math degree can be better for graduate school
Graduate-level economics tends to be much more mathematical than undergraduate economics. As a result, many graduate economics programs actually often prefer applied math majors over economics majors.
With that being said, some economics programs can also be very math-heavy. Also, if you are interested in going to graduate school, econometrics would be another major that you may want to consider since econometrics tends to be much more math-heavy than economics.
If you are interested in going to graduate school for economics, it would help to make sure that you are going to be taking the necessary mathematics classes. Often you will find that the math in an economics undergraduate degree is not enough.
Both degrees can give better prospects if combined with a more applied minor
In both cases, supplementing the degree with a more applied minor related to the type of job you want would help a lot. It would also help a lot to try to complete projects related to the job you are interested in and to try to get summer internships while you are an undergraduate.
It would serve you well to really take the time now to research the types of jobs you think you would be interested in and what sorts of classes you should be taking for those jobs. One thing that could help would be to talk with recruiters for that job role and to ask what they look for in terms of classes, projects, internships and the most common major.
Overall, I would recommend majoring in applied mathematics most of the time, and especially if you like mathematics. This is mainly because the bigger focus on mathematics and also some computer science will help you when applying to jobs and graduate programs if you also choose the relevant electives for that graduate program. It would also likely greatly improve your job prospects if you were to supplement it with a minor in computer science.
If you do decide to major in economics, it would help a lot to take some classes in programming and data analysis since it will help you a lot in your job search after graduating. It would also help to consider the type of job that you are interested in and to take the relevant classes for that particular job.