If you are deciding between majoring in economics or 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.

At a glance:

EconomicsMathematics
Average pay$71,173$76,684
Ease of finding a jobModerateModerate
Types of jobs
you can qualify for
Data analyst
Business analyst
Operations manager
Financial analyst
Actuarial analyst
Data analyst
Data scientist
Software engineer
Math teacher
Actuarial analyst
Financial analyst
Difficulty of the
major
ModerateHigh
Key things to noteCan be difficult to
get a job with just
a bachelor’s degree.

Many of the more
lucrative economics
jobs require at least
a master’s degree.

Becomes a lot more
employable if
you combine it with
programming and
data analysis skills.
Generally more employable
than an economics
degree by itself.
But, still not as
employable as alternatives
such as a CS degree.

Very employable if
you combine it with
a more applied minor
such as computer
science.

Also employable if
you combine it with
programming and
data analysis skills.
Source for math salary and jobs
Source for economics 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 the math major

Below are some key details about the math major.

Current pay

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for mathematicians and statisticians will rise by 33% by 2026. This is mainly due to the surge in data that companies have been receiving in recent years that they need people with mathematical and statistical skills to make sense of.

According to Payscale, the average pay for someone with a bachelor’s in mathematics is $76,684.

Something to consider is that many of the more mathematical and well-paid jobs, such as a data scientist or machine learning engineer, will often require a master’s degree and that you take classes related to data science and machine learning.

Types of jobs the degree will qualify you for

Since mathematics can be used in many different fields, a math degree will open you up to many different job opportunities.

However, many of the jobs that mathematicians tend to seek such as a quantitative researcher or machine learning engineer require a master’s degree.

With that being said, even with just a bachelor’s degree, there will be many different jobs that you could qualify for.

However, math is a general degree that is not specific to a certain type of job in the way something such as computer science is. This means that you should take courses from the field that you want to enter and do internships and projects in that field as well in order to be competitive when seeking a job.

For example, many math majors go into software engineering after graduation. If you want to qualify for software engineering jobs then make sure to take a data structures class and an algorithms class and try to get some internships as a software engineer while in college.

Before choosing your electives I would strongly recommend that you consider what you want to do after college and make sure to take classes related to that.

Examples of jobs that you could qualify for with a master’s in math could include:

  • Machine learning engineer
  • Data scientist
  • Quantitative researcher
  • Math teacher

Examples of jobs that you could qualify for with a bachelor’s in math could include:

  • Financial analyst
  • Insurance underwriter
  • Data analyst
  • Software engineer
  • Market researcher
  • Actuary (requires lots of statistics classes)

With that being said, there are some people that have gotten data science and machine learning jobs with just a bachelor’s degree. It would greatly improve your chances if you were to make sure to complete machine learning and data science projects and to do internships in those fields as an undergrad.

Types of math classes you will study

As a math major you can expect to take the following classes:

Differential calculus
Integral calculus
Multivariate calculus
Differential equations
Linear algebra
Discrete math
Abstract algebra
Real analysis
Number theory

You can also expect to have the choice to take other advanced math classes or to take classes from related disciplines such as computer science, statistics and physics.

How difficult it is as a major

The math major is generally considered as being one of the hardest undergraduate degrees available. It becomes especially hard when you enter your junior year since most of your classes will be proof-based which tend to be much harder than the more computational classes.

Some things to consider about the major

A math degree can open up many different possible avenues for yourself and can be a very good degree when combined with a more applied minor. This is because the mathematics taught in a math major is useful in a wide variety of fields but you will need to supplement it with some field-specific coursework.

A very good combination would be to major in mathematics and to minor in computer science. Doing this would open you up to job roles such as data science, machine learning engineer, data analysis and software engineering. Majoring in computer science and minoring in mathematics is also a very good combination.

If you want to go down the data science or machine learning route, it would also help to make sure to take some statistics and data analysis classes. However, again, it would also help a lot to minor in computer science.

More details about the math major

I have written more about how to do well in a math major here and I have written more about whether or not a math degree is worth it here.

Details about an economics degree

Below are some of the key details of the economics major.

Current pay

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:

Data analyst
Business analyst
Operations manager
Financial analyst
Actuarial analyst

Since economics makes 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.

Difficulty

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 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
Intermediate microeconomics
Intermediate macroeconomics
Introductory statistics and probability
Political economics
Econometrics
Topics in money and finance
Topics in banking

Depending on the program, you might also be required to take mathematics classes including:

Calculus
Linear algebra
Discrete mathematics

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 CS minor would likely be a very good option. Doing this would also open you up to well-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 mathematics and economics

Below are some of the key differences between the two degrees.

A math degree is generally more demanding

A 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.

A math degree should involve more programming

Also, most 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 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 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.

Bottom line

Overall, I would recommend majoring in mathematics most of the time. 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.

Author

I created and currently manage College Corner. I received a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. My goal is to help current students do better in college and to help future students plan for college. You can read more about me and my website here.