If you are deciding between majoring in economics or mechanical 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:

Mechanical EngineeringEconomics
Payscale reported
average pay
$80,251$71,173
Job opportunitiesHighModerate
Types of jobs
you can qualify for
Mechanical engineer
Manufacturing engineer
Design engineer
Project engineer
Aerospace engineer
Data analyst
Business analyst
Operations manager
Financial analyst
Actuarial analyst
Difficulty of the
major
HardModerate
Key things to note

A hard major.

Lots of possible job paths.

Average predicted job growth.

Good reported job satisfaction.



Can be difficult to
get a job with just
an economics
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.
Source for economics salary and jobs
Source for mechanical engineering average pay 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 mechanical engineering degree

Below are some details about a degree in mechanical engineering.

Pay

According to Payscale, the average pay of a mechanical engineer is $80,251. This is higher than the average pay of most degrees including most engineering degrees including civil engineering. It is also higher than the average reported pay for economics which is $71,173. However, it is lower than the average reported pay for computer engineering ($87,000), electrical engineering ($92,000), and computer science($85,000).

Job prospects

The predicted growth rate for mechanical engineering jobs is 4%, in total, over the next decade and the number of mechanical engineering jobs is said to be 320,000 (source). This, by itself, would give the mechanical engineering major moderately good job prospects.

However, mechanical engineering can also qualify you for jobs in related fields including industrial engineering which has a 10% predicted growth rate. This means that mechanical engineering can have good job prospects, provided that you choose to take classes relevant to areas that are growing and which already have a large number of jobs, at least above 300,000.

Jobs you can qualify for with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering can include:

  • Mechanical engineer
  • Manufacturing engineer
  • Design engineer
  • Project engineer
  • Aerospace engineer

Difficulty

Mechanical engineering is a difficult major. It will include a lot of math classes, a lot of physics classes and the mechanical engineering classes, themselves, can be difficult which also include a lot of physics and mathematics. Overall, you can expect mechanical engineering to be more difficult than a major in economics.

Classes

Below are some classes you can expect to take in mechanical engineering:

  • Calculus
  • Differential equations
  • Physics
  • Statics
  • Dynamics
  • Fluid dynamics
  • Thermodynamics
  • Vibrations
  • Design

Things to consider

Mechanical engineering is a major that will involve a lot of study time. If you are choosing the major purely for the job opportunities, there are better alternatives that do not require as much study time such as computer science.

However, mechanical engineering can be a pathway into very interesting careers that are very satisfying. Before choosing mechanical engineering as a major, it would help a lot to research the different jobs you could get and to see if they are things that you would truly enjoy doing.

Details about a degree in economics

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 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.

Difficulty

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
Intermediate microeconomics
Intermediate macroeconomics
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

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

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.

Reasons to choose a mechanical engineering major

The key advantage that a mechanical 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 mechanical engineering degree.

Also, mechaincal engineering jobs tend to be very satisfying jobs that are also very interesting and important to society.

However, a mechanical 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 mechanical engineering degree interesting, it might be the case that an alternative would suit you better.

Reasons to choose an economics degree

While a mechanical 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 mechanical 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.

Bottom line

Overall, my recommendation would be to major in mechanical 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.

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.