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Can an Undergraduate Degree in Economics Set Me Up for a Career in Business Analytics

2020violet2020violet Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
Asking as a clueless high schooler. I want to go into data analytics. Specifically, I want to help companies collect and analyze key metrics so that they make future business decisions. Will an Econ major, Stats minor set my up for this?

Replies to: Can an Undergraduate Degree in Economics Set Me Up for a Career in Business Analytics

  • merc81merc81 Registered User Posts: 9,286 Senior Member
    edited January 27
    You can consider the opinion of someone in the field:

    For students pursuing data science as a career, Sweet identified three different approaches for the field of data science: mathematics, computer science, and social sciences. She encourages students not to limit themselves—referring to her own sociology background—and recommends that all hopeful data scientists could benefit from a statistics class.
    Note that the social sciences often share approaches with respect to data analysis. The study of economics would seem appropriate for you, but you might also enjoy exploring similar analytical methods through courses in interesting fields such as psychology and sociology.

    https://www.hamilton.edu/news/story/shauna-sweet-03-shares-career-path-in-data-science
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,673 Super Moderator
    Yes...mostly.

    Data analytics today is dominated by big data, and big data requires an understanding of computer science in addition to statistics. You need to know how to manipulate the data using programming and big data tools like SQL and Hadoop. For that reason, if I was advising a student who knew up front they wanted to be a data scientist, I'd advise them to pursue heavy coursework in both math/statistics and in computer science.

    However, I'm a behavioral scientist myself, and I work closely with data scientists. The best and most useful data scientists have some grip on social/behavioral sciences (either formally or through work), because companies often want to know why people are behaving the way they do, not just how they are behaving. The why helps them make decisions about what to do with the behavior. The average or bad data scientists just dump a bunch of information on people and shrug when asked "why?" The good ones come up with reasonable explanations for the data that the company can act on.

    Economics, when done correctly, is a highly quantitative field. However, many undergraduate economics programs focus more on the social science and theoretical aspects of the major, and you often have to choose to take the math and statistics on your own (and definitely the CS). Honestly, I would propose thinking about creating your own independent major that is an amalgamation of economics, statistics, and computer science. If that's not appealing or you can't do that, my next recommendation would actually be to major in statistics, minor in economics, and then take lots of courses in computer science (ask an advisor which ones would be most useful for a future data analyst).

    If you want to major in economics, that's fine too! But you have to make sure you are getting good, deep exposure to statistics and computer science, so talk to a stats advisor about your career aspirations and get help setting up a program that will take you there.
  • merc81merc81 Registered User Posts: 9,286 Senior Member
    @2020violet: You may want to read Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil. Though the purpose of the book is to explore big data through a social context, aspects of the field that pertain more directly to your question are nonetheless discussed.
  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 6,257 Senior Member
    @20/20violet: Check out the University of Virginia data analytics.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,673 Super Moderator
    That's such a good book, @merc81!
  • merc81merc81 Registered User Posts: 9,286 Senior Member
    I wouldn't have thought you would have missed that one, @juillet!
  • 2020violet2020violet Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    Thanks for the recommendation @merc81
  • 2020violet2020violet Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    @juillet That combination of majors/minors sounds really appealing, but as a student who's EC's and course load imply an interest in social sciences (I'm taking my first CS class next year as a senior), I thought applying under CS in conjunction with Econ would be a risk. What do you think of an Econ Major, Stats Minor?
  • merc81merc81 Registered User Posts: 9,286 Senior Member
    edited January 31
    Why not apply to colleges that encourage academic exploration? After sampling courses in a range of fields -- economics, computer science, math et al -- you could then choose your major as a second-semester college sophomore.
  • 2020violet2020violet Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    I'm definitely looking into places that provide an open curriculum or second-year major declaration.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,673 Super Moderator
    Yeah, I could be wrong about this, but I don't think most colleges are expecting you to know what you want to do from the age of 14 on and to line up all your ECs in a specific way. If you're applying to schools that don't require you to apply to the CS major, whatever major you pick won't matter anyway.
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