How Much Math Is Required To Major In Economics?

"I am interested in going into economics, because I think the theory is really interesting. I’m not sure yet what I’d want to do for a living once I graduate. There is one thing that concerns me though, which is math. It is not my strong suit, and while I don’t hate it, I’m not enamored with the idea of having to learn a ton of different math skills to get through my undergrad studies. How many math classes will I have to take to get my degree, and what sorts of math will be required?"

asked by Gale from Providence, RI

There isn’t as much math required to major in economics at the undergraduate level as you might expect. It depends on whether the degree is a B.S.(Bachelors of Science) or a B.A.(Bachelors of Arts). B.S. degrees always require more mathematics than B.A. degrees. If you go for a B.A. in economics, you will likely have to take several different math classes to earn your degree.

Typically, you’ll be expected to take Calculus I, but probably not to advance beyond that level. Part of Calculus I is usually pre-calc, which is the same thing as algebra. If you can handle algebra, you can handle pre-calculus.

Some students find calculus easier than they find algebra, so if you are algebra-challenged, try sticking it out. There is a good chance things will get easier for you as the course goes on. You will also probably need to take a statistics class.

Keep in mind that in order to get into Calculus I, you have to qualify to enter it. So if you are still in high school, you may want to try to get a head start by picking more advanced math classes.

Most universities offer a qualifying examination when you enter. The exam is optional, but if you don’t take it, you will have to take college level algebra before you can take calculus, and that’s just one more math class. If you pass the exam, you usually can skip the college algebra course and go straight to calculus.

This amount of math should at the very least be sufficient to get a B.A. in economics, but you might even get a B.S. with just several math courses. Economics is usually taught more as a social science. Logic does play a strong role in economics, though, so you will need to be able to think along logical lines, just as you would in math classes.

You’ll need to have good inductive and deductive reasoning skills. Some, but not all, jobs in economics require mathematics knowledge.

Many students find economics just as challenging as mathematics. This is not meant to be discouraging; it is just something to keep in mind if you choose this as your major. You may take to it naturally.

Being good at math won’t necessarily make you good at economics or vice versa. Theory is a big part of economics, and being able to make intuitive leaps of logic will help you to succeed.

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