Math or Economics Major

Antonius's picture
Rank: Chimp | 6

I need to pick a major right away. I'm torn between mathematics and economics. I like both subjects, but I don't want to double major due to obvious reasons; I would consider a minor in math/stats. Overall, I enjoy economics more. I really like finance, especially the more challenging stuff.

What degree would you guys recommend? I'm interested in corporate finance, economics, consulting, actuarial science, accounting, analysis, trading, investing, banking, management, etc. Also, I'm not interested in being a quant because I want to interact more with people.

I know math is really, really good. However, I'm afraid if I go the math route, I'll miss the theory and understanding of markets and business. Is a minor enough, or is it scoffed upon? I go to a top school in California. (think #2).

As far as careers go, does ibanking open up a lot of doors? Sure the money is good, but is it intellectually stimulating? Would it be better to do corporate finance (Google or some other firm) or trading? I want to make good money, but also learn a lot at the same time so I can go to a top graduate school or get an upper-management position. I would imagine economics to be great for upper-management, if that day ever comes.

Thanks.

economics vs math

Generally speaking, you should always follow your passion when choosing a field of study. With that being said, an English degree from Harvard is very different than an English degree from a state school. Emolument gathered data on 840 financial professionals in New York City. All of the finance professionals surveyed worked in front office positions. We'll take a look at the two typical entry-level positions of analyst and associate.

Analyst Major by Popularity

  1. Accounting, Business, and Finance
  2. Economics
  3. Engineering
  4. Mathematics and Statistics

Associate Major by Popularity

  1. Accounting, Business, and Finance
  2. Economics
  3. Engineering
  4. Mathematics and Statistics

You can view the full report on Business Insider

While other degrees are more popular, math majors don't have any distinct disadvantage. The main risk that is generally associated with a math major is that of a lower GPA. However, Math majors can still be competitive when searching for jobs in finance.

MBAApply:

I graduated 12+ years ago, majored in economics and did a minor in math -- if I were to do it all over again, I would've reversed it (and perhaps not even minor in econ at all). At the time, I actually really enjoyed my math courses a lot more but didn't major in it because as an aspiring banker I wasn't "supposed" to major in anything other than econ (or alternatively enter an undergrad business program).

Economics was a great way to get strong grades because the courses weren't very hard -- at least where I went for undergrad, econ was just an excuse to do math but in less intellectually rigorous way than doing a math major (and with a heavier workload compared to a math major).

Recommended Reading

Preparing for Investment Banking Interviews?

The WSO investment banking interview course is designed by countless professionals with real world experience, tailored to people aspiring to break into the industry. This guide will help you learn how to answer these questions and many, many more.

Investment Banking Interview Course Here

Comments (81)

Oct 10, 2015

....

May 22, 2010

dude stop trying to tailor your education to your job. know one gives a shit about what you studied in college and you will learn everything you need to know on the job. since it doesn't sound like you are thinking at all about grad school in math or econ, I would say go with econ if thats what you like best. I would say the same thing if you were deciding between english or polisci. it doesnt matter what you major in as long as u have some finance-related and quantitative course-work to show that you're competent and interested in the field.

college is one of the last few experiences in your life when you will have most of the decision-making power. if you get into finance, you will be someone's bitch and taking a lot of orders for your first 5+ years, so enjoy your freedom while you can.

"do what you love and fuck the rest" ~ Dwayne

May 22, 2010

I agree, I started in Physics as a sophomore because it was something I really enjoyed in Highschool and I wanted to challenge my self.

At the time I had no idea what I was going to do with that degree, a year later I found out about trading, this summer I'll be doing an internship to see if it's really for me, if not I've got a good safety net in Grad School.

What you want to do in life will change atleast 3 times in College, I know it did for me. Didn't even know what trading was freshman year, I wanted to be a lawyer.

May 22, 2010

Couldn't you double major in math & econ? You might wanna try consulting if you wanna open up a lot of doors outside of finance.

May 22, 2010

Thank you all. I've used the search option and read all the results before I posted this. I would consider getting a PhD in economics or a masters in mathematics.

Double majoring would require too many classes and would possibly bring my GPA down. I think a minor is good, but I'm not too sure.

I was looking at applied math w/ emphasis in economics. I'm also interested in their honors econ program.

Thanks.

Oct 10, 2015

....

May 22, 2010
bcbunker1:

If you are considering a Phd in econ you should definitely at least minor in math.

but if - as you said - you are interested in a master's in math, then you better do a bachelor's in math.

btw, calc 1-3, diff eq, analysis (1-2 courses), linear algebra (1-2 courses), probability (1-2 courses) does not leave more than 5-6 courses for a math major. incidentally one of my best friends is an econ and math double major from UCB, and he has done well for himself. i always envy his choice of school/majors.

can't go wrong with either major though. if you go the math route, take 4 or 5 courses in econ (intro micro/macro, intermediate micro/macro, and maybe some econometrics)...remember that as part of your math major, you will likely have a chance to take diverse subjects such as game theory, analysis of variance, bayesian statistics, time series, etc. as electives. if you go the econ route, i don't know, try to get calc 1-3, and at least 1 course each of diff eq, analysis, linear algebra and probability.

at the risk of angering people, i will say that math is beyond a doubt a harder major than econ, especially when you are comparing the two majors within the same school. so, if getting a high gpa is your only concern, you should probably go for the econ major. however, if you are actually interested in quantitative master's programs (mfin, mfe, etc.), you need a decent background in math.

May 22, 2010

I know I did not make this clear, but I'm interested in an MF, MBA, MFE, Masters in Math, and Masters/phd in Econ.

Oct 10, 2015

...

May 22, 2010

Thank you! I really appreciate this.

Oct 10, 2015

Dude,

trading, ib, and port mngment are very different. Either way though, I would minor in Economics, personally I find it really interesting, and much easier than math minor (differential equations is probably the harderst course I have ever taken in my life.) I would only choose math if I were going to be doing very complex fina stuff like derivative based.

Oct 10, 2015

Need more context. At the very least, what's your major?

Oct 10, 2015

Oh sorry should have provided more information. I'm just saying in general, what's better for each of the 3. I'm not sure what I wanna do yet, but like which of the 2 (math or econ) would be better for the 3 positions respectively.
I'm actually majoring in Accounting/Finance, I'm kinda inching towards portfolio management type work, but I think my program's more styled for IB type of work.. (We don't learn much math)

Oct 10, 2015

I think this also depends on what school you're at, but if you are leaning towards portfolio management, I think econ is the better option. Being able to look at macro variables and their effects on the markets is key in that type of position...math would really only give you a leg up if you are planning on trading.

Oct 10, 2015

if you want to do math, you better damn sure that you can do it without jeopardizing your GPA. econ is a joke compared to math.

Oct 10, 2015

I would do math if your GPA can take the risk

In my opinion, more interesting, although harder.

Even Econ grads would admit that it's a joke difficulty-wise compared to Maths

Oct 10, 2015

Hey thanks for the reply guys. I'm not too worried about my GPA since there's not that many courses. I'm just not sure what's more useful.. But my school's pretty famous for its math program though, not sure if that should influence my decision..?

Oct 10, 2015

Wloo is very famous for its Putnam team. If you can land a spot on the team and do well on the exam, you're probably too smart for anything but pure math.

But if you can't, I think you should still pursue pure math because econ will probably be a bore.

Oct 10, 2015

Take what you're interested in.

Oct 10, 2015

General tip - if you study a subject that you enjoy and get good grades in it, as long as you attend a target university and you show a legitimate interest in the job, you have a good chance.

No one will give you a job over someone else based on your minor anyway.

Oct 10, 2015
fp175:

General tip - if you study a subject that you enjoy and get good grades in it, as long as you attend a target university and you show a legitimate interest in the job, you have a good chance.

No one will give you a job over someone else based on your minor anyway.

way to state the obvious, you should consider heading for a careers advisor job fp, your obvious talents would be wasted in IBD

Oct 10, 2015

do math, if you can handle it

Oct 10, 2015

and if i could go back and do it all over again... i'd major in applied math (econ major). econ is much more intuitive and easier to "pick up" by simply reading a book. because math builds upon earlier concepts, i think you would be well-served in pursuing a strong math background now. when i got my mba, i wanted to take a couple of the heavier-quant focused finance classes (i.e. - financial engineering), but lacked the requisite math background. by then, it was too much work trying to learn the math in order to learn the finance.

Oct 10, 2015

I'd agree with fishbeancake.

I graduated 12+ years ago, majored in economics and did a minor in math -- if I were to do it all over again, I would've reversed it (and perhaps not even minor in econ at all). At the time, I actually really enjoyed my math courses a lot more but didn't major in it because as an aspiring banker I wasn't "supposed" to major in anything other than econ (or alternatively enter an undergrad business program).

Economics was a great way to get strong grades because the courses weren't very hard -- at least where I went for undergrad, econ was just an excuse to do math but in less intellectually rigorous way than doing a math major (and with a heavier workload compared to a math major).

Alex Chu

Oct 10, 2015

whatever nystateofmind, maybe you should spend your time doing something more productive than piggybacking on my posts you loser

Oct 10, 2015

Ok, ok fp175 if it's that IMPORTANT to you to have validation for your post, then here it is. You win! Best post ever, happy now? Apologies for questioning you in your infinite wisdom, I'll think twice next time.

maybe if you didn't keep re-posting the same tedious stuff, then people would evolve and learn how to use the freakin' search function, that's what it's there for.

Oct 10, 2015
joefish:

Ok, ok fp175 if it's that IMPORTANT to you to have validation for your post, then here it is. You win! Best post ever, happy now? Apologies for questioning you in your infinite wisdom, I'll think twice next time.

maybe if you didn't keep re-posting the same tedious stuff, then people would evolve and learn how to use the freakin' search function, that's what it's there for.

I really don't post enough comments on this site to be the blame for people constantly asking the same questions.

I think it's really weird that you have such weirdly strong reactions to my posts - which are overwhelmingly benign. So much so that other posters comment on your behavior.

You don't have to use this website you know. Ad hominem attacks like yours just make this place less useful for the students who look to it as a resource.

Oct 10, 2015

My god- stop posting. We need something that is the opposite of the certified star- maybe a frownie face? Seriously, most annoying college student to post on this board ever.

May 22, 2010

If you want to do an econ PhD, you're going to have to get at least a minor in math, might as well get a major. Both will be fine for a finance career, your GPA will matter more than major choice. Agree with the advice not to tailor your major to the job - as long as you're not majoring in art history, you should be ok.

Oct 10, 2015

If you want to break into I-banking, you should really be majoring in archaeology. Once they see that on your resume they'll make you a VP right out of school, no questions asked.

"Give me guys that are poor, smart, and hungry. And no feelings." - Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in "Wall Street"

Oct 10, 2015

dont listen to the asshole above just some insecure undergrad who dont know much more than you do. Personally I think econ is a better route to IBD but if you are interested in other area than IBD such as S&T then math is the way to go.

Oct 10, 2015

thx a lot grads!
You might have saved my life! :D

Mark Takahashi
Junior, Faculty of Math, The University of Tokyo

Oct 10, 2015

it was a little ambiguous, but MBA directly out of undergrad ain't such a good idea. there are alot of websites and threads that explain why, so go read up on it.

I would agree that economics is a better route. you don't need rocket science or be a math whiz to do banking (most of them are done in excel anyway), but you do need some quantitative skills and that class in econometrics will suffice (it's killing me this semester).

Oct 10, 2015

I'm an Econ major right now and its not that hard cause the math isn't too complex (i'm no math whiz btw) so I'd encourage people to do it. But the more important question is where you go to undergrad.

Oct 10, 2015

You definitely don't need econometrics for investment banking.

Oct 10, 2015
giants92:

You definitely don't need econometrics for investment banking.

agreed. econometric models and financial models are worlds apart... but that's about as quantitative as u get in economics...

Oct 10, 2015

Why not finance?

Oct 10, 2015

^ 1. Finance 2. Economics 3. Mathematics

Oct 10, 2015

I would also agree. Econometrics has very little relevant use in banking. Much more macro.

Oct 10, 2015

thx guys
I've heard that being a math whiz can be an advantage when breaking into i- banking, but it seems like not true.
I'm currently at Univ. of Tokyo and Im not thinking of getting MBA right after graduation.
Probably I'm going to major in finance then.

or double major in finance and archaeology, lol

If you want to break into
by FreeMarketer331 (Senior Baboon, 189 Points) on 5/2/10 at 9:29am
Credits
If you want to break into I-banking, you should really be majoring in archaeology. Once they see that on your resume they'll make you a VP right out of school, no questions asked.

"Give me guys that are poor, smart, and hungry. And no feelings." - Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in "Wall Street"

Mark Takahashi
Junior, Faculty of Math, The University of Tokyo

Oct 10, 2015

If your school is really strong in math- and that's a subject you do really well in- there's no reason you can't do math- though that kind of background will be better for trading or risk management. It will also open a number of doors in grad school- particularly financial engineering, computer science, and econ.

Econ is a great degree, but math comes with the PhD-put option if the bottom falls out of the market again.

Oct 10, 2015

what about double-majoring? i think econ - math or finance - math are great combinations. if you are motivated enough (i wasn't). it'll be hard but worth it i think.

if i could go back to ugrad, that's what i'd do. i'm trying to accomplish something similar with a master's in finance (ugrad in applied math).

by the way congrats on u tokyo. i have heard it's a sick school. i had a couple of friends in u tokyo and u kyoto. both are supposed to be baller institutions. also...i always thought it was spelled "kohei"...

Oct 10, 2015

I personally think if you don't want to double major. Than do econ major with Math minor or the other way around. Just major in what you like more or do well in more. Normally the classes you do really well in, you like...haha

Oct 10, 2015

I've thought about double-majoring but I don't think it's possible here in Japan...
Is it that popular in the US? I dont think students at u tokyo know that
I will search details though
Thx for all your help

Mark Takahashi
Junior, Faculty of Math, The University of Tokyo

Oct 10, 2015

take the one which helps you get higher GPA. GPA matters

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.----William Shakespeare

Oct 10, 2015
didi2008:

take the one which helps you get higher GPA. GPA matters

Smarter recruiters will be able to adjust. Math typically has a tougher curve than the business disciplines and soft sciences. If you can get a 3.5 in Math or a 3.6 in Econ, go with Math.

Oct 10, 2015

How rigorous is the econ program at your school? At advanced levels (e.g. nearing or at graduate school classes), econ and math are similar - you do a lot of mathematical proofs in theoretical economics.

Take a look in any volume of Econometrica, one of the 4 major economics journals (others being QJE, AER), and you'll get an idea of how quantitative econ can get.

May 22, 2010

Thanks!

Oct 10, 2015

Given that you are already at a disadvantage coming from a non-target, I would pursue a BS in Mathematical Economics. This will help differentiate you from the armies of econ majors and provide further credibility. It will also open up graduate school opportunities if you feel inclined to head down that path.

My only regret in college is not having pursued a more intellectually rigorous major. My thought process was exactly like yours freshmen year. What I didn't realize was that I was just limiting myself with the belief that if I picked up a math major, my GPA would be significantly lower. Now, don't underestimate the impact math will have on your GPA; however, don't overestimate it either.

The math component of your major will teach you to think in a highly logical way -- more so -- than a 4.0 in Econ ever will.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light." - DT

Oct 10, 2015

I'd go for the quant route. I really dont have a lot of time or respect for Arts degrees (same goes for most folks in finance).

As a non-target with a 2.0 GPA, the quant route has enabled me to bypass all manner of networking/luck barriers because my career track is based more on technical credentials than soft-skills. The latter, being the less intellectually-taxing option, is in huge abundance (especially here on WSO) and therefore harder to break into.

Oct 10, 2015

I'm genuinely confused by SaucyBacon85's post...

Oct 10, 2015
helpmepleasethx:

I'm genuinely confused by SaucyBacon85's post...

Let me qualify:

  1. ER/AM/quant route: CFA/CAIAs dont require a +3.5GPA. Thus, a non-target with a poor GPA such as myself can gain these credentials and break into this track.
  2. IB route: IB requires a solid GPA, networking and doesnt really care for technical credentials.

Therefore, it is easier to break into option 1 if you dont have a solid undergrad. My initial post sounded counterintuitive but I hope that helped.

Oct 10, 2015

Go for the BS in mathematical economics. It'll look a lot better, even if it does lower your GPA (although you shouldn't go into it expecting it to or it's bound to happen). Like SaucyBacon85 said, the technical aspects will prove your worth more than the other skills, although there's no reason you can't hone them all.

Oct 10, 2015

BS is only a three year program if I'm not mistaken. As a current junior, I wish I had taken a three year program, instead I'll be stuck taking the History of Greek Art and Intro to Wellness during my senior year. Waste of money and my time. Plus, quant skills give you the option of getting a Master's in Quant Finance or Financial Engineering or the like. BS is the way to go.

Oct 10, 2015

BTW, not sure about anyone else on here, but the actualy intelligence level (idk if recruiters realize this) between someone with a 3.5 to 3.7 or 3.8 is essentially nill in my experiences.

Oct 10, 2015

This whole thread goes counter to the idea that major doesn't matter and GPA is king. You don't want to be at a non-target with a mediocre GPA.

I don't think anyone will give a shit. Generally most economics at good schools require a lot of math, and the majority of targets (or most schools for that matter?) don't differentiate between economics and mathematical economics. It just sounds redundant.

Oct 10, 2015
TooEducatedToBeBanking:

This whole thread goes counter to the idea that major doesn't matter and GPA is king. You don't want to be at a non-target with a mediocre GPA.

I don't think anyone will give a shit. Generally most economics at good schools require a lot of math, and the majority of targets (or most schools for that matter?) don't differentiate between economics and mathematical economics. It just sounds redundant.

I would agree with this...don't go into a major from a non-target unless you're certain you can maintain at LEAST a 3.5. Having below a 3.5 will really limit yourself to opportunities (from a non-target) for going into IB. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it'll be a LOT harder.

Oct 10, 2015

Are you at Colby??

Oct 10, 2015

honestly, it makes no difference.

Feb 8, 2012

The more math you know, the more doors you have open in your professional/academic career.

Oct 10, 2015

Whichever one will result in a higher GPA

Sometimes when you bring the thunder... you get lost in the storm.

Oct 10, 2015
sweetwater:

Whichever one will result in a higher GPA

+1

Oct 10, 2015

Higher GPA.

Oct 10, 2015

Higher GPA so most probably Economics and take a bunch of math classes.

  • Anonymous Monkey
  •  Sep 13, 2015

When you add Math classes to your major and apply to Grad school, programs use contextualized grading. Meaning they increase your GPA with the difficult Math classes.This is a great combo for Grad school.

Oct 10, 2015

The engineering background will serve you well in IB recruiting. Strong quantitative skills (financial math) will set you up nicely for S&T. Econ will help equally for both. Take your pick.

Oct 10, 2015

Thank you!
Also, by the time i graduate with a maths degree, i can do econs+finance AND 1 year masters program provided i get in a good uni.
both the degrees overlaps a lot.
And maths is not applied maths.
With econs+fin, i can take 2 math based electives too.
Right now, I'm leaning towards econs and fin. So, would playing my electives right help(as far as hard skills are concerned)?

Let me live so when I die the reaper cries..

Oct 10, 2015
Jun 10, 2018