Applying to university can be a very stressful time in life – there are so many choices to make when it comes to deciding which university, and which degree course, is right for you.
Thankfully, for A-Level students looking to launch their career as an economist and study economics at university, there are a few hints and tips below about how to apply for an economics undergraduate degree.
Are Economics Degrees Useful / In Demand?
First things first, it’s important to remember that a degree in economics is one of the most sought-after degree subjects in the U.K.
This is because:
- Economics graduates show that they have a wealth of transferable skills;
- Economics graduates are usually highly numerate and great problem-solvers; and
- Economics graduates have great analytical skills and can interpret economic data, which employers highly value.
With this in mind, you should feel confident when applying for an economics degree.
Indeed, studies have shown that upon completion of an economics degree, on average economics graduates tend to earn more five years after leaving university than graduates of other subjects, including social science disciplines, such as history and psychology.
Although such studies are not a sure-fire indication that studying for an economics degree will land you a high paying job, it’s reassuring to know that economics graduates do appear to be highly valued in today’s workforce, and generally are able to find employment within a profession of their choosing.
Of course, the joy of studying at a U.K. university is that, often, the degree course you take doesn’t dictate what kind of career you have to have after university. This means that most job options (besides highly trained professions, such as medicine, veterinary science, and architecture) should remain an option for you with an economics degree.
This means that if you wish to land a career or internship in areas such as:
- Consulting; or
- Financial advisory
However, even if you decide part way through your course that your heart is set on a career in journalism or marketing, you are still free to pursue that career with your economics degree, along with thousands of other economics undergraduates that pursue such career paths each year.
This means that an economics degree does not limit you to roles purely in finance or accounting, which can be a relief for some.
You might find it helpful to check in with a careers advisor when you reach your second or third year of university, as they may be able to point you towards elective modules that could be relevant for your future career.
Best Universities For Economics In The UK
The U.K. is a fantastic place to go to university, as there are so many quality institutions that deliver world-class education and research, and give students a solid founding in economic principles, microeconomic theory, and econometric theory.
As a result, students applying for a place on an economics undergraduate degree are spoilt for choice in terms of where to apply.
If you’re looking to study economics at one of the U.K.’s top universities, then there are a number of institutions you can choose from.
For instance, you may wish to apply to either Oxford or Cambridge University to study economics. Both universities deliver their economics courses in slightly different ways, as:
- Oxford integrates economics study into wider courses, such as Philosophy, Politics and Economics; and
- Cambridge offers economics as a sole subject.
As such, it’s important to think about whether you’d like to study economics on its own, or whether you'd prefer to study economic theory as part of a combined degree before you apply to a university.
If Oxbridge isn’t for you, then there are other universities you can apply to. University College London and the London School of Economics offer world-renowned economics degrees that are equally competitive to get into.
If you do decide to apply for a place at one of these universities, or any of the other top-tier universities in the U.K. to study economics, then you should make sure that you’re on track to get the required grades during your A-Level results in order to meet your preferred university’s entry requirements.
Given how competitive places onto such courses can be, it’s worthwhile seeing whether there are other ways to help boost your academic performance, especially if you’ve found yourself struggling in one or more of your A-Level subjects, or have found particular pieces of coursework challenging.
Tutoring websites, such as Superprof, have a range of tutors that can provide assistance across a range of subject areas, whether that’s:
- Mathematics and Further Mathematics;
- Government and Politics; and
If you let your tutor know in advance what subject areas you most need help with, they can make sure to tailor your tutoring sessions to help you boost your results, and give you more confidence in your understanding of economic principles before you head into your final exams.
Can you Study Economics Without Maths?
Before applying for an undergraduate place at university to study economics, it is worthwhile taking the time to research your preferred courses so that you know what kind of business and economics topics you’ll be taught during your three or four years at university.
This is especially important if:
- You didn’t study maths at A-Level; or
- If you’re not confident in your maths ability and don’t want to take a maths-focussed economics course.
This is because there are a lot of economics courses that will require students to have maths and in some cases further maths, at A-Level. For example, due to the course’s focus on mathematics and statistics, the economics course at the University College London requires applicants to have a maths A-Level.
One way of gauging whether a degree course is likely to be maths-heavy is the kind of degree that you will take away with you upon graduation. Generally speaking, undergraduate economics degrees that award a BA will be less maths-focused, while BSc courses will have more mathematical modules and emphasis.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule though, so make sure to look at each university’s prospectus to see the kind of modules on offer throughout the degree.
Although it is possible to study economics at university without having a maths A-Level, this doesn’t mean that your economics course will be completely devoid of maths.
In fact, as maths is the cornerstone of many economic theories and pieces of economic analysis, you will come into contact with maths at some point, for example, in your micro- or macroeconomics modules, or in any quantitative analysis modules your course offers.
If you know you’re going to go to a university that has a focus on maths, then you might want to prepare yourself before going to university by enlisting the help of an economics or maths tutor, to get you up to speed with the key numerical skills you should need for your first year at university.
Superprof has a range of economics and maths tutors to select from, who can be filtered based on factors such as location, and how lessons are delivered (e.g. online, in private, or in small groups).
The Fight For Diversity In Economics Teaching
When researching different economics courses, you may notice that most universities have quite a few modules in common.
More often than not, during an economics undergraduate degree, you will study subjects such as:
- Microeconomics; and
Although these courses will be taught in their own particular way at each university, based on each lecturer’s experience and research expertise, economics graduates usually leave university with a solid understanding of these core areas of economics.
However, over the past few years, there has been a growing movement at the student level to try and get universities to make their undergraduate economics courses broader in scope.
Societies, such as the University of Manchester’s Post-Crash Economics Society, have argued that the teaching of the subject by any economics teacher throughout the U.K. is almost homogenous and has too great a focus on the neoclassical school of economic thought, to the detriment of other areas, whether that be post-Keynesian economics or Marxist economics.
They also argue that there should be more focus on economic history, as sometimes graduates run the risk of completing degrees without having studied in any great depth topics such as:
- The causes of the 2008 financial crisis;
- The Industrial Revolution;
- The collapse of the Bretton Woods system; and
- The Great Depression.
Although these areas may be given more prominence during undergraduate economics courses in the years to come, it’s unclear whether any change is scheduled within the immediate future.
As such, if you would be interested in learning more about economic history during your time at university, or would like to know about different schools of economic thought and their development, it may be worthwhile paying extra close attention to the modules on offer at universities’, to see which modules most align with your interests.
You could also hire an economics tutor to help guide you through these areas, through sites such as Superprof. The choice is yours!