Is Economics STEM – Why Colleges Want Economics to Be a STEM Major

Krystal DeVille

Is Economics STEM

Recently, five of the eight Ivy League universities have reclassified their economics degrees from social science to science, technology, math, and engineering (STEM).

As opposed to a philosophical change, college departments are utilizing a federal shift implemented in 2012. It allows graduates of quantitative economics and economics to apply for more generous visas compared to those granted non-STEM majors. As a result, this lures international students in droves.

Nonetheless, the debate to the popularly asked question, ‘is economics STEM?’ is one worth having. After all, there’s an increasing demand for the profession, and the revolutionary labor market means that future economists must master interdisciplinary approaches.

What Is STEM?

It’s a curriculum that revolves around the idea of educating students in four particular disciplines; mathematics, technology, science, and engineering. STEM education is the perfect combination of an applied and interdisciplinary approach.

As opposed to teaching these disciplines as discrete and separate subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive education paradigm that revolves around real-world applications.

Please take a look at the comparison between STEM and STEAM in our article here.

What Is Economics?

Economic theory can be described in a few different ways. It’s the study of how people respond to incentives and utilize resources, the study of decision-making, or the study of scarcity.

Although it usually entails topics such as finance and wealth, it’s not all about money. As a broad discipline, economics ushers in the understanding of historical trends, making predictions and interpreting today’s headlines.

Furthermore, economic theory varies from overly small to large. Microeconomics refers to the study of individual decisions, whereas macroeconomics encompasses the economy in its entirety. While a macroeconomist is more concerned with sovereign debt, a micro-economist focuses on families’ medical debt.

Why Economics Deserve STEM Recognition

Economics with STEM Education

Let’s delve into a few reasons why the answer to the most commonly asked question, ‘is economics STEM?’ is yes.

1. Economics Employs Math for Concise Communication

There’s no doubt that economics is part of the social sciences, given that it studies human behavior. However, economists employ math at a basic level, from communicating findings and developing models to projections.

Undergraduate students in the economics department learn statistics, algebra, and calculus, which they implement in quantitative research and decision-making analyses. Successful economists have top-notch math skills since graduate-level economics programs are competitive and prioritize analytical capacity.

2. Economics Develops 21st-Century Skills

The goal of STEM programs is the creation of socially and professionally qualified individuals to overcome 21st-century obstacles.

For this reason, these courses make learners apply the scientific concepts they learn to everyday life and acquire useful skills for real-world applications. Economics develops and promotes them.

As a result of the prevalence of pragmatism and mathematics in economics, positivism is the main research method in the discipline.

As such, the job description of an economist is to critically assess real-world problems and evaluate feasible solutions through scientific methods (link to our free scientific worksheet) such as economic positivism.

Additionally, pursuing a degree in economics encourages learners to improve or acquire much-needed life skills such as entrepreneurship, resilience, critical thinking, teamwork, problem-solving, collaboration, civic responsibility, innovation, and resourcefulness.

3. Economics Students Become Entrepreneurs and Analytical Citizens

These skills are the key to helping shape a qualified 21st- century society and bring the perks to the learners. Students become independent, curious, and critical. Furthermore, economics students gain insight into how governments, individuals, societies, households, and businesses allocate their scarce resources.

Understanding incentives and scarcity at a fundamental level makes for entrepreneurs and critical citizens and informs them of the importance of technological innovation.

Economists aren’t passive recipients of statistical information that stems from nonprofit organizations, companies, and governments. They possess the skills to question, assess the accuracy of the information provided, and think critically.

4. Economics Majors Meet the Labor Needs of the Market

The STEM classification for a university or college degree is part of the strategy to educate learners of all levels in the four disciplines (mathematics, technology, science, and engineering) in a detailed way.

It works as an incentive to lure in more learners in droves to the relevant programs that will allow them to find lucrative and indispensable occupations. In addition to mathematics, engineering, and science, there’s no denying that economics is one of the most rewarding majors in the job market.

For a huge list of STEM statistics, please take a look at our article here.

stem education statistics

As a result of the behaviors, methods, and skills that learners acquire to pursue a degree in economics, specializing in this field will remain relevant in the coming decades. In 2017, (dailynorthwestern), an alumnus of Northwestern University, Mahera Wallia, created a petition geared towards recognizing economics as a STEM major.

Over 150 alumni and students signed the petition. Mahera was an international student of economics who grappled with finding an institution to sponsor her H1B visa due to the short horizon of one year for her employment.

It wouldn’t happen under the STEM designation as learners have the chance to stay an extra two years in the US.

Colleges Want Economics to Be a STEM Major

5. Economics Broadens the Implementation of STEM Tools

STEM advocates should acknowledge that non-STEM disciplines such as the humanities will continue existing as long as many people gravitate towards them. There are no qualms with that.

After all, individuals have free rein to make decisions based on what they feel is most ideal for them and work or study in their preferred fields, even though subsidies from taxpayers taint the water on this.

Nonetheless, recognizing economics as a STEM major welcomes a math-based option for learners with broader interests. They can acquire the skills and lessons that STEM content promotes but implement them in different fields such as entrepreneurship and finance.

As a discipline that creates multidisciplinary skills, economics allows learners to combine courses and branch into a vast assortment of careers.

Go further in this topic with our article,  STEM in Science Classrooms – Difference Between Science and Technology.

STEM in Science Classrooms - Difference Between Science and Technology

6. Economics Entails the Mathematical and Statistical Evaluation of Economic Issues

According to the National Center for Economics, the quantitative and econometrics code is for a program that revolves around the systemic study of statistical and mathematical analysis of economic problems and phenomena.

It includes the cost-benefit analysis, economic evaluation and forecasting, instruction in economic statistics, economic modeling, and price theory.

7. Altering the Code

Universities and colleges are now changing the federal classification code of their economics majors from 45.0601 (general economics) to 45.0603 (quantitative economics and econometrics) to avail this option to students.

The latter happened to be the only field taught that is regarded as a STEM field by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Wrapping Up

With the knowledge that up to 10% of jobs will be replaced by automation in the next decade, it is imperative for students with STEM degrees to prepare themselves.

Economics may not be a traditional science or math major and doesn’t seem like something that would qualify as a STEM field. Still, colleges are pushing hard for economics majors to become recognized STEM fields so they can compete with other subjects.

If you’re looking at an undergraduate degree program and want one that prepares you for these uncertain times, make sure your college offers an economics major. What do you think about this push from colleges? Should all economists have their own specialty, or should they focus on macroeconomics instead?

Let us know your thoughts down in the comments!

1 thought on “Is Economics STEM – Why Colleges Want Economics to Be a STEM Major”

  1. Regardless of the mathematical tools it uses for the analyses it performs, the study of economics ultimately comes down to divining the rules that govern market interactions among human beings. Since human beings are individually irrational and collectively insane, it is impossible to posit economic principles of any useful specificity that are consistently reproducible.

    In short, the conclusions of economics as a discipline cannot be empirically proven to the degree of certainty required by science. It is therefore a social science, which is the name we give to disciplines studying data generated by the irrational human mind. That’s the polite description of social sciences, at any rate. More accurately, they are disciplines whose conclusions are so erratic and contradictory that their respective fields of study ultimately serve no purpose whatsoever (other than providing the subjective biases of its practitioners a bogus and unearned legitimacy).


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