Economics: It's Much More Than You Think!
Economics: It's Much More Than You Think!
As the above video shows, economists are problem solvers. The profession has produced methods to better match organ recipients with donors (saving countless lives), improved the financial savings rate for U.S. veterans, and reduced crime through small incentives.
Economics is a systematic and scientific way of looking at human choices. The field is a method of studying humans using models and data; it is not a series of facts about the economy to memorize. While economics includes the study of what people buy and how products are produced, the field is far more expansive. Economics can be applied to numerous fields including art, education, law, medicine, psychology, sociology, and urban studies. Further, economics is the foundational science on which all business fields are built. Regardless of your passion, economics can help you understand it.
My passion is ...
Suppose you are fascinated by football. Specifically, you want to understand the value of a good offensive lineman to a football team. Economics gives the structure and the methods to ask and test your question scientifically. You might want to determine how lineman talent changes the propensity of a team to score, all else equal.
Questions like this are part of a field called sports economics. A portion of this field was popularized by the book Moneyball and movie by the same name. However, sports economics extends far beyond valuing players and touches on unexpected issues such as the real value of a new stadium to a city, how the inability to pay players in the NCAA results in societal costs, and wage differentials that result from racism within a team’s fanbase.
Want to learn more? We offer a Sports Economics course every spring semester (ECON 3190).
Business and Entrepreneurship
Specifically, you've always wanted to start a business or work at an exciting startup. This is a common path for the economics major (including some of your professors). Economics is the scientific foundation of all business fields; rules in management, marketing, and finance all find their origins in economic theory.
For instance, competitive behavior in complex or imperfect markets is the primary focus of a field in economics called Industrial Organization (I/O); Entrepreneurial Economics, a subfield of I/O, focusing on this behavior among young firms. Using the theories in these fields of economics, you can position your new product in the market, price your product appropriately, and decide on the appropriate amount of advertising.
If an entrepreneur wants to hone their skills further after graduation, there is an option to earn an advanced degree in economics or an MBA. While economics graduates often go on to a graduate economics program, they also have a leg up if they decide to pursue an MBA. The more selective MBA programs give some preference to more technically inclined candidates, such as those with economics degrees. Fields like finance use significant amounts of mathematics at the advanced level, providing the economics graduate a significant advantage.
Want to learn more? We offer a course in Economics of Entrepreneurship (ECON 4730) each fall, and courses in Industrial Organization (ECON 4210) and Economics of Technology (ECON 4340) each spring. Moreover, we offer an undergraduate concentration in Economics that can be earned as part of the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
Computers and Data
Suppose you're interested in the intersection of computers and data. Moreover, you are fascinated by the new techniques (e.g. machine learning, and artificial intelligence) developed by the industry's most advanced companies. Like many young students, you might think your path is a job as a computer programmer. However, what if there was a job that allowed you explore your interests in computers but also explore interesting questions using the data.
The growing fields of Data and Business Analytics have long been influenced by economists. People like Hal Varian, Cheif Economist at Google, and Greg Duncan, Chief Economist and Chief Statistician at Amazon, take their economic and statistics knowledge and apply it to these 'big data' problems. Economists dominate these fields as high-quality analytics requires three distinct areas of expertise: computer programming, statistics, and domain or business knowledge. Finding a person who has all three areas of knowledge is difficult, but can often be found in an economics graduate.
Today is an exciting time to be interested in analytics. Jobs are high paying and abundant and UNO offers degree programs that train the motivated student in these fields.
Want to learn more? We offer our an undergraduate concentration in Economics that can be paired with our undergraduate concentration in Business Analytics. In our Master's program, we offer a graduate concentration in Econometrics and Data Analytics.
International Development and Trade
Long ago, people and goods only traveled by land through routes such as the Silk Road. The journey took months... sometimes years. These travelers brought new ideas to a place, but they also learned from those they meet. A long chain of technological improvements led to people and goods traveling by sea and then by air (taking less than a day). Because of technological change (including improvements in communication), it is now possible to benefit from ideas from around the world without setting foot outside of your home.
Thanks, in part, to the exchange of goods and ideas, most peoples' living conditions have improved; people have access to a wider set of goods and services at lower prices. This includes life-saving medicines, mobile phones for the unbanked, and solar lights for those off grid. The growth of international demand led to entrepreneurs forming new businesses and people migration to these new economically vibrant areas. In short, communities thrived due to the growth of exchange. However, there is a dark side to international exchange: People whose skills were no longer in demand lost work, uncompetitive firms closed, inequality widened in some areas, and some communities became economically stagnant.
Are you interested in understanding the role of international exchange in improving the human condition? From eradicating poverty and hunger to creating good jobs, how does one structure incentives and policies to maximize the benefits while minimizing the disruptions caused by international exchange? How can communities and governments work together to ensure the sustainable extraction and trade of resources such as minerals and fisheries, and fair pay and safe working conditions for workers?
Want to learn more? These, and many other issues, are addressed in ECON 3600 (Introduction to International Economics – offered fall semesters), ECON 4660/8666 (International Economic Development – offered fall semesters), and ECON 4610/8616 (International Trade – offered spring semesters).
The Environment and Natural Resources
Perhaps you're an outdoor enthusiast. You enjoy nature walks, mountain-biking, hiking, or other such activity. Perhaps you're an avid hunter or fisherman. Perhaps you or your family is employed in the agricultural, mining or energy producing industries. Perhaps you have read reports on global warming and have developed a concern for the Earth we all inhabit.
If any of this is you, then you can bring such interests together with your passion for economics by studying Environmental and Natural Resource Economics. In such courses, we lean about how markets and the natural world interact. We debate questions such as: Is nature simply an input in production or is economic activity embedded in nature? We address policy questions: If we wish to increase recycling, what is the best way to incentivize people to recycle? How can we balance the benefits we all derive from nature with the benefits we all derive from the goods and services that may deplete natural resources? That role does technology play in resource preservation? How do we empirically measure the benefits we derive from a lake, river, nature preserve, or park?
Such topics, and the skills you gain in addressing such topics, are not only fascinating in their own right, but can lead to gainful employment in a variety of places. There are many government jobs that focus on natural resource management, as well as many non-profits that have an environmental focus. But beyond that, many major companies have develop sustainability departments to assist in their effort to better manage environmental resource use, and reduce waste in production, and promote recycling, all in an effort to gain efficiencies and reduce cost.
Want to learn more? We offer a course in Natural Resource Economics (ECON 4320) each fall, Natural Resource and Environmental Economics (ECON 332) in the spring. We also offer graduate level courses in Environmental Economics (ECON 8020). Invest in your future by investing in everyone's future!