You get a job,” he says. The problem with the idea, he says, is that, if a degree will guarantee you a job, then people will never actually complete those courses. There are no jobs just waiting for them. Even at the “startup university” that offers a $10,000 starting starting salary for three years, many take six years before finding a job. The idea that a degree will prepare you to become an economist is the fantasy of a small but very vocal minority. But the problem with the idea that a degree will prepare you to become an economist is the fantasy of a small but very vocal minority.
The reality, says Vassilis Gavrides, chief economist at Gavrides Associates, is that while many students are attracted to fields of study that are in demand, many are not prepared for the real jobs that await them once they graduate. “We’ve done the empirical work in this field,” he told me. “We have looked at the fact that students who go to elite universities do not do better; they’re not necessarily worse-prepared to be employed … It’s like someone is trying to sell you a car and telling you, ‘Buy the car if you want to do anything.’ It doesn’t really make sense.”
The problem with the idea that a degree will prepare you to become an economist is the fantasy of a small but very vocal minority.
At Princeton University, which is now ranked No. 1 on our list of the best universities for business graduates, the median starting salary for a student applying for a finance job is slightly higher than it is for a student applying for an economics job. Gavrides says that for him, “The issue isn’t that the math majors are bad at math. It’s that economics is pretty hard.” The reason that economics is hard, he says, is because it teaches students how economic theories about the world operate and how individual economic decisions matter. So while a “good” math major may well have an easier time getting a job at Apple, a “good” economics major might not be able to land such a lucrative job at Apple. (Gavrides declined to comment on his own research about economics).
And there’s also the issue of what a degree in mathematics — which requires very little math theory — would pay you in the real world. “If you want to work in finance, you’d better come up with an algorithm that’s way better than anyone’s algorithm,” says
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