Freakonomics, written by economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner finds the answers to such questions, and others, such as what do real estate agents and the Klu Klux Klan have in common? The success of their book, first published in 2005, has since done much to attract attention to graduate programs in economics across the world, and increase the number of international students applying to them.
Economics impacts on everything around us. Understanding and functioning in today's climate in sectors as diverse as public policy, retail, manufacturing, finance and transport requires, a far greater depth of knowledge of the fundamentals of economic theory than ever before.
Economics is one of the broadest academic subjects to study and there can be little doubt that the breadth of the subject is one of the reasons that makes it so popular. Whilst many prospective students consider the study of economics as a route to a well-paid career, the advanced study of economics can be as much about the alleviation of poverty, the provision of basic human necessities in the developing world, and the impact of climate change on both regional and international economies.
Prospective students considering a masters degree in economics will immediately be struck by the sheer variety of programs available to them.
Prospective students considering a masters degree in economics will immediately be struck by the sheer variety of programs available to them. Irrespective of whether their interest is in accountancy, law, or development studies, single or joint programs cater for all interests. Most top universities will offer either a tightly focused economics masters degree program or one taught in conjunction with another complementary field. The International Economics MS program at Suffolk University in Boston, USA is one program that offers its students a number of 'tracks' to cater for their different interests or career intentions.
Dr Shahruz Mohtadi, Associate Professor of Economics at Suffolk believes the program is ideally suited for individuals who are either in the middle of their careers, or at the start of their careers, who have realised that in order to progress they need to have a professional advanced degree. We offer a rigorous course of study and always make sure that our students are kept aware of the real world economic events that are happening. We constantly ask them to analyse these questions based on what they have learnt.
John Phillips, a student on the Suffolk program says the course is very applied which sets it apart from other masters degrees. It's mathematically intensive and offers coursework in econometrics and time series analysis, and in these courses we use software programs that are familiar in the business world and you have to know them to be successful.
Other programs adopt an entirely different academic approach. The Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA) offers separate one-year degree programs for students catering to their precise area of interest. The MSc Business Economics at UvA is intended to prepare students who already have an economics background and want to focus on organizational and financing issues, whereas the MSc Economics provides a more flexible content to educate students to become the creative and versatile economists the current international labour market demands.
A third program offered by the UvA is the MSc Econometrics, which emphasizes a more statistical approach, preparing graduates for the use of advanced mathematical methods to explore and analyse problems in economics and finance, often encountered in the public and private sectors.
Dhaniel Ilyas from Indonesia, a recent graduate of the program had always dreamed of studying in Europe because of its history, beauty and rich cultures. In 2004, I applied to the MSc program in Econometrics at the Universiteit van Amsterdam.
Later, after I was accepted, I was very happy but I also realized how tough it was going to be, since the econometrics program at the UvA has an excellent reputation. The lecturers were very helpful and supportive but the program required a lot of hard work to understand the material thoroughly.
Economics graduates are in demand. Whatever the core function of a particular business sector, key staff are expected to know how to forecast, build, manage and solve complex models, and apply state-of-the-art statistical methods to data in order to get the best possible results for the business in question. According to the Royal Economic Society's Economics Graduate Employability 2007 report, specific knowledge relating to opportunity costs, equilibrium, disequilibrium and stability, incentives and their effects, are the three most critical areas economics graduates should offer.
Even in this current time of financial uncertainty, the employment prospects for masters students specializing in economics are good. Furthermore, such graduates tend to be amongst the most mobile of all international students and the core components of many programs ensure that students are employed in a range of careers. Investment banking, finance, public policy, accountancy, auditing, academia and professional economics are all sectors that are actively recruiting economics candidates. The annual US Department of Labour Occupational Outlook Handbook offers a positive prognosis for economics graduates. The demand for workers who have knowledge and skill in economics is projected to grow fast, but these workers are often in occupations other than the economist. Job prospects will be best for those with graduate degrees in economics. And the good news continues in 2007, the median annual wage earnings for economists in the USA was US$86,700, with the highest ten per cent earning more than US$141,070.
The field of economics offers students a diverse choice in areas of academic specialization and potential career path. As books like Freakonomics indicate, the advanced study of the subject allows students to gain a greater understanding of the modern, interconnected world and see things more clearly. An invaluable skill for any future career.