Economics can be described as the science of decision-making. It is concerned with the way society distributes and uses resources such as land, labour, raw materials and goods and services. It is one of the very few fields of study that is both an academic discipline connected with a huge body of knowledge and an occupation.Browse Economics courses by state
Professional economists can study economic and statistical data related to all spheres of life and society and often work in an advisory capacity, reporting and forecasting. They may even plan and make policy based on their findings. Professional economists often work in the government sector. While the Federal Treasury or the Reserve Bank might offer the holy grail of graduate positions, you should also consider alternate organisations that employ economists, such as unions, publicly listed corporations, finance and insurance companies, industry associations and universities.For more information about careers and education in this field, visit the Economic Society of Australia website.Other fields of study that are likely to appeal to someone interested in economics include the business and management field and the accounting field. You could even take a look at the humanities and social sciences profile. If you enjoy working with numbers, you might also consider mathematics and perhaps areas like engineering and technology or computing and information technology.
VET study in economicsCourses in economics are not available in the VET sector. See the business and management field of study profile for information about related courses.
Undergraduate study in economicsCourses and specialisationsYou might opt for a degree or major in economics because you want to be an economist, but even if you don’t, you might just find it can offer a fascinating and broad education. Whether or not you seek a professional career in the field, you should still expect to need a good grasp of mathematics and English, as well as an aptitude for investigation and analysis in order to succeed at degree level.There is a fairly wide range of courses on offer in the field, covering specialisations such as business economics, transport economics and econometrics. The range of specialisations reflects the different styles and approaches that economists bring to their work. Some are very mathematical and focus on statistical and analytical modelling that can be applied to economic problems. Others focus on the practical details of the problems and specialise in fields related to specific regions (Asian economics) or industries (agricultural economics). Then there are those that get you thinking in terms of the ‘big picture’, such as economic history. There are more options than studying economics in a Bachelor of Economics degree. You can also specialise in economics within other degrees, the most common of which are business, commerce and finance. Traditionally, the straight Bachelor of Economics covers a core curriculum that features a mixture of the approaches listed above. Microeconomics and macroeconomics, history, theory and an introduction to the analytical and mathematical tools of the trade are standard first-year fare. After that, students can specialise in all sorts of fields. On the other hand, if you complete an economics specialisation as part of a commerce or finance degree, the general understanding is that you will have less of an economics focus and will instead look more closely at these disciplines. You might also find economics streams that reflect this focus on business or finance. That said, there are plenty of exceptions to these course descriptions. There are some straight economics degrees with a ‘built in’ focus (for example, business economics), and there are economics majors in other degrees that cover the full core curriculum. Look carefully at the course structure of any degree you are considering to make sure it’s what you want.You should also remember that this is not a profession with specific entry requirements, so there is no need to choose a course at the theoretical or mathematical end of the spectrum because you think it will improve your job prospects. If you are worried about losing out on a broad education, consider doing a more general first degree followed by postgraduate study in economics or choose a double degree. Economics can be paired with anything from arts, law, engineering or science in a double degree. If you plan to go all the way through to postgraduate research work, try to do your first degree at a university with a strong track record in economics research. Where to studyEconomics courses are offered by universities rather than by private providers, and most universities will have a suite of specialisations from which you can choose. Some specialisations may not be available at all universities so we recommend doing your research. See Degree costs and loans for more information about paying for your degree.To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.Career opportunitiesNot all economics graduates go into jobs as economists. Economics provides a good starting point for careers in a variety of occupations and organisations. Perhaps some of the 32 per cent of the 2013 graduates who undertook further study after their economics degrees were preparing for these other careers. Many others, though, might continue with an honours year in economics, which is recommended for those aspiring for the top jobs in the field. Graduate job prospects are average, with 31 per cent of 2013 graduates still looking for work after several months, but starting salaries are comparatively high at $56,185. Professional economists’ salaries are also quite high, but as a profession it is small, with only slight growth predicted in the coming years and few vacancies.See the Career Search for more information about your career options.
Postgraduate study in economicsCourses and specialisationsPostgraduate programs in economics usually offer those familiar with economics the chance to specialise, rather than provide those from other backgrounds with an opportunity for career conversion. That said, graduates of other disciplines seeking an introduction to economics will discover a few graduate certificate programs designed for entry-level study. For those who already have a degree in economics, postgraduate study offers a great opportunity to develop a specific focus needed to pursue or continue a career in the field. The wide range of interesting specialisations allows students to develop skills and knowledge that they can apply to real social problems. While undergraduate courses focus on the main principles and sub-disciplines — such as modelling, econometrics and macroeconomics — the postgraduate options often apply economics to specific fields or within particular areas of activity. Programs range from business economics and economics history through to more specialised fields such as health or urban economics.Where to studyEconomics courses are the domain of universities and are widely available, so you won't have trouble finding a course to suit your needs. Entry to many programs requires a degree or honours degree in economics or a closely related field. There are few external programs. If you are contemplating a research degree, you may be better off looking at faculties and departments that have an established research program. Often these will be at the older institutions, but it depends on your specialisation. It is also important to find a supervisor with a good track record in your area of interest.To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.Career opportunitiesAccording to the latest Course Experience Questionnaire survey, postgraduate economists are moderately satisfied with the skills they gain, but not overly impressed with the teaching quality. Employment prospects remain below average compared with other fields, with 24 per cent of graduates still seeking work four months after completing their course. On the upside, graduates command excellent salaries, at an average of $99,575 per year. See the Career Search for more information about your career options.