Is Economics a STEM Major? (+Arguments & Case Studies)

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When you think about Economics, you may associate it with social sciences. 

However, the foundations of traditional economic thinking are shifting, and debates about whether it should be encompassed under a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) discipline are constantly being considered. 

Technology and data-driven decision-making now dominate nearly every part of global society, and economics is at the forefront of this due to its pivotal role in shaping our global landscape. 

However, what is Economics? Present Economic theory definitions revolve around how people respond to incentives and utilize resources in conditions of scarcity. 

It’s summed up as the study of decision-making and historical trends to make predictions in the present day. 

The STEM essence within economics has the potential to open doors to an engaging realm of possibilities. 

For students captivated by the complicated nature of the economy, this article serves as a gateway to the world where numbers, theories, and human behavior connect. 

Economics stands shoulder to shoulder with STEM through its analytics, mathematical foundations, and data-driven approaches. 

So, whether you’re captivated by the financial markets, intrigued by the dynamics of human decision-making, or drawn to the impact of economic policies, prepare to uncover the scientific core that has the potential to make Economics an essential part of STEM!

In this article, we’ll explore:

  • Whether Economics is a STEM Major
  • Arguments for Economics as a STEM Major
  • Arguments against Economics as a STEM Major
  • Universities and Organizations’ Classifications of Economics as a STEM Major
  • The career prospects for an Economics major classified as STEM versus a non-STEM major

Keep reading below!

A person analyzing different documents with a laptop.

Is Economics a STEM Major?

Yes, Economics is considered a STEM major, with five Ivy League universities, including MIT, Princeton, Brown, and Yale already reclassifying their economics degrees. Notably, other educational institutions (such as the University of Washington Department of Economics) have seen applications approved to designate Economics as a STEM discipline. 

While Economics has previously been associated with the social sciences due to its studies on human behaviors, it uses scientific methods, mathematical models, and data analysis to understand and predict economic behavior. 

Its quantitative nature and dependence on practical evidence align it convincingly with the analytic foundations of STEM disciplines. 

Arguments For Economics as a STEM Major 

While Adam Smith, the Father of Economics, didn’t use much mathematics in his foundational work “The Wealth of Nations,” today’s economic theory is expressed through mathematical relationships

These equations aim to reveal underlying assumptions and insights into the complexities of global economic dynamics. 

The introduction of Econometrics & Quantitative Economics has shifted the discipline, evolving to highlight technical and quantitative arguments. As such, educational institutions such as the University of Washington are placing economics more appropriately within STEM.

  • Although Economics is a social science due to its studies on social behaviors, its heavy placement of mathematics, quantitative reasoning, and technology all suggest that economics fulfills a STEM-based classification

    STEM disciplines at university are part of a strategy to educate learners in four disciplines in a detailed way. Universities work to incentivize STEM learners within these relevant programs and find graduates necessary career opportunities. 
  • Economics shares distinct characteristics with STEM, making a convincing case for its recognition within the discipline. Economists use models and mathematics to solve economic complexities and forecast future global conditions using data analysis and statistical software that parallels STEM’s quantitative nature. Also, economics uses practical life skills, further fostering critical thinking. 
  • Additionally, STEM majors offer extensions for international students studying at American universities on visas. As a result, securing the right job after graduation can dictate the difference between staying in the United States and returning to their home countries. 
  • In addition to current STEM majors, economics is undoubtedly an enriching career. As a result of the behaviors, methods, and skills acquired from economics, 150 alumni and students of Northwestern University have signed a petition to recognize economics as a STEM major.

Leading universities have already adjusted their economics programs, embracing the potential of econometrics and quantitative economics. Formally recognizing economics as a STEM major may unlock possibilities for both students and the evolving landscape of Finance and Entrepreneurship. 

Arguments Against Economics as a STEM Major 

In contrast to the argument for Economics being a STEM major, opposing viewpoints highlight the differences that set it apart from traditional STEM professions. 

While there are advocates for Economics to be classified within STEM, there are also counterarguments centered around the discipline’s inherent characteristics.

  • Despite the increasing use of mathematical models within economic theory, it fundamentally studies human behaviors and societal interactions. This sets it apart from the empirical and natural sciences that build up the foundations of STEM disciplines.
  • While Econometrics & Quantitative economics highlight the discipline’s technical side, Economics’s nature remains driven around actions driven by human choices and motivations – which, ultimately, questions the strict STEM classifications.
  • Furthermore, those against the STEM classification for Economics emphasize that the field’s strength lies in its ability to provide various perspectives on intricate societal issues.
  • While economics offers valuable skills and good career prospects, an exclusive focus on its quantitative elements might overlook its ability to contribute to broader social debates and policy discussions.

    As such, labeling economics as a STEM major must be considered against the risk of weakening the field’s distinct identity — one that seamlessly blends mathematical reasoning with an in-depth understanding of human-centric input.

Overall, the debate surrounding Economics as a STEM major involves a delicate balance between recognizing its quantitative methodologies and defending its identity as a bridge between mathematics and human behavior.

As universities consider this classification, honoring Economics’ complicatedness and diversity is critical while recognizing its parallels with STEM qualities. 

Universities and Organizations’ Classification of Economics as a STEM Major

The classification of Economics as a STEM major varies among universities and organizations, which reflects the ongoing debate surrounding its alignment with traditional STEM disciplines

Universities such as Princeton, MIT, Yale, Brown, New York University, and Columbia are among the colleges that have reclassified their economics programs, recognizing the increasingly technical nature of the field and seeking to provide students with STEM-associated advantages. 

These universities argue that incorporating Econometrics and its focus on data analysis and mathematical reasoning warrants its inclusion in the STEM category. 

Further, Phillip Mellizo, the economics department chair at The College of Wooster, emphasizes other universities’ openness to change and eagerness to undertake a curriculum adjustment process based on econometric methods. 

However, there is still the contrary viewpoint from organizations such as the American Economic Association who have expressed reservations. 

They contend that while Economics employs quantitative methods, its core remains ingrained in studying human behavior and societal interactions. This characteristic diverges from the empirical and natural sciences that dominate foundational STEM. 

These contrasting perspectives highlight the many-layered considerations that must be debated when determining whether Economics qualifies as a STEM major.

What are the career prospects for an Economics major classified as STEM versus a non-STEM major?

As you think about diving into a career in Economics, a key aspect remains whether it should be classified as a STEM major. This decision can dictate your academics and, ultimately, your future career opportunities.

  • Choosing Economics at a university that regards it as a STEM major can open doors to several opportunities, especially in data-driven industries focused on more analytics and quantitative skills. 
  • Looking at Economics from a STEM-focused curriculum will equip you technically with econometrics and data analytics. These skills can create a star candidate when attempting to stand out in competitive job markets, launching you into finance, consulting, and technology careers. 
  • Additionally, a STEM designation might extend the Optional Practical Training which allows American-based international students more time to explore job prospects and secure employment post-graduation.

On the other hand, embracing Economics as non-STEM major grants a more holistic view of the discipline, emphasizing a deep understanding of economic theories and societal dynamics.

  • This perspective is particularly valued in critical thinking-based careers such as policy analysis and socioeconomic research. 
  • Heading down a non-STEM background may broaden your horizons and help you find jobs in public policy, government, non-profit organizations, and academics, where your knowledge and insights dictate meaningful societal change.

However, although this decision may seem stressful, it’s essential to recognize that both paths within Economics offer unique advantages. 

While STEM-based programs have more technical prowess and offer more comprehensive career options, non-STEM routes delve deeper into societal and policy implications. 

So, naturally, it’s your choice towards your overall interest in the ever-evolving world of Economics.

Conclusion 

All things considered: whether Economics should be viewed as a STEM major depends on different perspectives. 

The shifting landscape of Economics, classified by its increasing technical integration and data analysis, aligns with the foundations of STEM education. Notably, the reclassification of economics by prestigious universities emphasizes the value of economics within STEM. 

However, this article has also highlighted the opposing viewpoints that stress Economics’ foundations within the social sciences and pivotal focus on human behaviors — which ultimately differentiate it from structured STEM disciplines. 

Economics can offer qualitative insights and assorted perspectives on complex societal issues, which are undeniably important. 

As such, finding a definitive answer would be complex, and balancing both sides of Economics is essential. Nevertheless, if you’re looking to pursue an academic path in this field, attempting to become versed in both areas of economics is essential. 

Whether to embrace the technical nature of STEM-oriented Economics or the broader social approach, they shape the foundations of economics altogether.

FAQs

Is economics a STEM degree in USA?  

Whether economics is classified as a STEM degree within the USA is still being determined

However, due to its increasing emphasis on technical methods, quantitative analysis, and data-based mathematical approaches, more universities across the US are beginning to reclassify their economic programs. 

The recognition of economics programs as STEM will increase throughout the coming years, but the debate will continue.

Is MS economics a STEM major?

Not every university has yet to recognize a Master of Science (MS) in Economics as an official STEM degree. 

It is generally considered within the STEM discipline in the United States. As previously mentioned, economics programs emphasize mathematical and technical skills that align with the foundations of STEM. 

While not all universities within the US classify economics degrees as STEM, the MS degree in Quantitative Economics is considered within the US Department of Education’s STEM program.

Is economics a STEM major at Stanford?

Stanford considers economics to be more than just supply and demand. The university believes it contains everything needed to be considered within STEM

Economics encapsulates the grounds of individual decision-making, analytical approaches to global problems, and government and public policy design. As a result, Stanford has classified economics within its STEM-designated majors.

Is economics a STEM major at Havard?

Globally Harvard is recognized for having one of the top Economics departments. 

As of 2018, Harvard’s A.B. program in economics has been officially recognized by the United States Government as a STEM subject. This classification falls under Econometrics and Quantitative Economics.

Is Ph.D. in economics a STEM degree?

This question is still being determined, especially within the United States. 

Yes, the Department of Homeland Security designated the PhD in Economics as a STEM program for international students needing visas. 

However, not all education institutions within the USA consider this Ph.D. as STEM. 

With that said, the doctoral program in Economics involves mathematical modeling, data analysis, and research methodologies that align with the criteria for STEM.

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