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Studying Economics
  Why Economics?
  Summer School

Why Study Economics?

Economics has a lot to offer for several reasons:

1. Economics affects everyone

Economics is about choice and is at the heart of all decision-making. Individuals, businesses and governments are all faced with making choices in situations where resources are scarce. As a result, Economics is applicable in a wide range of fields, including business, finance, administration, law, local and national government and, indeed, most aspects of everyday life. In studying Economics you will examine topics of obvious importance to human well-being. Increasingly, policy debate in all areas is being cast in economic terms and understanding most current issues requires an understanding of Economics.


"Economics isn't just a subject; it's a way of thinking. I work as a policy analyst for the Dunedin City Council. My work involves pulling together knowledge from all parts of Council (both staff and politicians) and developing a variety of solutions or recommendations. My education in Economics has trained the way I think and has made me more aware of how the world works."

Stephanie McWhinnie

Economics Honours graduate, Policy Analyst for Dunedin City Council in 1998 and now studying for a PhD degree in Canada

2. Economics as an intellectual discipline develops a valuable set of skills

Economics is valuable not only for the topics it studies, but also for its methods of analysis. The processes economists use in constructing models, analysing arguments and testing empirical predictions against available evidence develop several important skills. Economics graduates develop their general literacy, communication and numeracy skills, as well as skills of abstraction (balancing simplification against relevance), logical deduction (including precise use of language, for example in relation to cause and effect, necessity and sufficiency) and critical thinking. Skills of discrimination, flexibility and organisational ability are also enhanced.


Learning Economics gives insights into the general environment of resource allocation decisions, opportunity costs and project evaluation that are crucially important in many areas. Often these insights are not at all obvious, and can be counter-intuitive, to those who don't apply economic reasoning.

"Studying Economics at Otago rewarded me in two ways. Firstly, I gained the intellectual satisfaction of developing an understanding of human economic interaction and the production of wealth under a system of the division of labour. I discovered the profound influence of economics and economic philosophy in shaping the course of history, and the importance therefore of sound economic ideas in the academic and public policy arenas. Secondly, I gained an excellent qualification for finding employment. I first worked for the Ministry of Commerce, providing advice and writing legislation for Government policy in the field of broadcasting and communications. After two years I moved to London on a working holiday visa, and worked in the highly lucrative industry of investment banking, firstly for JP Morgan, and then as an analyst in equity derivatives for Deutsche Bank."

Tim Sturm, Economics Honours graduate


3. An Economics training is a good basis for getting a job

Because of the wide range of skills required and developed, a training in Economics (especially to degree or Honours level) opens up many diverse career opportunities for a graduate.

Because the skills acquired in studying Economics are transferable, Economics graduates get a wide variety of jobs, not just as economists. In the current environment, transferable skills and flexibility, together with strong personal characteristics, tend to be more important than specific training in a narrow vocational area. Employers are particularly keen on graduates with good analytical and problem-solving skills, which are emphasised in training in Economics.

Perhaps because Economics graduates do not all end up with careers specifically as professional economists, there is sometimes a mistaken perception that employment prospects for Economics graduates are not as favourable as for some other commerce subjects. However, information on university graduate employment (e.g. New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee, University Graduate Destinations, annual reports) shows that the percentage of graduates successful in securing positions is similar.

In recent years Otago Economics graduates have found employment in a tremendously wide range of niches, both in the private and public sectors.

"Studying Economics at Otago opened doors for me both in New Zealand and around the world. After completing my honors degree, I joined Deloitte Consulting’s Strategy and Operations practice, helping New Zealand’s largest private and public sector organisations develop and implement business strategies. Our work varied from pure strategy development to operational process analysis, financial modeling to organistional design. Eighteen months later I was offered a transfer to Deloitte Consulting’s US practice. I now spend my time between Washington DC and New York, providing business and strategy advice to some of the world’s largest companies.

My training at Otago provided me with the knowledge to understand market issues at a macro level, as well as the skills to apply logical, structured analysis to solve business problems at a micro level. In addition to quantitative and theoretical analyses, the Honours programme in Economics touches upon a wide range of disciplines including psychology, accounting and management. All of this has provided me with an invaluable tool kit to deal with complex issues in different industries, markets and countries.

I can’t emphasise enough the benefits of the Honours programme for those with a passion for learning and who seek to be challenged every day during their academic years. An Honours degree in Economics will provide you with solid foundations and can take you wherever you want to go."

Jonathon Wong: Economics Honours Graduate, Business Analyst at Deloitte Consulting Wellington and now a Consultant at Deloitte Consulting Washington DC


Where Do Our Graduates Go?

  • Banks
  • Finance and investment companies
  • Sharebrokers
  • Accounting firms
  • Business services
  • Law firms
  • Major commercial and industrial companies
  • Reserve Bank
  • Treasury
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade
  • Department of Internal Affairs
  • Department of Labour
  • Statistics NZ
  • Ministry of Commerce
  • NZ Trade Development Board
  • Economic research and consultancy firms
  • Hospital administration and Health Authorities
  • Local government and planning authorities
  • Universities and other educational institutions


For Alumni Information