Economics students are better off that this lot because they learn to analyse the world in terms of a solid body of theory that has been developed over the past 200 years. Apart from providing them with an education of intrinsic interest (with quantitative methods, modelling skills, economic history, knowledge of institutions) economics also gives them a good fundamental education that they can apply in various areas. They also earn more money.
- Those who want to employ marketing specialists would be better-off seeking an economics or arts graduate with a good fundamental education followed by practical experience (and perhaps an MBA) rather than an undergraduate who has majored in marketing but doesn't know what a demand curve is. Or who doesn't know any finance or macroeconomics and hence doesn't understand the broad forces that drive business.
- Those who want to employ human resource managers could usefully sample from the same pool. They will certainly do better than employing an undergraduate who has studied some gobbledegook personel management and third rate psychology - but no labour economics, game theory or industrial law - and who, apart from a part-time job working at McDonalds, has never themselves been part of the paid workforce. How can they assist in bargaining with a trade union or employer when they have never studied bargaining?
The fallacy in believing that you do best by choosing a vocational specialisation rather than a solid fundamental education is underlined by a recent Forbes study on graduate salaries in the US. Business isn't fooled even if naive undergraduates fall for the vocational slogans and the managerialism-speak.In the Forbes study, guess what - economics comes second! in terms of reward. In order of the fields are:
1. Computer Engineering
3. Electrical Engineering
4. Computer Science
5. Mechanical Engineering
8. Civil Engineering.
The reason that economics is valued so highly is that it provides strong generic, analytical skills. It is adaptable and is consistent with flexible thinking. Those who seek to analyse marketing and human resource issues without quantitative methods and without the economics that provides a clear understanding of how markets work are like the hapless soldier trying to charge a regiment of tanks with a defective slingshot.
They will almost inevitably lie at the bottom of the managerial ladder both in terms of status and salary and deservedly so.
Firms provide better on-the-job training than universities do. Most of the self-proclaimed practical 'businesspeople' pushing an atheoretical, anti-analytical line in the universities couldn't organise themselves a root in a brothel. Most have no business experience and parade their philistine anti-intellectualism as something to be admired when it is clear to all that they are simply making a virtue of necessity.
* The least able students have other options too. The generic B.Bus when properly constructed with enough quantitative methods, economics and finance is better than any amorphous dedicated vocational degree that, in the main, combines psychobabble with management-speak. They would also be better off doing an Arts degree.