6 Tips for Economics Majors at BYU

With graduation on the horizon, it’s natural to wax reflective. I’ve spent some time compiling some unsolicited advice for new Economics majors at Brigham Young University. These are tidbits of knowledge and insight I’ve gained slowly by trial-and-error and experience over the past four years, compactly compiled for your educational enhancement. Here we go:

1. Develop an idea early on of what you plan to do with your economics degree. You don’t need to have every detail mapped out, but ask yourself: Do I want to pursue a Ph.D. in economics? If the answer is yes, you should consider a double major or minor in math, taking the 500-level economics courses, and building relationships with professors early on that could develop into research assistant positions. If the answer is no, your strategy should change completely.

So how do you figure out what you want to do? Enroll in the Career Seminar (ECON 213) to hear from BYU Economics Alumni who now work in a variety of fields (law, consulting, marketing, academia, etc.). Also, check out this page developed by the economics department about careers related to economics or this magazine article called “Careers in Economics” published in the BYU Economics magazine

Since I’m following the “business” path and not going the economics Ph.D. route, the rest of my advice will be most relevant to those interested in business-related fields, not academia or research.

2. Regardless of which path you chose, complement your economics major with a strong minor. The major is very short (36 credits) compared to others (Mechanical Engineering is 100+ credits) so take advantage of that time! From my own experience and the experience of my peers, I’d recommend a minor in math, statistics, computer science, management, or any combination of these.

3. That being said, seriously consider a management minor from the Marriott School. You knock out 2 of the 8 classes (ECON 110, MATH 112) simply by virtue of completing the Economics major, and the remaining classes provide a decent business foundation with introductions to accounting, finance, and marketing.

But the classes themselves aren’t even the reason you should do a management minor. No one knows how to recruit for jobs and internships like the Marriott School. By connecting yourself to the business school, you’re much more likely to be aware of important events like information sessions, job and internship opportunities, and networking events. The minor is available to “all interested BYU students”, meaning you don’t have to apply and be accepted.

Even if you don’t do a management minor, schedule study time in the Tanner Building to get gain exposure recruiting events, club meetings, and networking opportunities.

4. Take a class from Dr. Lars Lefgren or Dr. Jocelyn Wikle. Economics 488 (Intermediate Econometrics), originally developed and taught by Dr. Lefgren, is arguably the most ‘useful’ course in the major. Dr. Lefgren will learn your name and takes groups of students to the Cannon Center for lunch at his own expense several times a semester. Dr. Wikle, who teaches introductory econometrics and macroeconomic courses, is equally engaged and goes to great lengths to facilitate student success.

5. Buckle down and learn to code. You’ll learn STATA in the major, but you’ll want to be more familiar with Python or R and their core packages. There are many ways to do this. Consider completing an online course like Code Academy, enrolling in a course from the Computer Science department (CS 142), or reviewing these lecture notes from Tyler Folkman, who taught a machine learning course this past semester.

6. Participate in the Alumni Mentoring Program. You’ll be matched with an economics alumnus based on shared interests and develop a relationship through a series of “experiences” of the course of a semester. These experiences are phone calls, meetings, or lunches where you ask the alumnus questions about their education, career, or industry. More details here. The program is valuable alone for the sake of that single relationship, but more importantly, the program will carefully teach you the steps of networking, which you should then apply dozens of more times before graduating.