Choosing Courses: Straight Economics or Combined?

After deciding that you want to study some form of economics at university, the next question is usually whether or not you want to study straight economics or alternatively, choose a course combining economics with another discipline such as management, politics, a language etc. Whatever you decide, you won’t be short of options. In fact, the job will be to narrow done just 5 courses and institutions from the vast number of course/institution offerings.

What economics combinations are out there?

Loads and loads. Best way is to use the UCAS course search feature by typing in only economics and seeing what other subjects its on offer with. From Law to Maths, Languages to Psychology and of course all the usual suspects such as Politics, History, Management and so on…

I’m not sure if I want to do straight economics or not…

Other than straight economics, your options are combined courses or courses that are more specialised or focussed on an application of economics (e.g. Business Economics).

The best way to answer this question is to speak to as many people as you can doing both straight and combined/specialised economics courses. If you’re already studying economics at school/college, take a look at the syllabus and the work you’ve done so far and ask yourself which parts of the course you’ve enjoyed most and would like to learn more about for the next 3 or 4 years. Then see how economics degrees differ (by looking at the course content) and which variations focus more on the parts you enjoy or want to study. For example, I’ve always enjoyed macroeconomics and appreciate that it’s necessary to have a good grasp of it whatever strand of economics I choose to do but microeconomics is what interested me most, the study of economics in relation to decisions taken by businesses. Naturally it made sense for me to choose a course such as Business Economics or Economics and Management which can be tailored to focus more on the business aspects of economics. That’s not to say that I won’t be able to pursue my intended career path should I do straight economics, both are likely to build an equally strong foundation from an employment point of view; it’s just that having that management aspect thrown in will make it more enjoyable for me and meeting people who are studying economics with the same intended career path as me is something I look forward to as well – something else to think about when making your decision.

Applying for all straight economics courses can make it easier to write a personal statement even though L100/L101 (typically the UCAS course code for straight economics courses) courses can and will vary between institutions in terms of their maths content for example. When applying for combined or specialised economics courses, it’s unlikely that you will find all 5 with the same title. Some universities may offer a third subject in addition to economics and the second subject which makes it harder to cater for all 5 choices in a single personal statement. It’s difficult to offer general advice on how you should deal with this when writing your personal statement but feel free to ask any specific questions using the comments form below. Another thing to remember when applying for specialised or combined courses is that they may have different names at different unversities, so you’ll have to do some manual researh through the prospectus – looking for other courses with the same title or course code on UCAS may not yield many results – again taking the example of Economics and Management which is provided by only a few universities but many other universities do similar courses under the titles of ‘Business Economics’ or ‘Economics and Industrial Organization’ – take a good look at what’s out there (it may be easier to narrow down the institution you are aiming for first and then looking at which one of their courses is the closest match to what you want). The courses aren’t likely to be the same but ideally they will be similar enough for you to write a personal statement catered to all 5 choices but unique enough for that personal statement to be relevant to each course – more on this in the Personal Statement Section to be completed soon!

Finally, when applying to study a combined course, think of which subject (i.e. economics or the other one/s) you’re more inclined to study. There will be some institutions you want to apply to that will not do the same combination and instead may offer the 2 as separate courses. For me, at some universities, the Management course was a closer match to achieving the mix of economics/management I wanted to study whereas other universities had courses other than Management or Economics that better achieved the mix of the two disciplines I was after. Looking at the course content helps – you’ll find that many management courses, although titled only ‘Management’, do indeed cover significant chunks of economics.

Also worth stating at this point, and it’s in bold for a reason: don’t try and play the numbers game or go on what people have said by choosing the course/combination you think will be easiest to get into! From observation, this rarely works and more importantly, do you want to be stuck doing a course that your heart is not really into for 3 (or more) years? It’s true that it’s easier to change courses once you’re in but it’s generally easier to go from specialised economics course to straight economics course – not the other way around. It’s true that the number of applicants to specialised/combined courses at most unis are far smaller than the number of applicants for straight economics but the places on offer are often a lot more limited also – in most cases making the applicants:entrants ratio more favourable for the straight economics course. The best advice I can give here is go for the course that interests you most – don’t go by the statistics!

I want to apply for some straight economics courses and some combination courses…

This is where it can get tricky! The course website/brochure is your best friend in this situation – some universities clearly state that being a joint honours degree, your personal statement should demonstrate interest in both aspects of the course whereas other universities aren’t as picky about giving an equal weighting to all study areas.