Still deciding what to study? Here’s why you should pick economics

I had never considered working in the public service during the early stages of my Economics degree. In fact, I’d never even thought about studying economics until I took it up on a whim during my senior high school years. Before that, I had no idea what studying economics would look like or what kind of career an economics degree could offer. In retrospect, I would now argue that economic literacy is one of the most valuable skills that you can have.  


In my experience, the study of economics is not very well understood. Throughout much of my degree, people thought I was studying finance or accounting and would ask me “what does an Economist actually do?”


I struggled to answer this question at the time and in hindsight, that was simply because there isn’t one single answer.  Even now, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Political Economy, I often still find it hard to neatly articulate what Economics actually is. In saying that, I’ll give it a go.


What is economics and why is it so important?


Economics is generally defined as anything to do with the production, exchange, and distribution of goods and services – which hardly narrows it down.

The reality is that economics is a broad area of study. There are many different schools of economic thought, many avenues down which you can take economic studies, and many careers that you can pursue with the backing of an economics degree. I think this breadth is often mistaken for complexity or difficulty, when actually, in the words of South Korean Economist Ha Joon Chang, “95% of Economics is common sense – made to look difficult, with the use of jargon and mathematics.”

If I had to wrap it up in a sentence, I would say that economics is the guide to understanding how decisions are made, how people interact, and how governments design and implement policies that affect every aspect of our lives.

From this perspective, having an understanding of economics is fundamental to making sense of and engaging with the world around you. This knowledge allows you to better understand your political environment, develop informed opinions, and engage with society and Government to have your say on the issues that affect you. In my opinion, this is what makes economics such an important, valuable, and empowering area of study.  


What can you do with an economics degree?


There are many career pathways available to economics graduates, from research and academia to consultancy and investment management. However, arguably one of the most influential applications of an economics degree is a career in the Australian Public Service (APS).

The APS is responsible for developing and delivering on policy priorities for the Government of the day and provides you the opportunity to genuinely make an impact on the world you live in and the lives of the people around you.

There are many departments and agencies within the APS that have responsibility for various areas of policy and regulation. Although very different, each offers graduates a unique opportunity to be involved in powerful discussions and policy development that aim to improve outcomes for all Australians. 


Finished studying, where to next?


At the end of my degree, I was fortunate enough to land a graduate position at Treasury. The Treasury is the Government’s lead economic adviser and is responsible for providing economic analysis and policy advice on a range of issues, including taxation, superannuation, small business, foreign investment, and housing affordability. As a graduate at Treasury, I am able to engage with economic issues across these policy areas and contribute to addressing some of Australia’s biggest challenges.

Graduates bring new perspectives and fresh eyes to economic issues that are both complex and constantly evolving. As such, my colleagues are always interested in hearing my perspective and understanding my experiences because they are different from their own, and it is through these discussions that well-considered and robust public policy can be developed.

So, if you are interested in shaping the future of Australia, the Treasury Graduate Development Program might be the right fit for you. As a Treasury graduate, you will work at a department that considers you an asset. You will provide an avenue for us to keep pace with an evolving economic landscape and emerging policy issues, and therefore offer an important and highly valued voice to both Treasury and the wider APS.

Find out more about the Treasury Graduate Development Program and other pathways on Treasury’s website.

Georgia, The Treasury