Economics is a versatile field with many opportunities and pathways to pursue. You may feel overwhelmed with these options or might just not know enough about them. Here’s an interview with a passionate and enthusiastic undergraduate student majoring in economics at the University of Michigan, Aratrika Ganguli.
Q: What is your year, major, and minor?
A: I’m a rising junior, and I’m majoring in economics with a minor in business with the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
Q: What are your career goals?
A: After graduating, I hope to work for about 3-5 years at an education assessment company where I want to gain more experience in the data aspect of economics. From there, I want to go to business school.
Q: Why did you choose to pursue this path?
A: I’ve always been incredibly passionate about math. I really enjoyed it in high school so I came to college thinking I wanted to pursue math, but after taking a few math classes here, I realized that it wasn’t the path for me. It was too theoretical for me, and I didn’t enjoy it as I once did. I found my new passion for economics after taking an introductory economics class. The reason economics intrigues me is because it takes that math that I enjoy and applies it to the real world and makes real-world connections; there are a lot more applications of math that aren’t simply theoretical. It’s more people-focused than just math, which is more interesting to me.
Q: What can you do with an economics degree?
A: Economics is an incredibly flexible field; there is so much you can do with an economics degree. If you’re interested in the application of math or finance or statistics, then an economics major might be a good fit for you.
Economics is everywhere. It’s the study of people; it’s the study of change; it’s the study of the economy. There are a plethora of ways to measure the economy. You can measure it with math or the behavior of people, which is where behavioral economics comes into play. Behavioral economics looks at the psychological aspect of economics, so you’re looking at buyer habits and behavior.
You can also go into education. Now whether you want to be a high school economics teacher or a professor depends on you and your interests and strengths. One thing to keep in mind is that if you do want a Ph.D. in economics, you have to be incredibly good and passionate about math. There’s a lot of calculus and proof-based mathematics at that level.
You can also take an economics degree and go into government or law. There’s a lot of economics involved with political work and running an economy. You may want to consider also receiving a degree in political science if political work with the economy interests you. You can go into law and focus on tax laws, bankruptcy, corporations, etc; there’s a large overlap between law and economics. Similar to this, you can also go into the field of the history of economics. There’s a lot of potential there as well.
You can also go into business, which is my passion. You can work at a firm where there’s a strong emphasis on microeconomics, which looks at firms and companies and their interactions as compared to macroeconomics which looked at the economies of nations in the world. Economics teaches you about consulting and finance, which are large parts of going into business.
There are many different ways to pursue economics and that’s the beauty of it.
Q: Why did you choose the business route?
A: Economics is so closely related to business. I started to see those connections in my classes, and I wanted to build on those connections and learn more because it really interested me. A business minor is a great way for me to build those connections with people and networking skills to prepare myself for business school. It’s also a great way for me to apply what I’ve learned in my economics classes with all the theories to my connections with people, which as I said earlier, is something that I enjoy and am passionate about. Because at the end of the day, it’s not just me solving an economic problem on paper but rather me making decisions in real life and being able to communicate and lead. Business helps me expand upon those skills.
Also, by taking these business classes, I can have that collaborative environment with other people and build new connections and be able to confidently speak about everything I’ve learned in my economics classes.
I’m not interested in a BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) because I’m not sure how useful it would have been for me personally because a lot of the skillsets you learn during your undergraduate years with a business major, you can acquire after your undergraduate with work experience.
Q: How does your University help you pursue your passion? In what ways can it improve?
A: The University of Michigan has terrific economics professors who are eager and passionate to teach. The university also offers a wide range of research opportunities for students. For example, there’s an economics honors programs available to juniors and seniors to apply to and, if selected, conduct research for. You get to work one-on-one with an advisor or professor on an economic topic of your choice. It’s a rewarding program that you have to be extremely passionate about because it does challenge students.
UROP, Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, is another accessible way to do research, not just for economics, but a plethora of subjects. The research I did was qualitative research and analyzed the teaching beliefs of math instructors at the university. I got the opportunity to interact with math professors and graduate math students and learn about IBL- inquiry-based learning.
One way the university can improve is by offering more courses on psychological and behavioral economics. That’s a personal interest of mine, and there aren’t enough classes that emphasize this because many of the electives are history-focused.
Q: What extracurricular activities contribute to your interests now?
A: I direct a math tutoring program at the university. I coordinate tutors to meet with students at a local high school and help them with math.
I also write for Consider Magazine at the university. The magazine covers a range of topics from housing, mental health, etc. I enjoy writing about topics I’m passionate about like learning and student teaching. It gives me the opportunity to voice my opinions while improving my writing skills.
I also have a Youtube channel that is focused on teaching economics to students. It was inspired by one of my economics professors. I explain not only the math but also the concepts. It’s my way of practicing my teaching abilities and it’s a productive way to stay in touch with my economic skills. It will also prepare me for this upcoming fall, where I’ll be tutoring economics at the university.
I’m also currently interning at Riverside Insights, which is a research-based assessment industry. I’m interested in revenue marketing and analyzes various forms of marketing data. The reason why the experience is rewarding is because the work I’m doing has an impact on the company and helps improve children’s education.
Q: What classes are you taking right now as an undergraduate for your major and minor?
A: You, of course, have to take your introductory econ classes, macro and micro. One of the hardest econ classes is econometrics, mostly because there is a heavy focus on math and stats, but it’s really important for economics research. Then you have your economic theory classes. I took a computer science class, and I’ve learned that any coding experience is valuable and you mainly use Python, R, and Stata. Calculus 1, 2, and 3 are also incredibly important and helpful as you take higher-level economics classes.
Q: What skills should someone who wants to pursue economics have?
A: It depends on which field you want to pursue. Problem-solving and analytical skills are highly valuable and necessary skills. If you want to pursue business or politics or behavioral economics, leadership and people skills are important to have as well.
Q: Any advice for people wanting to pursue this career?
A: I came into college extremely passionate about becoming a math teacher, which is what I’ve always wanted to pursue, or so I thought. Whenever something new came to my way, I would shy away from it because I was so focused on and so sure that I wanted to become a math teacher. I thought it was too late to change but that mentality was wrong and it took me a while to realize that. Understand that you don’t have to stick with what you came into college with. You’ll experience a lot of new things and have access to a lot of resources that might sway you to pursue a new future. Embrace that change for the better.
Thank you so much to Aratrika Ganguli for taking the time to talk to me about her passions for economics and help other students! Good luck to her and everyone else wanting to pursue economics!