Maths, Statistics & Economics: the degree subjects of the future? Or not quite enough?
In an article about the pressure for microeconomists to embrace data analysis, The Economist newspaper this week also implicitly makes the point that many of us have been arguing for years: that microeconomics and data analysis are the same field, in as much as the underlying skills are inseparable.
But it also opens up several avenues for further discussion, including:
- What are the key subject areas within macroeconomics that can most readily apply the rigour of the data-centric insight we observe within microeconomics?
- Given the historical kudos of macroeconomics, what else might the relentless progress in the centrality of data insight mean for this field of study?
- For school leavers, which subjects will become critical for work in analytics/economics? Which courses offer the blend of disciplines required? What do schools and universities need to do to gear up?
My own initial thoughts on the last question, which is the one I am most qualified to answer: the blend of technology, statistics, problem-solving and business learning on offer within bachelors degree subjects at British universities is not adequate for the current jobs market. It will surely change: the need to do so is likely to become only greater. In the meanwhile, we have Economics graduates who by default think macroeconomics jobs in banking is the best option for them, and who lack the programming skills to make a credible claim to want, let alone to be able to do, more technical jobs elsewhere in data analysis, such as within forensics or marketing. Alternatively, we have IT graduates that may well have the basic programming skills, and interests, but lack the theoretical and practical knowledge of using these skills through applying data analysis techniques to business problems.
More of the right kind of communication between academia and business, to facilitate the creation of fit-for-purpose degree programmes. Warwick’s MORSE degree (Maths, Operational Research, Statistics, Economics) is a step in the right direction. But there is still greater scope to produce more ‘analytics-qualified’ graduates by, for example, taking the relevant programming and database knowledge from computer science and combining it with the right business problem-solving mind set encouraged by economics.