As coding and analytics become increasingly relevant in today's job market, UNC’s Department of Economics is adjusting to keep up with a rapidly-changing economy.
The department is currently developing a new Bachelor of Science degree in economics that will steer students toward math and computer science courses, as well as more in-depth economic analysis courses. Though the program is still in an initial planning phase, students graduating as soon as May 2021 may be able to participate.
Brian McManus, chairperson of the economics department’s curriculum committee, has been heavily involved in planning the new program.
“The faculty believed that we could do better service, and provide a better experience for undergraduates who are more interested in data analysis and other sorts of quantitative techniques,” McManus said.
As of now the program consists of 16 courses, including all of the requirements of the Bachelor of Arts in Economics, plus extra quantitative courses in subjects like calculus and computer science. The B.S. program will also require more econometrics courses than the B.A. These courses consist of more in-depth statistical analysis than other economics courses.
The B.A. program will still be available to students less interested in the quantitative side of economics.
Peter Hansen, a professor in the economics department who teaches econometrics courses, says many employers look for econometric skills.
“There is a very high demand for econometricians, at all levels," Hansen said. "Companies like Amazon are sucking a lot of econometricians into them, and that has been the trend for many big companies for a long time."
Many economics majors may already be interested in the skills emphasized by the new B.S. program, McManus said. He said he knows many students enrolled in the economics B.A. program who are already taking various other quantitative courses.
“It’s not like there are new courses being created for the BS," he said. "These are courses that were available to take previously, but we think that there’s considerable value in helping everybody understand the courses’ value together."
McManus said one goal of the new B.S. program is that its graduates will more easily be able to demonstrate their quantitative skills to prospective employers or graduate school programs.
Jackson Trice is a senior economics major. Trice said he has taken quantitative classes in the past, such as a STOR class that taught R, a program used for statistical computing. Trice said if the B.S. program had been available when he was a first-year, he probably would have chosen it over the B.A.
“I kind of made a little bit of a makeshift B.S. myself,” Trice said. “I kind of wanted to pad my econ courses with other courses that would teach more data analyses.”
Trice also said he thinks other students will be attracted to the program.
“I guess, for an economic term," Trice said, "there’s definitely a lot of demand for it."
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