In the world of economics, there are many different categories that a person can study in college. For instance, there's a difference between economics and applied economics, and what job you're able to get once you graduate may depend on which one you declared as your major. Though both "regular" economics and applied economics can yield a variety of career options, it's important to know the distinctions between the two, so you can choose the path that's best.


While general economics explores the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, applied economics takes a closer look at how economics can be applied in everyday life through research and analysis.

What Is Economics?

If you choose to study economics in college (or even in high school), then you will find yourself learning about a social science which delves into the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. You'll learn about how people, businesses and entire countries manage their money based on wants, needs, supply and demand. Beyond this, you'll learn about microeconomics and macroeconomics and theories about how consumers and suppliers interact. When you study economics, you're studying this science in the broadest sense, so you'll touch upon many different ideas without going into too much depth on each one.

What Is Applied Economics?

If you decide to major in applied economics, then you'll study ideas and theories similar to those taught in economics, but with more of a focus on how those ideas can be applied in real-life situations. Applied economics is really a look at economics in everyday life. It takes a more mathematical approach to economics by predicting what the potential outcomes may be based on numbers, research and analysis. You will also delve deep into case studies to really understand how one situation has the potential to lead to something else.

The Difference Between Economics and Applied Economics

Where economics takes a look at theories and the history of these theories in general terms, applied economics helps companies, businesses and entire governments evaluate risks to take the proper measures to ensure stability based on numbers and trends. While it may seem natural to think of economics as the umbrella term, which applied economics sits beneath, that's not quite the case. When you take a closer look and compare and contrast the two, it's easy to see that there's a big difference between economics and applied economics. It's also why applied economics is not considered a field of economics, even though it relies on many economic theories an principles.

Which One to Choose

When it comes time to declare your major, it might be difficult to decide between economics and applied economics, because both can offer so much value to a student in terms of career options. For instance, if you study economics, you could go on to work as a consultant, an actuary, an analyst or even a professor, whereas if you study applied economics, you could go on to be a financial analyst for a company or be hired as an economist for a government organization.

Because economics as a major is quite broad, your adviser may say it's a better option if you're not quite sure what field of economics you want to go into just yet. Studying economics can give you an idea of what's out there to learn what interests you. Otherwise, if you already know that you enjoy studying the uses of economics in daily life, then your adviser may say that a major in applied economics is better for you.

Related Articles