The Difference Between Economics and Applied Economics

Many people in America were raised on the belief and mantra that “You can be anything you want to be when you grow up.” With enough work and dedication, your dreams were the only limit. However, in a recent study conducted by The Conference Board, it was discovered that only 54 percent of Americans are satisfied with their jobs. While this number looks impressive, it still leaves 46 percent of workers unsatisfied.

Looking even further into individual industries, the finance industry expresses only a 36 percent job satisfaction rate. While people may choose a career in finance because that is where their passions lie, firms tend to use financial professionals to crunch numbers. While this may be appealing to some, for others the lack of a challenge or the feeling that you are not contributing to solving world problems may lead to fatigue and dissatisfaction. There is more potential in the finance industry than meets the eye.

Whether you’re a financial professional who wants to advance your career or transition into a new path that still requires analytical skills, it’s time to start researching your opportunities. One of the best ways to invest in your future job satisfaction is to go back to school for an advanced degree. Americans with a higher degree tend to feel a stronger sense of job security, as if their position cannot be outsourced or automated.

With that said, one of the more rewarding degrees in a finance-adjacent field is in applied economics. If you remember your basic university courses, you may understand what economics entails, but you may be questioning the difference between economics and applied economics. Economics involves studying economic theory; applied economics is how you apply economic theory to real world problems.

In a world that no longer focuses on making devices and instead focuses on producing analyses, a master’s degree in applied economics provides graduates with valuable skills that are in high demand in the current market. Analysis takes technical skill and proficiency, but also requires mastery of soft skills. These skills are desired by companies and employers because they are not as commonplace as one might think.

Skills like creativity, adaptability, and collaboration are just a few that are not only favorable but necessary in the current market for analysis. Businesses will look for those who can present their ideas and strategic findings in a way that can easily be followed. They may also put employees in teams in order to complete projects that require more work within a certain time frame. The skills needed for the technical aspect of the job are just as crucial as the soft skills, which will be honed in a master’s program for applied economics.

A master’s in applied economics will also prepare you for using real world data sets in order to solve problems. Businesses in private and public sectors are striving to base their strategic models on statistics and data rather than theory and experimentation. An applicant that has an understanding of applied economics and the technical skills needed for coding big data will stand out among their colleagues to those businesses. Not only will this fulfill the desire to be challenged, but it will also help satisfy the desire to solve real world problems, not just ideas and theory.

Being in the finance industry doesn’t have to mean being drained all the time and feeling like an untapped resource. There are several avenues you could follow to successfully propel your career in a positive direction while not sacrificing job satisfaction. Seeking to better yourself with an education in a booming field is one of the best ways to start.

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.