Finance vs Economics | Which is Better?

If you are an aspiring student or are simply curious about the differences between finance and economics, this article will aid you in meeting your curiosity. In simple terms, economics and finance are just two sides of one coin. If you want to succeed in finance, you need to know economics well. Economics is more about finding the equilibrium point of demand & supply, understanding average cost & marginal cost, finding differences between fixed cost & variable cost and many such theoretical concepts; finance, on the other hand is the right extension of these concepts. Thus, it’s often being seen that people who have made their mark in finance have often had economics background.

More succinctly, economics create the foundation on which finance builds the house. So, if you want to be finance professional, you need to know economics well to understand the complexity and vastness of finance.

In this article, we will look at each of these disciplines separately and then try to compare between two so that you can make an informed decision in regards to your career.

If you’re ready, let’s get started right away.

Finance vs Economics – Snapshot

Comparison Finance Economists
Branches Corporate Finance, Quantitative Analysis, Accounting, Management Accounts, Risk Management, Financial Analysis, Fixed Income, Derivatives Macroeconomics
Career Options Investment Banking,
Corporate Finance,
Equity Research,
Private Equity,
Risk Management,
Quantitative Analysis,
Project Finance,
Technical analysis
Risk management Analyst
Operations Research Analyst
insurance underwriters
Budget Analyst
Education Bachelor in finance, accountancy, economics or mathematics; MBA,
Bachelor’s degree in economics
master degree in economics
Top Firms Blackstone,
Goldman Sachs & Co
Morgan Stanley
Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Credit Suisse
Deutsche Bank
J.P.Morgan Chase & Co
Most top firms that hire economics graduates include the list of of Top finance and Business Firms.
Additionally, economists are hired by Marketing, HR, Retail, Ecommerce companies
Work Life Balance Depends on which sub domain in Finance you are working for. Investment Banking – its brutal! Equity Research is still OK. Buy Side Analyst have a balance work life.
Depending on the area, you may have to work for 10-18 hours a day
Balanced – Much better than the Financial Analysts. Work is not urgent all time of the year.
Travel Mostly they are not required to travel much. You can safely assume that 90% of the time is spent in Office. Not much of travel is required by economists
Key Words Financial Modeling, Valuations, M&A, NPV, IRR Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, GDP, Inflation, Fiscal Policy, Exchange Rate, currency, Crude, Commodities, Aggregate Demand and Supply, Real vs Nominal, Elasticity, Savings Investing
Exit Opportunities Depending on the chosen area of interest, there are some amazing exit opportunities within the Finance sector.
For example, Investment Bankers moving into Private Equity, or a Research Sell side analyst moving into a Buy Side Analyst profile
Economic Consultant, Financial Analyst, Statistician, Actuarials
Networking Opportunities Mostly work within the Financial Industry. Alumni network is strong but not varied as found in the Consulting. Not much. Limited within the domain alumni network
Outlook Job opportunities across finance domains like eld you choose, you need to learn financial analysis, financial modeling and valuation, project finance, quantitative finance, risk management, portfolio management, investments analysis and many more huge demands of economists in the consulting firms, private banks as well as public sectors.

Outlook – Finance vs Economics

Economics and finance are two different disciplines on the basis of their scope of work. Of course, they are inter-related and no matter what you choose, you would occasionally need to refer back to some parts of both of these subjects once in a while. But they’re different. Let’s understand how different they are –

In simple terms, economics is a social science that helps in management of goods and services subject to the production, consumption and other factors directly or indirectly affecting them. Basically, there are two types of economics you need to know microeconomics and macroeconomics – micro economics talks about a single unit or business and macroeconomics deals with an industry as a whole. There are huge demands of economists in the consulting firms, private banks as well as public sectors.

On the other hand, finance is also a science of managing funds subject to three main factors – time, the risk involved in the transaction and liquidity. There are many branches of finance and as you go deep in this subject, you will realize that there are more things to learn. For example, you would start with corporate finance to have your fundamentals strong. Then depending on whichever field you choose, you need to learn financial analysis, financial modeling and valuation, project finance, quantitative finance, risk management, portfolio management, investments analysis and many more. Many people confuse finance with accounting. But finance is much vast than accounting. To learn the fundamentals of finance, you need to have a basic understanding of accounting, but the scope of finance is much more than accounting. If you’re good in maths and logical reasoning, you would be able to make your mark in financial field.

Now new ideas are born out of two separate but different ideas. So if you want to do well in finance or economics, it’s better than you learn the basics of the other. For example, if you decide to go for financial domain, the basic knowledge in economics will help you understand complex issues and you will be able to connect two separate ideas and form concepts while studying. On the other hand, if you decide to go for economics, it will definitely help if you know the fundamentals of finance.  Even as an economics student, you will get to know the practical aspect of how firms work in real world.

Education – Finance vs Economics

The world of education is vast. But still there is a basic structure you can follow, if you want to enter the world of economics or finance.

Let’s talk about economics first.

Being an economist is a great profession. Of course, there are some things you may dread like repetitive research, depending more on theoretical dimensions than taking practical approach; however, once you become an economist, your growth would be dynamic and if you wish to learn and be a better economist (top of the curve), you would get all the opportunities to be so.

But what you need to do to become an economist?

Do you need to follow any basic structure? The answer is yes.

Now there are two things.

  • First, you need to decide what you want to become – a top notch economist or a professional who looks at his profession to earn his living. Let’s say you want to become a top notch professional. So you need to earn your bachelor’s degree in economics where you will study business, management and economics.
  • But to be top notch or better to say top 10% of economists in the world, you need to the power of knowledge. So you need to go for master degree in economics as well which you will be able to complete within two years.
  • And then finally, it’s better if you earn a PhD as well. Once you’re a PhD, your opinions and judgments would be valued much more than a mere bachelor degree holder or master degree holder.

So here’s a chart you should look at as career requirements of an economist –

Career requirements economist


Finance professional is much diverse than economist profile. Even many economics graduate often go for finance domain because they feel that they want to explore more of practical aspects of business than devising theoretical models.

So if you want to go in finance domain, what would be your educational requirements? Let’s have a look at the diverse opportunities.

The basic thing about finance is that first you have your bachelor’s degree. It’s always better if you complete your bachelor in finance, accountancy, economics or mathematics. These subjects can be the foundation for your future course of actions. There are many options. From the myriad of opportunities, you need to decide in which direction you would like to go.

  • Investment professional: If you want to go for investment profession, the best thing to do is to go for CFA course. CFA exam will not only equip you for becoming an investment professional, but it will also help you become an expert in investment analysis, market analysis and in how to pick the right investment opportunities for your clients.
  • Management professional: You can also choose to become a management professional by doing MBA in finance from a reputed college or university. If you can pursue your MBA degree from a top notch university, you would be able to get into investment banking profession or corporate finance of any large corporation. After doing MBA, you would become more of a business professional than a core-finance professional.
  • Risk management professional: You can also choose to go for FRM exam, CRM exam, ERM exam and many other risk management courses like actuaries so that you can become a risk management professional within few years of constant learning and practice.
  • Accountant: You can also decide to go for CA, CPA or any other accounting courses to become a public accountant or else you can join in a private bank as well.

As a finance professional, the opportunities are endless. The above are the most sought after and these are the courses student choose the most. You can also go for other courses like CS (Company Secretary-ship), Cost Accountancy, Management Accountancy etc.

Primary tasks or roles – Finance vs Economics

Let’s talk about the main responsibilities of an economist and finance professional.

Primary tasks of an economist

Even if it seems that an economist is mostly dealing with theoretical jargons, however, she also needs to analyse and interpret a huge sample of data. Let’s look at primary tasks of an economist –

  • An economist’s main work revolved around giving advice to the various stakeholders in regards to economics.
  • She also needs to gather the data, comprehends various sampling techniques to conduct surveys and creating different econometric techniques to forecast trends.
  • Once the forecasting is done, she needs to analyse and interpret the trends and come to a conclusion of how firm’s strategy needs to be changed (if at all).
  • Her duties also includes writing various technical and non-technical reports to send across to top management so that they can take proper actions toward changing product policies, sustainability of business and many such other factors.
  • An economist also needs to give various presentations on her research, analyses and interpretations to top management executives so that they can make informed decisions about the business.

Primary duties of finance professional

Now, finance profession is very diverse and as students can choose different professions and each profession would have different key tasks, it’s difficult to pinpoint only few primary tasks for all of them. So, we will give a brief overview of primary tasks of finance management professionals. The primary tasks may be different in case you choose to go in other financial domains.

Let’s talk about the primary tasks of financial management professionals –

  • The main responsibility of finance management professional is to source the funds from the market. It may be in the form of direct loan from financial institutions or conducting IPO if it’s the first time or selling more shares to the existing and new shareholders for more funds.
  • Once the funds are arranged, it’s time to invest the money in the business. This is also a huge concern of finance management professional. They need to know exactly where to invest so that the business gets maximum ROI from the investment.
  • If the business makes profit, how to distribute the profit (if at all) or to plough back for reinvestment in the business should be one of the most important duties of finance management professional.
  • Finally finance management professional needs to write reports or present his findings to the top management to get the approval so that he can go ahead and carry on with his primary responsibilities.

Work-life balance – Finance vs Economics

Usually, economists have a great work life balance as their work acts as a support to management decisions. That doesn’t mean that the work of economists is not important. However, it doesn’t need to be urgent all the time, throughout the year.

In case of finance professionals, the work life balance varies from profession to profession. For example, if you are an investment banking professional, your work life balance will be none. You won’t get weekends to rest and to spend time with your families; even some days you need to spend overnight at office to meet the requirements of clients. On the other hand, if you’re an equity research analyst, you will achieve a good work life balance. And you will also get ample opportunities to spend your weekends with your inner circle and work pressure is usually much lesser than investment banking professionals. So the work life balance depends on which financial domain you pick as your profession. See – Investment Banking Job

Compensation – Finance vs Economics

Now let’s have a look at the compensation of economist and finance professionals.

According to the, an economist earns around US $121,357 per annum as an average salary. So you can understand that the pay is amazing. Let’s have a glance of the chart below to get an overall idea about the compensation of the economist.

finance vs economics salary


From the above chart, it’s clear that if you can reach the top 10% of the curve as an economist, you will earn around US $173,686 per annum.

Let’s look at the compensation of finance management professionals.

Finance manager salary


From the above chart it’s clear that finance management professional earns around US $84,800 per annum on an average. As it’s just revolving around one dimension of compensation, we will try to look at different aspect of it and that is experience wise compensation.

Let’s have a look.

Finance manager salary experience wise


Conclusion – Finance vs Economics

Finance and Economics can be very different in terms of career, skills, exit opportunities etc. A typical economics graduate needs to complete masters and PhD to get an excellent career opportunity. However, finance graduates can complement their graduation by taking certification courses like CFA, FRM, PRM to boost their chances of climbing up the Finance career. There are somehow focused options in economics, however, in finance there are broad variety of choices to choose from.

So Opt the one that interest you the most!

Good Luck!

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