How to start learning Economics at 29 with no formal schooling in the subject but a keen desire to learn?

Question:

I have been fascinated by Economics for a couple of years now, it has helped me understand the world in a completely different way.
I am 29 and have worked as a designer/maker in several respects all my adult life, I studied furniture design at University and got my BA, but I don't think my heart is in it, Economics and Politics are what really grip me, when I'm not at work (and when I can AT work), all I want to do is read and listen to books on economics and it's surrounding subjects, politics/philosophy.
I was good at maths when I was doing it in my early teen years but had a setback in my youth due to outside forces and never progressed beyond quite simple stuff compared to what is needed be an Economist I would imagine. Although I graduated with awards and the highest marks in my class in my Furniture Design Degree, I'm worried my academic skills aren't up to scratch to apply to a masters degree as I have not had much academic schooling and my experience has been in much more subjective fields.
Is it too late for me to get an education/find work as an economist in some respect? My academic schooling didn't get that far in my formative years which i regret massively. If there is still hope for me, what subjects would you recommend that I learn and to what degree? Having already done a BA Undergrad degree, I don't think I want to go back to do another Bachelors, but if I wanted to attend a masters degree, how would I get a University to take my application seriously? Should I complete respected online courses in subjects relating to Economics (I fear I cannot afford to attend an in person course at the moment)? Statistics, Mathematics, Probability, ect? Do you know of any resources for these subjects that you would recommend? The internet is crawling with paid online courses for these subjects but it's difficult to know which would be most relevant or even respected by a University I might wish to apply to.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I appreciate any answer you might give, Beau

Answer:

I commend your interest in Economics as a discipline.  Economics offers powerful insights about many aspects of the way society is organized and provides a helpful way of thinking about many contemporary policy issues.

As you have discerned, advanced study in Economics does require relatively well-developed technical skills, especially in math.  But it is not necessary to have majored in Economics to pursue graduate study in the field. And there are certainly good Ph.D. programs at which someone with sufficient skills and interest would be a competitive candidate for admission.

So, what preparation do you need to be competitive?  At a minimum you should have had exposure to micro- and macro-economic theory at the intermediate undergraduate level.  You should also have completed a year of college level calculus (both differential and integral), as well as a course in multivariable calculus.  A course in probability and statistics is crucial, and, if possible, some initial exposure to econometrics would be helpful.  Additionally, learning some techniques of computer programming and algorithmic thinking would be valuable.

Much of this material is covered in standard college textbooks.  But, making your way through these books without help or guidance can be daunting.  There are some good and relatively inexpensive resources that will likely prove helpful.  MIT Open Courseware offers a wealth of course syllabi, assignments and in some cases video lectures for both economics and math courses.  The Khan Academy is an excellent resource for learning math skills, and now offers some courses in economics and computer science as well.

You might also want to consider whether one of the growing number of schools of Public Policy is a good fit with your interests.  These programs focus more on the application of economic ways of thinking to address policy choices and problems, and less on training scholars to advance the field of Economics.  As such, they don’t expect students to have as strong a set of technical skills and draw from a more diverse pool of applicants than most Economics Graduate Programs.

 

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Last updated on
February 20, 2024

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