Economics A level- your thoughts?

(47 Posts)
Tansie Sun 17-Aug-14 12:52:26

DS has to choose his 6th form this coming term.

His original, maybe parroted but not thought-through plan was to 'do science' and maths A levels. He's said he was interested in engineering but the reality is, his triple science isn't going brilliantly, although his maths is fine (should get an A using last year's goalposts). And really, imho, he's not an engineering-y type; no 'taking things apart' style hobbies and so forth.

He was thinking 'Maths/Physics/Chem/Geog' at A level (and dropping one)

Out of the blue a couple of weeks ago, he asked me about accountancy! Now, I don't think for a second he really wants to be an accountant as he probably doesn't know much about it but I am beginning to feel his future might lie in an office, iyswim.

So, he's now wondering about Maths/Geog/Economics/? Computer Science or another science (Phys or Chem). Maybe.

But I know nothing about Economics as an A level, except you need maths to be able to do it.

Is it considered 'soft'? Is it very difficult? Is is a facilitating subject?

Anyone's thoughts very welcome!

exexpat Sun 17-Aug-14 13:03:27

DS is starting 6th form next month and is doing economics as a 4th subject after maths, further maths & history. I don't think economics is seen as a 'facilitating subject' in quite the same way as maths, sciences, English and the other traditional subjects (so it would be a good idea to do at least a couple of those too), but it does seem to be seen as intellectually respectable and is certainly accepted by all universities.

DS is doing it because he is keen on maths and statistics, and really enjoyed some of the more economics-y bits of geography GCSE (to do with economic development) while hating the rocks/climate side of things.

Does your DS know much about the economics A-level course and does he think it would be interesting? Maybe he should look at some of the syllabus and textbooks, or have a look at a few basic economics books. DS just read this over the summer, which provided quite a good introduction: Economics: the user's guide.

Tansie Sun 17-Aug-14 13:14:20

Thanks, that's useful!

Lilymaid Sun 17-Aug-14 13:17:53

Economics is generally considered an academically respectable subject for AS/A2 but not a facilitating subject (I think).
I have two DSs -
DS1 took AS Maths, Physics, Economics, History, Music Tech and General Studies (GS required merely turning up at the exam and no prior preparation, MT was more because he was into DJing). He then took Maths, Economics and Physics for A2 and then went on to do BSc and MSc Economics and is now a working economist.
DS2 took AS Maths, Geography, Economics and Business Studies. (He thought Business Studies was a waste of time). Then took A2 Mats, Geography and Economics. Now completed BSc in Economics and off to do same MSc course as big brother with a view to a business/economics career (not accountancy).
You don't need to do Maths AS or A2 to do Economics A Level though someone who wasn't any good at Maths at all might find it difficult.
You don't even need to do Maths A2 for some Economics degrees, though it helps. If it isn't an entrance requirement it will be taught as a compulsory course in the 1st year at university anyway. For somewhere like the LSE or Warwick, however, very high levels of ability at Maths are expected so there you might need Further Maths as well.
DS1 found Economics very easy for AS/A2 but he is pretty bright, went to a top school and had an excellent teacher and knew no other mark other than A.
DS2, bright but less academic, found Economics to be similar to Geography and Maths workwise.

Tansie Sun 17-Aug-14 15:02:36

Thanks very much for the input, lilymaid. DS1 is currently away on camp but I decided to be proactive on his behalf (now that he has finally begun to consider the implications of just saying 'engineering' when asked about his future in view of his lack of engineering interest or high level science GCSE ability)!

BackforGood Sun 17-Aug-14 15:08:59

Just marking spot, as dd knows she wants to do maths and physics, but has no real idea beyond that as to what else to take. Always useful to gather more thoughts and opinions.

Interesting you say about 'not engineering as not into taking things apart / putting back together sort of a person'. I wondered about suggesting to dd that she looks at engineering courses - as she's logical and likes problem solving / working things out.... hadn't really considered that she might need to be in to practical breaking/making.

Can any engineers / lecturers advise?

Leeds2 Sun 17-Aug-14 16:51:31

At DD's school. Economics is hugely popular. I suspect this is something to do with the October half term trip to the New York stock exchange!

At her school, you don't have to be doing maths A Level to do it, but DD's friends all say that it helps.

senua Sun 17-Aug-14 17:09:08

Economics is respected but is not a facilitating subject. The list is quite small:
Maths, FM
Eng Lit
Phys, Chem, Bio
Hist, Geog
Languages (classical or modern)

The advice is usually to try to make two of the three A2 subjects facilitators. So Maths & Geog would cover the facilitating angle leaving him free to do something else eg economics.

Facilitating subjects are those that are considered academically rigorous and are often required for admissions. Clare College Camb says "There are also subjects which are not on this list, such as Economics, Geology and Religious Studies, which provide a good preparation for university study but which are rarely a requirement for university entry."

If your DS does want to go down the Accountancy route then he will be best placed if he has a good degree from a good University. The biggest firms get incredibly picky eg at least 2i from the upper strata of the Russell Group. The subject he reads is almost irrelevant.

Geography is a common denominator on his list of A Level choices. Has he thought about doing that at University? If so, do check out now the different entry requirements for physical and human geography.

senua Sun 17-Aug-14 17:18:48

How keen is your DD on engineering backforgood? To do engineering at University you need Maths, Further Maths and Physics. If someone is keen then that is fair enough but the more I reflect on it the more I feel that this is a very narrow path to go down. Many engineers do a four year course these days - to get their Masters - but even this isn't enough, you still need to do more to get the Chartered qualification.
Girls, being still very much a minority, have a bit of an advantage when it comes to admissions and recruitment as Institutions try to get a bit of gender balance.

If she likes logic then does some form of computing appeal?

BackforGood Sun 17-Aug-14 18:14:29

To be honest senua - she wants to join the RAF! Engineering hasn't really come under her radar - I just don't want her to close options before she knows what she wants to do. I don't think she (or we, as her parents) know(s) enough about engineering, or even the different sorts of engineering there are, to be able to make sensible decisions. Her maths teacher wants her to do maths and further maths as 2 of her choices.

Leeds2 Sun 17-Aug-14 18:27:34

Backforgood, there was a student at my uni who was sponsored by the RAF to do an engineering degree. He had to go on RAF camps and the like during holidays, but was otherwise just an ordinary student. Might be worth looking into, if your DD was interested.

friendface Sun 17-Aug-14 18:31:35

Economics is definitely not a soft subject, in fact DS said it was his hardest A level over history and geography. A lot of people do it as a fourth subject to maths and science but the reality is that at A level it is an essay subject and contains very little maths. The new course to begin in 2015 will include calculus though. Having said that DS enjoyed it tremendously, especially A2 where they began to move away from basic theory and towards more discussion based modules. It also works very well with geography with which there is a fair bit of cross over.

It is worth remembering though that if he wants to continue the subject to degree level he will need maths (and further maths for the very top courses).

friendface Sun 17-Aug-14 18:37:00

Actually, I should probably re-phrase my first sentence - DS didn't find the economics course hard but found it very hard to do well in. Despite getting A* grades all through the year/in mock exams he didn't do as well in either the AS level or A2 exams (not nerves etc - did as well as predicted in all other subjects). Friends at other schools have reported the same.

ISingSoprano Sun 17-Aug-14 20:19:49

I have seen one child through a levels and into university and dc2 is about to start sixth form. In my experience young people at this stage in their lives change their minds A LOT! So, the best thing to do is keep as many doors open. I would suggest Maths, Geog, Economics and a science. The Maths, Geog and science keeps science/geography/earth science degrees a possibility and the maths, economics keeps the business/accountancy options open.

MillyMollyMama Sun 17-Aug-14 20:43:52

Engineering is not narrow at all and has lots of variations within it. Look at the Council of Engineering Institutions for what types of Engineering are available. Then look at the web sites of the individual institutions to get a feel of what they are about. To get you started there is Electrical, Aeronautical, Civil, Mechanical, Chemical....

The best university courses are MEng and are 4 years. These courses should mean young graduate engineers reach chartered status more quickly than their BEng colleagues. Yes, it takes several more years to be fully qualified (Chartered Engineer) but that is the same as a doctor, architect or vet. It is an extremely responsible job. Structural Engineers, for example, do the detailed calculations that enable daring buildings to stand up! However, very many Engineering graduates go into city firms and are sought after due to their skills and rigorous degrees. Engineering degrees tend to be pretty full time. It may well be perfectly possible to join the RAF after a degree as well as before. For MEng Engineering courses, Maths, Further Maths and Physics at A grade at A level will be required and preferably another relevant A level.

BackforGood Sun 17-Aug-14 21:05:30

Ooh Leeds2 - I'm liking the sound of sponsorship <trembles at cost of supporting 3 dc to eat through their University years>.
dd would LOVE to do RAF camps and training and stuff in the holidays too.... off to do some Googling. Thank you smile

Thanks also to MMM - we'll start there. smile

manofsponge Sun 17-Aug-14 21:06:40

Oh I'm glad this is here. Temp hijack - son a bit crap at maths. (For a grammar ) might get an A. Hos good at maths do you need to bd. can you be a b grade?

Leeds2 Sun 17-Aug-14 21:53:38

I hope this still exists, BackforGood. I did leave uni in the late 80s! I really can't see why it wouldn't though!

Aeronautical engineering might be an alternative, although the grades to get into this are high. Friend's son with A* A* B didn't get his first choice.

ancientbuchanan Sun 17-Aug-14 22:11:49

Exexpat, Ds about to start identical ASs!

I think in previous generations economics A level was seen as dumbed down, and top Russell group used to say it was useless and they had to begin again. That's no longer the case and should you want to read economics at least some colleges expect you to have got the A level. But it's not a facilitating subject.

fatowl Sun 17-Aug-14 22:33:31

My dd, now about to start 2nd year of uni did Economics A-level.

She wasn't doing science though, she had chosen English, History, Psychology and wanted to do Drama as her fourth Y12 subject.
She was sure she would be doing Psychology at Uni.

We pushed her to do economics instead of drama, (no real disrespect to drama students).She wasn't keen.

By half way through Y12 she hated Psychology and loved Economics (possibly due to an amazing teacher)
Dropped Psychology and did Econs to A2.

She got A* (History), A (English ) and B (Econs) and is at a Russell Group Uni doing history and Contemporary Chinese Studies.
Says she's glad she has some economics knowledge, helping hugely with the CHinese studies component with regards to modern asian issues.

exexpat Sun 17-Aug-14 23:05:15

Waves at ancientbuchanan - does your DS know what he wants to do afterwards yet? DS has been looking at some of the LSE courses with interest (something combining elements of economics, statistics, international relations and development would be ideal based on his current interests), or possibly PPE, but of course he may totally change his mind over the next year.

MrsCakesPrecognition Sun 17-Aug-14 23:23:16

If your DC is interested in engineering and ultimately becoming chartered, it might be worth looking on the Engineering Council website at accredited courses and working backwards from there.
www.engc.org.uk/education--skills/accreditation/accredited-course-search

Economics is quite tough, essays but needing lots of technical information. The maths used is mainly statistics. It can feel like it is neither art nor science.

hatsybatsy Mon 18-Aug-14 15:24:15

As an accountant, the only A level that the Big Companies (down to 4 now I think?) are after is Maths - preferably with a top grade. Economics A Level would not be critical in securing a job although it would give a head start with some of the professional exams.

My advice? Do the A levels that interest you. Ditto university. Just get good grades.

dapoxen Mon 18-Aug-14 21:29:55

senua and MillyMollyMama: Further maths is undoubtedly helpful for engineering, but it is not required (http://university.which.co.uk/advice/what-a-levels-do-you-need-to-become-an-engineer). Not even at Oxford
(http://www.eng.ox.ac.uk/study-here/undergraduate/applying-for-admission/entry-requirements) or Cambridge (http://www3.eng.cam.ac.uk/admissions/information/faqs.html).

StandsOnGoldenSands Mon 18-Aug-14 21:38:20

The main thing to bear in mind about Econ at A Level is that it's a big step change when you get into the degree, if you don't have maths.

So if he doesn't do maths at A Level then by all means enjoy Econ but he will struggle at degree level if he wants to take it further.

Oh and btw has he considered Earth and Planetary Sciences or similar (geology, etc) as a degree? Sounds as though he has exactly the right interests (geog, chemistry, physics, maths).

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