Economics studies everything around us and how humans behave and interact with money. So when we ask is it difficult to understand, we have to explore what that question means. Below is a section about whether economics is hard at school, college or university. But first, let’s discuss what it means to ‘understand’ economics.
The study of economics is the study of how the world works. It keeps posing into your life as a worker, producer, consumer and citizen. You don’t need to understand economics to be a citizen, but it might give you an essential, richer experience. What is your life goal? Do you want to do good in the world? Do you want to fix the world problems? There’s no way to do that without understanding a bit of economics. You don’t have to study it (i didn’t). But you can easily do some reading to understand a few basic concepts. If you learn Mandarin, you don’t need native-level fluency to understand Chinese people and cultures better. Working knowledge will go far. The same is true for economics.
Is economics hard to understand?
What is hard? What does hard mean? People have different strengths and weaknesses and respond differently to various subjects. Economics involves some mathematical concepts, a lot of psychology and sociology, a study of history and some very nuanced, high-level concepts. Depending on your view- if you like mathematics but spend a lot of time learning the philosophy of the economy, it makes economics harder. On the other hand, if you enjoy mathematics, the mathematical aspects of economics might be more enjoyable for you.
Economics for the joy of it
If you want to learn economic concepts outside of a school or university environment, pick the aspects mentioned above that speak to you. Don’t worry about the maths if you’re interested in the sociology. Don’t worry about the high-level nuances theories if you prefer learning about the mechanisms of economics in society. Any of the above aspects will give you a better grasp of how our world works and society functions. Any element will make you a more informed citizen, a better voter, and give you more considered options.
I am good at maths, but I’m not interested in the maths behind economics. I’m far more interested in economic theories, how they’ve shaped today’s world and how they will continue to shape the future world.
Is economics hard at college (or school, or university)?
Whether this is a school, college, university, or adult education online course, you are not the first and will not be the last! Thousands of people do it every day, and there is no reason you can’t be one of them. Anyone can learn anything at any time. More formal economics education will likely involve a more analytical (maths) component. Economics gives you the chance to learn this and gain this skill in a very applied way compared with learning abstract maths. It’s likely that if you’re interested in the subject, you’ll be more interested in engaging with maths, rather than studying maths for math’s sake.
Unlike history or sociology, where there is a broader breadth of low-level learning options, everyone learning economics will be learning the same few concepts. And it is just a few key concepts at the most superficial level; supply and demand, elasticity, basics of stock markets and valuation….big words but very well-trodden knowledge areas.
In this day and age, when there is so much information on YouTube, as free library downloads, and written very accessibly as popular non-fiction books, you will be able to find a teacher who speaks your learning language. So the question is actually not about whether you’ll be able to learn something- but how motivated you are to figure out and find answers to your questions.
All of this means the actual question is not how objectively complex economics is (because it’s so easy to find information) but how motivated you are to find it. In other words, is it interesting enough that you will feel inspired to search beyond whatever course or book you’re reading?
Why do we think it’s hard?
Often for subjects that involve analytical skills (mathematics, engineering, sciences), we are intimidated by the concept of them. We engage with them very differently from engaging with subjects we already understand in theory. When we start studying maths, we know we will soon be learning things we have never heard of. When we study history, we will learn detailed and interesting facts about a specific period or event. Still, the existence of that event is something we already understand. We already have some cultural idea of what it might look like to study it and what sort of thing we might be spending the day learning.
I remember sitting in year 7 and thinking of GCSE maths as impossible. The concept of A-Level maths was beyond comprehendible, and I never imagined doing it. If I had tried to sit in my year 7 classroom and do A-level maths, of course, I wouldn’t have managed. But of course, I never did. I progressed to year 8 maths and then year 9 maths. And then the sort of maths I started learning in year 10 began to interest me, and I enjoyed it for the first time. Each jump was a small step in knowledge. Read the chapter of a textbook- and once you’ve digested it a bit- move on to the next chapter. You can’t beat yourself up for not understanding something you’ve never learnt- that makes no sense.
Economics is accessible to learn as there are many courses, books, videos, YouTube lectures, many courses books, videos, YouTube lectures, courses and general information out there. It has a lot of very different skills, and you might find some of those more challenging to engage with than others- but that’s ok because you can get a lot of understanding from engaging just with the aspects you enjoy. Since there is so much information available, a better question is – how motivated am I to spend the time learning?
And the answer to that is up to you. A basic understanding of economics, though, will not be a waste- understanding the world we interact with is an understanding of economics. Understanding economics also means understanding a lot about history, sociology, psychology and politics. If you would like to answer the question ‘how can I make a difference in this world’ one day, to answer the question ‘how can I make a difference in this world?’ one day, your answer is highly likely to involve some engagement with economic principles.
Resources for understanding economics:
If you are interested in learning, here are some resources you might like to explore. They may give you a taste of the sort of content you might end up studying:
Doughnut economics is a Book by Kate Raworth talks about how convention economics needs to change to become sustainable. In doing so, it has a sociological take on economics and our world. To explain how things should be different, she first describes how things work now. This book gives you a sense of the meaning behind economics.
Khan academy is a massive, free, online learning platform. They do excellent videos on many topics; maths and science, chemistry, physics, economics, and more. This site is helpful to learning economics you might be taught as part of a course or economics degree. Their videos are simple, well-produced and well explained. They’re great for students- whether economics is your major or not. I’ve used them a lot through my schooling and degrees.
I have a lot of posts about key economic principles that you might enjoy: