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5 iconic people who boosted their career with an economics degree

economics degree
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was an economics whiz in university. Source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

If money makes the world go around, economists are surely at the centre of it. The study of economics involves learning about the production and distribution of wealth, as well as how human behaviour and relationships affect it. It rests on two key ideas: that goods are scarce, so society must use them efficiently. Interestingly, you can pursue an economics degree in the sciences or arts.

A BSc applies mathematics and statistics to economic theory, while a BA focuses on qualitative research methods. Given its multiple disciplines, econ graduates go on to pursue various occupations in government, administration, business, and technology. Here are some game-changers you might recognise.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

economics degree

Schwarzenegger completed most of his degree remotely from California. Source: Tolga Akmen/AFP

You probably know that Arnold Schwarzenegger was a celebrity bodybuilder and actor way before he was Governor of California. Did you know, though, that he completed most of his degree remotely from California? Schwarzenegger got his degree in international business and international economics from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 1979. He later earned another degree more aligned with his career goals at the time, focusing on fitness marketing and business administration.

Warren Buffett

economics degree

Before he became a billionaire investor, Buffett was a prodigious university student. Source: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images/AFP

One of the most prolific investors of our time had an early start at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He began studying business at the age of 16, then moved to the University of Nebraska to finish his BSc in Business Administration. Why the move? Well, it seems young Buffet was convinced he was more knowledgable than Wharton professors. He later got the short end of the stick by getting rejected from Harvard, but enrolled in Columbia University instead, where he earned an MSc in Economics. Buffet now leads multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway. His real-time net worth as of Jan. 16, 2021 is US$88.1 billion.

Melinda Gates

economics degree

Gates is a proud Duke alumna. Source: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for THR/AFP

She obtained her computer science and economics degree at Duke University’s, earning her bachelor’s in 1986 and master’s at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business the following year. Shortly after, Gates joined Microsoft’s product development team and climbed the ranks to become general manager of information products. Today, she is one half of a philanthropic power couple in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Sheryl Sandberg

economics degree

Sandberg’s economics background landed her in government and technology. Source: Jim Watson/AFP

You know her as the “Lean In” feminist who runs Facebook, but did you know Sandberg is also a Harvard econ graduate? She completed her undergraduate thesis under the guidance of economist Lawrence Summers, who would later hire her at the World Bank. Not only did Sandberg excel in her economics degree studies, but she also pioneered the Women in Economics and Government organisation on campus. She went on to obtain her MBA in 1995, after which she joined her mentor Summers in government. She was the chief of staff to the Treasury Secretary in 1999.

Elon Musk

economics degree

Musk exemplifies how a business and science education go hand-in-hand. Source: Britta Pedersen/POOL/AFP

Is it any surprise that this billionaire inventor is a double degree holder? Musk graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Physics and BSc in Economics (from the Wharton School, also alma mater of Donald Trump), which uniquely prepared him for a career in space technology and design. In this time, he also nurtured his entrepreneurial skills by taking on two Silicon Valley internships. Musk went back to school to start his PhD in energy physics/ material science but dropped out two days in to dive head-first into the Internet boom. He’s now the world’s richest man, so we’re guessing he has no regrets about that decision.

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