Studying Economics can teach you a lot of things— how to think critically, express your thoughts concisely, and conduct independent research
My name is Conor Beer, and I graduated from Dalhousie in 2017 with a BSc. Hons in Economics.
During my third year at Dal, I took Econometrics as an honours program requirement. It was a difficult class that took up a lot of my time, but it was also an enjoyable experience because it was my first introduction to self-guided research. I found that learning how statistics are applied to answer practical questions in economics gave me a far deeper understanding of the field, and helped me experience what economists really do.
For our final Econometrics assignment, we were instructed to find data, and use econometric methods to test a hypothesis. While there were pre-assigned topics, students were free to come up with their own hypothesis as well. When selecting a topic, I decided that I wanted to study something topical, with implications for public policy. At the time of the assignment, Justin Trudeau had campaigned on legalizing marijuana for recreational use just months before, and the potential policy choices were an area of heated public discussion, so I decided to write my paper on the potential labour market effects of marijuana legalization using data from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS).
That choice of topic turned out to be one of the better ones I’ve made: first, after completing the paper, I was awarded the Anonymous Prize for independent research by the Department of Economics. Naturally, when I was applying for a post-graduation internship in the Ontario Public Service, I listed this prize on my resume. Coincidentally, the Ministry of the Attorney General was looking for a Policy Intern to join their team tasked with identifying policy recommendations for Ontario’s approach to marijuana legalization, and eventually selected me as the successful candidate.
This internship was a fantastic experience— it allowed me to continue on with research that I had begun as an undergrad, and gave me a first-hand look at what the government policymaking process looks like, working with a diverse group of policy professionals, researchers and lawyers. It also led to a full-time position after the summer with the Ministry.
Studying Economics can teach you a lot of things— how to think critically, express your thoughts concisely, and conduct independent research. I think the most important thing for an Economics student to remember, though, is to seek out topics within the field that interest you, and try to research questions that you want to know the answer to. In my experience, going outside of the standard economic models and trying to apply what you’ve learned to in a unique way can lead to a lot of opportunities.