Economics, BBA & BA

A career in's much more than you think from American Economic Association on Vimeo.

The video features four individuals offering insights on how economics can be a tool for solving very human problems and they provide some interesting perspectives on how they chose economics as a career path.

  • Marcella Alsan, a physician of infectious disease, discusses why she needed to pursue a degree in economics to improve the lives of her patients.
  • Randall Lewis, a research scientist at Google, uses economics and "big data" as tools to improve the functioning of markets.
  • Britni Wilcher, a PhD student of economics, offers insight on some misconceptions about economists and factors influencing her career path decision.
  • Peter Henry, dean at the NYU Stern School of Business, points to the true nature of economics and the importance of diverse voices informing the field.

If you are unsure if Economics is for you, please arrange an advising appointment with our faculty advisors.

Two Economics Majors (BBA & BA) and Choosing Between Them

The Big Picture

Economics is the social science that studies how economies work.  An economy is the system a society uses to produce and distribute output.  If you become an economics major, you get to study that system for four years!  Fabulous!

However, which major?  We have two ways to major in economics.  You can graduate with a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) or with a Bachelor of Arts (BA).  As far as economics courses, these two majors are the same.  Where they differ is in the non-economics courses a student takes.  Students doing the BBA take the business foundation core, while students doing the BA fulfill the College of Arts and Sciences distribution requirements.  The BBA in economics thus prepares a student more explicitly to work in a business, while the BA in economics develops more general skills.

That’s the big picture.  Let’s look at the majors a little more closely.

Course differences

We said students in the BBA complete the business foundation core, while students in the BA fulfill the College of Arts and Science distribution requirements.  What does that mean?

For an economics student, the business foundation core consists of twelve courses beyond what’s required for the major (and 34 credit hours).  It introduces students to leadership skills, business software, marketing, finance, accounting, law, operations management, entrepreneurship, and management.  In addition, business students are required to take a college writing class and a public speaking class.

For an economics student, the College of Arts and Sciences requirements consist of one course in effective communication, two philosophy courses, and five upper-division electives.  It also requires the student to develop intermediate-level competency in a foreign language.  At most, that means completing four courses in the language of your choosing—but some students don’t need to take any language classes, because they studied lots of language in high school.  So, in all, fulfilling the College of Arts and Sciences requirements means completing between eight and twelve courses beyond what’s required for the major (24 to 36 credit hours).

So, you can see that the BA might be attractive to a student who would like the freedom to explore a variety of subjects in college and the BBA might be attractive to a student who is interested in the specific knowledge and skills that make a business run.

Here’s a picture of what four years of classes might look like for a student in each major:

Todd-Easton-Graphic-BA-vs-BBA.pngYou might have more electives than described by the pictures above, for example if you arrive at UP having fulfilled course requirements in advance. 

The B.B.A. in economics links a broad grasp of business knowledge and skills with a deep understanding the economic environment of business.  In addition, students develop analytical skills, including data analysis skills, which can help businesses plan. Skills students develop in this area can prepare them for a wide variety of management positions.


The B.A. in economics focuses on developing critical thinking and communication skills that come with a liberal arts degree, rather than specific skills and knowledge useful to businesses.  By combining liberal arts critical thinking skills with the analytical skills a B.A. prepares students for a broad range of private and public sector careers, as well as for graduate study.

 The University of Portland Pamplin School of Business is one of five business schools in Oregon accredited by AACSB.As the world’s largest business education alliance, AACSB International—The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) connects educators, students, and business to achieve a common goal: to create the next generation of great leaders. Synonymous with the highest standards of excellence since 1916, AACSB provides quality assurance, business education intelligence, and professional development services to over 1,500 member organizations and more than 785 accredited business schools worldwide. The University of Portland Pamplin School of Business is one of five business schools in Oregon accredited by AACSB.


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