Ryan Chartrand

The Orfalea College of Business’ planned 45-unit master’s degree in economics has been fully approved by Cal Poly and is awaiting chancellor approval to begin offering classes.

The program is expected to have 20 to 25 students, the majority of which will be undergraduates from Cal Poly, until the program gains awareness and attracts students from other campuses.

“Economics fills a wider role as an undergraduate requirement but it does not prepare you to be an economist,” said Steve Hamilton, economics department chair. “Undergraduates in economics do not always have the technical and quantitative skills. You need some sort of graduate training to be an economist.”

Classes for the degree are expected to open fall quarter of 2008, Hamilton said. However, if there is a large immediate interest on campus, it may start sooner.

Offering the degree at Cal Poly will put the campus on the radar for many Californians and out-of-state students because few universities offer this specialty.

“Creating this program affirms the polytechnic focus of this university. This degree can get students a higher salary with the economist title, but the reason to pursue a vocation is a passion. If you don’t like it, you are never going to be any good at it,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton and the economics department have been in the process of building this program since fall 2005.

“People on campus majoring in business and minoring in economics might find out that they want to pursue economics further, and now students will have a means to do it here at Poly,” said Katy Stimack, business junior and economics minor.

To coordinate and support the degree, Cal Poly will be hiring a large number of new professors. The economics department is looking for more research-active faculty to get the program started and lead the first group of students through the courses.

“Bringing a master’s program and more experienced faculty will only give the college and our degrees a higher reputation,” Stimack said.

The economics master’s degree differs from the undergraduate degree in that it demands a much higher level of math and analytical skills that will ultimately allow students to determine what is driving consumer choices.

Once the program is open and has momentum, undergraduate students finishing up their senior year will be able to start taking coursework for the master’s degree.

“Economists are one of the fastest growing occupations in California. There are so many companies out there just collecting data and they need people who are capable of figuring out what the models are telling us,” Hamilton said.

Other graduate programs offered by the Orfalea College of Business include business administration, industrial and technical studies and science in accounting-taxation.

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