Mar 6, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Short answer? It depends.

A big reason some economics departments are reclassifying as STEM fields? So international students who study in the US have more opportunities after graduation.

International graduates of economics programs classified as STEM can work in the U.S. for two extra years after they graduate while staying on their student visas.

The Department of Homeland Security regards specific kinds of economic studies - econometrics and quantitative economics - as STEM fields. Graduates of these specialties - and other recategorized specialties - will qualify for STEM OPT extensions.

What's the difference? General economic studies include economic theory, micro- and macroeconomics, comparative economic systems, money and banking systems, international economics, quantitative analytical methods, and applications to specific industries and public policy issues.

Econometrics and quantitative economics focus more on mathematical and statistical analyses of systems.

Among some programs that have reclassified some of their economics programs? Yale University, MIT, and Pomona College. 

Columbia University also recently reclassified their economics program as STEM. In a recent article in The Columbia Spectator, economics student Heejo Kang, CC ’18 said, “It’s going to give international students the freedom to major in economics and have the additional benefit of not having to worry about being deported." She added, “Columbia really prides itself as a global university because we do have an incredible number of international students. ... As an international student at a global university like this, I’m confident that this is a change that will benefit a lot of students and the University itself.”

Learn more about studying economics.

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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