Econometrics is the branch of economics that uses math and statistical approaches to find quantitative relationships and phenomena from real-world economic data.

It's certainly a fascinating area of study and a very useful one for students to major in as the career prospects and expected salaries are very good, but it's a subject that a lot of students may find difficult.

Everybody's different, so it's impossible to say whether or not econometrics is difficult and how difficult you'll find it, but what we can tell you is what aspects of the subject are usually found difficult, how all subjects at a college level should be inherently difficult, and how you can manage difficulty when you encounter it.

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The Parts of Econometrics that Are Usually Difficult

We can't stress this enough: every student is different. However, there are a few aspects of econometrics that are commonly mentioned when talking about how difficult it can be.

Here are a few of the most common ones.

Doing the Math

Econometrics involves a lot of math. If you're the kind of student that's never liked math, this mightn't be the major for you.

If you choose to major in economics, you may have to touch upon econometrics anyway, but by choosing to major in econometrics, you're effectively giving yourself more math and statistics to study.

In addition to studying econometrics classes, you may also be required to take math and statistics classes as part of your program.

For students that don't like math or struggle with it, this is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when choosing to study econometrics.

Splitting Your Focus Can Be Difficult

Any subjects that draw upon the approaches of multiple fields will naturally end up being a little more complex. Rather than focusing solely on economics or statistics, you have to learn both and that can be difficult.

Students in a lecture hall
If you study econometrics, you'll likely attend classes across a range of different fields. | Photo by Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash

When focusing on a very specific and singular area, you can build upon your previous knowledge, but when you have to study different fields, you won't have as much knowledge in either to build upon.

However, if you choose to study a broader range of areas, you don't technically have to study them as much. For example, if you studied statistics exclusively, then you'd be expected to study at a much higher level as you progress.

With interdisciplinary fields, you can sometimes get away without having to study the most advanced classes in a given field.

Is Econometrics More Difficult than Economics?

The fairest answer to this question would be that econometrics is different from economics. It's still part of economics, but majoring in economics won't be the same as majoring in econometrics.

It's also important to remember that most students will attend classes both in economics and econometrics. How much you do of each is dependent on your school, program, and major.

Econometrics has more math and statistics in it so if those are things that you find difficult, then you'll probably find econometrics more difficult than economics. However, there's still plenty of math in economics, too.

The best way to decide which is more difficult is by looking at the different programs at different schools, what classes they include, and if they include the types of classes that you usually find difficult. There are even different focuses within econometrics to worry about.

Your prior experience with either area will also make a difference. If you've already studied economics or econometrics, then it'll be easier for you than somebody who has no experience with either subject.

Difficulty is Relative

There's a quote about judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree. The quote is often misattributed to Albert Einstein, but it does exhibit the genius that Einstein is synonymous with.

The difficulty will be relative and certain people are better at certain things than others. How hard econometrics will be can depend on a huge range of factors.

Firstly, the subject matter itself. Econometrics is at the crossroads of economics, math, and statistics and draws upon these fields. If you always have struggled with math, then you could find econometrics to be quite challenging.

You also have to keep in mind that the level and complexity of what you study in econometrics will be appropriate to your level of education. Naturally, everything you study should be suitable for a student of your level. Your first classes in econometrics should be easier than the advanced classes you take closer to graduation.

Similarly, if you decide to continue your studies into postgraduate study or even a doctorate, you'll deal with more difficult aspects of econometrics. To be fair, you have to challenge yourself to improve and if you already knew everything, you wouldn't have to study it.
Every new concept should come with some difficulty because it'll be new to you and if it's not challenging, you either already know it or the level is too low for your abilities.

Difficulty is Manageable

Sometimes, the difficulty is down to how you approach something rather than what you're trying to do. Difficult concepts can be made incredibly easy by looking at them differently.

If you've ever had a “eureka” moment after struggling with something, you've either arrived there after a lot of time spent studying or immediately after changing your approach.

When you find something difficult, which is quite likely when studying for a degree in econometrics, you should do everything to make life easier for yourself.

Planning and Preparation are Key

If there's some reading to be done, do it! Make sure that you plan your time appropriately so that you're ready for every class you attend.

People taking notes in a conference or lecture
Good notetaking and preparation will help you get the most out of your econometrics classes. | Photo by The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash

You'll also want to make sure that you have everything you need for each class and make the most of every minute spent in class. You can do this by making sure that your note-taking is good, that you have all the equipment you'll need for each class, and that you go back over your notes after class.

This will take more time than just showing up to each of your classes, but it'll pay dividends in learning more effectively.

The same is true after class. You should do any assignments or extra reading that you're given, especially if it's on something you might find difficult. Unfortunately, when it comes to learning, the least enjoyable and most difficult parts are the ones that you're going to have to give the most attention to.

You can change approaches if you're not making much progress, but you should also keep in mind that you don't have to do everything on your own.

Help Is Out There

You should do as much as you can if you're finding econometrics difficult, but don't forget that you're not alone. You're not the first person to find it difficult and you won't be the last.

There are plenty of resources and people who can help you so be sure to turn to them when you need help.

Get Help with Econometrics from Your Peers

There's nobody who'll understand your frustration at the difficulties of econometrics better than other econometrics students. A study group or just meeting up with other students from your econometrics classes can be a great way to study.

People studying at a laptop
Working with your fellow students can help you get better grades. | Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Study groups are a great way to meet new people, too, but remember that it's not all fun and games and that you should make sure you're learning during your study sessions. You should all be responsible for each other's progress and don't let anyone slack off when you're supposed to be learning.

Get Help with Econometrics from Your Professors

Each of your professors is responsible for your education. If something isn't working or you're struggling with econometrics, you should tell them.

It won't help to play the blame game or even try to accuse them of being the cause of your difficulties, but it can be useful to talk openly with them about learning approaches that work for you and if they have any suggestions for how you could get more out of their classes.

Again, look for solutions rather than problems and rely on their expertise in both econometrics and teaching to help you overcome any of the difficulties you're encountering.

Similarly, you have to take responsibility for your effort so if your professor says you should be doing more, you should probably double your efforts.

Get Help with Econometrics from Private Tutors

When you're finding econometrics difficult, it can be useful to look for outside help. A private tutor could work with you on the topics you're finding particularly difficult or even help you find more effective approaches.

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A private tutor either in person or online could help you with your econometrics studies. | Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

You could look for a tutor specializing in econometrics to help you with your studies or find someone to help you with study skills, organization, or soft skills that will help you get the most out of all your classes and not just the ones focusing on econometrics.

Speaking to a tutor can also be useful if you don't know why you're struggling or you can't quite pinpoint where you're going wrong. They can work with you to get to the root of the problem and then give you the tools and knowledge you'll need to succeed!

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, English tutor, and all-round language enthusiast.