Why Finance, Accounting, and Economics Are Not STEM Fields

Why Finance, Accounting, and Economics Are Not STEM Fields

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All undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs for finance, accounting, and economics include mathematics, but they are still not considered a part of conventional STEM. However, statistics is a STEM major. So, why are finance, accounting, and economics not considered STEM fields? 

Finance, accounting, and economics are business majors, not STEM fields. These specializations are social sciences, not physics, chemistry, biology, technology, engineering, and math, that collectively form STEM. Thus, the social sciences or business majors aren’t STEM fields. 

However, a few degree programs for finance, accounting, and economics are actually interdisciplinary, so some are classified as STEM majors by universities. Read on to know more.

Are Economics, Finance, and Accounting Considered STEM Majors?

Economics, finance, and accounting are considered STEM majors by some colleges and universities, evident from the programs or degrees at these institutions. However, a vast majority of schools consider them as social sciences. 

However, no one can deny or undermine the importance and involvement of mathematics in economics related fields. So these majors should be STEM due to the inclusion of mathematics, but there’s a caveat here. 

The Math in Economics, Finance, and Accounting Majors Is Not STEM

I will use just one example to reason why economics, finance, and accounting majors are not STEM, even though they have math. The same example will also explain why statistics is widely accepted as a STEM major, but economics is not. 

The course policies for the economics major at Cornell University highlight the required math skills for the undergraduate degree. You need a C or better grade in Math 1110 to qualify for the undergraduate program at Cornell. 

As you may know, Math 1110 includes differential calculus. 

However, the course does not cover integral calculus. Anyone familiar with calculus knows integration is tougher than differentiation. Thus, economics does not have the kind of hard math that STEM majors must excel in.

However, econometrics and statistics at Cornell cover Math 1120 or integral calculus. Also, statistics, microeconomics, and macroeconomics are advanced electives covering complex math, such as multivariable calculus. 

Therefore, statistics is considered a STEM major.   

Degrees In Economics, Finance, or Accounting As STEM Majors

The STEM definition aside, academic classifications determine the graduates’ degrees after majoring in economics, finance, or accounting. The convention is awarding a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree, not a Bachelor of Science (B.S. or B.Sc.).

However, many schools and colleges offer a Bachelor of Science degree in economics, and related specializations, such as finance, accounting, business administration, and management. 

I list a few here in alphabetical order:

Is a Ph.D. or Master’s in Finance Considered STEM? 

A Ph.D. or master’s in finance is considered STEM if you pursue it at a university that awards an M.S. degree instead of the traditional M.A. Also, the choice of major influences the degree program and whether or not a specialization qualifies to be considered STEM. 

A Master of Science in finance is not identical to an M.S. degree in economics, as finance and economics are two distinct majors. Similarly, PhDs in finance and economics are different. Many universities offer a Master of Science degree program in finance. 

Here is a brief list of schools that consider finance as STEM:

Note: The schools, colleges, or universities on this list without any major, program, or degree mentioned offer a Master of Science in Finance.

Master of Science in Economics

A few universities offer M.S. degree programs in economics. However, some specializations are applied economics, quantitative economics, agricultural economics, and other related fields. So, most economics degree programs considered STEM are different from the regular courses. 

Here is a list of some universities offering a Master of Science degree in economics:

  • California Lutheran University
  • California University of Management and Sciences
  • Georgetown University
  • Georgia Southern University
  • Indiana University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • New Mexico State University
  • Peru State College
  • Purdue University
  • St. Cloud State University
  • Tufts University
  • University of Baltimore
  • University Bocconi
  • University of California Santa Cruz
  • University of Rhode Island
  • University of San Francisco 
  • Valparaiso University

The Evolution of STEM and Inclusion of Economics, Accounting, and Finance

Traditionally, none of the business majors or social sciences was considered STEM. Some of the old lists of STEM fields published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have barely one major related to economics. 

A list classifies econometrics and quantitative economics as STEM. The list includes business statistics, of course. However, a more contemporary DHS or ICE list includes other majors, such as financial mathematics and pharmacoeconomics, or pharmaceutical economics.  

Interestingly, if you check out a STEM OPT list, you will find economics and computer science, business analytics, mathematical economics, and financial analytics. Also, the STEM OPT list includes industrial and organizational psychology and social sciences.  

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned in the beginning, STEM is about the definition, academic classification, and general perception. The DHS and ICE are rewriting the definition, and many institutions have reviewed the classification. It is for the general perception now to determine the scope of STEM.