News & Stories

Making an economic choice

Jo Whatley originally started a Business degree as a way to advance her veterinary nursing career, but ended up with an honours degree in Economics and a job in NSW Treasury instead.


Jo Whatley always assumed she was no good at maths. It turned out she was wrong, a happy discovery she made during her first year of study at the University of Tasmania.

Today she has a Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Economics with Honours in Economics on her resume and works as a junior economist in the Economic Strategy Division for NSW Treasury in Sydney.

But she certainly didn’t see this in her future during her school years. Straight out of year 12, Jo started working at a Hobart veterinary hospital as a veterinary nurse, training and gaining qualifications on the job.

She ended up doing this job for 16 years – and loved it. The experience even helped her find a vet nursing job while living in London. But eventually Jo realised she had limited options to progress in her career.

“I was at a point in the vet industry, where I thought further career advancements would be in more management related areas, which made me think maybe I should do a business degree with a major in management,” she said.

Back in Tasmania again, Jo went to a University of Tasmania Open Day, where she learned more about the Bachelor of Business. Deciding it was the logical option, she enrolled in the degree, also drawn to the breadth of subject matter it covered.

But her first year of study also led her to change direction somewhat.

Jo is smiling at the camera wearing a red shirt
Jo Whatley surprised herself with a flourishing economics career. Image captured by Jo Whatley.

“I was reluctant to do something that pigeonholed me into a particular career, I wanted something broad, which was why I opted to complete a Business degree.

“But I realised I’m not cut out for management, making difficult decisions. I’m happier analysing and providing recommendations.

“Initially I didn’t have a very good understanding of what economics was, but after doing a microeconomics unit in my first year, I decided to change to a double degree, Economics and Business, because I found economics so interesting.”

Not only did Jo enjoy economics but she quickly realised that she seemed to have a natural talent for it.

“In my first economics class, I had an incredibly passionate lecturer who made it really interesting, and made me curious to learn more, which definitely helped. I had a lot of amazing lecturers.

“Economics uses a combination of theory, diagrams and maths which I really liked. Part of what drew me to it was that it helps you to better understand how the world works and seeks to explain behaviour, such as how individuals, businesses and governments make decisions. Studying economics provides you with skills, approaches and ways of thinking that can be applied more broadly.

“And I found I was quite good at it! Then I opted to do an economic analysis stream, which includes econometrics, because I enjoyed the aspects of applying statistical and mathematical techniques to the analysis of data.”

After completing her Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Economics, Jo continued on to do her Bachelor of Economics with Honours, because she wanted to expand her knowledge further, as well as her employment opportunities after graduation.

Upon graduating she applied for several graduate positions, quickly landing a role at NSW Treasury, where she is now a junior economist.

“I was interested in public policy and to be able to have the opportunity to work in areas where I could help make a positive impact to society,” she said.

“It’s a job that I really love, there’s a lot of variety in the work, I feel like I am making a valuable contribution and I am learning a lot.”

Jo said her studies had done more than just unlock a new career path, they uncovered abilities that she never knew she had.

“I realised I could do a lot more than I thought I could. I went in thinking I wasn’t very good at maths and suddenly I was doing honours-level maths and realising just how much I could achieve.”

If you want to study a Bachelor of Business or Bachelor of Economics, the Women in Business Scholarship is a great option to help kick start your studies.