Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are relatively new forms of currency and there is a lot of debate on their purpose, function and future. But with them being so new, are there any good degrees concerning them?
In the past year, the value of Bitcoin has increased by a factor of twenty. As of writing, a single Bitcoin is valued at $15,333.56 USD. What was once regarded with suspicion, as either an unstable investment or even just a simple scam, cryptocurrencies (of which Bitcoin is the most prominent) have moved into the mainstream and become a serious investment consideration for even the most seasoned traders.
What Are Cryptocurrencies?
Famed investor Warren Buffet once said, “Never invest in a business you cannot understand” and this sensible thinking probably led to the slow uptake of cryptocurrencies; they are undoubtedly confusing.
With the development of the internet, a difficulty arose concerning how to transfer money quickly and safely. It’s clearly not feasible to send notes and coins through the post, especially for high-cost purchases.
The solution to this problem was digital currency. In previous years, national banks would base their worth on physical objects. For example, the US Government (and many others) operated on a ‘gold standard’, where the cost of US dollars was directly related to the gold reserves of the country. During the 20th century, governments moved away from these standards to one in which the price of cash is ‘free-floating’ and not tied to any metal. The value of money is instead based upon its purchasing power and how much of it is currently being bought or sold.
Money, now no longer based on anything physical, has increasingly become something digital and representative, but the manner in which currency can be monitored and transferred is still cause for debate. While most banks now accept digital currency (electronic payments with a debit or credit card are commonplace), there are still discussions of safety and trust, especially in regards to economic recessions and the trustworthiness of banks.
Whereas traditional forms of payment like cash are issued by a central institution, like a national bank or government, cryptocurrencies are produced by their own collective system, at a rate which is made publicly known.
Some predict that cryptocurrencies will replace the money produced by banks, or at least they will live side by side. There are also similarities between the gold standard and bitcoins:
- There is a limited and predictable supply of each
- No central bank controls the supply
- Low inflation
- Hardly no additional costs for international transactions
- Less government control over local economy
How to Learn More
All of this barely scratches the surface of what bitcoin is or how it works, or for that matter, the hundreds of other cryptocurrencies that currently exist. It is a complex but enormously rewarding field in which to study and luckily there now exists a number of university courses to better educate yourself in promising and challenging yet rewarding world of cryptocurrencies.
MSc in Digital Currency – University of Nicosia, Cyprus
The first university to offer a cryptocurrency course as well as the first willing to accept bitcoins as payment, the University of Nicosia is a real trend-setter when it comes to cryptocurrency education. The first course in the degree, ‘Introduction to Digital Currencies’, is offered for free to anyone interested in learning about the fundamental principles of digital currency.
The Law and Business of Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies – New York University (NYU), USA
This course explains Bitcoin and other alternative payment mechanisms. It is part of the university’s larger law degree, though there is also a ‘Digital Currency: Revolution in Money and Payments?’ course available, which is structured more for business executives and entrepreneurs.
Blockchain Summer School – University of Copenhagen, Denmark
In the first ever blockchain summer school, this course will focus on blockchain technology (the concept on which bitcoin is based) within three focal industries. Participants will learn how blockchain technology is disrupting existing business models and will receive computer science, information systems and business knowledge, in order to analyse existing business processes and their potential to convert them into blockchain-based solutions.
Blockchain for Technical Executives and Analysts – B9 Lab Academy, UK
An academy focused on providing education on blockchain and cryptocurrencies, B9 Lab Academy’s courses are aimed at experienced technical stakeholders introducing everything needed to understand the technology, smart contracts and both technical and social frameworks relating to the technology.
Bitcoin Engineering – Stanford University, USA
Stanford University offers a special course about blockchain called Bitcoin Engineering. It focuses on studying how to produce Bitcoin-enabled applications. You will be able to get a grasp of a well-developed introduction to Bitcoin as well as Bitcoin enabled computing.
With bitcoin and cryptocurrencies still being emerging ideas, there remain relatively few full degrees dedicated to those areas. Most of those described above, as well as the others not included here are either smaller parts of a larger course, or are online courses, such as those provided by Princeton University.
While they can be good introductions, if you are looking for a more developed understanding of cryptocurrencies, it would perhaps be more valuable to begin a degree more broadly based on one or a combination of computer science, economics, finance, or business and entrepreneurship. There are number of websites that provide course search options, including Hotcourses and Viva Mundo.
Perhaps, though, the best way of learning about cryptocurrencies is the traditional way: by trying it out for yourself.