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I don't know that most American colleges do require economics, but if yours does, I guess it makes no difference to you if others don't.
How does it help you in real life? Well, for one thing it helps you with logical thinking and analytical skills. These skills are important, in my opinion, in any profession one enters (if you want to enter any career that requires thought, at least). In addition, a basic knowledge of economics allows you to understand more about the world around you, which is always good.
So... there's no way in which taking economics is essential to life, but it can help you A) gain useful skills and B) enrich your life by increasing your understanding of the world.
I am not sure of the extent to which study of economics is compulsory is in different colleges and universities. At least in India economics is not a compulsory subject for most of the courses offered in different colleges and universities.
Irrespective of whether or not economics is compulsory in a course, we can discuss here the benefits of studying economics to a person not interested in taking up a profession requiring specific use of economics.
I personally believe that some basic knowledge of economics is very useful for everyone. Economics helps us to understand many issues impacting our daily lives and enables us to make better choices. While utility of economics is quite apparent in understanding issues like international trade, and trade-off inflation and unemployment, it also impacts more mundane aspects of our life. Our future is shaped to a substantial extent by economic forces beyond our control. For example it will enable us to make better choices in matters like profession we choose, the political party we vote for, and the investments we make. For example knowledge of economics will help you to make better judgement about future job prospects in different industrial sectors, based on long term trends rather than being confused by short term fluctuations in their reputations. The utility of basic understanding of economic is even more useful for people in business or management.
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