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Economics Major

We are thrilled that you are interested in studying economics. Wherever your starting point, you are here to learn and expand on your aptitudes and we welcome you to our community that includes close to 1,000 students majoring in economics.

Students planning to major in economics should become thoroughly familiar with the Undergraduate Registration Requirement for both the University and the department. The information given here is intended to supplement that given in the Undergraduate Catalog and to aid the student and their advisor in planning a suitable program of study. Majoring in economics will require students to complete a set of core courses in economics, a series of upper-level field courses and two related courses outside of economics. Each of these aspects of the program is described below.


Learn more about the field of economics

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Major Requirements

Six (6) core courses in economics

  • ECON 201 Introduction to Macroeconomics
  • ECON 202 Introduction to Microeconomics
  • ECON 281 Introduction to Applied Econometrics
    • The ECON 281 requirement will be waived if you take ECON 381-1 Econometrics as a field course. For a discussion of econometrics options, please see our undergraduate advising FAQs page.
  • ECON 310-1 Microeconomics I
  • ECON 310-2 Microeconomics II
  • ECON 311 Macroeconomics

Six (6) upper-level courses in economics

Six 300-level economics courses (in addition to 310-1, 310-2, and 311) are required.

Course Descriptions and Prerequisites

 View the Course Catalog for more information on each our upper-level course offerings and the prerequisites for each course. 

Upper-Level Course Substitutions

Students may count up to one non-economics class as a substitute. Any substitutions must be noted on a student's petition to graduate and approved by an economics adviser. This is usually done at the end of junior year.

Currently, the only permitted substitutions are:

  • BUS_INST 304 Corporate Finance 
    • This course is not allowable for students who have completed ECON 360-1 Foundations of Corporate Finance Theory or KELLG_FE 310 Principles of Finance.
    • This course cannot be double-counted for the Economics major/minor and the Business Institutions minor.
  • BUS_INST 321 Business and Economic Institutions in Historical Perspective
    • This course cannot be double-counted for the Economics major/minor and the Business Institutions minor.
  • IEMS 373 Introduction to Financial Engineering
  • KELLG_FE 310 Principles of Finance
    • This course is not allowable for students who have completed BUS_INST 304 Corporate Finance or ECON 360-1 Foundations of Corporate Finance Theory.
    • This course cannot be double-counted for the Economics major/minor and the Kellogg Certificate.
  • MATH 366-1 Mathematical Models in Finance
    • This course cannot be double-counted for the Economics major/minor and Mathematics.
  • SOC_POL 330 Economics of Social Policy (Up to an including Fall Quarter 2021. Starting Fall Quarter 2022 Economics majors should register for this course as ECON 333 and it will automatically count as an Economics elective and not as a substitution.)
  • SOC_POL 331 Economics of Inequality and Discrimination
  • SOC_POL 332 Economics of Education Policy
  • SOC_POL 333 Economics of Health, Human Capital, and Happiness

Additional Notes:

  • Students double majoring in Economics and Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences (MMSS) or Industrial Engineering and Management Science should see the section on dual majors for special arrangements.
  • ECON 249 Business Strategy is designed for non-majors. Students in the Economics major or minor should take ECON 349 Industrial Economics which covers the same material at a higher level. ECON 249 does not count as an advanced field course or as a related course for the Economics major.

Two (2) related courses

  • MATH 220-1 Single-Variable Differential Calculus
    • or MATH 218-1 and 218-2 Single-Variable Calculus with Precalculus,
    • or higher-level mathematics course,
    • or AP or IB credit,
    • or engineering students can count courses in the GEN_ENG 205 Engineering Analysis sequence.
    • (Note that students entering in Fall 2023 or later cannot use an exemption from MATH 220-1 on the Northwestern Mathematics Placement Examination to satisfy this requirement unless they use it to register for and complete a higher-level mathematics course.)
  • STAT 210 Introduction to Probability and Statistics (for students intending to take ECON 281)
    • or MATH 314 Probability and Statistics for Econometrics (for students intending to take ECON 381-1)
    • or MATH 385 Probability and Statistics for MMSS
    • or AP or IB credit,
    • or if you are required to take another statistics class for another major, or wish to take a higher-level statistics class, consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies about equivalent classes. But, STAT 210 or MATH 314 are the best preparation for ECON 281 and upper-level economics courses.
    • STAT 210 covers probability at greater depth than does  STAT 202 Introduction to Statistics and Data Science.  Consequently, STAT 202 is insufficient preparation for ECON 281. Students planning to major or minor in both Economics and Data Science should take STAT 210 rather than STAT 202.

Note: WCAS students may double count MATH 220-1 and STAT 210/MATH 314 toward the major and toward the Distribution Requirement in Formal Studies or the Foundational Discipline in Empirical and Deductive Reasoning.

Grade Requirements

All core, field, and related courses must be taken for a letter grade (not P/N) and must be passed with a grade of C- or higher. It should be noted that to calculate your "Economics GPA" you should not count your five related courses. The courses that you are required to count are all 6 core courses and all 6 300-level economics field courses.

Dual Majors

Many Economics students complete a double major. Learn about complementary programs that are often taken in conjunction with Economics.

Most dual majors need to satisfy the full requirements of both Departments or Programs. However, there are some exceptions for students dual majoring with:

Honors & BA/MA Program

Outstanding majors may pursue honors in economics through a research paper completed in their senior year. Our selective four-year BA/MA program is also an option for qualified Economics majors.  

Complementary Programs

Economics core classes are offered every quarter and we offer many 300-level field classes, so many students opt to double major or minor. Students who are considering economics might also be interested in the following programs:

Mathematical Experience for Northwestern Undergraduates (MENU)

Mathematical Experience for Northwestern Undergraduates (MENU)- A first-year math sequence for strong quantitative students. This program starts in the Fall Quarter of each year.

Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences (MMSS)

Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences (MMSS) - An interdisciplinary applied math and social sciences double major. You can apply to it at the start of your first year or the start of your sophomore year.

Kellogg School of Management Certificate Programs in Financial Economics or Managerial Analytics

Kellogg School of Management Certificate Programs in Financial Economics or Managerial Analytics- These are four-course sequences that begin in the Fall Quarter of junior or senior year for students who demonstrate strong quantitative skills in prerequisite courses.

Business Institutions Program (BIP)

Business Institutions Program (BIP) - A minor that applies many of the tools from the social sciences and history to bring an understanding of the way that business institutions function in society.

Learning and Organizational Change (LOC)

Learning and Organizational Change (LOC)- A major in the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) that prepares its students to consult with businesses and other organizations that are trying to recreate themselves or adapt themselves to new roles.

Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences (IEMS)

Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences (IEMS)- This major is in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and applies the tools of engineering to many business-related issues

Medill Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Certificate