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Information for First-Year Students

What is economics?

Economics is the study of how we make choices in the face of scarcity and how those choices motivate behavior. Explore the field and see reasons to study economics.

What can I do with an economics major?

A student of economics will have a good understanding of how markets function. This knowledge is useful for a variety of entry-level jobs in government, industry, or finance. A rapidly growing area of employment for majors, especially those who have strong analytical skills in mathematics and statistics, is management consulting. Another is banking, both commercial banking and investment banking. Governments at all levels, including international organizations such as the United Nations, are also significant employers of economics majors for positions involving analyses of revenues and expenditures or cost-benefit studies of programs in education, health, and transportation.

A survey of the graduating economics majors in the class of 2019 by Northwestern Career Advancement found that:

A survey of the class of 2019 found that for those employed full time:

Getting started in the major

Most of our students have never taken economics before coming to Northwestern. The usual starting point is Economics 201 Introduction to Macroeconomics, then Economics 202 Introduction to Microeconomics, followed by Economics 310-1 Microeconomics I. We offer these classes every quarter and we try to offer enough seats so that they never close.

Advanced Placement

Students with a strong background in economics (scores of 5 on the AP exam, 6 or better on the IB, or having taken economics at some other college) can skip 201 and/or 202. However, we recommend that first-year students do not try to take Economics 310-1 Microeconomics I, Economics 311 Macroeconomics, or Economics 281 Introduction to Applied Econometrics until after the fall term of the first year.


First-year students interested in economics usually take Statistics 210 Introductory Statistics for the Social Sciences and follow that with Economics 281 Introduction to Applied Econometrics. Students who are particularly strong in mathematics or statistics should talk to an economics adviser about finding the right level of statistics.


Most 300-level economics classes use algebra, graphical analysis, and derivatives. The minimum math requirement for economics is Mathematics 220-1 Single-Variable Differential Calculus. You will have no problem completing the major with just Mathematics 220-1; however, some upper-level economics classes require more advanced mathematical tools, and we recommend that you take as much math as you are comfortable taking.

Many economics students double-major in mathematics. Math classes of particular interest are Mathematics 220-2 Single-Variable Integral Calculus, 230-1 Multivariable Differential Calculus, 240 Linear Algebra, 300 Foundations of Higher Mathematics, 310 sequence Probability, and Stochastic Processes, and 320 sequence Real Analysis.

Extracurricular Activities

There are many clubs and activities outside of the classroom where students can meet other students who are interested in economics. The Undergraduate Economic Society (UES) and the Northwestern Economic Tournament (NET) are two clubs sponsored by our department. 

The department also hosts a variety of events throughout the year including the Feed Your Mind Series and faculty excursions. 

Undergraduate Research

Northwestern is a top research university and our undergraduates often play a role as research assistants in advancing the frontiers of knowledge. Learn more about undergraduate research within the department

Complementary Programs

Many students who are considering economics might also be interested in these programs:

For more information