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:
- 85% reported being employed full time by 6 months after graduation
- 12% were enrolled in graduate school
- 1% were completing some other activity including self-employment, part-time work, additional courses or military service
- 1% were still seeking employment.
A survey of the class of 2019 found that for those employed full time:
- 16% were in consulting
- 20% were in finance, banking or business services
- 7% were in technology
- 13% were in communications, marketing & media
- 6% were in non-profit/government work
- 7% were in healthcare & pharmaceutical.
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.
- More about our curriculum.
- See a sample four-year schedule for Economics majors.
- A full list of the classes we offer, including times and days.
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.
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.
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.
Many students who are considering economics might also be interested in these programs:
- 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) - 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 - 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 - 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) - 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) - 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 - A five-credit program designed to prepare students for entry-level marketing communications positions including advertising, direct, database, e-commerce, interactive marketing, PR, and corporate communications.
- Honors Program in Medical Education (HPME) from the Feinberg School of Medicine. Students will have already been admitted to this program. Other students interested in taking courses in preparation for a medical career should consult special Weinberg and University advising pages.
- Any other liberal arts or other major. Economics core classes are offered every quarter and we offer lots of 300-level field classes, so we can work with your other academic or study abroad issues
For more information
- Contact an economics advisor.
- Consult the Weinberg College Advising page.
- The Roads to Business website gives an overview of the pre-business opportunities offered at Northwestern.
- A partial list of some of the business-related student organizations on the Northwestern campus.
- Consult the Weinberg Transfer Students page.