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Find answers to common questions about the undergraduate economics program.

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Curriculum structure

I am an Economics major. In what order should I take courses?

  • You should take 201 first, then 202. 201 begins with a brief overview of microeconomics (fundamentals of how supply and demand interact to determine what is produced and how income is distributed), then turns to macroeconomics (the study of economy-wide problems such as inflation and unemployment). 202 assumes that you have already been introduced to microeconomics and begins with more advanced analyses of how households and firms behave; it covers no macroeconomics. Economics 201 and 202 must be completed before taking any 300-level courses.
  • Statistics 210 must be taken before Economics 281. (If you have AP statistics credit, or are required to take another statistics class for another major, or wish to take a higher level statistics class, you should consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies about substituting this for Statistics 210.) You might wish to take it along with Economics 201 or 202. Economics 281 should be completed as early as possible -- certainly before taking any 300-level field course. Students with a strong mathematical background can have Economics 281 waived by taking Economics 381-1,2 Econometrics. More information on this option can be found in our advice on econometrics options. We suggest that you talk with an Economics advisor before selecting the Economics 381-1,2 option.
  • Mathematics 220-1 is a prerequisite for Economics 310-1. (Alternatively, students can take Mathematics 218-1 and 218-2 Single-Variable Calculus with Precalculus in place of Mathematics 220-1.)
  • Economics 310-1 is a prerequisite for 310-2.
  • Economics 310-1 is usually a prerequisite for 311. Even when the instructor does not require it, it is advisable to complete 310-1 before taking 311, because theories of consumer and producer behavior developed in 310-1 are useful background for many topics in macroeconomics.

See a sample 4-year schedule for Economics majors.

Does my course have prerequisites?

Core introductory courses

  • 201: None
  • 202: 201

Core intermediate courses

  • 281: 201, 202, MATH 220-1, STAT 210
  • 310-1: 201, 202, MATH 220-1
  • 310-2: 201, 202, 310-1, MATH 220-1
  • 311: 201, 202, MATH 220-1

Field courses

  • 310-1 is standard for all field courses. Consequently 201, 202 and MATH 220-1 are implicit prerequisites as they are prerequisites for 310-1.
  • 281 (or 381-1 or MATH 386-1) is a prerequisite for nearly all field courses.
  • 310-2 is a prerequisite for all courses in industrial organization and public finance.
  • 311 is added where appropriate for courses with macroeconomic content.
  • Certain advanced courses also require additional mathematical preparation - MATH 220-2 & 230-1.
  • Consult the Course Catalog for details by individual course.

How do I select a 300-level field course?

Sampling a variety of areas and professors is encouraged, but you can also benefit from selecting courses that address your interests and goals. For example, if you are concerned about international economic issues and developing nations, you may want to take ECON 361 International Trade, ECON 362 International Finance and ECON 326 Economics of Developing Countries, as well as others that study the history and politics of parts of the world that interest you. Or if you are considering a career in finance or banking, you may want to take ECON 308 Money and Banking, ECON 362 International Finance, ECON 360-1 Corporate Finance, ECON 360-2 Investments, or ECON 309 Public Finance. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of options, the best approach is to discuss your intellectual and career interests with a faculty adviser and together map out a program that particularly suits you.

While each student will create a unique program, the following general recommendations can be offered for four of the most common areas of interest:

  • Business/Management
    • 308 Money and Banking
    • 323-1,2 Economic History of the United States Before/After 1865
    • 339 Labor Economics
    • 349 Industrial Economics
    • 350 Monopoly, Competition, and Public Policy
    • 355 Transportation Economics and Public Policy
    • 360-1 Foundations of Corporate Finance Theory
    • 360-2 Investments
    • 361 International Trade
    • 362 International Finance
    • 380-1,2 Game Theory
  • Law
    • 309 Public Finance
    • 323-1,2 Economic History of the United States Before/After 1865
    • 340 Economics of the Family
    • 349 Industrial Economics
    • 350 Monopoly, Competition, and Public Policy
    • 351 Law and Economics
    • 359 Economics of Nonprofit Organizations
    • 371 Economics of Energy
    • 372 Environmental Economics
    • 373 Natural Resource Economics
    • 380-1,2 Game Theory
  • Government 
    • 307 Economics of Medical Care
    • 309 Public Finance
    • 323-1,2 Economic History of the United States Before/After 1865
    • 333 Economics of Social Policy
    • 335 Political Economics
    • 336 Analytic Methods for Public Policy Analysis
    • 337 Economics of State and Local Governments
    • 339 Labor Economics
    • 340 Economics of the Family
    • 341 Economics of Education
    • 342 Economics of Gender
    • 343 Economics of Immigration
    • 349 Industrial Economics
    • 350 Monopoly, Competition, and Public Policy
    • 354 Issues in Urban and Regional Economics
    • 355 Transportation Economics and Public Policy
    • 359 Economics of Nonprofit Organizations
    • 371 Economics of Energy
    • 372 Environmental Economics
    • 373 Natural Resource Economics
  • International Studies 
    • 308 Money and Banking
    • 315 Topics in Economic History
    • 325 Economic Growth and Development
    • 326 The Economics of Developing Countries
    • 327 Economic Development in Africa
    • 343 Economics of Immigration
    • 361 International Trade
    • 362 International Finance

In the video below, Professor Mar Reguant discusses the upper-level econ classes available to students and how you might decide which ones to take.

The following video offers further guidance on picking 300-level courses, featuring Director of Undergraduate Studies Professor Mark Witte, Associate Chair Professor Ian Savage, and several undergraduate students.

Is the undergraduate Economics major considered STEM?

Yes, Northwestern Economics is considered a STEM major. Effective September 1, 2016, all Northwestern Economics majors have been under the CIP code 45.0603, “Econometrics and Quantitative Economics.”  This designation was decided to be proper because the program is heavily quantitative with Econometrics being a vital and required element of the coursework.  

Econometrics Options

What is econometrics?

The vast majority of the work of economists combines economic theory with data to explain and predict actual events. Econometrics is the field of economics that studies how theory and data can be used to draw meaningful conclusions about outcomes of practical interest. In the real world, unlike the laboratory, many things change at the same time. For this reason, multivariate regression analysis is an important econometric tool. Econometric analysis is widely used by economics and other disciplines in a variety of setting, including public policy analysis and many business and finance applications. Consultants and financial analysts are expected to be able to understand, and conduct, regression analyses.

Which econometrics course should I take?

Learning about econometrics is a core requirement for a Major or Minor in Economics. The Economics Department has two different options you can choose for meeting this requirement. Which option you choose will depend on your level of interest in conducting applied analysis. Note: Students in Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences or Industrial Engineering should disregard this discussion, as the econometrics requirement is satisfied through alternative courses (see bottom of section).

Most students take ECON 281 Introduction to Applied Econometrics. After taking this option, students should be able to understand (and critique) empirical results that are presented in a more advanced class. In addition you should be able to conduct straightforward regressions as part of a class problem set. If you complete ECON 281 and decide that you enjoy econometrics, you are encouraged to also take ECON 381-1,2 which count towards your field courses for a Major or Minor in Economics.

However, students contemplating writing an honors thesis or who have a strong mathematical or statistical background or who intend to undertake graduate work in economics may proceed directly to ECON 381-1,2 Econometrics. After taking this option, students should be able to fully understand empirical papers that use standard methods. You should be able to assemble data sets and conduct and troubleshoot regressions in an independently written paper, such as a senior thesis. ECON 381-1,2 does not have a prerequisite of ECON 281, and should be regarded as an alternative to ECON 281. Students completing ECON 381-1 will have the ECON 281 core requirement waived for a Major or Minor in Economics.

The prerequisites for ECON 381-1,2 are more extensive than those for ECON 281, and this option should only be considered by students with a strong mathematical or statistical background. (See more for detailed list of prerequisites below.)

Additionally, the following two non-ECON courses may substitute for the econometrics requirement:

  • MATH 386-1 Econometrics (required for the Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences major)
  • IEMS 304 Statistical Learning for Data Analysis (required for the Industrial Engineering major)

What are the prerequisites for my econometrics course?

Prerequisites for Option A - ECON 281

MATH 220-1 Single-Variable Differential Calculus

STAT 210 Introduction to Probability and Statistics or an equivalent

ECON 201 Introduction to Macroeconomics
ECON 202 Introduction to Microeconomics

Prerequisites for Option B - ECON 381-1

MATH 220-1 Single-Variable Differential Calculus
MATH 220-2 Single-Variable Integral Calculus
MATH 226 Sequences and Series
MATH 230-1 Multivariable Differential Calculus
MATH 230-2 Multivariable Integral Calculus
MATH 240 Linear Algebra or Gen_Eng 205-1 Engineering Analysis I

MATH 314 Probability and Statistics for Econometrics or an equivalent (*)

ECON 201 Introduction to Macroeconomics
ECON 202 Introduction to Microeconomics
ECON 310-1 Microeconomics I
ECON 310-2 Microeconomics II (recommended for both 381-1 and 381-2)
ECON 311 Macroeconomics (recommended for both 381-1 and 381-2)

(*) Two courses in probability and statistics, one drawn from List A and one drawn from List B, would be regarded as the equivalent to MATH 314:

List A

List B

STAT 320-1 Statistical Theory and Methods
MATH 310-1 Probability and Stochastic Processes
MATH 311-1 MENU: Probability and Stochastic Processes
IEMS 202 Probability
ELEC_ENG 302 Probabilistic Systems

STAT 320-2 Statistical Theory and Methods "Can be taken concurrently with 381-1"

IEMS 303 Statistics


BMD_ENG 220 Introduction to Biomedical Statistics (satisfies both List A and List B)
CHEM_ENG 312 Probability and Statistics for Chemical Engineering (satisfies both List A and List B)
STAT 383 Probability and Statistics for ISP (satisfies both List A and List B)

Either STAT 210 Introductory Statistics for Social Sciences or MATH 314 Probability and Statistics for Econometrics satisfy the related course requirement in statistics for the Economics Major and Minor.

We encourage you to speak with an Economics Department Advisor or any of the instructors who teach econometrics courses to determine which option is best for you. Whatever option you choose, we recommend that you complete your study or econometrics as early as possible in your study of economics, preferably in your sophomore year.

Math Requirements

How much mathematics do I need to know? How much should I take?

While only MATH 220-1 Single-Variable Differential Calculus is required, students are strongly advised to continue to study of the calculus through MATH 220-2 and 230-1 and to do so early in their studies. Some ECON 300-level field courses have MATH 220-2 and 230-1 as prerequisites, and a good knowledge of the calculus is required to read much of the scholarly literature in the fields of economics and business. Also, a basic knowledge of calculus and statistics is increasingly important for graduate study in business.

Students contemplating graduate study in economics or finance should take additional courses in mathematics, at least MATH 300 Foundations of Higher Mathematics, or better yet the MATH 320 or (with the permission of the Math Department) 321 Real Analysis sequences. Other particularly useful math classes include MATH 226 Sequences and Series, 230-2 Multivariable Integral Calculus; 240 Linear Algebra; 250 Elementary Differential Equations, 310-1,2,3 Probability and Stochastic Processes, and 368 Introduction to Optimization. See our Preparing for a Ph.D. in Economics page for more information.

I studied calculus in high school or received AP credit for Math. What am I required to take?

Students who received AP/IB credit for MATH 220-1 fulfill the Economics Department's calculus requirement. In addition, students who did not receive AP credit for MATH 220-1, but on the basis of some high school training in calculus, began their study of calculus at Northwestern with MATH 220-2 or MATH 230-1 satisfy the calculus requirement provided that they receive a grade of C- or higher in 220-2 or 230-1.

Related Courses

Can I count Economics 249 as related courses?

No.  ECON 249 Business Strategy is designed for non-majors. Majors should not take this course, but should take ECON 349 Industrial Economics which covers the same material at a higher level. 

Can my related courses also be used to satisfy WCAS distribution requirements?

Yes, if they are on the list of WCAS-approved courses to meet distribution requirements.

I am a double major in one of the departments whose courses count toward the related-course requirement. May I count courses in my other major as related courses for my economics major?


Independent Study

What is an independent study?

Independent study (ECON 399) provides an opportunity to work closely with a faculty member on a topic of mutual interest. Independent study is usually open only to majors who have completed the core courses. The purpose of an independent study should be (a) to investigate topics not covered by regular courses in the curriculum, or (b) to explore the subject matter of regular courses in greater depth, or (c) to conduct an independent research project.

How do I arrange an independent study?

Before approaching a faculty member to request an independent study, you should prepare a proposal that indicates the topic, describes your preparation for pursuing the topic, lists tentative readings that you expect to cover, and describes the nature of written work you plan to complete. With regard to preparation, you should have taken all of the courses that provide background for the topic you have chosen. For example, if you want to do research on the impact of taxation on the distribution of income, you should have taken ECON 309 Elements of Public Finance. The better prepared you are and the more carefully worked out is your proposal, the more likely you are to find a sponsoring faculty member.

May I count ECON 399 toward the Economics major or minor?

Economics majors may count up to two instances of ECON 399 toward their six 300-level field course requirement. Minors may count one instance of ECON 399 toward their three 300-level field course requirement.


Can I get major credit for an internship program?

The Economics Department has no internship program and usually does not give credit for internships. Business internships are increasingly popular with students, because they provide valuable work experience and useful knowledge about professional opportunities. However, they seldom entail the acquisition of new knowledge of economic analysis equivalent to a 300-level course in this department.

There are instances in which an intern receives extensive, supervised training by professional economists, but this is rare. As an example, some participants in the Chicago Field Study program have received one 300-level economics credit for internships in the research department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Students engaged in the Field Study program are registered for a WCAS course (CFS 393), which is another condition for receiving credit for an internship. In some instances, a student might arrange an independent study (see above) in conjunction with an internship, in which a research project is undertaken that draws on the internship experience. In such a case, credit would be awarded for the work completed in the 399, not merely for the practical experience of the internship; but it is a way of trying to interrelate academic training and professional experience. Each case must be weighed individually, however. Typically, you will have to write a paper based on your internship.

If you have an internship opportunity for which you would like to receive major credit, you should consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies well in advance of the start of the program. A final decision about economics credit cannot be made until you have completed the internship.

Can I get major credits for courses taken while studying abroad?

Students who are contemplating study abroad should consult one of our advisors to discuss the likelihood of their receiving major credit for courses offered in the programs they are considering. They should also be sure to complete all of the core courses for the major before going abroad.

As part of the application process, students must bring the required form and meet with an advisor in each of their majors and minors and consult about what classes might work for their academic progress.   If the advisor judges the quality of the course to be likely comparable to our Economics 300-level field courses, he or she will sign the provisional pre-approval part of the form.  This form is submitted to the Study Abroad Office.  Once the student has completed these courses, it is the student’s responsibility to fill out the Petition for Credit for Courses Taken Abroad and bring it and the transcript back to an economics advisor. The advisor will grant credit if the student received a grade of C (not C-) or better and the course materials lived up to expectations for quality.  This form should then be taken to the Weinberg Advising Office at 1908 Sheridan Road.  (Note:  Economics will accept up to two classes per term, or four for a full academic year abroad.)

The Director of Undergraduate Studies has prepared some information on the availability of Economics course credit for courses taken as part of NU's study abroad program


What type of course taken elsewhere, either elsewhere in the U.S. or abroad, can count towards an economics major?

It is department policy that credit will not be awarded to those courses that are specifically appropriate to a business curriculum - in other words, lacking any economics principles in any way.

For example: we would not give credit toward your economics major for such business courses with titles such as Management and Entrepreneurship or Bargaining and Negotiation. These classes are appropriate to a business curriculum, not an economics program. Nonetheless, such courses as International Economics or The Economics of European Integration would be worthy of credit as 300-level economics field courses. The first is probably most similar to our 361 International Trade, and it might cover a bit of 362 International Finance. It is important to note that if you have already taken either of these (but especially 361), you could not get credit for the equivalent. You can't repeat a course for credit. Although our department does not have an equivalent course to the Economics of European Integration, it is still a fine course and well worth taking to get the most out of your undergraduate economics experience.

For 300-level economics field credit, classes must have prerequisites of intermediate microeconomics, intermediate macroeconomics, or econometrics.

How can I get approval for courses taken at other U.S. universities?

Students who are considering taking a course at another US university or college should consult with a major advisor before doing so, and bring a class description.  Students should also be familiar with the Weinberg College rules on such transfers.  If the advisor judges the quality of the course to be comparable to our Economics 300-level field courses, he or she will give pre-approval for the course. For 300-level economics field credit, classes must have prerequisites of intermediate microeconomics, intermediate macroeconomics, or econometrics.

Once the student has completed the course with a grade of C- or better, the student should send the information about the course to an economics advisor for review and approval for the course to count for the major or minor.

Note:  Economics will accept up to a maximum of two classes per term, up to a maximum of four total.


Can I take Economics courses offered in Summer Session or the evening program?

Courses taken in Northwestern's Summer Session automatically count toward the requirements of the Economics Major and Minor. However, courses offered by the School of Professional Studies' evening program are not generally acceptable toward the Department's requirements. Exceptions to this policy will only be considered in rare cases of hardship, and with the express consent of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Is there preregistration for majors and minors?

Yes. Majors and Minors are able to preregister for up to two classes. Students are reminded that they must declare the Economics Major or Minor to participate in pre-registration.

What happens if a class fills up during registration?

When a class closes out during registration, a wait list will open up within CAESAR.  Instructors usually will add students if students drop the class and/or if additional seats are available in the lecture room. If the instructor can add you, they will send you a "permission number" to allow you to register for the class. More senior students and those who put their names on the waiting list earliest are normally given preference. If you have special reasons for needing the course, you should e-mail the instructor a note explaining the circumstances, but you must add your name to the wait list first.