Information for First-Year Students

The Economics major and minor are open to all undergraduates at Northwestern. The information laid out here should be of help to you, but if you have more questions, please get in touch with The Economics Department's advisor for first-year students Jim Hornsten. You can contact him at: j-hornsten@northwestern.edu or by phone at: 847-491-8220, or attend his office hours.

What is economics?

Economics is the study of how we make choices in the face of scarcity, and how those choices aggregate up to interesting behavior.

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, cost benefit studies of programs in education, health, and transportation.

A survey of the graduating economics majors in the class of 2015 by Northwestern Career Advancement found that:

  • 84% reported being employed full time by 6 months after graduation
  • 12% were enrolled in graduate school
  • 3% 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 2013 found that for those employed full time:

  • 44% were in consulting
  • 38% were in finance, banking or business services
  • 5% were in communications, marketing and media
  • 4% were in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals or healthcare
  • 2% were in non-profit/government work
  • 2% were in education and teaching.

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 202Introduction 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 until after the fall term of the first year.

Statistics 

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.

Mathematics 

Most 300-level economics classes use algebra, graphical analysis, and derivatives. The minimum math requirement for economics is Mathematics 220 Differential Calculus of One Variable Functions. You will have no problem completing the major with just Mathematics 220; 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 224 Integral Calculus of One Variable Functions, 230 Differential Calculus of Multivariable Functions, 240 Linear Algebra, 300 Foundations of Higher Mathematics, 310 sequence Probability and Stochastic Processes, 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 Economics Department organizes public lectures that will be of interest to undergraduate students.

A Possible Four-Year Economics Schedule

Here is a hypothetical four-year economics schedules for a standard Weinberg student with no economics background. A variation for students with AP or IB credit is shown at the end.

First year

Fall

Winter

Spring

Econ 201

Econ 202

Econ 310-1

Math

Math

X

Seminar

Seminar

X

Language

Language

Language

X = Classes in some other field that might be a good major for you, or a distribution credit, or just for interest.

Spring quarter is a good time to take Economics 310-1 Microeconomics I, but you could also take Economics 311 Macroeconomics, or if you have had statistics, Economics 281 Introduction to Applied Econometrics. However, we don't recommend taking more than one of these classes at a time during the first year.

Sophomore year

Fall

Winter

Spring

Econ 310-2

Econ 281

Econ 311

Stat 210

X

Econ 3XX

X

X

X

Language

Language

Language

Econ 3XX = One of the six 300-level economics field courses

Junior year

Fall

Winter

Spring

Econ 3XX

Econ 3XX

Econ 3XX

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Many people take economics while on study abroad during junior year, either for a term or the whole year. Also, many students spend a quarter on an internship through Chicago Field Studies.

Senior year

Fall

Winter

Spring

Econ 3XX

Econ 3XX

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

With AP or IB credits

Suppose that someone comes in with credits for Economics 201 and 202. We don't recommend starting fall quarter of the first year with an intermediate level economics course, but a possible first year might be:

First year

Fall

Winter

Spring

X

Econ 310-1

Econ 310-2 or 311

Math

Math

Stat 210

Seminar

Seminar

X

Language

Language

Language

X = Classes in some other field that might be a good major for you, or a distribution credit, or one of the related courses for the Economics major. Most social science courses at the 200-level and above count as related courses. 

Complementary Programs

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 being 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 (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) - 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

  • Consult information on the Economics undergraduate program from the navigation links on the left-hand side of this page.
  • 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.