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College of Letters & Science


Admission to the Major
Requirements for the Major
Option A: Economics
Option B: Economics—Mathematical Emphasis
Requirements for the Major in Economic—Option A
Requirements for the Major in Economics—Option B: Math Emphasis
Directed Study
Honors in the Major
Internship in Economics
Topic Areas
Preparation for Ph.D. Programs in Economics

7238 Sewell Social Science Building, 1180 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-6925; www.econ.wisc.edu

Professors Blank, Corbae, Deneckere, Durlauf, Engel, Hansen, Hendricks, Kennan, Porter, Sandholm, Scholz, Seshadri, Smith, Sorensen, Taber, Walker, West, Williams, Wolfe, Wright; Associate Professors
Gandhi, Lentz, Quint, Rostek, Weretka; Assistant Professors Atalay, Bianchi, Bilir, Freyberger, Fu, Fukushima, Gregory, Penta, Roys, Serrano-Padial, Shi; Affiliated Faculty Chang, Chinn, Chung, Montgomery, Ortalo-Magne, Samak, Sarada, Schechter, Smeeding, Wallace

Undergraduate advisors in the major: 7238 Social Science Building, see Undergraduate Home on the department website.

Career development coordinator: see Undergraduate Home on the department website.

Faculty diversity liaison: Contact the department.

A major in economics gives students a greater understanding of how people, businesses, and governments respond to their economic environment. Many of the issues that fill the newspapers—jobs, wages, taxes, the cost of living, inequality, pollution, poverty, and economic growth—are, in fundamental ways, economic issues. The daily decisions of businesses and consumers are largely economic. Economists seek to understand the decisions of businesses, consumers, and current economic issues by developing a systematic and thorough understanding of precisely how the economic system operates, including the mechanisms by which resources are allocated, prices determined, income redistributed, and economic growth promoted.

The analytical method of economics recognizes that various choices are open to a society in solving its economic problems. Students are often attracted to economics as a discipline precisely because they want to understand the decisions of people and businesses and to better understand and evaluate economic policy. To begin to approach these issues as an economist requires an understanding of economic theory, empirical methodology, and an understanding of the institutional details and advanced practice gained from intensive study of specific subfields of economics. Consequently, the undergraduate economics major is organized around a progression of courses that first provides a broad introduction to economics, then develops the theoretical tools that provide the foundation of modern economic thought, and finishes with advanced courses designed to provide greater in-depth knowledge of specific fields (such as labor markets, industrial organization, international economics, public finance, banking and finance, macroeconomics, microeconomics, and econometrics).

An economics major is valuable in the job market because the major is designed to train people to think analytically and clearly about a wide variety of issues. This skill is valued by many employers. An economics major is also good preparation for graduate work in a number of areas: business, law, public policy, economics, public administration, industrial relations, international relations, urban and regional planning, and environmental studies.

Admission to the Major

  1. Completion of two (2) Econ courses on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus with a 2.000 GPA.
  2. A 2.000 GPA in all Econ courses and other major coursework taken at UW–Madison
  3. Completion of one (1) calculus course
    • For Option B, Math 221 or higher is required

Requirements for the Major

The department offers two major options:

Option A: Economics provides a well-rounded major in economics that is valuable for employment following graduation, or subsequent graduate work in business, law, public policy, and related disciplines.

Option B: Economics—Mathematical Emphasis provides students with the mathematical and statistical background needed for in-depth study of the analytical aspects of economics. Its requirements are designed to prepare students for graduate study in economics and related fields, or for careers as professional economists in business or government.

All majors (Options A and B) must fulfill the following requirements:

  1. 2.000 GPA in all Major and Economics courses
  2. 2.000 GPA in Upper Level major courses, as designated by program.
  3. 15 upper-level credits in the major, in residence
  4. 15 credits in the Economics subject, on campus (in residence and not through study abroad)

Students should consult DARS for detailed analysis of degree progress for this major. DARS is the document of record and must show all requirements completed before a degree with this major can be awarded. DARS lists courses acceptable to meet these major requirements. DARS is available in the Student Center and from the student's academic advisor or dean's office.

Requirements for the Major in Economics—Option A

  • Declaration of the Option A major
  • Calculus: Math 211 or 221, or higher
  • Statistics: Econ 310 or Stat 302
  • 30 credits of economics coursework to include:
    • Microeconomics and macroeconomics: Econ 101 and 102, or 111
    • Intermediate economic theory: Econ 301 and 302 (or Honors Econ 311 and 312)
    • Two Advanced Electives in Economics courses taken on campus (in residence, not via study abroad)
    • Additional credits in advanced economics and applied economics

Requirements for the Major in Economics—Option B: Math Emphasis

  • Declaration of the Option B major
  • Mathematics: Math 221, 222, 234 and either Math 320 or  340, OR Honors Calculus: Math 275, 276 and 375
  • Statistics: Econ 310 or Stat 302
  • 30 credits of economics coursework to include:
    • Microeconomics and macroeconomics: Econ 101 and 102, or 111
    • Intermediate economic theory: Econ 301 and 302 (or Honors Econ 311 and 312)               
    • Econ 410: Introductory Econometrics (a required Advanced Elective Economics course)
    • Three additional Advanced Electives in Economics courses 
    • Two Advanced Electives in Economics courses must be taken on campus (in residence, not via study abroad)             
    • Additional credits in advanced economics and applied economics

Honors in the Economics Major

Honors in the Major in Economics is designed for students who are capable of performing at a high level and wish to gain the best possible undergraduate training in economics. Honors in the Major is particularly appropriate for students interested in pursuing graduate work in economics, but the rigorous training it provides in research and analytical methods of economics is valuable to a large variety of employers and for graduate study in a number of fields.

Requirements for Honors in the Economics Major

  • Honors intermediate theory sequence: Econ 311 and 312
  • All the requirements for Option B: Economics—Mathematical Emphasis
  • A cumulative 3.500 GPA in all courses in the major
  • An overall 3.300 GPA in all courses taken at UW–Madison at the time of graduation
  • Econ 580 (Tutorial in Research Project Design, at present offered only in the spring semester)
  • A "capstone" experience consisting of:
    • One-semester honors thesis: Econ 581 (581 should be taken after completing Econ 580), or
    • Two-semester senior honors thesis: Econ 681 and 682
    • Students may be allowed to substitute the following for the thesis capstone, given the explicit permission from their Economics Advisor: A course in mathematical analysis such as Math 521 AND, with instructor permission, an approved advanced course in economics with a grade of B or higher.

Course Lists: Lists of acceptable courses may change; all courses are subject to availability.

Advanced Electives in Economics: 390–014, 390–015, 410, 411, 412, 432, 435, 441, 442, 448, 450, 451, 455, 458, 460, 464, 467, 468, 475, 503, 508, 521, 522, 525, 548, 580, 623, 665, 666

Applied Economics: 300, 305, 306, 315, 320, 322, 325, 330, 337, 343, 352, 355, 364, 365, 366, 390, 420, 421, 426, 427, 431, 440, 449, 453, 456, 459, 460, 461, 462, 465, 466, 470, 471, 472, 473, 474, 477, 478, 501, 502, 504, 524, 539, 552, 557, 567, 628, 629, 641, 658, 663, 671, 675

Directed Study

Directed study (Econ 698 or 699) enables advanced students to pursue economic topics not covered in the regular course offerings. A student interested in directed study should prepare a research proposal and/or reading list; specific course requirements are arranged with an instructor who agrees to supervise the directed study project. Enrollment requires consent of instructor, a GPA of 3.00 or above in economics, completion of the intermediate economic theory courses and at least one advanced elective, and completion of the department's Directed Study form, available in 7238 Social Science.

Internship in Economics

Students can earn 1 credit for approved internships appropriate to the study of economics under course number Econ 228. Students must enroll for Econ 228 in the same semester/session in which the internship is granted. Students should work a minimum of 100 hours per term.

Prerequisites: Declared economics major with GPA of 2.2 or higher in the major; completed at least four economics courses at UW–Madison; completed at least one intermediate theory class. Completed application and departmental approval required.

Topic Areas

The following list of courses by topic area indicates the wide range of interests encompassed by the discipline of economics. Courses may be listed more than once.  Both Advanced and Applied courses are included.

International Economics, Economic Growth, Development: 365, 435, 448, 462, 464, 467, 473, 474, 475, 477, 666
Theory: 411, 412, 455, 521
Applied Methods: 410, 460, 525, 580
Public Finance, Labor, Health, Education, Applied Microeconomics: 441, 448, 450, 451, 455, 525, 548, 623
Industrial Organization, Pricing: 458, 467, 468
Macro and Monetary Economics, Economic Growth: 330, 412, 435, 442, 475, 503
Business, Finance, Real State, Transportation: 300, 306, 320, 325, 478
Economic History: 305, 465, 466, 524
Comparative Economics: 365, 467, 552, 629
Urban and Land Economics: 306, 343, 420, 440, 478
Environmental and Resource Economics: 337, 343, 431, 449
Agricultural and Applied Economics: 421, 426, 427, 431, 462, 474, 477
Research Methods Seminar: 580
Experimental topics courses: 390

Preparation for Ph.D. Programs in Economics

Students interested in pursuing graduate study should pursue Option B (mathematical emphasis) and augment the standard curriculum with higher-level mathematics and statistics courses. These may include: Math 421, 431, 521, 522, 632; Math 431/Stat 309, Stat 310. It is important to consult early in the second year with the undergraduate advisor and/or the faculty member that directs the undergraduate program to design a plan of coursework.