Majors & Programs



​Many, if not most, of the nation’s and the world’s most significant social problems have an economic dimension. Economics permeates the study of wealth and poverty, unemployment, and the evolution of standards of living over time. Governments rise and fall on the economic performance of national e​conomies.


Microeconomics provides us tools to analyze the trade-offs that individuals and governments confront because of limited resources. It considers:

  • the structure of choices
  • the social context in which they take place
  • the implications for human welfare

Economists apply these tools to a wide range of public policy questions, including environmental regulation, government restrictions on domestic and international markets, the structure of the legal system, and the design of tax policy.


Macroecono​​mics explores the sources of economic growth and the causes of recessions and inflation. Macroeconomic analysis assesses monetary policy, explains the performance of financial markets, and considers international trade and financial links.

Why Study Eco​​nomics?

In addition to increasing your chance to find an interesting and rewarding position after graduation, studying economics will help you to:

  • become a sophisticated consumer of economic information by showing you how to understand and critically examine reports in the media about economic statistics and policies
  • understand better the events and policies that affect particular professions, such as business, law, and medicine
  • keep abreast of the latest research on:
    • the sources of economic growth
    • the causes of recession and recovery
    • the costs and benefits of international trade
    • the incentives created by property rights
    • the value of government regulation of industry
    • the complexities of financing the government
  • deepen your understanding of law, politics, history, and other social sciences by showing you how economic principles play a significant role in these disciplines
  • use all your talents by drawing upon essays, statistics, and mathematics to express ideas.

You Can Do a Lot with a Major in Econ​omics

After grad​uation you may start a career or continue your education by attending graduate school. Our majors are successful in doing both.


Recent economics majors have started careers in professions such as these:

  • Accounting
  • Actuarial Analysis
  • Advertising
  • Banking
  • Business Consulting
  • Economic Analysis
  • Finance
  • Market Research
  • Medicine and Health
  • Product Design
  • Sales
  • Wholesale and Retail Trade Professional Study

Economics provides an excellent foundation for students who want a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Many of our economics majors attend law schools. Other recent graduates are attending me​dical school, as well as graduate programs in health administration, international affairs, and public policy.


Some majors in economics want to become economists, and our program provides an outstanding foundat​ion for graduate work toward the Ph.D. Recent graduates are continuing their economics studies at some of the finest programs in the country.

Economics at Washi​ngton University

Success in life requires you to solve problems with multiple methods of analysis. Our economics major is highly valued because we g​ive our students a great deal of experience with this kind of work. The economics major also provides you with a background in economic theory and broad opportunities to focus on areas of particular interest to you.


  • consider the best course of action for the Federal Reserve
  • debate the benefits and costs of free international trade
  • analyze the adequacy of current policies to provide for retirement income and medical care for the "baby-boom" generation and beyond

Many of our faculty ​have written extensively about economic policy and have advised government policy-makers at the state and federal level.


Our faculty are active researchers. They present some of their work in advanced classes for majors. Below are a few ​courses that are regularly taught and the related faculty research.

  • Faculty Research: Fundamental work on strategic interaction
  • Advanced Course: Game Theory
  • Faculty Research: Analysis of why different countries specialize in particular economic activities
  • Advanced Course: International Trade
  • Faculty Research: Empirical and theoretical research on how families internally allocate work and resources, and on why wages differ between men and women
  • Advanced Course: Labor Economics
  • Faculty Research: How much do corporations choose to invest, and what role do interest rates and the Federal Reserve play in this decision
  • Advanced Course: Current Macroeconomic Issues
  • Faculty Research: Firm financing of R&D, and in particular, the role of stock markets in financing innovation.
  • Advanced Course: Capital Market Imperfections & Entrepreneurial Finance
  • Faculty Research: Analysis of problems in organizing and financing the public sector in a world of mobile resources
  • Advanced Course: Public Finance
  • Faculty Research: The implications of legal and property rights structures for economic development
  • Advanced Course: The Theory of Property Rights (This course is taught by Professor Douglass North, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1993.)
  • Faculty Research: Basic work on the economic reasons for the existence of cities, their growth and decline
  • Advanced Course: Urban Economics


An internship can be an impor​​tant first step in your career. Thus, you will be encouraged to gain experience in business, government agencies, and the not-for-profit sector. Even more rewarding is connecting your experience to theories and facts you have learned. You and your advisor will develop a learning agreement detailing everyone’s responsibilities. Most require submission of a final paper.


Talented undergraduates have the opportunity to conduct original research with faculty support. Students with superior acade​​mic records are invited into the program in January of their junior year, and they write an honors thesis under the guidance of a faculty member. Students present their work at a conference in February of their senior year.


Honors projects reflect the breadth of interests of the students involved. Titles for current honors theses, an​​d for prior years’ prize-winning theses, are available at They include:

  • "Theory and Empirics of Civil War"
  • "The Impact of Tort Reforms on Health Care Expenditures"
  • "Obesity and the Marriage Market: How Increased Male Incarceration Rates Affect Female Weight Gain"


To earn a major, you will comple​​te 12 units of economic theory (microeconomics and macroeconomics) and 12 units in specialized areas.


You will complete 15 units, six of which are introductory courses, three are your choice of microeconomic or macroeconomic theory, and six are your choice of advanced courses.


Many of our students earn double majors to complement their interests in other fields. With a little more planning than for the minor, it is possible to complete the major even if you have taken no economics classes in your first two years.


The Second Major in Political Economy offers majors in economics and political science an interdisciplinary second major. It brings principle​​s of economic analysis to the study of governmental behavior and adds the institutions of politics to the study of economic performance. It considers specific questions about why policies are adopted as well as about general problems of individual and group decision-making.

Earning the Second Major in Political Economy requires completion of 21 units of advanced courses focusing on political economy. One highlight of the program is the Senior Seminar in Political Economy where students look at recent theoretical and empirical work in the discipline and then write term papers under the guidance of leading researchers in the field.​

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