Skip over navigation

The Economics Major - Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions give brief answers to get you started. Many of the following questions are more fully answered in the “Requirements” section of this website.

Q. Who are the Department Advisors?
A. Academic advising on all classes to be taken during junior or senior year will be done by Professor Smita Brunnermeier.  Senior thesis assignments and the senior comp exam will be handled by  Professor Henry Farber. 
Q. Why should I choose the economics major?                                           Back to Top
A. There are intellectual reasons as well as bottom-line reasons.  Intellectually, economics offers a unique combination of social concerns - study of issues such as employment and growth, inflation, globalization, health, and poverty - and scientific methods - rigorous theoretical and statistical analysis.  In bottom-line terms, although Economics at Princeton is regarded and taught as part of a liberal-arts education, not as a preparation for a specific vocation, it does provide an especially relevant background for careers in business and government and graduate study in economics, public policy, business administration, and law.  Finally, the economics major is particularly easy to combine with the finance certificate - the core courses of one can be used as departmental electives in the other.
Q. What are the prerequisites for admission to an economics major?
A. For the Class of 2015 onwards, the Economics prerequisites are ECO 100 (Microeconomics), 101 (Macroeconomics), and ECO 202 (Statistics and Data Analysis for Economics). You can place out of these if you have 5 grades in AP exams in the respective subjects, or equivalent international qualifications (A on the completed British A-level exam or 7 on the higher level IB exam). At Princeton, ORF 245 (Fundamentals of Engineering Statistics) is the only generally acceptable substitute for ECO 202.  MAT 175 is the minimum mathematics requirement.  You are only exempt from this pre-requisite if you have already taken an acceptable university level multivariate calculus courses while you were still in high school.  You can fulfill our microeconomics and macroeconomics prerequisites with preapproved summer courses elsewhere; see our memo on Outside Courses for details. The Statistics requirement cannot be satisfied with summer courses taken after the student has begun his/her studies at Princeton, except in unusual circumstances approved by the Departmental Representative, Prof. Brunnermeier.
If you plan to take math-track econometrics (ECO 312), upper level finance certificate courses (such as ECO 462, ECO 465 and ECO 466) or pursue graduate studies in Economics or Finance you should take MAT 201 and 202 instead of MAT 175. 
All prerequisite courses must be taken for letter-grade credit, and you must get grades of C or better in each, to qualify for admission to an economics major. All requirements must be met by the end of your second year. You will not be permitted to take any of these courses in your junior year as an economics major.  
Q. What are the requirements for completing an economics major?          Back to Top
A. You must successfully complete [1] three “core” courses, microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics, [2] at least five electives from the upper-level offerings of the department, [3] junior independent work and a senior thesis, and [4] the departmental comprehensive examination given at the end of your senior year. All departmental courses must be taken for grades, not PDF. Each must be passed individually with a grade of D or better, and the average of the grades on the components [1]-[4], calculated using a weighting scheme posted on the department’s website, must be C or better.

The core courses are offered at two levels, called the less-math track (ECO 300, 301, and 302) and the more-math-track (ECO 310, 311, and 312). The latter takes you closer to the research literature in modern economics; this can be an advantage when doing your independent work and thesis. Each year, approximately half of our majors choose each track. You can take some of your core courses in one track and the rest in the other track. Some of our upper-class elective courses have one or more of the more-math-track core courses as prerequisites; others don’t.

Up to two of the electives can be substituted by a preapproved “cognate” from another department. Such a course has to be more than merely of interest to you or a useful complement to your economics courses; in such circumstances you can always choose it as a part of your distributional courses. To be a cognate, a course must in addition have a substantial content of theoretical or empirical economic analysis. 
Q. What is the usual sequence of courses for the economics major?        Back to Top

A. Here are some suggested sequences:

Basic sequence, following the less-math track

Basic sequence, following the more-math track

Faster more-math track sequence

Students with stronger backgrounds can follow various accelerated and advanced sequences.  For example, many of you have already completed one or more core courses in your sophomore year.

Q. I am planning to be an economics major and spend a semester abroad in my junior year. How should I prepare for this?
A. You should have planned well ahead and taken the appropriate core courses of the economics major during your sophomore year. We approve core courses taken elsewhere only in very exceptional circumstances, and only if they are of comparable standards and taken at institutions of comparable quality. We will not allow you to postpone core courses to the senior year. Please see Prof. Smita Brunnermeier as soon possible to discuss your situation.

Q. Can I take courses at any other institutions?                                      
Back to Top
A. Other than in study-abroad programs, economics courses taken at other universities may not be used to fulfill Economics Department requirements.  An economics course taken at another university may be pre-approved by the Departmental Representative to serve as an Economics prerequisite, or to remedy a course deficiency in meeting university requirements of re-admission for non-ECO students on leave of absence. 

Q. Who is available for personal consultation?
A. A. Our Undergraduate Program Administrator, Noelina Hall, should be able to answer most of your questions pertaining to pre-requisites and rules and can direct you to the appropriate faculty or staff for the rest. Her office is in 005 Fisher Hall, office hours 9 am - 5 pm each business day.

In addition, Prof. Smita Brunnermeier (343 Wallace Hall) can advise you on course selection, cognates and study abroad. Please sign up for an appointment on if you would like to meet with her. If you are missing a pre-requisite and would like to get a summer course pre-approved, please contact Prof. Brunnermeier.
The Department Representatives are:
Sophomores and Juniors, Seniors
Professor Smita Brunnermeier
Office: 343 Wallace Hall
Office hours: by appointment on WASS ( 609-258-5016

Senior Thesis and Comp Exam
Professor Henry Farber
Office: 107 Fisher Hall
Hours: By Appointment 609-258-4044                                                                                     Back to Top