The primary objectives of the economics major are to develop an understanding of how individuals, organizations and societies meet their material needs. The introductory courses present the fundamental principles of economics at a level that is useful for understanding a wide range of social and policy issues. The core theory courses provide a more rigorous grounding in the tools used in analyzing individual choice, the functioning of markets, and the behavior of output, employment, and inflation. The econometrics course familiarizes students with the methods used to analyze economic data, and equips them with the tools necessary to critique and conduct empirical research. The electives draw on the skills developed in the introductory and core courses to gain a richer understanding of specific aspects of economic behavior and public policy.
The economics major and business careers. The analytical and critical thinking skills taught in economics classes are useful for many careers, including business. The major is not designed to provide pre-professional training in business or management, however. Students from a wide variety of majors, including the sciences and humanities, have gone on to successful business careers. We therefore advise those interested in business to acquire a broad exposure to the arts, social science, and natural sciences, and to major in a subject that engages their interest even if that subject is something other than economics.
Planning for a possible economics major. Given the hierarchical structure of the economics major, students considering the economics major should try to start with ECON 110 during their first year. Since ECON 255 requires a prior statistics course (STAT 161, 201 or 202), prospective economics majors should complete the statistics requirement relatively early in their college careers. Since the 400-level electives typically require at least two of the intermediate core courses (ECON 251, 252, or 255), students are strongly encouraged to complete the core courses by the end of junior year. We prefer that the three intermediate core classes be taken at Williams, so students planning on studying abroad as juniors should aim to complete these courses before departure if possible.
Preparation for graduate school. Graduate study in economics requires considerably more mathematical training than that necessary for the economics major. We advise students who are considering pursuing a Ph.D. to take at a minimum MATH 150 or 151, MATH 209 or 309, MATH 250, and MATH 350. We also advise students to consider electives such as ECON 451, 471, 472, or 475 that present advanced perspectives on contemporary economic theory or econometrics. As graduate schools look for evidence of research aptitude, we also encourage those interested in graduate school to pursue the Honors program.
Except for those receiving AP, IB, or A-level credit (see below), nine courses are required for the economics major. These are:
Economics 110 Principles of Microeconomics
Economics 120 Principles of Macroeconomics. Prerequisite: ECON 110
Passing the quantitative studies exam or the equivalent is a prerequisite for both classes. Both are suitable for non-majors. Electives numbered 200-299 will require one or both as prerequisites.
Economics 251 Price and Allocation Theory. Prerequisites: differential calculus (MATH 130 or equivalent) and ECON 110
Economics 252 Macroeconomics. Prerequisites: differential calculus (MATH 130 or equivalent), ECON 110 and ECON 120
Economics 255 Econometrics. Prerequisites: differential calculus (MATH 130 or equivalent) plus either STAT 161, 201 or 202. STAT 101 will also serve as a prerequisite, but only if taken prior to the fall of 2018. The combination of STAT 201 and 346 will satisfy the ECON 255 major requirement, although not all upper-level electives and seminars accept STAT 201/346 as a prerequisite in lieu of ECON 255. POEC 253 may not substitute for ECON 255 in fulfilling the major requirements, although some electives may accept POEC 253 as a prerequisite in lieu of ECON 255.
The three core classes may be taken in any order. All of the 300- and 400-level electives will require at least one of the core classes, and many of the 400-level seminars require ECON 255.
Students must complete at least four economics electives in addition to the introductory and core classes listed above. At least two must be advanced electives numbered 300 to 395. At least one must be a seminar numbered 450-480. A second seminar may be taken in lieu of a 300-level elective. Enrollment preference for 400-level classes is given to seniors who have not already taken a seminar. Note that some of the advanced electives may have specific requirements beyond the core economics courses and MATH 130. With the permission of the instructor, undergraduates may enroll in 500-level graduate courses given by the Center for Development Economics. These courses can substitute for advanced electives numbered 300-395, unless otherwise noted in the course description.