Many graduating high school students enter college without any exposure to economics and are thus unclear about the value and utility of an economics degree.
Encompassing so much more than discussions on supply and demand, economics has evolved into an interdisciplinary subject area.
University students pursuing a degree in economics frequently collaborate with peers in psychology, business, law, and even computer science.
What does the study of economics entail? Undergraduates use economics to predict behavior, make healthcare decisions, regulate trade, and increase equity among historically marginalized demographics.
Economics majors can take a more mathematical approach to their coursework or specialize in qualitative methods.
The top 10 best economic schools in the U.S. are home to award-winning faculty, including tens of Nobel Prize laureates in economics.
Research is a cornerstone of the traditional undergraduate experience, and many economics majors study abroad in places like Milan, Beijing, and London.
Our list of the 10 best economic schools in the U.S. includes institutions from New England, the midwest, the southeast, and the west coast; in general, gaining admission to these schools is highly competitive but well worth the effort.
The vast majority of graduates secure employment within six months of graduation.
This ranking is an aggregate based on where each school stands in a number of other lists published by college information websites. Sources are at the end of the article.
10. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
Penn’s economics is one of the largest within the school, and the double major in economics and mathematics is the most popular undergraduate major in the School of Arts and Sciences. Designed for students ultimately interested in pursuing graduate work, the specialized major challenges undergraduates to solve real-world economics problems using mathematical analysis.
Within the standard economics major, undergraduates have countless advanced courses at their disposal.
In “Economics of Family,” students create economic models in response to phenomena of marriage and divorce, retirement, and the female labor supply using advanced mathematics (like calculus).
Penn students compete annually in the “Fed Challenge” and recently placed second out of 74 teams – the competition is reserved for undergraduate groups who are tasked with creating a policy recommendation for a designated issue, giving a presentation, and excelling in a question and answer forum.
9. University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)
UC Berkeley prides itself on promoting women within the economics realm – not just in California but across the nation.
One of several student organizations devoted to economics, the Undergraduate Women in Economics club sets biweekly meetings designed to foster community and create access to careers and internships in economics.
The economics department at Berkeley may be the largest on our list, housing 1,300 undergraduates!
Professors and advisors encourage students to engage in collaborative research and study abroad opportunities, such as conducting an independent study within the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Center on Wealth and Income Inequality.
Within this context, student research explores the causes and ramifications of income and wealth disparities, focusing on concentrated wealth in the upper 1% of earners.
Faculty members have garnered six Nobel Prizes in Economics throughout the university’s history. Current professor David Card won the 2021 prize for his work highlighting the socioeconomic factors that serve as a detriment to low-wage employees.
8. Duke University (Durham, NC)
Economics majors at Duke can earn a BS or BA in economics in addition to economics with a finance concentration.
The finance pathway charges students with completing the core BS curriculum and five electives in topics such as robo-advising, hedge fund exploration, and venture capital structure.
With 700 undergraduates, economics at Duke is one of the more popular majors. Most alumni (nearly two-thirds) will work in finance, though many pursue an MBA, work in consulting, or start their own accounting firms.
The newest addition to the economics program – the Duke Economic Analysis Laboratory (DEAL) – opened in the fall of 2022 and selects students known as Woodman Scholars to become part of faculty-led research teams.
Undergraduate Woodman Scholars have an exciting opportunity to work on projects focused on education, crime, welfare, and the environment, among other areas.
7. Northwestern University (Evanston, IL)
Nearly 1,000 undergraduates comprise Northwestern’s economics department.
Approximately 85% find full-time employment within six months of graduation, for the most part, securing careers in finance, consulting, and technology.
The economics major consists of 14 courses, with upper-level courses categorized into areas of interest like business, philosophy, or health.
For instance, the all-encompassing pre-Ph.D. track prompts undergraduates to complete coursework in game theory, public policy analysis, and developing countries.
Many students choose to study abroad, and the economics department recently partnered with the Global Poverty Research Lab to create a fall and spring experience at the University of Ghana.
In this program, undergraduates are connected to the University of Ghana faculty to conduct an independent research study or complete an internship relevant to poverty or income inequality issues.
The Undergraduate Economics Society (UES) is another valuable resource for economics majors, hosting regular events like faculty talks, career panels, resume and cover letter creation workshops, film showings, and more.
6. Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
Representing one of the best economics departments in the world, Princeton enrolls more than 250 juniors and seniors annually.
As part of the curriculum, all economics majors work alongside a faculty mentor on two-year-long research endeavors: a junior paper and a senior thesis. Both projects center on a topic of the student’s choosing.
If undergraduates are interested in subject areas outside economics, they can count two non-economics classes as cognates, replacing two departmental electives.
Cognates still feature a large portion of economics theory and applications. They include exciting options like “Optimization Under Uncertainty,” “Machine Learning with Social Data,” and “House of Debt: Understanding Macro & Financial Policy.”
The school excels at preparing undergraduates for the work world via internships and study-abroad experiences.
For example, economics majors are eligible for the Internship Milestone Credit, in which they receive academic credit for six weeks of economics-related work in the summertime.
With ample preparation, it is common for more than 90% of graduates to accept job offers immediately after graduation!
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
MIT has served as one of the world’s eminent economic research hubs for over 70 years.
Its 182 current undergraduates enjoy partnerships with the MIT Sloan School of Management, the MIT Energy Initiative, and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, ensuring an interdisciplinary approach to the study of economics.
There are three majors to choose from: economics, mathematical economics, or computer science, economics, and data science.
The third option charges students with using computing, economic analysis, and data science to solve existing problems within the national and international economies.
Many students double major in areas like civil engineering or management.
MIT acknowledges that a significant portion of its incoming students come to the school for computer science and may be unaware of its other renowned departments (like economics).
Therefore, MIT has launched numerous first-year discovery subjects to provide access to these topics.
The most recent economics discovery course was entitled “Economics and Society’s Toughest Problems,” and first-year students had the opportunity to discuss whether or not the United States should trade with China, what keeps some countries poor and others wealthy, and the implications of applying a universal basic income.
4. Yale University (New Haven, CT)
Approximately 250 Yale undergraduates concentrate in economics, economics and mathematics, or computer science and economics.
The school seeks to present students with real-life scenarios, such as creating interventions to increase economic mobility, redesigning national healthcare, and narrowing gender and racial wage gaps.
Interestingly enough, many economics majors enter Yale to concentrate on a different subject.
After taking introductory-level courses with award-winning faculty members, where they receive early opportunities to participate in research, students fall in love with the community and switch to economics.
Nearly a third will double major in the subject they were originally interested in.
What is it that draws undergraduates to economics? The tight-knit community is enhanced by peer mentorships, where juniors and seniors serve as guides for first- and second-year students.
These knowledgeable and passionate mentors are essential in conveying information about internships, academic fairs, and other resources within the economics department.
All economics majors pen a senior thesis on a topic of their choice and move on to attain jobs at entities like the Federal Reserve, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or The Heritage Foundation.
3. Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
Stanford recognizes that economics majors have diverse interests and have organized its curriculum to appeal to undergraduates with a passion for finance, government policy, and business regulation, among other arenas.
An emphasis on writing across the disciples requires all economics majors to complete ECON 101, a Stanford student’s typical introduction to the world of economics.
A host of experiential learning opportunities and campus resources prepare Stanford economics majors for fulfilling careers post-graduation.
The Summer RA Program is a ten-week experience where economics majors work with faculty on a research project of their choosing. The Stanford Economic Review is an undergraduate-centered economics publication featuring student work on various topics.
The Stanford Institute for Theoretical Economics (SITE) is one of the neatest opportunities for undergraduates. The annual summer conference exposes students to the most innovative developments and discussions in industrial organization, macroeconomics, and finance, among many other subfields.
Undergraduate attendees frequently make interdisciplinary connections which they utilize in their research projects.
2. University of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
Economics majors at the University of Chicago now have access to two new tracks: business economics and data science.
The first option is offered in conjunction with the Booth School of Business, while the second provides training in quantitative analysis.
Further tracks exist in economic policy, where students create interventions to address problems within the current national economy.
An honors workshop grants undergraduates the chance to conduct an independent, faculty-guided research project.
Economics majors start writing extended papers in their sophomore or junior year and present their findings during their final year of study.
At the university, economics majors should strive to take advantage of Oeconomica, an on-campus research hub dedicated to helping undergraduates gain proficiency in collecting and analyzing quantitative and qualitative data.
Participants meet weekly to discuss available research assistant positions, hear from graduate student panels, and ask burning questions about groundbreaking research at UChicago.
1. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
535 undergraduates make up Harvard’s current economics department, where they study phenomena ranging from stock market crashes and recessions to game theory and the climate crisis.
All economics majors will take the same introductory courses (including calculus) and a sophomore tutorial. Here, they use statistical methods to comprehend the newest outputs of economic research – an essential skill for many jobs advertised to economics majors.
Should an economics major desire to graduate with honors, they can meet protocol in one of two ways: the thesis track or the advanced course track.
Approximately 85% of economics majors go directly to work in social service, teaching, and business-related careers, while even more enter consulting.
Nearly 75% of graduates will obtain a professional degree in law, business, or public policy.
Harvard organizes its upper-level economics classes into more than ten different subsets. Within the economic history track, undergraduates explore dilemmas like creating tax incentives versus implementing emission standards to reduce pollution.
Students who are passionate about behavioral economics attempt to answer questions like how a person’s mood can affect product valuation and how doctors’ morals affect their medical choices.
Sources for this ranking