A forest, farmland, asian famer's market, fish in a net and a woman who works for MG&E.

Agricultural and applied economics (AAE) majors learn about the principles of economics and how to apply them to real-world problems and public policy debates. This training equips students to analyze the economic factors impacting a wide range of issues, including environmental challenges and sustainability; energy and climate change; globalization and trade; business economics and finance; global poverty and hunger; community and regional economic development; biotechnology; and food systems.

All AAE students take a set of core courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, statistics and math, then select one of four concentrations: environmental economics, development economics, managerial economics or applied economics.

A degree in agricultural and applied economics helps students prepare to work as environmental economists, environmental managers, agricultural economists, policy and business analysts, researchers, managers, consultants, and auditors with nonprofit organizations, government agencies, co-operatives, multinational firms, agribusiness companies, financial institutions, and the food or retailing industry. Students also go on to pursue graduate-level degrees in economics, public policy, business, or law.


Students are encouraged to apply their course learning to real life through research projects, independent studies and internships with guidance from faculty and staff members. During their final year, majors complete a senior capstone course where they work closely with fellow students on a semester-long project and also hear from program alumni. 


Students get to know faculty and instructors through the courses they take, and they can build their networks by participating in student organizations and the department’s commodity trading challenge team.

Individuals selected for the Renk Scholarship Program, operated by the Renk Agribusiness Institute, receive mentorship and financial support, as well as internship and networking opportunities.


AAE students customize their academic experience to fit their career goals by selecting one of four concentrations within the major: environmental economics, development economics, managerial economics, or applied economics.


A number of first-year seminar courses are available to help new students understand academic programs, access student services, and develop time management and study skills. 


Many AAE majors study abroad to gain an international perspective and prepare to participate in today's global economy. Students can explore studying abroad as an AAE major utilizing the AAE Major Advising Page. Students work with their advisor and the CALS study abroad office to identify appropriate programs.  

To declare this major, students must be admitted to UW–Madison and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). For information about becoming a CALS first-year or transfer student, see Entering the College.

Students who attend Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR) with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences have the option to declare this major at SOAR.  Students may otherwise declare after they have begun their undergraduate studies. For more information, contact the advisor listed in the Contact Box for the major.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Requirements

In addition to the University General Education Requirements, all undergraduate students in CALS must satisfy a set of college and major requirements. Courses may not double count within university requirements (General Education and Breadth) or within college requirements (First-Year Seminar, International Studies, Science, and Capstone), but courses counted toward university requirements may also be used to satisfy a college and/or a major requirement; similarly, courses counted toward college requirements may also be used to satisfy a university and/or a major requirement.

College Requirements for all CALS B.S. Degree Programs

Quality of Work: Students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.000 to remain in good standing and be eligible for graduation.
Residency: Students must complete 30 degree credits in residence at UW–Madison after earning 86 credits toward their undergraduate degree.
First Year Seminar1
International Studies3
Physical Science Fundamentals4-5
General Chemistry I
Chemistry in Our World
Advanced General Chemistry
Biological Science5
Additional Science (Biological, Physical, or Natural)3
Science Breadth (Biological, Physical, Natural, or Social)3
CALS Capstone Learning Experience: included in the requirements for each CALS major (see "Major Requirements")

Major Requirements

Mathematics and Statistics
This major requires calculus. Prerequisites may need to be taken before enrollment in calculus.
Select one of the following:5
Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II
Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1
Select one of the following:3-6
Statistics: Measurement in Economics
Introduction to Statistical Methods
Introductory Applied Statistics for Engineers
Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
Basic Statistics for Psychology
Statistics for Sociologists I
Business Analytics I
and Business Analytics II
A A E 215 Introduction to Agricultural and Applied Economics 14
or ECON 101 Principles of Microeconomics
ECON 102 Principles of Macroeconomics3-4
ECON 301 Intermediate Microeconomic Theory4
or ECON 311 Intermediate Microeconomic Theory - Advanced Treatment
ECON 302 Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory4
or ECON 312 Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory - Advanced Treatment
Concentrations within the Major
Students must complete 15 credits of AAE courses 200-level or above. Students may choose to focus their studies on an area of concentration as follows: 215
Applied Economics
Development Economics
Environmental Economics
Managerial Economics
A A E 500 Senior Capstone Experience3
Total Credits41-45

A A E 215 Introduction to Agricultural and Applied Economics satisfies QR-B credit.


A A E 215 Introduction to Agricultural and Applied EconomicsA A E 299 Independent Study and A A E 500 Senior Capstone Experience may not count toward the 15 credits required in the major.

Concentrations within the Major

Applied Economics

AAE courses, 200 level and above 115
Total Credits15

AAE courses 200 level and above may not include A A E 215 Introduction to Agricultural and Applied EconomicsA A E 299 Independent Study, or A A E 500 Senior Capstone Experience.

Development Economics

Select any of the following courses:
A A E 319 The International Agricultural Economy3
A A E/​AGRONOMY/​NUTR SCI  350 World Hunger and Malnutrition3
A A E/​INTL ST  373 Globalization, Poverty and Development3
A A E/​INTL ST  374 The Growth and Development of Nations in the Global Economy3
A A E/​ECON/​INTL BUS  462 Latin American Economic Development3
A A E/​ECON  473 Economic Growth and Development in Southeast Asia3
A A E/​ECON  474 Economic Problems of Developing Areas3
A A E/​ECON  477 Agricultural and Economic Development in Africa3
AAE courses, 200 level and above 1

AAE courses 200 level and above may not include A A E 215 Introduction to Agricultural and Applied EconomicsA A E 299 Independent Study, or A A E 500 Senior Capstone Experience​.

Environmental Economics

Select any of the following courses:
A A E/​ENVIR ST  244 The Environment and the Global Economy4
A A E 246 Climate Change Economics and Policy3
A A E/​ECON/​ENVIR ST  343 Environmental Economics4
A A E 352 Global Health: Economics, Natural Systems, and Policy4
A A E/​ECON  371 Energy, Resources and Economics3
A A E/​ECON/​F&W ECOL  531 Natural Resource Economics3
A A E/​ECON/​ENVIR ST/​URB R PL  671 Energy Economics3
AAE courses, 200 level and above 1

AAE courses 200 level and above may not include A A E 215 Introduction to Agricultural and Applied EconomicsA A E 299 Independent Study, or A A E 500 Senior Capstone Experience​.

Managerial Economics

Select any of the following courses:
A A E 320 Agricultural Systems Management3
A A E 322 Commodity Markets4
A A E 323 Cooperatives and Alternative Forms of Enterprise Ownership3
A A E 335 Introduction to Data Analysis using Spreadsheets2
A A E 419 Agricultural Finance3
A A E/​ECON  421 Economic Decision Analysis4
AAE courses, 200 level and above 1

AAE courses 200 level and above may not include A A E 215 Introduction to Agricultural and Applied EconomicsA A E 299 Independent Study, or A A E 500 Senior Capstone Experience​.

University Degree Requirements 

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. Use economic concepts to think critically about real-­world problems and public policy debates.
  2. Use appropriate quantitative techniques to analyze economic problems.
  3. Communicate results effectively orally and in writing.

Four-year plan

Sample Agricultural & Applied Economics Four-Year Plan

COMM A3MATH 211 or 22115
MATH 112 or 11413-5A A E 2154
First Year Seminar1Ethnic Studies3
CALS Biological Science3Electives3
 13-15 15
Total Credits 28-30
ECON 1023ECON 3014
Statistics Course3AAE Courses3
CALS Biological Science3Comm B3
 15 15
Total Credits 30
AAE Courses3AAE Courses3
ECON 3024CALS International Studies3
Gen Ed Requirement3CHEM 108 or 1034-5
 16 14-15
Total Credits 30-31
AAE Courses3AAE course3
Humanities 3A A E 5003
 15 15
Total Credits 30

Students must complete MATH 211 or MATH 217 or MATH 221.  Students may satisfy the required level of math proficiency through the math placement exam. On the other hand, this level of competence may require as many as three semesters of coursework in mathematics.


Each agricultural and applied economics major receives one-on-one guidance from an academic advisor. The advisor helps students plan their coursework and identify opportunities to get involved in department and campus activities.

The agricultural and applied economics department offers a one-credit course in career development for majors. Students in the course hear from department alumni and others about their career paths and receive resume writing assistance and interviewing tips.


Agricultural and applied economics graduates have great careers as environmental economists, agricultural economists, policy and business analysts, consultants, researchers, managers, traders and auditors for nonprofit organizations, government agencies, multinational firms, financial institutions, agribusiness companies, co-operatives and food companies. Graduates also pursue advanced degrees in economics, public policy, business, or law.

AAE graduates are recognized for their skills in data analysis, business and economic forecasting, strategic planning, management, and leadership.

For more information contact Michaela Thaw (pthaw@wisc.edu) or schedule an appointment through Starfish.


Tessa Conroy 
Steven Deller 
Paul Dower 
Sheldon Du 
Jeremy Foltz 
Corbett Grainger 
Sarah Johnston 
Paul Mitchell 
Priya Mukherjee 
Charles Nicholson 
Dominic Parker 
Daniel Phaneuf 
Thomas Rutherford 
Laura Schechter 
Guanming Shi 
Andrew Stevens 


Jeremy Beach 
Courtney Berner 
Silke Schmidt
Jordan Van Rijn 

Undergraduate Advisor:

Michaela Thaw

For faculty and instructor profiles, visit the department website.


There are numerous campus student organizations of interest to agricultural and applied economics majors, including Economics Student Association, Global Economic Forum – Madison, and Women in Economics. A full list of organizations is available on the Wisconsin Involvement Network website.


Each year, a team of UW–Madison students participates in the annual CME Group University Trading Challenge, a simulated trading competition that pits hundreds of college teams from around the world against one another as they make real-time commodity trading decisions.


AAE students are able to gain social science research experience on both domestic and international topics by working with a faculty member on a specific project.


Agricultural and applied economics majors can complete an internship during their undergraduate years.


Many agricultural and applied economics students choose to study abroad. These programs help students gain an international perspective and prepare them to participate in today's global economy. Students can find more information on the CALS study abroad advising page. Study abroad options include programs that focus on sustainable development, food systems, agriculture, health and wellness, and community and economic development.

AAE students who select development economics as their area of concentration take numerous international-focused courses that address the global economy, population, and poverty.


AAE students have numerous volunteer activities to choose from. The Morgridge Center for Public Service provides resources to help students connect with volunteer opportunities based on their interests and goals.

Students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences receive more than $1.25 million in scholarships annually. The Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics awards an average of $60,000 in scholarships per year to students in the department. Students apply for CALS and AAE scholarships through a single application in the Wisconsin Scholarship Hub (WiSH). Learn more about college scholarships.

AAE majors are also eligible to apply for the Renk Scholarship Program, which can provide scholarships for up to three years. The program, offered through the Renk Agribusiness Institute, is designed for high-performing students with an interest in agriculture or agribusiness. In addition to financial support, Renk Scholars are provided networking opportunities that help them find internships and other experiences to build their business and leadership skills.