A major in economics gives students a greater understanding of how people, businesses, and governments respond to their economic environments. Many of the issues that fill the newspapers—jobs, wages, taxes, the cost of living, inequality, pollution, poverty, and economic growth—are, in fundamental ways, economic issues. The daily decisions of businesses and consumers are largely economic. Economists seek to understand the decisions of businesses, consumers, and current economic issues by developing a systematic and thorough understanding of precisely how the economic system operates, including the mechanisms by which resources are allocated, prices determined, income redistributed, and economic growth promoted.

The analytical method of economics recognizes that various choices are open to a society in solving its economic problems. Students are often attracted to economics as a discipline precisely because they want to understand the decisions of people and businesses and to better understand and evaluate economic policy. To begin to approach these issues as an economist requires an understanding of economic theory, empirical methodology, and an understanding of the institutional details and advanced practice gained from intensive study of specific subfields of economics. Consequently, the undergraduate economics major is organized around a progression of courses that first provides a broad introduction to economics, then develops the theoretical tools that provide the foundation of modern economic thought, and finishes with advanced courses designed to provide greater in-depth knowledge of specific fields (such as labor markets, industrial organization, international economics, public finance, banking and finance, macroeconomics, microeconomics, and econometrics).

An economics major is valuable in the job market because the major is designed to train people to think analytically and clearly about a wide variety of issues. This skill is valued by many employers. An economics major is also good preparation for graduate work in a number of areas: business, law, public policy, economics, public administration, industrial relations, international relations, urban and regional planning, and environmental studies.

Admission to the Major

  1. Completion of two (2) Econ courses on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus with a 2.000 GPA.
  2. A 2.000 GPA in all Econ courses and other major coursework taken at UW–Madison
  3. Completion of one (1) calculus course
    • For Option B, Mathematical Emphasis, MATH 221 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1 or higher is required

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 Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

Students pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.

Bachelor of Arts degree requirements

Mathematics Fulfilled with completion of University General Education requirements Quantitative Reasoning a (QR A) and Quantitative Reasoning b (QR B) coursework. Please note that some majors may require students to complete additional math coursework beyond the B.A. mathematics requirement.
Foreign Language
  • Complete the fourth unit of a foreign language; OR
  • Complete the third unit of a foreign language and the second unit of an additional foreign language

Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
L&S Breadth
  • Humanities, 12 credits: 6 of the 12 credits must be in literature
  • Social Sciences, 12 credits
  • Natural Sciences, 12 credits: must include one 3+ credit course in the biological sciences; must include one 3+ credit course in the physical sciences
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework 108 credits
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work 60 intermediate or advanced credits
Major Declare and complete at least one (1) major
Total Credits 120 credits
UW-Madison Experience 30 credits in residence, overall
30 credits in residence after the 90th credit
Minimum GPAs 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major

Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above.  Please note that the following special degree programs are not considered majors so are not available to non–L&S degree-seeking candidates:  

  • Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics (Bachelor of Science–Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics)
  • Journalism (Bachelor of Arts–Journalism; Bachelor of Science–Journalism)
  • Music (Bachelor of Music)
  • Social Work (Bachelor of Social Work)

Requirements for the Major

The department offers two major options. Students must declare one (and not more than one) of these options and complete all requirements including Residence and Quality of Work standards. Options are:

Option A: Economics provides a well-rounded major in economics that is valuable for employment following graduation, or subsequent graduate work in business, law, public policy, and related disciplines.

Option B: Economics—Mathematical Emphasis provides students with the mathematical and statistical background needed for in-depth study of the analytical aspects of economics. Its requirements are designed to prepare students for graduate study in economics and related fields, or for careers as professional economists in business or government.

Math and Statistics

Mathematics (complete one):3-5
Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1
Calculus and Introduction to Differential Equations
Calculus and Analytic Geometry 2
Calculus--Functions of Several Variables
Topics in Calculus I
Topics in Calculus II
Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry I
and Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II (Or Two courses from:)
Statistics (complete one):3
Statistics: Measurement in Economics (Recommended)
Accelerated Introduction to Statistical Methods
Introduction to Applied Econometrics
Introductory Econometrics
Introduction to Probability and Mathematical Statistics I
Introduction to Theory and Methods of Mathematical Statistics I
Introductory Applied Statistics for Engineers
Total Credits6-8


30 credits to include:

Microeconomics & Macroeconomics (Select one):4-8
Principles of Microeconomics
and Principles of Macroeconomics
Principles of Economics-Accelerated Treatment
Intermediate Theory (Select one):6-8
Intermediate Microeconomic Theory
and Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory
Intermediate Microeconomic Theory - Advanced Treatment
and Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory - Advanced Treatment (Honors Econ )
Two Advanced ECON courses: 16-8
Introduction to Applied Econometrics
Introductory Econometrics
The Financial System
Analytical Public Finance
Macroeconomic Policy
Human Resources and Economic Growth
Wages and the Labor Market
The Economic Approach to Human Behavior
Behavioral Economics
Industrial Structure and Competitive Strategy
Economic Forecasting
International Trade and Finance
International Industrial Organizations
Industrial Organization and Imperfect Competition
Economics of Growth
Markets with Frictions
Wealth and Income
Game Theory and Economic Analysis
Law and Economics
Economics of Education: Theory and Measurement
The Economics of Health Care
Honors Tutorial in Research Project Design
Population Economics
Issues in International Finance
Topics in Economics
Select any Advanced level course not used above or one of these applied economics courses:
Introduction to Finance
Development of Economic Thought
The Real Estate Process
Investment Theory
Sports Economics
Money and Banking
Environmental Economics
Survey of International Economics
Economics of Poverty and Inequality
Contemporary Economic Issues
Urban and Regional Economics
Economic Decision Analysis
ECON 440
Government and Natural Resources
Latin American Economic Development
The American Economy to 1865
The American Economy Since 1865
Economic Growth and Development in Southeast Asia
Economic Problems of Developing Areas
Agricultural and Economic Development in Africa
Philosophy and Economics
Natural Resource Economics
Public Finance in Less Developed Countries
Housing Economics and Policy
Population and Society
Energy Economics
Total Credits30

Students may add the following Named Option:

Residence and Quality of Work

  • 2.000 GPA in all major and ECON courses
  • 2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level major courses taken in residence2
  • 15 credits in ECON, taken on the UW–Madison campus

Honors in the Economics Major

Students may declare Honors in the Economics Major in consultation with the Economics undergraduate advisor(s).

Honors in the Economics Major: Requirements

To earn Honors in the Major in Economics, students must satisfy both the requirements for the Economics–Mathematical Emphasis Option (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 overall university GPA
  • Earn a 3.500 GPA for all ECON courses
  • Complete the following courses, taken for Honors, with grades of B or better in each:
Intermediate Microeconomic Theory - Advanced Treatment
and Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory - Advanced Treatment
Honors Tutorial in Research Project Design
Select one of the following capstone experiences:
Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis (Take for a total of 6 credits)

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. Understand the fundamental concepts of economics and how those concepts apply to real world issues.

2. Construct and evaluate economic models, their assumptions, and conclusions.

3. Acquire a diverse set of skills and strategies in mathematical reasoning/statistical and computational techniques/deductive logic/problem solving.

4. Use mathematics/computational/statistical techniques to analyze real world situations and policies.

5. Use economic analysis to critically evaluate public policy proposals.

Academic Advising

Academic advising, along with general information about the undergraduate major and coursework, is available in Room 7238 of the Social Science Building. Find us on the campus map.
Phone: 608-262-6925

Economics Career Development Office

The Economics Career Development Office (ECDO) provides career development services and resources to undergraduate students who are either declared economics majors or are considering majoring in economics and would like career information. To set up an appointment or to ask a career/internship question please email

Preparation for Ph.D. Programs in Economics

Students interested in pursuing graduate study should pursue Option B (mathematical emphasis) and augment the standard curriculum with higher-level mathematics and statistics courses. These may include:

Introduction to Probability and Mathematical Statistics I
Introduction to Probability and Mathematical Statistics II
The Theory of Single Variable Calculus
Introduction to the Theory of Probability
Analysis I
Analysis II
Introduction to Stochastic Processes

It is important to consult early in the second year with the undergraduate advisor and/or the faculty member that directs the undergraduate program to design a plan of coursework.

Directed Study

Directed Study (ECON 698, ECON 699) enables advanced students to pursue economic topics not covered in the regular course offerings. A student interested in Directed Study should prepare a research proposal and/or reading list; specific course requirements are arranged with an instructor who agrees to supervise the directed study project. Enrollment requires the consent of the instructor; a GPA of 3.00 or above in ECON; completion of the Intermediate economic theory courses (ECON 301 & ECON 302); at least one Advanced ECON course; and completion of the department's Directed Study form, available in 7238 Social Science.


Students can earn 1 credit for approved internships appropriate to the study of economics under course ECON 228. Students must enroll for ECON 228 in the same semester/session in which the internship is granted. Students should work a minimum of 100 hours per term. Prerequisites are declaration in the major economics major; a major GPA of 2.200 or higher; completion of at least four ECON courses at UW–Madison; completion of at least one Intermediate Theory course (ECON 301 & ECON 302); a completed application; and departmental approval.

L&S career resources

SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students leverage the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and liberal arts degree; explore and try out different career paths; participate in internships; prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications; and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers).

SuccessWorks can also assist students in career advising, résumé and cover letter writing, networking opportunities, and interview skills, as well as course offerings for undergraduates to begin their career exploration early in their undergraduate career. 


Professors Corbae, Deneckere, Engel, B. Hansen, Hendricks, Kennan, Lentz, Porter, Rostek, Sandholm, Scholz, Seshadri, L. Smith, Sorensen, Taber, Walker, West, Williams, Wiswall, Wolfe, Wright

Associate Professos Fu, Quint, Weretka

Assistant Professors Aizawa, Atalay, Bilir, Freyberger, Gregory, Magnolfi, Mommaerts, Penta, Shi, Soelvsten, Sullivan

Affiliated Faculty Chinn, Montgomery, Schechter, Wallace