Department of Economics

Advising FAQs

I need some help deciding what economics courses to take. Can you answer some of my questions?

Sure! If you’re just looking for general information about the economics major, you may want to read through this whole document – most of the information will come in handy sooner or later if you decide to be an economics major. If you have a specific question, and it appears on the list below, just click on the question and you’ll jump right to the answer. If not, click on your class year (first-year students, sophomore, junior, senior) and read the material for your year. If that answers your question, great! If not, then you need to contact your advisor. Send him or her an email – most economics professors read their email regularly.


  • I’m a fall-term first-year student, and I think I want to be an economics major. What should I be taking now?

    (If you’re not a fall-term first-year student, or you’re not thinking of being an economics major, keep reading. Other situations are dealt with later in the document.)

    For the economics major, there are two (or perhaps three) courses you should take this year. The first is Economics 101, Introduction to Economics. You can take this anytime during your first year, although since Economics 101 is a prerequisite for every other economics course, you should probably take it as early as you can.
    The second is your mathematics requirement. In order to proceed the core course Economics 241, 242, and 243, which are normally taken the sophomore year, you must complete Math 105, 110, or 113. You can take Math 105, which covers differential calculus with precalculus; or you can take Math 110, which covers differential calculus in one term; or you can take Math 113, which is intended for first-year students who have been introduced to the basics of calculus. You should follow the Mathematics Department’s recommendations about what math course is best for you.

  • That’s only two or three courses. What else should I take as a first-year student?

    If you want to take more economics courses as a first-year student, take courses with numbers between 200 and 240. Those courses are normally available only to first-year students and sophomores, and they don’t require anything other than Economics 101 as a prerequisite. They’re excellent courses to prepare you to take the core of the major as a sophomore. There’s no need to start the Economics 241, 242, 243 sequence as a first-year student. Some first-years take one of these in the spring term, but sophomore year is the normal time to take these courses. We recommend waiting until the sophomore year for most students.

  • I’m a winter-term or spring-term first-year student, and I want to be an economics major. Should I be taking anything different?

    No, the same advice applies to you as applies to a fall term first-years – take Economics 101 and the appropriate math course by the end of your first year, and do as many other useful courses as you can.

  • I’m a first-year student and I’m not sure if I want to be an economics major or not. What courses can I take to find out?

    Take introductory economics – that is the best class to give you a broad introduction to what economics is all about, so you can decide if you want to take eleven more classes in it. If you’ve already taken introductory economics, and you’re still not sure, then take two more classes – one numbered below 240 this year or next, and either Economics 241 or 242 in the fall or winter of your sophomore year. After those three courses, you should be in a good position to know whether economics is the right major for you.

  • I’m not sure if I should be an economics major or a managerial economics major. Which is right for me?

    It doesn’t make a great deal of difference which major you complete, and the core of both majors is the same. The managerial economics major requires certain economics electives (managerial economics and financial economics) as well as courses outside the economics major like accounting and computer science. If you are not sure which major you want to be in, start taking the courses required for the managerial major. All of them (except computer science and accounting) also count for the economics major, so you’ll have no trouble switching to the economics major if you decide managerial economics isn’t right for you. You can make that switch as late as your senior year if you want to.

  • I'm not sure if I should do the quantative track of the economics major or the regular track. Which is right for me?

    The quantitative track and the regular track are two different ways of fulfilling requirements for the economics major. The quantitative track requires three additional math courses and one fewer economics elective and requires you to take several of the advanced methods courses for your upper-level electives. If you like math, and you're planning to take the extra math courses anyway, then the quantitative economics track may be a good choice for you. But it makes very little difference which of these you do.

  • I’m a sophomore, and I really liked Economics 101. What should I take now?

    Sophomore year is the time to take the core of the major – Economics 241, 242, and 243. You can also continue taking courses with numbers between 200 and 240 this year, and probably should, since next year you won’t be able to take them anymore. (You can still take courses numbered between 100 and 199 as a junior or senior.)

  • I didn’t get into Economics 241. Can I take Economics 242 or 243 instead?

    Yes, you can. The sequence 241, 242, 243 is probably the most natural one to take the courses in, but you don’t have to if another sequence is more convenient for your schedule, or if you get information for a course other the next one in the sequence. The only thing we would suggest is that you take either Economics 241 or 242 before taking Economics 243. However, even that is not necessary, particularly if you’re a little late coming to the economics major. If you haven’t taken a core course yet, and Economics 243 is the only one of the core courses you can get into, or if you just really want to take it for some reason, go ahead and take Economics 243, and take 241 and 242 in the next couple of terms.

  • I’m a sophomore but I haven’t taken Economics 101 yet. Can I still major in economics?

    Yes, you can, although you’ll have to double up on economics courses for a few terms to catch up. As soon as you think you might want to be an economics major, take Economics 101 and, if you haven’t taken it already, take the appropriate math course for you. Then do as much of the economics core (Economics 241, 242, and 243) as you can by the end of your sophomore year. If you need to take one of those courses in the fall term of your junior year, that’s not a problem. You can even take one of them in the winter term of your junior year if you have to, although that will make it hard to fit in enough upper division electives before you start writing your thesis as a senior. It is not hard to take Economics 101 as a fall-term or winter-term sophomore and still complete the major. It is a little difficult to take Economics 101 as a spring term sophomore and complete the major, but one or two people do it most years. It is even possible to take Economics 101 as a fall-term junior and finish the major, but we wouldn’t recommend that unless you had no other choice (and we would certainly recommend other choices, such as being an interdepartmental major if they are options for you).

  • Should I be taking two economics courses in one term in my sophomore year?

    It’s not a bad idea. This is your last year to take courses numbered between 200 and 240, and you should be working through the core of the major. So if you want to take one course from the core and one course numbered below 240, that’s a fine idea. The economics major requires 12 courses, and you’ll be at Union for 12 terms, so unless you take exactly one economics course every term you’re at Union, you’re going to double up somewhere along the line.

  • Should I be taking two economics core courses at the same time?

    Perhaps, but perhaps not. The economics core courses are challenging. If you feel up to taking two of them at once, then it’s absolutely fine if you do so. However, if you are nervous about taking two of them at once, then you don’t have to, and perhaps should not. We find that students are usually their own best judge as to whether they ought to double up on core courses or not. Usually, students who are pretty comfortable with calculus are fine doing this, and students whose math background is not as strong are better off finding an alternative schedule. The only exception is if you took Economics 101 late – say, winter term of your sophomore year or later. In that case, you will almost certainly have to double up on core courses, so that you can take some upper division elective courses as a junior to prepare yourself to write a senior thesis. If you do double up on core courses, you should probably take a non-quantitative course as your third course. We don’t recommend taking two core courses together with a science lab or other technical course unless you really feel comfortable doing so.

  • I am thinking of doing an internship. Can I get credit for it?

    That depends on three things; whether you're getting paid for the internship, whether you want to get the credit in economics or not, and whether you want a full course credit or just a 1/3 credit. If you are getting paid for the internship, then credit is generally not possible. You can have academic credit or a paycheck but not both. The rest of this answer, therefore, assumes you are not getting paid. The department offers ECO 390 (Winter term) Economics Internships; internships outside this course would fall under an independent study that's related to the internship and supervised by faculty. This will normally require doing academic work equal to a class. This option is usually selected only when you need to get economics credit for the internship for some reason (for instance, if you need an economics credit to complete the major).

    If you don't need the credit to be in economics, then you can instead get an IDM internship credit. Normally this is done through ISC 008. However, ISC 008 is only a 1/3 credit course. It allows you to get academic credit for an internship but doesn't displace one of the 36 courses required for graduation. This is normally used when the internship is unpaid and requires the student to get academic credit as compensation, but doesn't have enough academic merit to justify giving a full course credit for it.

    It may be possible to get a full credit internship not for economics credit; the procedures for doing that depend on what you want the credit to be in. Speak to your adviser with specifics of your situation. It is not possible to get a 1/3 credit in economics, and it wouldn't do you any good anyway since a 1/3 course won't help you complete the economics major. If you only need a 1/3 credit, take ISC 008; that is the situation that course is meant to handle.

    Note that arrangments for credit for internships are usually made in advance of the start of the term, and it may not be possible to get permission if you don't make sure you get the academic side in line before you actually start working at the internship.

  • I’m a junior and I’ve completed the core of the major. Now, what should I take?

    Next year you’re going to write a thesis, so take courses that prepare you to do that. Any course numbered above 300 is a good course. They all have at least one course from the economics core as a prerequisite, so they build on the material you already know and develop your skills in economic analysis. They also introduce you to current topics and research in economics, which will help you find a thesis topic. The more upper-level courses you take, the more options you’ll have for areas in which you can write a thesis.

  • Should I be taking two economics courses in one term as a junior?

    Most junior economics majors double up on economics courses at least once. Courses you take as a junior can help prepare you for thesis, but if you wait until senior year, you’ll already have picked a thesis topic by the time you get into them. You may not need to double up on economics courses as a junior, but if it will help you prepare for your senior year to do so, then by all means do. If you are going to take a term abroad in your junior year, or for some other reason have a term in junior year in which you don’t take any economics courses, then you’ll almost surely need to double up in the other terms.

  • I want to go on a term abroad. How will that affect my economics major?

    Most economics majors go on a term abroad and there is no problem doing that. You will need to plan your coursework accordingly, however. If you want to do a term abroad as a junior, which is the most common choice, then you need to make sure that you take a sufficient number of 300 or 400-level elective courses in the two terms you are at Union to prepare you for your thesis in your senior year. This will be pretty easy if you finish the core of the major as a sophomore. If you finish the core in your junior year, then you’ll probably need to double up on economics courses at some point in your junior year to have good preparation for thesis.
    If you want to do a term abroad fall term senior year, that’s fine too. It does mean that you’ll end up writing your thesis in winter and spring terms, but it means you have all three terms of your junior year to prepare.

  • I’m a spring term junior and I’m starting to get nervous about a thesis. What do I need to know?

    There will be a meeting during spring term for everyone who is planning to write a senior thesis in economics in the following year. Come to this meeting and fill out the forms you get there. If you have an idea who you would like to have as your thesis advisor (you can request up to three professors, and if you request three different professors you’ll almost certainly get one of the three) or if you have an idea what you’d like to write your thesis about, that will help us select an advisor for you. But if you don’t know either of those things, you need not worry. Most people select their thesis topic at the start of their senior year, in consultation with their thesis advisor.

  • I’m a senior economics major. Other than writing my thesis, what should I be doing?

    The only thing you need to do as a senior, besides writing your thesis, is making sure that you will have taken at least twelve economics courses by the end of your senior year. Beyond that, take whatever courses interest you, whether that means more economics courses (you don’t have to stop after twelve), related courses in other departments, or things that interest you that have nothing to do with economics at all. Do, however, confer with the Registrar’s office during the fall term and make sure that you have completed all your Gen Ed requirements, or if you have not, that you know what you need to take as a senior to complete them.

  • I’d like to be an interdepartmental (ID) major with economics as one half. What courses do I need to take, and when?

    You need to take eight economics courses. Either six or seven of them must be classroom courses, depending on how you plan to count thesis. If the other half of your ID major is in the social sciences, normally your thesis counts as one course in each department, in which case you need seven classroom courses in economics. If the other half of your ID major is outside the social sciences, then typically your thesis counts as two economics courses, so you take six classroom courses. Either way, one of your classroom courses is Economics 101, three of them are Economics 241, 242, and 243, and at least one must be a 300 or 400-level elective. You should try to take the core of the major as a sophomore, although since you are going to take fewer 300 or 400-level electives than an economics major, and you do have to work on the other half of your major, it’s normal to save one core course for junior year, and you can take two of them junior year if you have to. Just make sure you give yourself the chance to take one or two 300 or 400-level electives before thesis time comes around.

  • I’d like to be an economics minor. What do I need to do?

    As an economics minor, you don’t need to prepare to write an economics thesis, so you have a lot more flexibility in your timing. You have to take Economics 101, 241, 242, and 243, plus two more economics courses, at least one at the 300 or 400-level. You’ll need to do Economics 101 first, and probably the 300 or 400-level course last, but within that, you can take the courses in any order you want, just so long as you finish them all by the end of your senior year. If you have a conflict between a course for your major and a course for your minor (even if the minor is not economics) it is normally best to take the course for your major. If you don’t finish your minor, nothing bad happens; you just don’t get to have the minor on your transcript. But if you don’t finish the major, you don’t graduate. So get the major done first, then take care of the courses for the minor.