If you are interested in the more academic side of business studies, you might consider a major in economics. In addition to being an extremely popular field currently—consider, for instance, the recent popularity of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century—it also has an excellent track record of producing some of the highest salaries upon graduation of any other undergraduate major. Many majors in economics proceed to graduate studies, but this list focuses on an undergraduate major in economics for its own sake and with a job after graduation in view. Our list is based primarily on two factors: cost of attendance and salary upon graduation. We drew our data from publicly available sources such as CNN Money and Payscale.com. We encourage you to keep in mind that the average post-graduation salary figures are estimates, and that these numbers can and will fluctuate from year to year. That said, we believe this list offers a valuable guide to finding a school that is both affordable, reputable, and useful for your future.
The Economics major is the most popular major at Brandeis University, and the Department of Economics is made up of a team of internationally recognized research faculty. The major is also appealing with an emphasis on not only a strong curriculum, but encouraged involvement in departmental events, lectures, individual research, and community service. Recent graduates from this program have entered top economics PhD programs including MIT, Harvard, and the University of Chicago. Interdisciplinary courses that combine economics with other disciplines in the arts and sciences are also available for economics students.
Starting salary: $43,900
Boston College’s major in Economics focuses heavily on research and methodology while providing writing-intensive courses, independent studies, and internships. It provides students with a route to careers in law, government service, business as well as professional economics. Deep analytical foundations are expected, but a variety of electives allows a wide range of knowledge, including but not limited to public sector economics, capital theory, econometrics, international trade and finance, and industrial organization.
Starting salary: $50,200
University of Texas at Dallas
UT Dallas has a nationally and internationally acclaimed, award-winning faculty. They have received many grants and awards for their work and research. They provide both a BA and BS in Economics. The bachelor of science degree requires two math courses and an econometrics course that are not required with the bachelor of arts degree. Economics degrees lead to careers in academe, corporations, government, labor, and regional and urban planning services. An economics degree is considered excellent preparation for law school or pursuing an MBA.
Starting salary: $48,600
University of Chicago
Chicago students use their B.A. in economics for a wide range of career paths that include further professional degrees in law, business, and medicine, graduate level work in applied economics and economic policy, as well as Ph.D. training for economic research careers. The B.A. program is intended to equip students with the basic tools to understand the operation of a modern economy. The program is based on a scientific approach, with particular emphasis on observations, experiments, and model-testing.
Starting salary: $45,600
New York University
The faculty at New York University is particularly strong in Economic Theory, Macroeconomics, International Economics, and Economic Growth and Development. The Department’s major can be taken in either one of two concentrations, a Theory concentration (a formal approach to economic analysis) or a Policy concentration (less formal, and emphasizes the role of economic institutions and the interplay between policy and theory). The Department offers an Honors Program that gives students access to professors in small classes and culminates in the writing of a senior thesis. Although a demanding curriculum, community involvement is encouraged through the Undergraduate Economics Society, and a wide variety of financial aid is available.
Starting salary: $48,8oo
The B.A. program at Boston University requires 32 four-credit courses. It yields large introductory classes (225-280 students) meeting three hours per week. This class also includes a one-hour weekly discussion section with a teaching assistant. Econ majors can also minor in another field. Departmental honors are determined by a high-quality research paper followed by a discussion with a defense committee.
Starting salary: $48,000
More than half the students in Northwestern University’s Economics Department complete a double major. Popular majors taken in conjunction with economics are Industrial Engineering, Political Science, History, Mathematics, and Psychology as well as other degrees in the Schools of Communication, Education, Journalism, and Music. Other interdisciplinary major or minors studied in conjunction are International Studies, Mathematical Methods, in the Social Sciences, or Business Institutions. The Department also offers the ability to obtain a B.A. and M.A. degree in four years of study. The faculty has won many awards, are widely published in leading academic journals, and have been elected as fellows of prestigious professional organizations.
Starting salary: $50,000
University of Southern California
The USC Department of Economics has internationally recognized scholars in its faculty and one of the most diverse student populations in the United States. Economics is one of the most popular majors on campus. The undergraduate program (of about 800 students) encourages critical thinking and creative problem solving. After graduation, these students continue on to MBA programs, law school, and medical school. They pursue careers in business, finance and the public sector. And some enroll in economics master or doctoral programs becoming research economists at various institutions. Collaboration on research is a singular trait to this campus.
Starting salary: $50,900
Washington University St. Louis
The staff and faculty at Washington University at St. Louis pays close attention to job placement of their students post graduation. With a difficult job market facing graduates, this can be very reassuring. The Economics major requires 8 economics courses, calculus, and a course in probability and statistics. The school website provides detailed information about the Economics Program that provides insight on study abroad programs, the ability to transfer credits from another school, independent study and research options, internship opportunities, honors programs, career planning assistance, and information on the faculty.
Starting salary: $51,900
With a newly established GCER (Georgetown Center for Economic Research), Georgetown University has continued to foster an environment for incredible research. The broad goal at the undergrad level is to provide students with the tools, language, and rigor to understand and contribute to the economic dialogue at a local, national, and international level. For those seeking a master’s degree or higher, theoretical and empirical foundations serve as excellent preparation.
Starting salary: $53,000
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania provides a useful background for students interested in careers in public policy, business, or finance. Undergraduates have the opportunity to publish papers in an undergraduate economics journal. Empirical analysis in economics often utilizes software packages such as EVIEWS, GAUSS, MATLAB, R, or STATA. Some projects involve coding in FORTRAN or C. Do well in advanced courses and increase your chances of getting hired as an RA by a professor, but you’ll be competing with grad students.
Starting salary: $44,200
Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University’s primary focus is on a strategy of depth rather than breadth in core research fields. Its undergraduate major and minor focus on quantitative reasoning, communication, and the ability to hold effective economic arguments. Most students who are econ majors or minors do so for the valuable background it provides for other professional schools.
Starting salary: $55,600
Boasting the most sought-after degree on campus, the Department of Economics at Duke University serves 700 undergraduate students and 170 students working toward a masters degree or Ph.D. Highlights of this program include diverse faculty research interests overlapping in unique ways across sub-disciplines, Econ Department support via EcoTeach, integration with the larger Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Research Triangle, and research-focused undergraduate seminars.
Starting salary: $55,900
Georgia State University
Georgia State University, located in Atlanta, is home to an unusually productive Department of Economics. Faculty are engaged in both theoretical and practical endeavors, and students are prepared for service in private, public, and non-profit sectors alike. The Department has a particular interest in policy analysis and involvement, which provides students with an intentionally interdisciplinary and practical approach to the discipline. It boasts nearly 40 full-time faculty members, making it one of the largest Econ departments in the country, offers degrees up to the Ph.D., and its graduates are highly sought after.
Starting salary: $42,400
Carnegie Mellon University
Students enrolling in Carnegie Mellon’s economics program can expect to graduate into the business world with analytical insights, creative problem-solving skills, and passion for making a difference. The Economics Department boasts a rigorous curriculum that encourages independent thinking through innovative electives. Graduates from this Nobel Prize-winning, innovative research program are highly sought after by academia, business, and government. Two-thirds of graduates embark on careers immediately, and one-third of graduates continue on to graduate school.
Starting salary: $60,200
University of California San Diego
The Department of Economics at UC San Diego was founded in 1964 and offers three undergrad majors, minors, and an honors program. As of 2013, the Department of Economics has 42 faculty and two research professors (one Nobel Laureate). Seven faculty members are Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, eight are Fellows of the Econometric Society, and 15 are researchers with the National Bureau of Economic Research. The powerhouse faculty leads a rigorous undergraduate program demanding a strong mathematical background. The faculty prides itself in consisting of “active researchers” so they can take the students “beyond the textbook.”
Starting salary: $47,600
The approach to Economics at Yale University is descriptive and analytical. The focus is on social institutions and social outcomes rather than on individual economic performance. Economics at Yale is regarded and taught as part of a liberal education, not as a preparation for any particular vocation. Tobin Research Assistantships give undergraduates in economics at Yale an opportunity to learn about conducting research working as a research assistant for a professor. The faculty and staff encourage participation in senior essays, providing prizes for outstanding essays.
Starting salary: $50,000
University of California Davis
UC Davis sits in the city of Davis, a classic college town. The college has grown to 32,653 students, which makes up nearly half of Davis, a city with a population of only 65,622 residents. The economics degree is very flexible. Upper division classes cover traditional areas of economics as well as newer fields such as the Economics of East Asia and Health Economics. Permanent faculty of the Department of Economics teach over 90 percent of the department’s undergraduate classes, and visiting instructors with a Ph.D. teach the remaining courses. Graduate students act as teaching assistants who lead discussion sections.
Starting salary: $49,000
University of South Carolina
The Economics curriculum at the University of South Carolina in the state capitol of Columbia provides a strong liberal arts education with specialization in both theoretical and applied economics. The program includes challenging coursework and core microecon/marcoecon concepts. Students can also enhance their experience through study abroad programs, student organizations, and honors societies, and can further their education into graduate school. Internships and research opportunities are available for those that want to add a competitive edge. Graduates with degrees in Economics are often employed in banking, manufacturing, insurance, retailing, and economic research. Many also seek local, state, and federal government positions in regional planning and development, employment and labor force analysis, ecology, transportation, and the regulation of industry.
Starting salary: $41,300
The Department of Economics is housed in a Gothic library and remains one of the most popular majors at Brown University, and it offers several undergraduate concentrations. Faculty members engage in research ranging from pure theory to applied subject and further, the doctoral program attracts scholars from around the world. Brown offers a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics by combining programs with other departments. Recent econ grads have been employed at Apple, FDIC, Bloomberg LP, Goldman Sachs, Google, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Clinton Global Initiative, US Department of State, and The World Bank.
Starting salary: $52,300
Analytical thinking, asking questions, and examining problems: a simple summary of the program at Dartmouth College, which provides a modified major. Students who fit this major have an interest in economics but wish to study primarily in another discipline. The curriculum focuses on current and important social problems with a macro, hands-on approach but also boasts study abroad opportunities, undergraduate research options, and the College Fed Challenge. Dartmouth offers courses in a series of fields, including finance, international trade, macroeconomics, competition and strategy, labor economics, development economics, and public economics. Seminars are largely discussion-based and involve 15 students or fewer.
Starting salary: $55,000
Nestled in the financial capital of the world, the Department of Economics at Columbia University in New York offers a general economics major in addition to five interdisciplinary majors. All of the programs have different requirements but share a common structure of core theoretical courses. Columbia University trains students to think analytically about social issues and provides a solid foundation for further study and careers in economics as well as multiple other pursuits. The faculty boasts research in a wide range of fields from pure theory to applied subjects. The Columbia business school also offers senior seminars, research programs, and research assistant positions.
Starting salary: $57,600
For students looking into an undergraduate program at Cornell, flexibility and connections are key. The College of Arts and Sciences creates a supportive and encouraging atmosphere for incoming freshmen. Of the recent 2014 graduates, 47% are going to be employed next year in the business sector, 13% are going to grad school, and a small percentage to government, law, and Peace Corps. You can keep up with the latest updates for Economics majors through the undergraduate newsletter, Ezranomics.
Starting salary: $57,000
Harvard’s Economics Department is frequently ranked among the top institutions in the world for teaching and research in the study of economics. The Department offers both a concentration in economics for undergraduate students and the doctoral program for graduate students. It is also home to the Quarterly Journal of Economics, established in 1886 as the first scholarly journal of economics in the English-speaking world. In 2013, the department had 3,370 undergraduate enrollments in 82 Economics courses, and the doctoral program received 638 applications from 67 countries, with 34 admissions.
Starting salary: $55,300
Pennsylvania State University
Penn State offers both a B.A. and B.S. in Economics as well as a minor. There is also a Departmental Honors Program which is composed of a small number of outstanding students, providing the opportunities for independent research and close contact with faculty and fellow students. The B.A. requires students to reach the 12th-credit level of proficiency in a single foreign language, while the B.S. major requires specific quantitative skills courses instead and no foreign language.
Starting salary: $48,300
Princeton University boasts one of the finest economics departments in the world. It includes the most popular major on campus and a diverse group of students with a broad range of interests. 75% of students go directly into the business world immediately after graduation, and the rest go on to graduate school in law, medicine, business, and economics. There is both a junior independent paper and senior thesis. The economics major is particularly easy to combine with a finance certificate.
Starting salary: $56,100
California Institute of Technology
There are multiple social sciences options at the Economics Department at the California Institute of Technology, or “Caltech”: Economics, Political Science, and BEM (Business, Economics, and Managment). Economics at Caltech is highly analytical, technical, and theory-focused, like most other majors at the institute. It claims a “modern and quantitative approach” to economics with emphasis on economic principles and modern methodology. Being math and data heavy, multivariable calculus is a prerequisite for even introductory courses.
Starting salary: $68,400
University of California Los Angeles
UCLA includes a young and active faculty whose work covers a diversity of topics and teaches of a progressive agenda of research and teaching. There are approximately 3,300 undergraduate majors at any one time, making it the largest among major economics departments across the country and the largest major on campus. UCLA provides students with the theoretical and empirical foundations for addressing real world problems. UCLA offers majors and minors, tutors, honors programs, the Department Scholars Program, scholarships, the Sharpe Fellows Program, and many other resources for students including partnerships and the new and comprehensive UCLA Business Council (UBA) .
Starting salary: $49,600
Michigan State University
Michigan State University’s Economics Department, with 47 tenured/tenure-track faculty members, offers both a B.A. and a B.S. degree in Economics. Students are encouraged to tailor their own program of study to their interests. Flexibility is key, but foundations are essential. Both the B.A. and the B.S. require a strong core of economic theory, supplemented by mathematics, data analysis or statistics, and computer science. The trifecta for MSU Department of Economics is high quality education, leading-edge research, and providing leadership and service to their professional communities.
Starting salary: $45,900
Arizona State University
Arizona State University prepares you for business, government and public policy careers by studying all facets of the economy. It is equipped with a prize-winning faculty that is actively engaged in research and top publications. The course of study can be tailored to prepare you for various graduate programs to follow, whether that be economics, business, or law.
Starting salary: $45,700
Indiana University Bloomington
The Department of Economics at Indiana University Bloomington offers comprehensive coverage of the major fields in modern economics. It currently has 28 faculty members, approximately 80 graduate students, and approximately 800 undergraduate majors. The department has existed since 1935, and is located in the beautifully restored Wylie Hall, the oldest building on campus. A major in economics provides preparation for graduate and professional schooling, and for careers in consulting, finance, and other private and public sector employment.
Starting salary: $43,900
Like many schools previously listed, the Economics major is one of the most popular at Stanford. Economics has been taught at Stanford since the university opened for classes in 1891. The undergraduate program provides an excellent background for those going on to graduate work in the professional schools (for example, business and law) and may also be structured to prepare students for a Ph.D. program in economics. The very structured curriculum is rigorous, active, analytical, and encourages students to put their skills to use.
Starting salary: $61,300
Economics hails as the second most popular major at Rutgers in New Brunswick, with over 1,000 majors enrolled in their curriculum that provides“rigorous training in the basics.” All economics majors must take 7 elective (300 and 400) economics courses. Rutgers offers both a major and a minor as well as a Certificate in Quantitative Economics, honors research, and undergraduate awards, internships, workshops, and participation in the Fed Challenge.
Starting salary: $50,000
University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
The Economics Department at Illinois offers degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The undergraduate program prepares students for careers in business and government, and provides an ideal background for graduate study in Law, Business, Public Policy, and Economics. The undergraduate degree program gives students a broad grounding. All majors receive training in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and the statistical tools of economics known as econometrics. Here, the focus is on the experience, offering special events, networking opportunities, workshops, student organizations, and other activities promote students’ personal growth. In addition, the university provide a host of opportunities for personal, scholarly, and career development through workshops, conferences, study abroad, internships, career fairs, and other events.
Starting salary: $51,600
University of Washington
Established in 1917, the Economics Department at the University of Washington is one of the largest and oldest departments in the College of Arts & Sciences. The faculty strengths include econometrics, finance, macroeconomics, international economics, industrial organization, environmental economics, development economics, and microeconomic theory. The B.A. with a major in Economics preps students for careers in the private and public sectors, and for graduate study in fields such as law and MBA programs. The BS with a major in Economics emphasizes math and quantitative techniques along with economics. This program is geared towards careers in technical and scientific areas and for graduate studies in economics and related fields such as statistics, mathematics and finance.
Starting salary: $49,300
University of Minnesota
A unifying theme throughout the department at Minnesota is that careful theoretical and empirical reasoning underlie all research and teaching. This is a heavily quantitative, demanding curriculum with a faculty that carefully molds students into outstanding economists. Many opportunities are open to econ students–talks and seminars at the department, internships in industry, employment opportunities within the department, academic scholarships, Undergrad Honors Program, and the undergraduate Economics Student Organization (ESO). The Economics department at the University of Minnesota has a unique relationship with Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Many faculty hold positions at the Federal Reserve as consultants.
Starting salary: $48,700
Ohio State University
The Department of Economics at Ohio State offers two majors, a B.A. and a B.S. The B.S. program has a stronger quantitative component that is valuable preparation for graduate work in economics or for more analytical areas of government and business. The B.A. is less quantitative and broader. Both degrees provide an excellent base for graduate work in the social sciences or in professional programs, such as law or business. There are many opportunities to assist with research, including data collection, information processing, and data analysis, while working one-on-one with faculty members.
Starting salary: $46,200
University of Wisconsin
The Department of Economics at the University of Wisconsin is a top teaching and research department. The mission of the fast-growing department is to understand the decisions of businesses and consumers as well as the implications and causes of contemporary economic issues by developing a systematic and thorough understanding of precisely how economic systems operate. Students are taught the analytical method of economics and are prepared with in depth knowledge for both further schooling (graduate work in business, law, public policy, economics, public administration, industrial relations, international relations, urban and regional planning, and environmental studies) and the immediate job market.
Starting salary: $46,400
University of Arizona
The Department of Economics at Arizona has long been known for its research in experimental economics and in economic history. It offers two undergraduate degrees and a small faculty with research strengths in microeconometrics, microeconomic theory, and game theory, consistently earning national and international awards. Students can pursue a B.A. through the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences or a B.S.B.A. through the Eller College of Management. Students in both majors must complete a minimum 30 units in economics with a very similar set of core courses. The choice of one major over the other is often dictated by a student’s interests and career goals.
Starting salary: $48,400
University of Maryland
Virtually every major theoretical and applied area of economics is studied due to the size and diversity of the faculty (approximately 40 faculty members) at Maryland. The undergraduate program provides your basic econ courses, broad coverage, and base knowledge to prepare students for further schooling or careers in business, banking and finance, government, law, or international relations. The Department encourages independent research, study abroad programs, and internships to supplement coursework.They also have an Honors Program as well as a program called Outside the Classroom to provide opportunities to apply economic concepts.
Starting salary: $50,600
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The undergraduate major in economics at MIT begins with a two-semester introductory sequence that explores theoretical and applied topics in microeconomics and macroeconomics. Additional training in microeconomics, macroeconomics, statistics, and econometrics follows. The undergraduate program is heavy on research and writing and even offers students the chance to publish original papers. Innovation is consistent and new courses are constantly being added. Students can look forward to the Undergraduate Economics Association and the Cambridge-MIT exchange program. Due to MIT’s challenging intellectual environment, about 20 percent of MIT economics undergrads enter a graduate program in economics or finance.
Starting salary: $68,600
University of Florida
The Economics faculty at Florida has broad intellectual interests in theoretical and applied research. Students can engage in weekly seminar series and research projects that are supported by funding from a variety of federal, state and private sources. UF offers at B.A. in Economics, which is appropriate for students intending to pursue advanced degrees in the social sciences and for enrollment in professional schools of management, law, or public administration.
Starting salary: $47,600
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M is located in Bryan/College Station, which has been named the #1 college town in the U.S. (www.livability.com). An attractive list of qualities pulls in many undergraduates, including but not limited to student-friendly housing near campus, efficient public transportation, low tuition rates, inexpensive living, numerous parks, athletic fields, and recreational centers. Texas A&M offers a BA and BS in Economics, as well as M.S. and Ph.D. programs. In the undergraduate program, you will first take foundational courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and mathematics. Following is statistics and intermediate economic theory courses, and finally upper-level elective courses.
Starting salary: $51,900
Purdue offers two degrees: a B.S. through the Management School and a B.A. through the College of Liberal Arts, as well as an Economics honors Program and a Minor in Economics.The B.A. degree is for students seeking a degree in Economics in the context of a broader liberal arts education. Financial aid and study abroad programs are both available through their website. Post graduation, about 75 percent go into the workforce and 25 percent pursue further schooling.
Starting salary: $54,200
University of North Carolina
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill provides a massive amount of programs to undergraduates, including but not limited to an undergraduate honors program, the Omicron Delta Epsilon international honorary society, internships, the UNC Economics Club, participation in the College Fed Challenge, and a joint degree program with the National University of Singapore. Students choosing to establish a major in Economics devote a minimum of 24 hours to Economics courses out of the 120 hours required for graduation. Base courses use Economics 101 as a springboard to more detailed analysis. Students considering doing graduate work in economics should take additional math courses and/or major or minor in mathematics.
Starting salary: $44,200
University of California Berkeley
Founded in 1903, UC Berkeley was one of the first in the United States to name a Department of Economics. The department is consistently ranked among the world’s top research departments, is globally acclaimed, and known for creativity and advancement of women in academia. Those students that go on to earn Ph.Ds have been hired at Harvard, Yale, MIT, the U.S. Federal Reserve, and the World Bank. It also boasts five Nobel Prizes and five John Bates Clark Medals. The department is home to over 1,000 students who are encouraged to study abroad, participate in research, and take advantage of the many opportunities Berkeley has to offer.
Starting salary: $54,700
Georgia Institute of Technology
The B.S. in Economics degree at Georgia Tech requires a background in mathematics and statistics but lays a wide foundation, focusing on building skill sets leading to careers in management, the public sector, academics, the professions, and toward advanced degrees. This program includes 24 semester hours of required coursework and an additional 9 hours of upper-division economics electives. Students are also encouraged to use an additional 12 hours of non-major cluster electives and 20 hours of free electives to complete course sequences in Management, International Affairs, Public Policy, Mathematics, Statistics, or Industrial Engineering.
Starting salary: $60,700
University of Virginia
The undergraduate program in Economics at University of Virginia emphasizes applications of economic theory and statistical analysis to a wide variety of real-world events and arrangements in both the private sector and the public sector. Most graduates from this program will go directly into the workforce. On average, there are about 600 Economics majors. Intro classes start large (over 500 students) and higher level courses typically have 40-60 students.
Starting salary: $51,000
University of Texas at Austin
Located in the gorgeous capitol of Austin, the UT Austin’s Economics Department is the largest department within the College of Liberal Arts with over 1,700 undergraduate majors. The undergraduate program prepares students for professional careers in industry, finance, government, law, and teaching with over 50 sections of undergraduate courses. In this B.A. program, students will study the interaction of theory, data, and policy and cover a wide range of issues. Students are taught to think objectively and independently, apply math knowledge, and develop their writing skills. Students are also encouraged to become a part of the campus life through organizations such as the Texas Economics Association (TEA) and the Omicron Delta Epsilon (ODE).
Starting salary: $50,400
University of Michigan
Economics is the foundation of a variety of career opportunities, which has led many Michigan graduates on to successful careers in business, government, law, and education. In pursuing an economics concentration, students develop analytical skills, a strong quantitative background, and clarity and precision of thought and expression. Through this curriculum, students are prepared for graduate or professional studies in fields such as law, business administration, urban planning, social work, consumer advocacy, and natural resource management. Students are encouraged to be a part of the Michigan Economics Society and participate in undergraduate research.
Starting salary: $54,000