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Academic Program

Kohlberg Hall

Kohlberg Hall

The Department of Economics offers a wide variety of courses, with focuses such as economic development, health and health care, international trade, the environment, macroeconomics, game theory, finance, econometrics, industrial organization, labor markets, and race and gender. Economics majors have a great deal of leeway to structure their studies based on their interests. An economics major is excellent preparation for a wide variety of possible careers.

ECON 001 or its waiver is a prerequisite for all other work in the department. It must be completed before, rather than simultaneous with, other courses in economics. (First-year seminars, when offered, represent the one exception to this rule as they do not have any prerequisites.)

Students who think that they may want to enter a Ph.D. program in economics or a related field are strongly encouraged to speak to faculty members about their coursework, which should include a significant number of courses in the Department of Mathematics.

Students who are planning a career in business or finance should contact the Office of Career Services no later than the beginning of their Junior year to take advantage of that Office's speaker series, courses, and other resources that can help them understand their options and prepare for a variety of potential jobs.

Major Requirements

To graduate as a course major, a student must:

1.  Have at least eight credits in economics.
2.  Meet the theory, math, and statistics requirements.
3.  In the senior year, pass the comprehensive exam.

Honors majors must meet the first two requirements above, but do not take the comprehensive exam.  Instead they must complete three honors preparations in the department, and then take an external examination on each of these preparations in the spring of their senior year (along with one preparation in an honors minor). Honors minors in Economics take one two-credit preparation and are required to complete at least four total credits in Economics at Swarthmore. Read more about the Honors program in Economics here.

Students should complete ECON 011, ECON 021, and ECON 031 before their senior spring semester. The comprehensive examination covers material taught in these courses.

The theory requirement for all majors consists of taking both ECON 011 (Intermediate Microeconomics) and ECON 021 (Intermediate Macroeconomics).  These courses require MATH 015 or its equivalent, which comprises the Department's math requirement, as explained below.

The statistics requirement for all majors is typically satisfied by taking ECON 031.  There are three alternative routes to satisfying the statistics requirement: 1) taking ECON 035 (which accepts STAT 021 as an alternative prerequisite to ECON 031); 2) taking STAT 061 in combination with either STAT 011 or STAT 021; or 3) taking STAT 111.  STAT 011 and STAT 021, whether individually or in combination, do not satisfy the statistics requirement. [Note that students in the Class of 2022 and 2023 only are also able to meet the statistics requirement based on a 4th option: taking STAT 051 in combination with either STAT 011 or STAT 021.]

A knowledge of elementary calculus is extremely useful in reading the economics literature critically.  The math requirement for all majors consists of taking MATH 015 (or receiving either MATH 015 credit or placement out of that course, from the Math Department).  This is a prerequisite for both ECON 011 and ECON 021, so it must be completed before embarking on the theory requirement.  Unless otherwise indicated in the course's prerequisites, however, students are free to take courses that do not have ECON 011 or ECON 021 as a prerequisite before they meet the math requirement.  These courses include ECON 001, ECON 031, and a variety of others.

In addition  the department very strongly recommends that students take MATH 025 or 026  (Basic Calculus).  MATH 027 (Linear Algebra), MATH 034 (Several Variable Calculus), and MATH 044 (Differential Equations) are valuable for those intending to focus on the more technical aspects of Economics. Students planning to attend graduate school in Economics should give serious thought to taking additional mathematics courses, including MATH 063 (Introduction to Real Analysis).

Students can elect to take any economics course or seminar Credit/No Credit (subject to college regulations that limit the total number of such elections), and can count any credits earned in these CR/NC preparations towards an economics major. Students uncertain about this choice are encouraged to consult with the professor, or with their departmental advisor or the department chair.

The Economics major carries the US Department of Education Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code 45.0601 and is not STEM-OPT eligible.