A Major in Economics
The economics major provides students with a strong grounding in economic theory and methods (through the core courses), and allows them to tailor their major to their specific interests through choice of advanced theory and/or field courses. See bottom of the page for AP/IB credit information.*
Goals for the Major
Our majors should attain
1. a basic understanding of economic principles
2. an ability to engage in critical reasoning
3. competency in making written and oral arguments
Our majors should attain skills that enable them to be more informed and engaged citizens. Economics majors will understand fundamental principles, apply those concepts to evaluate arguments, and construct oral and written arguments of their own. A basic understanding of economic principles means students will identify situations in which scarcity requires that individuals, firms, and societies make trade-offs, and recognize the opportunity costs embodied in those choices. Students will analyze efficiency and equity in market outcomes, the role of government in the market economy, the costs and benefits of international trade, the challenge of stabilizing the macroeconomy, and the factors that raise the long-term growth rate of the economy. Students will also assess the logic of an economic argument by applying both analytical and quantitative tools, for example by using empirical evidence to support or reject a proposition. Finally, having demonstrated command of core concepts in economics, and an ability to judge the logic that undergirds economic proposals, students will produce oral and written presentations that demonstrate their competency.
A major in economics includes six "core" theory and methods courses, two 300-level courses, and at least one other course. There are nine required courses.
100-level required courses:
- Economics 101 Principles of Microeconomics
- Economics 102 Principles Macroeconomics
- Economics 103/Sociology 190 Introduction to Probability and Statistical Methods
200-level required courses (these courses have a prerequisite of Math 115 or above taken at Wellesley) :
- Economics 201 Intermediate Microeconomic Analysis
- Economics 202 Intermediate Macroeconomic Analysis
- Economics 203 Econometrics
Additional course requirements:
- at least two 300-level courses (ordinarily not counting 350, 360, 370 or 380)
- one additional 200- or 300-level course to total nine courses
The department recommends at least three 300-level courses, and at least 10 economics courses for the major. A minimum of two 300-level courses must be taken at Wellesley unless permission from the Chair is secured in advance.
About the Courses
The principles courses (101, 102) are designed to introduce students to the analytical tools used in economics and to the use of these tools in various fields within the discipline. The intermediate theory courses (201, 202) provide sufficient training in these analytical techniques to allow students to use them easily, especially in 300-level work.
Along with this grounding in both micro- and macroeconomic theory, economics majors complete a two-course sequence in statistical and econometric methods (103, 203). Statistical inference provides a formal link between economic theory and the world. Students learn the basics of probability and statistics as well as formal methods of testing both theories and specific hypotheses with real data; they also learn how to evaluate the reliability of data and the uncertainty associated with decisions and policies.
With a solid base in theory and statistics, students move on to applied courses offered at the 200 and 300 levels. The department includes faculty members with specialties in each of the major fields within economics who teach courses in those specialties using the tools developed in the core courses. Some students may wish to go on to Independent Study, either as a 350 or a 360-370.
Substitutes for ECON 103
Economic statistics courses or courses with significant economics applications may replace Econ 103, counting as the equivalent of 103 and counting toward the Economics major or minor. Other introductory statistics course, whether applied or theoretical, may be used to "place out" of Econ 103 but will not count as a unit toward the Economics major or minor. These could include courses:
- taken in another discipline at Wellesley (including Psyc 105 or Psyc 205, Stat 160, or Stat 218)
- taken at another institution and approved by the Economics Department's Transfer Credit Advisor
In other words, majors or minors who place out of the Econ 103 requirement in this way must take an additional elective course in Economics to reach the minimum of nine courses for a major or five for a minor. Please discuss with your Economics advisor.
The Economics major at Wellesley has been designated a STEM major, with a CIP code of 45.0603 ("Econometrics and Quantitative Economics") for majors from the class of 1999 and later. International students earning a bachelor's degree in fields recognized by the U.S. government as STEM fields may qualify for the STEM OPT extension, a 24-month extension of F-1 Optional Practical Training. The Slater International Center provides more information about this program.
Requirements for the Minor
The minor in economics provides an opportunity for students to gain a basic introduction to economic theory and methods, as a complement to study in another area.
There are five required courses:
- Economics 101 Principles of Microeconomics
- Economics 102 Principles of Macroeconomics
- Economics 103 Introduction to Probability and Statistical Methods (See "Substitutes for ECON 103" above.)
- Also required are two "field courses" (ordinarily not 201, 202, or 203), which apply economic theory and methods. These courses can be at either the 200-level or 300-level although, in practice, few minors have the prerequisites to take 300-level courses. We certainly welcome those with the appropriate background into the more advanced applications of economic analysis.
International Relations/Economics is one of the tracks in the international relations major.
All students majoring in IR must take the following courses: ECON 101, ECON 102, ECON 213 or ECON 214 or ECON 220, HIST 205, and POL3 221.
Students who elect the IR-Economics major take the following courses in addition to the IR core:
• ECON 103, ECON 201, ECON 202, and ECON 203.
• At least two of the following electives: ECON 311, ECON 312, ECON 313, ECON 314, ECON 320, or ECON 328.
• One intermediate or advanced history course dealing with a country or region outside the United States or with international or diplomatic history
• One 300-level political science course in an area related to economic issues or policies
• One additional course in Africana studies, anthropology, history, political science, sociology or women’s studies, dealing with a particular country or region, or with relations among nations, or with transnational institutions or phenomena.
Students may not double major in IR-Econ and Economics.
Students interested in this track should contact Akila Weerapana for guidance on choosing an advisor and completing the major.
*AP/IB Credit Information:
Each student who is thinking about placing out of a course should first speak with a professor in the Economics Department about what course would be right for her.
Note: if a student places out of any of the introductory courses, she still needs 9 courses to complete the Economics major.
AP Credit: Students who receive a 5 on the AP Economics: Micro exam can place out of Economics 101. Students who receive a 5 on the AP Economics: Macro exam can place out of Economics 102, although we encourage students to consider taking Econ 102 since a full semester of college macroeconomics will typically cover more material than the AP exam does.
Note also that the college considers a 5 on the AP Statistics exam only to be the equivalent of QR/STAT 150, so you will not be able to place out of Economics 103. For more information about this, please see this page.
IB Credit: Students who receive a 5, 6, or 7 on higher-level IB courses can place out of Economics 101 and Economics 102 although the department strongly encourages students to place out of those courses only if they receive a 7.