12 Best Economics Schools for Undergraduates

School of economics classroom
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Economics is an extremely popular undergraduate major in the United States, and colleges and universities offer nearly 50,000 bachelor's degrees in the field each year. Unlike majors such as finance and marketing that tend to be housed within a business school, economics is often housed with the social sciences alongside political science, sociology, and anthropology.

Economics majors will need strengths in math, for calculus and statistics tend to be requirements. Other typical coursework includes microeconomics, macroeconomics, labor economics, international economics, and money and banking. Economics majors go on to a wide range of careers in the public, private, educational, and non-profit sectors. Payscale.com lists the average salary for economics majors as $73,333.

Hundreds of colleges offer economics majors, and most non-profit four-year institutions will deliver a quality education. The schools below were chosen because of the research accomplishments of their faculty, the strength of the curricula, excellent job and graduate school placement records, and opportunities for students to gain hands-on experiences. The schools are listed alphabetically.

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Columbia University

Low Library at Columbia University
Low Library at Columbia University. Allen Grove
Economics at Columbia University (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Economics/College Total) 277/2,193
Full-Time Faculty (Economics/University Total) 70/6,731
Sources: National Center for Education Statistics and the Columbia University website

Economics is the most popular undergraduate major at Columbia University, a highly selective Ivy League school located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. The university has extremely selective admissions—only 5% of applicants are admitted, and they tend to have SAT scores above 1400.

The economics program has a scientific approach to both micro and macroeconomic theory. Students learn to model economic relationships and analyze economic problems and policies. The university is well known for research in economics, and undergraduates frequently work with faculty as research assistants. Many students also take advantage of summer internships offered through Columbia's business school.

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Cornell University

McGraw Tower and Chimes, Cornell University campus, Ithaca, New York
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Economics at Cornell University (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Economics/College Total) 166/3,896
Full-Time Faculty (Economics/University Total) 48/2,977
Sources: National Center for Education Statistics and the Cornell University website

Another one of the elite Ivy League schools, Cornell University occupies a stunning campus overlooking Cayuga Lake in Upstate New York's Finger Lakes Region. Although Cornell is slightly less selective than the other Ivies, it still has just an 11% acceptance rate, and most admitted students have SAT scores above 1400.

Cornell's undergraduate core curriculum includes microeconomics, macroeconomics, statistics, and econometrics. The department is affiliated with several research centers and institutes, including the Cornell Institute for China Economic Research, Cornell Institute for Social and Economic Research, and Institute for Compensation Studies. Other program features include the annual Frank Knight Lecture and George Staller Lecture, which bring to campus an internationally renowned economist.

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Duke University

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Economics at Duke University (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Economics/College Total) 202/1,858
Full-Time Faculty (Economics/University Total) 111/5,564
Sources: National Center for Education Statistics and the Duke University website

Duke University is a highly selective and prestigious private research university located in Durham, North Carolina. It is part of the "Research Triangle" with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

Undergraduate students wishing to study economics can choose between a B.A. or B.S. degree, and B.S. students also have the option of earning a finance concentration. The B.S. degree is more quantitatively oriented than the B.A. Duke is home to the Center for the History of Political Economy and the Duke Financial Economics Center. Faculty research spans a breadth of subfields including econometrics, development, labor and health, industrial organization, and history of political economy.

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Georgetown University

Georgetown University
Georgetown University. Kārlis Dambrāns / Flickr / CC by 2.0
Economics at Georgetown University (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Economics/College Total) 185/1,752
Full-Time Faculty (Economics/University Total) 38/1,587
Sources: National Center for Education Statistics and the Georgetown University website

Located in Washington, D.C., Georgetown University is a highly selective private university affiliated with the Catholic Church. The school's acceptance rate is just 14%, and SAT scores are typically above 1400.

Drawing on its location in the nation's capital, Georgetown offers programs that have political and international emphases. Along with a traditional economics major, students can also choose to major in political economy or international economics through the Walsh School of Foreign Service. Fostering the study of economics is the Georgetown Center for Economic Research. The Center sponsors conferences, lectures, and workshops, and it has a working paper series for disseminating economics research.

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Harvard University


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Economics at Harvard University (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Economics/College Total) 224/1,824
Full-Time Faculty (Economics/University Total) 70/4,472
Sources: National Center for Education Statistics and the Harvard University website

Another member of the Ivy League, Harvard University is often ranked as the most selective research university in the United States with an acceptance rate of under 5%. Harvard students are often high achievers, and roughly 75% of all economics students eventually pursue an advanced degree.

Economics is by far the most popular academic concentration at Harvard University. The program's Sophomore Tutorial has students apply their knowledge of economic theory, math, and statistics to learn how to comprehend research in the field and gain the skills for carrying out their own research. Students who pursue honors in the field can research and write a thesis during senior year. Other program features include a faculty-student lunch series.

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Northwestern University

Northwestern University Hall in Evanston, Illinois
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Economics at Northwestern University (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Economics/College Total) 263/2,180
Full-Time Faculty (Economics/University Total) 59/3,521
Sources: National Center for Education Statistics and the Northwestern website

Located in Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago, Northwestern University is a large private research university with highly selective admissions; the school admits just 9% of applicants and SAT scores tend to be 1450 or higher. The university is home to numerous research centers, including the Center for Econometrics, Center for Economic History, Center for International Macroeconomics, Global Poverty Research Lab, and Center for the Study of Industrial Organization.

Northwestern University's economics program graduates nearly 100 more students each year than any other major. The university values applied learning, and students can participate in the EconLab, a space for engaging in part-time research. In their junior and senior years, economics majors take courses in six subfields as they choose courses from the labor market, economic history, macroeconomics and banking, taxation and public spending, economic regulation, competitive strategy, the environment, the economics of education, and health care and transportation.

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Stanford University

Hoover Tower, Stanford University - Palo Alto, CA
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Economics at Stanford University (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Economics/College Total) 86/1,818
Full-Time Faculty (Economics/University Total) 63/4,475
Sources: National Center for Education Statistics and the Stanford University website

Stanford University, located near Palo Alto, California, often vies with Harvard as the most selective college in the nation. Only 4% of applicants are admitted, and SAT scores of admitted students tend to be 1450 or higher.

With fewer than 100 undergraduates graduating from Stanford each year in economics, the program is the smallest on this list. That smaller size, however, does not limit student opportunities. Economics majors find a supportive environment with a well established Peer Advising system. The faculty is engaged in over 20 research fields including developmental economics, game theory, international trade, and political economy. Students can work alongside faculty members during the program's ten-week summer Economics Research Assistant Program (RAs receive a $7,500 stipend to support their research efforts).

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University of Chicago

University of Chicago
University of Chicago. josh.ev9 / flickr
Economics at the University of Chicago (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Economics/College Total) 334/1,520
Full-Time Faculty (Economics/University Total) 57/3,971
Sources: National Center for Education Statistics and the University of Chicago website

The University of Chicago is a highly selective private research university located just south of downtown. The university continues to get more selective, and recently the acceptance rate has been just 6% with SAT scores typically above 1500 and ACT composite scores above 33.

The economics major at the University of Chicago graduates over twice as many students each year as the next biggest major (mathematics). Along with the standard economics track, students have two other choices: a business economics track and a data science track. Students find research opportunities working as RAs with professors or through an honors workshop. A unique feature of the program is Oeconomica, the undergraduate economics research society. Students work in cohorts to undertake economics research and produce a literature review in the fall and conduct a research project in the spring. Students also compete in the Econometrics Game, a competition in which teams have 14 hours to analyze a dataset and answer economics questions. Each team then writes a research paper, vying to present their work to a panel of judges that often includes Nobel Prize winning economists.

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University of California - Berkeley

The University of California Berkeley
The University of California Berkeley. Charlie Nguyen / Flickr
Economics at UC Berkeley (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Economics/College Total) 648/8,727
Full-Time Faculty (Economics/University Total) 62/3,174
Sources: National Center for Education Statistics and the UC Berkeley website

UC Berkeley often tops the rankings of public universities, and it is also one of the most selective. The university admits 16% of applicants and they tend to have SAT scores over 1300. Note that out-of-state students typically have a higher admissions bar than California residents.

The economics major at Berkeley vies with cellular biology and computer science as the university's most popular major. The university has over 1,300 undergraduates studying economics, and that size allows for significant breadth in the course offerings. The university is also home to 13 economics research centers including the Center for Global Action, Econometrics Laboratory, Center for Economics and Demography of Aging, Experimental Social Science Laboratory, and Clausen Center for International Business and Policy.

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University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Allen Grove
Economics at UNC Chapel Hill (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Economics/College Total) 281/4,662
Full-Time Faculty (Economics/University Total) 41/4,486
Sources: National Center for Education Statistics and the UNC Chapel Hill website

One of the top public universities in the United States, UNC Chapel Hill is in the opportunity-rich "Research Triangle" with Duke University and NC State. Admission is highly selective with fewer than a quarter of all applicants being admitted. As with many public universities, the admissions bar for out-of-state students will likely be higher than for in-state applicants.

Economics majors at UNC Chapel Hill can choose from three tracks: the traditional track covering theory and methods in economics; the quantitative track that has a much heavier emphasis on economic theory and data analysis; and the honors thesis track for students who want to complete an in-depth research paper in their senior year. Students can complement their studies with funded summer research, internships, study abroad, and extracurricular organizations such as Economics Club and Women in Economics.

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University of Virginia

USA, Virginia, University of Virginia Rotunda and academical village. Founded by Thomas Jefferson; Charlottesville
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Economics at UVA (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Economics/College Total) 295/4,148
Full-Time Faculty (Economics/University Total) 58/2,731
Sources: National Center for Education Statistics and the UVA website

The University of Virginia, a highly ranked public university in Charlottesville, admits about a quarter of all applicants. Students need grades and standardized test scores that are well above average to be admitted.

Economics is one of the more popular majors at UVA. Students have the option of supplementing their major with one of four concentrations: international economics, public policy, financial economics, or industrial organization. High achieving students in the economics major can apply for the Distinguished Majors Program that provides the opportunity to conduct independent research and complete a thesis senior year.

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Yale University

The Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University
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Economics at Yale (2019)
Bachelor's Degrees Conferred (Economics/College Total) 140/1,407
Full-Time Faculty (Economics/University Total) 79/5,300
Sources: National Center for Education Statistics and the Yale website

Located in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University is one of the most selective of the Ivy League schools, with an acceptance rate of just 6% and SAT scores that tend to be over 1450.

Economics is Yale's most popular major, and one out of every ten undergraduates majors in the subject. The schools' Tobin Research Assistant program provides undergraduates with opportunities to work with faculty members on solving contemporary economic challenges. Research opportunities are available both during the school year and in the summer. Students can also opt to conduct their own research by completing a senior thesis. The Department of Economics further enriches the learning experience through a series of workshops, luncheons, and seminars.

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Grove, Allen. "12 Best Economics Schools for Undergraduates." ThoughtCo, Sep. 8, 2020, thoughtco.com/best-economics-schools-for-undergraduates-5076222. Grove, Allen. (2020, September 8). 12 Best Economics Schools for Undergraduates. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/best-economics-schools-for-undergraduates-5076222 Grove, Allen. "12 Best Economics Schools for Undergraduates." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-economics-schools-for-undergraduates-5076222 (accessed June 10, 2023).