Best Colleges for Economics – An Introduction
As you prepare for the college admissions process, you might consider pursuing an economics major. Economics is one of the top 10 college majors, with boundless career opportunities available to graduates. A degree from the best colleges for economics will give you transferable skills that will enable you to pursue a variety of career paths.
U.S. News ranks the following as the top three best universities for economics are:
- Harvard University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Stanford University
These schools have some of the best undergraduate economics programs. They are also the best schools for economics at the graduate level.
U.S. News defines an economics major as “a degree option that examines questions related to resource allocation, incentives and wealth, among others.” At the best universities for economics, students can pursue a diverse range of coursework. In this guide to the Best Colleges for Economics, we’ll walk you through the best undergraduate economics schools in the US and some of the best economics schools in the world.
In this guide to the Best Colleges for Economics, we’ll cover:
- Is economics a good major for me?
- The best undergraduate economics programs based on college rankings
- Undergraduate economics rankings, including the best undergraduate economics schools in the US and the best economics schools in the world
- Business vs Economics: Are the best universities for business the same as the best universities for economics?
- Best jobs for economics majors after graduation
- GPA requirements and acceptance rates at the best colleges for economics
- Best schools for economics to pursue a graduate degree
We’ll discuss undergraduate economics rankings and what makes the best schools for economics special. Additionally, we’ll discuss how to consider GPA requirements, college rankings, and each school’s acceptance rate as you begin working on your college applications.
Remember, choosing your major in college is a big decision. Do your own research on the best colleges for economics to find the right programs for you. You should also explore potential jobs for economics majors to help you plan ahead.
Before we jump into the best universities for economics, let’s think about why economics is a valuable major and how to decide if it’s the right major for you.
College Majors: Is economics right for you?
So, is economics a good major? Looking at its popularity alone, the answer is yes.
Economics continues to be one of the most popular college majors. It provides foundational knowledge that students can apply to various fields of study. If you want to pursue law or business, you’ll gain a lot from choosing an economics major. So, as you consider what to major in, you might find that a degree from the best colleges for economics suits your needs.
You might also wonder how an economics degree will prepare you for life after graduation. Rest assured, if you graduate from one of the best universities for economics, you’ll have plenty of career options. Economics majors are highly employable, and many recruiters look toward the best colleges for economics during their hiring processes.
If you attend one of the best colleges for economics, you’ll receive:
- A world-class education
- High earning potential in your early career
- Transferable skills
- Boundless career opportunities
So, at the best colleges for economics, you’ll gain a lot of useful skills. Most economics majors have the benefit of career stability and higher earning potential when compared to other majors, such as humanities. This makes economics a popular major in college. It’s also why economics is ranked as one of the top 10 college majors.
If you choose to study at one of the best economics schools in the world, you’ll also have the chance to broaden your coursework. Many of the best undergraduate economics programs give students a lot of flexibility. You can pair your economics major with other subjects such as law and medicine, increasing your earning potential and employability even more.
An economics major also pairs well the other college majors like:
- International Relations
If you attend one of the best undergraduate economics programs, you should enjoy analyzing data, as it is a large portion of many potential jobs for economics majors. However, you can also put your economics degree to use in other fields. There are plenty of jobs for economics majors, and an economics major will not disqualify you from pursuing other interests.
Plus, many of the best colleges for economics are top-ranked universities with broad degree offerings. This means that at the best universities for economics, you can take classes in many fields and learn from highly skilled professors.
As we mentioned above, high earning potential and career opportunities make economics one of the top 10 college majors.
Some jobs for economics majors include:
- Working in Government
- Consulting for non-profit and for-profit companies
- International politics
- Employment in the finance or banking system
- Developing corporate strategy
For more insight on what studying economics is like, check out our economics Q&A, where econ majors at Brown and Harvard share their experiences in the field.
Which universities are best for economics?
Perhaps you’re sold on economics as your major in college. Now that you’ve decided what to major in, it’s time to look at the best undergraduate economics programs.
Luckily, you have many options when looking for the best colleges for economics. You can also choose this college major at plenty of schools beyond those that top the undergraduate economics rankings. U.S. News publishes a list of the overall best universities for economics. While this list focuses on graduate programs, these schools also have a lot to offer undergraduate students.
The top ten best universities for economics in the country:
#1 – Harvard University
#2 – Massachusetts Institute of Technology
#3 – Stanford University
#4 – Princeton University
#5 – University of California – Berkeley
#6 – University of Chicago
#7 – Yale University
#8 – Northwestern University
#9 – Columbia University
#10 – University of Pennsylvania
Many of these top-rated schools have high GPA requirements and low acceptance rates. Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Princeton acceptance rates are only 4%, and the highest acceptance rate of the above schools is UC Berkeley’s which is only 15%. Note that this list refers primarily to graduate programs, as there are more universal rankings for graduate degrees. However, the best undergraduate business programs are often housed in the best economics schools in the world.
Keep in mind that the college admissions process is not easy, so it is important to apply to economics schools with a range of selectivity, regardless of their college rankings. Be sure to keep this in mind as you decide which of the best undergraduate economics programs is best for you.
Niche also publishes their own undergraduate economics rankings. Their top five best undergraduate economics schools in the US are:
As you’ll notice, many of the best undergraduate economics programs overlap with the best economics schools in the world for graduate students. At these schools, you might have the chance to take classes alongside graduate students. Schools like Harvard, for instance, often allow undergraduates to take graduate seminars with the professor’s permission.
However, if you go to a school like Claremont McKenna (which is also one of the best colleges for economics), you won’t have access to graduate students or graduate courses. This might mean that you receive more research opportunities as an undergraduate.
Best Undergraduate Economics Programs: Know your options
How do the best undergraduate economics programs vary? In most programs, economics majors take the same core courses. However, depending on which of the best undergraduate economics programs you choose, you might have access to different specialties. For example, if you’re interested in enhancing your economics major with international public policy courses, you’ll want to look into programs that offer those options.
The best colleges for economics and the best undergraduate economics programs for you will ultimately depend on your personal preferences. Economics majors have a lot of flexibility, and the skills you’ll learn will help you succeed in a diverse array of fields. So, think about your career goals in tandem with the different jobs for economics majors.
How should you find the best undergraduate economics programs for you? Make a list! Think about your general university preferences: location, class size, student organizations, etc. Then, look for economics programs at universities that meet those needs. Do you know what specialty you’re interested in? Make sure to look for the best undergraduate economics programs that meet your specific requirements.
Finally, remember that there is no single “best colleges for economics” list that will apply to everyone. However, if you focus on your future goals and school preferences, you’ll find the best undergraduate economics programs for you.
Best Colleges for Economics: Applying to college
Next, let’s consider what the college admissions process is like at the schools with the best undergraduate economics programs.
Many of the best undergraduate economics schools in the US have low acceptance rates. Schools like Stanford, MIT, and Harvard are home to some of the best economics schools in the world. While the college admissions process won’t look any different for economics majors, that doesn’t make it any less competitive.
If you’re set on an economics major, note that you can pursue this major at nearly any school. So, don’t get hung up on schools that top the undergraduate economics rankings.
At the best schools for economics, you should bolster your college applications in the same way you would for any other major. College admissions officers at the best undergraduate economics programs will look for the same criteria as they would when reviewing other college applications. A standout college application will show college admissions officers what kind of student you are and what you will offer to their campus community.
Your college applications to any of the best colleges for Economics should highlight:
- Success in challenging courses
- Strongly written essays
- Extracurriculars that show growth and leadership
Since economics is one of the top 10 college majors, there’s no lack of options for the best universities for economics. If you’re interested in applying to any of the best undergraduate economics schools in the US, give yourself plenty of time to complete your applications. Start your college applications early to improve your odds and show the best undergraduate economics programs why they should accept you.
Top 10 College Majors: Economics
As previously mentioned, economics is one of the most popular college majors. Other popular majors include:
- Business administration and management
Economics majors use analysis methodologies and critical thinking to understand the world around them. Students who choose an economics major in college graduate with plenty of valuable skills. So, there’s plenty of benefits to studying in one of the best undergraduate economics programs.
In advance coursework, students will develop other skills at the best colleges for economics, like:
- Problem solving
- Data analysis
You’ll take courses that focus on micro and macroeconomics, economic modeling, market outcomes, and fiscal and monetary policies. From there, you can choose courses that match with your interests within the economics major.
The best colleges for economics all offer slightly different programs. So, think about what you want from your university experience. Then, choose the best undergraduate economics programs that align with that. This will help you find the best colleges for economics for you.
Keep in mind, jobs for economics majors from any university will be similar. After graduating from some of the best undergraduate economics programs, many students choose to continue their studies by pursuing an MBA or other graduate degree in law, government, or sociology. The best universities for economics will also provide students with an understanding of public policy analysis—a route to many career opportunities.
If you’re still undecided about your major in college, take some time to read more about what economics majors study and what makes this program one of the top 10 college majors. Then, explore more details about the specific careers for economics majors. Don’t fixate on the undergraduate economics rankings—instead, foreground your own needs.
Is Harvard good for economics?
According to U.S. News’ list of best universities for economics, Harvard is the best economics school in the country. So, yes—Harvard is good for economics.
As one of the best undergraduate economics programs, Harvard has approximately 535 students in their undergraduate department and 195 students in their graduate department. Courses are taught by one of Harvard’s 56 faculty members in the economics department, including Nobel Prize winners and former members of the Council of Economic Advisors.
Members of Harvard’s faculty span across over 19 areas of study, including:
- Behavioral economics
- Industrial organization
- Political economy
- Economic development
- International economics
- Public economics
- Labor economics
- Financial economics
- Economic history
Students pursuing economics at one of the best undergraduate economics schools in the US can choose from over 80 undergraduate courses.
Harvard’s Basic Track consists of 11 courses covering topics like:
- Introductory calculus
- Principles of micro and macro
- Intermediate micro and macro theory
- Sophomore tutorial
Once you’ve completed the required courses, you must take three additional economics courses, including at least one with a writing requirement and one where intermediate theory is a prerequisite. Students who want to pursue an honors track should keep in mind that success in challenging courses will strengthen their chances of receiving a recommendation.
As one of the best undergraduate economics schools in the US, Harvard prepares their students for a variety of paths post-grad. Careers for economics majors who have graduated from Harvard may include the private sector, government jobs, international organizations, research and think tanks, and the nonprofit sector. There are also plenty of careers for economics majors in the consulting field.
If you are wondering what kind of jobs for economics majors await Harvard graduates, check out the Department of Economics After Graduation page. It shows just how many potential jobs for economics majors there are, including roles in finance, consulting, market research, risk analysis, and analytics and strategy.
Instead of looking for jobs for economics majors, Harvard graduates may choose to first pursue a graduate degree. Students who study at the best economics schools in the world go on to pursue a variety of fields, including business school, law school, medical school, and other Ph.D programs.
What is the best economics school in the world?
Many of the best colleges for economics are located inside the US, but you can also find top tier programs in other countries. Some of the best schools for economics outside of the US include the London School of Economics and Oxford University.
U.S. News ranks the London School of Economics #7 in Best Universities for Economics and Business. At LSE, students can pursue a degree in economics, but also accounting, finance, data science, and business and management. Their department of economics is one of the largest in the world and regularly tops college rankings of the best economic schools outside of the US.
Over the course of three years, students can expect to develop their knowledge of economics and the skills necessary to quantitatively approach problems. In their first and second years, students take courses like micro and macroeconomics as well as econometrics. Other courses include quantitative methods, statistical theory, and principles of finance. In their third year, students will then have the option to take more specialized courses related to specific interests, like Corporate Governance, Risk Management, and Financial Audit or Pre-Industrial Economic History.
Another school topping the UK’s college rankings for economics programs is Oxford University. There are no singular undergraduate degrees in economics, so students must select one of three joint degrees as they decide what to major in.
As one of the best economics schools in the world, Oxford offers courses in:
- Philosophy, Politics & Economics
- Economics & Management
- History & Economics
Studying at Oxford will require you to narrow down your general interest in economics into one of the above subject pairings. Since you can customize your courses as you progress further in your degree, you’ll be prepared for a variety of jobs and graduate programs no matter which joint degree you pursue.
Oxford’s course structure is divided into two sections. Your first year is called your “Prelims,” where you’ll take introductory courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and mathematical methods. Your second and third years are called your “Finals” where you can take more advanced courses in both micro and macroeconomics as well as behavioral economics and monetary economics.
The best colleges for economics outside of the US offer a different kind of education from US-based liberal arts institutions such as Harvard. A liberal arts education will be more well-rounded, meaning you’ll likely be required to take courses outside of your particular area of study. At a school like LES, you may have some options to take language or literature courses as part of your degree, but you’ll spend most of your time with your economics coursework.
Which university has the best economics program?
Now that we have touched on some of the best colleges for economics and their college rankings, you’re probably wondering who is at the top of undergraduate economics rankings.
According to U.S. News’ best colleges for economics in the world, Harvard University has the best economics program. While this list focuses on graduate schools, you can rest assured that Harvard is also one of the best undergraduate economics schools in the US.
Harvard’s economics program is attractive to students for a variety of reasons. As one of the best undergraduate economics schools in the US, Harvard offers their students the opportunity to study any area of economics they desire. Additionally, Harvard offers students opportunities outside of the classroom to drive their own learning and development.
Economics majors at Harvard can pursue:
- Study abroad programs
- Job recruitment events
- Hands-on internships
- Research opportunities
- A senior thesis project
Remember, just because Harvard is considered one of the best undergraduate economics schools in the US does not make it the best economics program for you. While undergraduate economics rankings can help inform your decision-making process as you build your college list, there are many factors to consider when narrowing down your list of the best colleges for economics.
You’ll want to consider what qualities the best colleges for economics have and how they suit your needs. For example, while Harvard is one of the best undergraduate schools for economics in the US, it only allows students to pursue “joint concentrations” rather than double-majors. So, if you want to pursue multiple independent college majors, Harvard may not be one of the best universities for economics based on your needs.
Another important factor to consider when deciding where to go to college is cost. Some of the best colleges for economics can be expensive. So, make sure to investigate the financial aid programs at the best schools for economics. Then, factor that into your personal undergraduate economics rankings.
Economics versus Business programs
If you’re thinking about the best undergraduate economics programs, you might also be interested in pursuing business. Let’s take a look at how these two college majors are related.
While economics and business degrees are closely related, there are key differences between them students should consider when choosing their major. As you think about the best universities for economics or business, you should have an idea of which major in college appeals to you more.
Economics is the study of human behavior when faced with scarcity or difficult decisions. As a result, it combines quite well with a variety of disciplines.
|Economics majors study||Business majors study|
Sociology, and more
Overall, while these two college majors share a lot, they also have many key differences. Business college majors learn about how businesses operate, while economics students will study human behavior and financial decisions more broadly. Some introductory courses in both economics and business may be similar. However, as students continue their college majors, the courses for each major will differ.
When choosing between these two college majors, consider your interests, skills, and future career goals. Check out the specific differences between business and economics. This will help you decide which of these college majors most aligns with your goals. Be sure to understand these differences if you want to choose the best school for you.
Is economics a good major?
As you complete your college applications, you’ll spend a fair amount of time thinking about what to major in. Many college applications will ask you to state your intended college major. In some (relatively rare) cases, your choice of college major may impact your college admissions odds. Your college major should also often align with the rest of your application narrative.
If you are considering applying to some of the best colleges for economics, you’re probably wondering, is economics a good major?
The short answer: it depends on your interests.
Many students apply to the best schools for economics not because of undergraduate economics rankings, but because of the interesting courses they will take and the opportunities that await them. However, as you consider what to major in, you should keep your long-term goals in mind. Certain fields will be easier to break into if you have a college education in a related field. In some cases, a specific major may be a crucial prerequisite when being considered for positions right out of college.
Attending one of the best undergraduate economics schools in the US can open a lot of doors. There are plenty of jobs for economics majors after graduating from the best economics schools in the world. Careers for economics majors span a variety of interesting fields, many of which have a high earning potential.
Beyond just thinking of potential careers for economics majors or any other major, consider what kinds of topics interest you. Even more than a specific topic, think about what kind of learning environment you thrive in, how you like to approach the world, and what kind of problem-solver you are. Above all else, think about what sparks your curiosity.
Courses for economics majors
Most schools that offer an economics major will have required courses, so it can be helpful to consider the types of courses you will take. Generally, students will begin with classes like micro and macroeconomics and econometrics. These courses are meant to provide students with the foundational knowledge they need to advance their studies. In these courses, students will learn about concepts like economic modeling and market outcomes.
When asking yourself, “is economics a good major?”, remember no college major is necessarily good, bad, or better than another one. Just because something is popular or well-regarded doesn’t necessarily make it best for you. Remember, you can’t rely on college rankings and acceptance rates alone to decide where to go to college. Similarly, you can’t make a choice about whether you should pursue an economics major by just thinking about undergraduate economics rankings or jobs for economics majors.
Is economics a good major for you?
As you consider what to major in, remember that every student is different. Additionally, students are often surprised at how challenging their college courses are during freshman year. This means you may not know how you feel about majoring in economics until you have completed your first couple of classes. So, as you ask yourself “is economics a good major,” remember that you’ll learn a lot once you’re on campus.
Instead of asking yourself “is economics a good major,” ask yourself “is economics a good major for me?” You should pursue a college major that genuinely interests you. Though there are plenty of jobs for economics majors, you should ensure that you could see yourself in one of these careers.
If you’re nervous about choosing your college major as you apply to schools, keep in mind it isn’t the be-all end-all for your career and future prospects. As a lifelong learner, you’ll be sure to have plenty of opportunities in whatever industry interests you.
Is economics a hard major?
So, is economics a good major? For some students, the answer is yes. Now, let’s think about whether economics is a hard major.
There are a lot of misconceptions around which majors are “easy” or “hard.” In reality, nearly no college major is universally more challenging than another. Every student is different, so your college major will depend on your skills and interests.
Choosing to study at one of the best colleges for economics means you will likely spend a lot of time analyzing data and doing math. Some students will take well to this kind of course load, while others may find it more challenging. You can also expect to have rigorous homework assignments and cumulative midterms and finals. These tests often account for a significant portion of your final grade, so it is important you are prepared to put in the time to study and prepare for them. Other college majors, by contrast, might place more emphasis on long-form essays than final exams.
No college major is ever easy
Many of the best colleges for economics are also the top-ranked universities in the nation. At these schools, few majors will be easy, and economics is no exception. As universities with high college rankings, you can expect the best universities for economics to have rigorous courses, no matter your college major. The best schools for economics are also generally selective in their college admissions process. This means that they’ll likely have high GPA requirements and low acceptance rates.
Even though getting your degree in economics may be challenging, it can be extremely rewarding. Attending one of the best colleges for economics allows students to forge a path in a wide variety of fields. Many of the best schools for economics also give students the flexibility they need to pursue other interests. Switching majors and pursuing double majors and minors is extremely common for college students. This means you’ll have plenty of opportunities to make the most of your college career if you start as an economics major.
What kinds of jobs do economics majors get?
So, what happens after you attend one of the best universities for economics? Life after graduation could look very different for economics majors depending on your career goals. If you attend one of the best colleges for economics, you will have many postgraduate options, including both starting a new job and continuing your education.
Jobs for economics majors include:
- Data analysis
- Investment banking
- Venture capital
- Private equity
- Working with government agencies
Other, more specific jobs for economics majors could be a management consultant, financial analyst, product manager, personal finance advisor, and loan officer.
However, if you’re not sure what kind of industry you want to go into after studying at one of the best colleges for economics, that’s okay. Economics is a versatile degree that will prepare you to go into a variety of fields. If you study at one of the best universities for economics, you won’t close any doors.
Want to learn more about the careers you can get after studying in the best colleges for economics? Check out the different jobs for economics majors in the government, corporate world, and academia.
Best Colleges for Economics: Choosing your college major
Have you been wondering what to major in? If you’ve asked yourself this question while researching colleges, you’re already on the right track in your college admissions process. Choosing what to major in is no small task. After all, it is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as you begin your college career.
You’ll start thinking about your college major during the college admissions process. However, many schools will not ask you to formally declare a major until your sophomore year. Always do your research so you know when you need to finalize your college major.
You can always choose to switch or drop a major later on. However, it is helpful to start thinking of potential college majors before you start working on your college applications. For some students, knowing what to major in can affect which schools they consider applying to.
When you begin researching schools, you’ll likely look up statistics like acceptance rates, GPA requirements, and college rankings. While overall college rankings can be a good place to start learning about different schools, narrowing down your potential college majors can help you focus on schools with programs that interest you.
Different schools will excel when it comes to specific college majors, and you want to be sure you find a program that has the flexibility and opportunities you need to thrive. While the most prestigious schools will provide a great education no matter your major. However, make sure you look into the rules, course structure, and learning opportunities for your top college majors. As with all aspects of the college admissions process, research is key.
Choosing an economics major
An economics major is incredibly versatile and will prepare you to succeed in a variety of fields post-graduation. There are many potential careers for economics majors, which is why many students choose to attend the best colleges for economics.
As we’ve discussed, economics is one of the top 10 college majors. Why is studying economics such an attractive option for many students deciding what to major in? One reason is because it opens the door to a variety of opportunities post-graduation. Since there are so many jobs for economics majors, economics is becoming more popular every year.
Economics gives you the knowledge to succeed in a variety of jobs. Careers for economics majors span various fields such as business, academia, and consulting.
Graduates from some of the best schools for economics tend to have great success in these fields. During the college admissions process, it can be helpful to research any notable graduates from the schools on your list.
Best universities for economics reflections questions:
- Is economics a good major for me?
- What are the best colleges for economics based on my needs?
- Would I enjoy the courses at the best universities for economics?
- Can I combine my economics degree with other subjects and interests?
Economics majors and graduate school
After attending one of the best universities for economics, you might choose to pursue a Master’s within a more specific area of interest. Completing a Master’s degree can help make you more competitive in the workforce. However, it is not a requirement for many entry-level jobs for economics majors.
The best universities for economics all offer high-ranking graduate programs with plenty of opportunities. So, graduate study can be a great option for economics majors, especially if you want to pursue a career in research or academia. Still, if you attend one of the best universities for economics, you’ll have plenty of career options without a graduate degree.
If you are planning to attend graduate school, you will essentially have to go through the college admissions process again. The best universities for economics are competitive at the graduate level, so you should aim for high grades and develop a strong network in college. As you begin taking your college courses, remember that your grades, the quality of the classes you take, and your relationship to your professors will all eventually contribute to your admissions odds at the best economics schools in the world.
When choosing a college major, it can be helpful to think toward the future. As you consider what to major in, you should think big. Certain fields of work require a depth of knowledge and training to get your foot in the door. So, think about what type of college major will best prepare you for your future career. Use this information as you decide what to major in.
Best Colleges for Economics: Conclusion
Overall, the best colleges for economics will be different for everyone. However, one thing is for certain: as of the top 10 college majors, there is no lack of options when it comes to the best colleges for economics. With some time and research, you’re sure to find the best economics schools for you.
While there are many options to consider when looking for the best universities for economics, think about your personal study interests and future goals. That will help you choose the best universities for economics for your needs.
Here are some tips for creating your best economics schools list:
- Think about your general preferences. Do you want to go to a big university or would you prefer a smaller school? Where would you like to be located? What is campus life like?
- Narrow down your list based on the best economics schools. How is their economics program rated? Do they have specializations that interest you? What do their graduates go on to do with their degrees? Think about these factors as you consider the best undergraduate economics programs.
- Start early. Getting into the best colleges for economics will require preparation. Start the application process early to make sure you build a competitive candidate profile, write stellar essays, and highlight your extracurriculars in the best way possible.
Choosing your major in college can be a difficult task. Know that if you choose economics, you will graduate with a set of useful skills that will be applicable in a variety of career settings. Get excited about the process and start your research early. Good luck!
This article was written by Stefanie Tedards. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.