Students who have not yet taken an economics course should begin their sequence with Economics 110 and should follow the following sequence:

Economics 110 Principles of Microeconomics
(Note that students may not take any economics courses, including Economics 110 and 120, without having passed the quantitative studies exam or the equivalent.)

Economics 120 Principles of Macroeconomics (Economics 110 or the equivalent is a prerequisite for 120)

Economics 251 Price and Allocation Theory

Economics 252 Macroeconomics

Economics 253 or 255 Empirical Methods

Students in the class of 2008: you may satisfy your empirical methods major requirement with either Economics 253 or 255, or Statistics 201 and 346. (The statistical methods course should be taken before any course numbered 400 or above.)
Students in the class of 2009 and succeeding classes: you must complete Economics 255 or the equivalent to satisfy your empirical methods major requirement. Please note that Statistics 101 or 201 is a prerequisite from Economics 255. Students in the class of 2009 or later who are considering majoring in economics are thus strongly encouraged to take Statistics 101 or 201 early in their college careers. Students may take the combination of Statistics 201 and 346 instead of Economics 255. Economics 253 can not be substituted for Economics 255.

Note that Economics 251, 252, and the Empirical Methods course can be taken in any order. In most cases all three of these courses are prerequisites for Economics Senior Seminars, at least one of which is required for the major. Senior seminars are typically taken during senior year or during the spring of junior year. Students are thus strongly encouraged to complete these three core courses by the end of junior year at the latest.

Prospective majors please note that instructors in all sections of Economics 251, 252, 253, and 255 and courses numbered 350 and above feel free to use elementary calculus in assigned readings, lectures, problem sets, and examinations; therefore, Economics 110 and 120 and Mathematics 103 or its equivalent are required as prerequisites for these courses, with the exception of 251 which has only Economics 110 and Mathematics 103 as prerequisites. By elementary calculus is meant differentiation of single variable polynomial functions and conditions for a maximum or minimum; it does not include integration. Students are also reminded that some courses now have specific mathematics requirements; see course descriptions.

Elective Requirements:
Students must complete four Economics electives, of which at least two must be selected from advanced electives numbered 350 to 394 (or from the CDE courses offered), and one of which must be selected from electives numbered 450-475. (Note: With permission of the Chair of the Department of Economics, students may substitute an extra 450+ elective for a 350-394 elective. However, in admitting students to these courses, the department will give preference to students who have not yet taken a course numbered 450-475.)

The primary objectives of the major are to develop an understanding of economic aspects of contemporary life and to equip the student to analyze economic issues of social policy. The introductory courses stress use of the basic elements of economic analysis for understanding and resolving such issues. The two required intermediate theory courses then provide a more thorough grounding in economics as a discipline by examining the strengths and weaknesses of the price system in allocating economics resources and by examining the aggregate processes which determine employment, inflation, and growth. A course in statistical methods, either Economics 255 or alternatively, Statistics 201 plus Statistics 346 (students graduating prior to 2009 may also use Economics 253 to satisfy the statistical methods requirement) equips the major to understand and apply the basic tools of quantitative empirical analysis. In elective courses students apply theoretical tools and empirical techniques to develop a richer understanding of economic phenomena and public policy.

Graduate training in economics requires more mathematical sophistication than does undergraduate economics. We encourage students who are considering pursuing a Ph.D. in Economics to take Economics 255, Mathematics 105 (or 106), Mathematics 209, Mathematics 211 and Mathematics 301. As graduate schools also look for evidence of research experience and promise, we strongly encourage interested students to write a senior honors thesis in Economics.

Should I Major in Economics to Prepare for a Career in Business?

Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources among competing ends. As a social science, it is devoted to developing a better understanding of many kinds of human interaction. It is important to stress that training in economics is not the same as training in business management. Businesses have specific goals of their own, including the making of profits, and professional training in business is about learning how to pursue those goals more effectively. This requires learning quite specialized techniques and skills that are not the proper focus of an undergraduate liberal arts education. Our undergraduate economics courses do not focus on these specialized business skills and techniques; therefore, students who major in economics or take many courses in it solely because they believe that it is the subject that is "closest to business" are likely to be frustrated and unhappy in their economics courses. We advise students to acquire a broad exposure to the arts, social sciences and natural sciences, and to major in the subject that most excites them and engages their interest rather than attempt to acquire extensive pre-professional training while undergraduates.

Credit for Coursework Done Elsewhere

The normal requirement that nine economics courses be taken at Williams will usually be waived only on the basis of transferred credit deemed acceptable by the department. Credit is granted based on grades consistent with college policy on various examinations:

--Students who receive a 5 on the Microeconomics AP or Macroeconomics AP exam, or a 5 on each, may place out of Economics 110 or 120, or both, respectively, but major credit will be given for only one course.

--The Department will grant major credit for both Economics 110 and 120 to a student who receives a 6 or 7 on the higher-level Economics IB examination, and that student can place into any 200-level course or intermediate-level micro or macro course.

--For A levels credit, the Department will grant major credit for both Economics 110 and 120 to a student who receives a grade of A or B.


Students who are considering study abroad should consult with the Department's Coordinator for Transfers/Study Abroad Credits early in the process of planning a year or semester abroad. (See the Department website to determine which professor is the Coordinator for this academic year.) Economics majors or prospective majors who are considering spending all or part of their junior year abroad are strongly advised to choose sophomore courses such that they can complete their intermediate theory requirements (Economics 251, 252, and 253 or 255) prior to the start of their senior year. We recommend as well that students complete at least part of the major's advanced elective requirement prior to the beginning of the senior year. Students who hope to pursue Honors in economics but who plan to be away for all or part of the junior year are strongly advised to meet with the Department's Director of Research prior to going abroad to discuss options for pursuing honors. (See the Department website to determine the Director of Research for this academic year.)


We encourage all majors who have at least a 3.5 GPA in economics courses to consider honors. To be admitted to candidacy for honors in economics a student must complete a substantial piece of independent research. Two routes to honors are open: the Specialization Route and the Thesis Route.

1) Specialization Route, consisting of these three units:

a. Development of a thesis proposal;

b. An honors winter study project (W30) in January of the senior year;

c. Economics 491 or 492 Honors Seminar. Students may pursue the Specialization Route to honors in their senior year, either in the fall semester plus WSP or WSP plus the spring semester. After selecting an advisor and discussing the topic with the advisor, the student should submit a thesis proposal to the department for approval. (A description of what should be included in proposals is listed on the department's website.) Such proposals frequently build on research papers completed for advanced electives, but this is not a requirement. Students should submit proposals at the end of the spring semester if they wish to pursue a fall-WSP thesis, and by one week after the last day of classes in December if they wish to pursue a WSP-spring thesis. The department provides a memorandum to majors with more details every spring and fall.

2) Thesis Route (Economics 493-W30-494):

A few students each year will be accepted for year-long thesis research on a subject closely related to the scholarly interests of a faculty member. A student who hopes to do such independent and advanced research in close association with a faculty member should begin to work out a mutually satisfactory topic early in the second semester of his or her junior year. Application to the department must be made before the end of the junior year by submitting a detailed proposal for work under the supervision of the faculty member. The WSP of the senior year is also spent on the thesis.

The College Bulletin states that students who wish to receive honors must take at least one course in addition to the minimum number required for the major. Students who pursue a year-long thesis and therefore take both Economics 493 and 494 may substitute Economics 493 for an upper-level elective (excluding those numbered 400-490) if they wish to. Students who pursue the Specialization Route to Honors may not substitute Economics 491 or 492 for an upper- (or lower-) level elective requirement.

Because economics honors theses frequently make use of empirical economic methods, students considering writing an honors thesis in economics are strongly advised to complete Economics 255 or Statistics 346 before the end of junior year.


A major in economics who concentrates in African-American or Area Studies may substitute the non-economics courses in the concentration for one lower-level elective in the Economics major, but not for an advanced elective (350-394).

Note on course numbers: Courses between 201 and 299 are lower-level electives and are open to students who have taken 110 or 120. Courses 350 and above are advanced electives, have intermediate theory prerequisites, and are primarily designed for Economics and Political Economy majors. Courses numbered 450-475 are only open to students who have completed Economics 251, Economics 252, and who have satisfied the statistical methods requirement unless the course prerequisite explicitly indicates otherwise.