Frequently Asked Questions
On this page:
- Principles of Economics
- 3000 Level Core Courses
- Math and Statistics Requirements
- Senior Seminars
- Barnard Courses
- General Course Information
- Graduate School
- Department Honors and Prizes
- Transfer Credits
- Study Abroad
- Internships, Independent Study, and Research Credit
- Information for Non-Majors, including Freshman and Sophomores
- Engineering Students and the SEAS minor
- Teaching Assistants and Tutors
- Joint Majors and Financial Economics Majors
Principles of Economics
When should I take Principles of Economics?
If you are thinking of becoming an Economics major or concentrator, then you should take Principles in your freshman year, but no later than the fall semester or your sophomore year.
Does the course require the knowledge of calculus?
No, the class only assumes proficiency in high-school algebra.
Are there any prerequisites for Principles?
No, there are no prerequisites.
May I take UN1105 Principles of Economics pass/D/fail?
Yes, you can take Principles pass/D/fail, even if you decide to become an economics major or concentrator. You must receive a grade of P in order to satisfy the Principles requirement. If you receive a D or an F then you must retake Principles of Economics. Please note, however, that you cannot take any other economics classes or your math and statistics courses pass/D/fail and have it count toward the major or concentration.
Do I need to register for a recitation section?
Yes, everyone in Principles must concurrently register for a recitation section (Econ UN1155). The recitation sections are listed in the Directory of Classes immediately following the listing of the Principles course. You must register for a recitation section that is associated with your professor’s lecture. Your professor’s name will be listed as the instructor’s name for the recitation sections associated with your course. The list of recitation times and places is posted in the Directory of Classes just before the beginning of each semester.
If I took the British Advanced Level exams, do I have to take Principles of Economics?
No, you do not, provided the university has given you credit for the course.
If I scored a 6 or 7 on the IB Higher Level exam, do I need to take Principles of Economics?
No, you do not, provided the university has given you the credit for the course.
If I took only one semester of an introductory economics sequence at another college or university, then will that count as my Principles requirement?
No. You must take Principles of Economics in the department.
If I took an introductory economics course at another college or university, then will that count as my Principles requirement?
At most other colleges and universities, the introductory economics course is a two-semester sequence. Thus, you must have completed both semesters for the course to count towards your principles requirement. If you have completed both semesters, then please refer to the Transfer Credits section to find out how to get credit for those courses in the economics department. Please note that although you took two courses, the department will only credit it as the completion of your one-semester Principles requirement. If you have not completed both semesters, then please refer to the answer to the next question.
Does my AP credit count as my Principles requirement?
Yes, so long as you received at least one four and one five on the Micro and Macro halves of the exam, your AP credit will count as your Principles requirement. This should be reflected on your DAR after you have declared your economics major.
3000 Level Core Courses
Can I take Econometrics in my last year?
Econometrics is required for all senior seminars with the exception of the seminar for the joint major with philosophy. Hence, majors cannot take econometrics in their final semester. In addition, a number of the electives in the department assume that students are familiar with basic concepts from both statistics and econometrics. Hence, students who would like to take econometrics in the fall semester of their senior year must have the written approval of their advisor in the economics department.
Can I take my core courses at another institution?
The department discourages students from taking either of the intermediate courses or econometrics at another university. You can take only one of the three 3000-level core courses at another school, and of course, you must get permission to do so (see Transfer Credits). The department will only credit courses that are the equivalent to courses offered at Columbia. An equivalent Intermediate Macroeconomics course would have both calculus and an introductory economics course(s) as its prerequisites. An equivalent Intermediate Microeconomics course would have an introductory course(s) and two semesters of calculus as its prerequisites. An equivalent econometrics course would have a statistics course as a prerequisite.
If I take a course out of sequence–that is, if I take a course without having taken one or more of its prerequisites, will the course count towards the major?
No. Please note that if the instructor gives you permission to register for a course without having completed the prerequisite, this does not imply that the department will credit the course. In order to take a course out of sequence and have it count towards your major or concentration, you must have written approval from your advisor, and a copy of the approval must be given to the undergraduate coordinator and documented in your student file.
May I take my intermediate courses or my econometrics course in the Barnard economics department?
What are the 3000 level core courses?
There are three 3000 level core courses in economics, UN3211 Intermediate Micro, UN3213 Intermediate Macro and UN3412 Introduction to Econometrics. The two intermediate level courses present the formal models used to analyze economic questions. The Econometrics course covers the basic empirical tools used in economics. Principles is a prerequisite for all three courses. In addition, you must complete Calculus I prior to taking Intermediate Macro, Calculus III prior to Intermediate Micro and Calculus III and STAT UN1201 prior to taking Econometrics.
What are the math requirements for the 3000 level core courses?
The math and statistics requirements for the 3000 level courses are as follows:
|Intermediate Macro||Calculus I; Co-requisite: Calculus III|
|Intermediate Micro||Calculus I and III|
|Econometrics||Statistics 1211 (or higher) and Calculus III|
When should I take my 3000 level core courses?
You should take both Intermediate Micro and Intermediate Macro in your sophomore year, but no later than the fall semester of your junior year. Note that with the exception of UN2257 The Global Economy and UN2105 American Economy, all department electives require both Intermediate Micro and Intermediate Macro as prerequisites, so you will need to take both Intermediate Micro and Intermediate Macro as early as possible. Econometrics should be taken no later than the spring semester of your junior year. You should take Statistics and Econometrics in consecutive semesters. Some electives assume a basic familiarity with statistics and econometrics.
Why are Intermediate Micro and Intermediate Macro prerequisites for nearly all elective courses offered by the economics department?
At most colleges and universities in the U.S., students take a yearlong introductory sequence that covers both Micro and Macro. At Columbia, we only have a one semester Principles course which does not cover as much material and in particular, does not present some of the most basic models used in the upper level electives. The two intermediate courses (Micro and Macro) cover all of the basic theoretical topics and major issues in economics and provides students with an overview of the analytical techniques utilized in the discipline. Thus, at Columbia, we require that you complete your intermediate courses before you begin studying the individual fields of economics, so you are equipped with the necessary technical skills and perspective to understand the upper-level electives.
When should I take Econometrics?
You should try to take statistics and econometrics in consecutive semesters in either your sophomore or junior years.
Math and Statistics Requirements
When should I take my Statistics course?
You should wait until your sophomore or junior year to take Statistics. You will want to take Econometrics in the following semester.
What is the Statistics requirement?
The department requires one semester of statistics, STAT UN1201 (or a higher level statistics course). Note that Calculus I is a prerequisite for STAT UN1201. You should take Econometrics in the semester immediately following the one in which you took Statistics.
If I skipped Calculus II, can I go back and take it after having completed Calculus III?
Yes, since the courses are independent, you can take II after having taken III.
If I am required to take Calculus II, may I take it pass/fail?
Yes, you may take Calculus II pass/fail. However, you must take Calculus I and III for a letter grade.
Will I understand the material in Calculus III without having taken Calculus II?
Yes, you will be able to understand the material. As you may know (and you certainly will know this after taking Calculus I), calculus can be divided into two parts: differential calculus and integral calculus. In Calculus I, you are introduced to both the differential and integral calculus of functions of a single variable (e.g. the distance traveled by an object moving at a fixed velocity is a function of time, so time is the single variable). In Calculus II, you continue the study of the integral calculus of functions of a single variable. In Calculus III, you return to the study of the differential calculus, but in this course, you study functions of two or more variables (e.g. the distance traveled by an object is a function of both velocity and time where both velocity and time are allowed to vary). So, the material in Calculus III is for the most part independent of the material in Calculus II.
Although the material in Calculus III is independent of Calculus II, not all students will be allowed to move directly from I to III. Students who do not receive at least a B in I will be placed into II so that they can strengthen their math skills before taking III. Please see the Math Department website for more information.
Do I have to take Calculus II to take Calculus III?
No, you do not. Some students will be placed directly into Calculus III, because of their AP scores or previous class work. Students in Calculus I who receive a grade of B or better in Calculus I, will be allowed to go directly into Calculus III. Students in Calculus I who do not receive a B or better must take Calculus II before taking Calculus III.
When should I take my math courses?
You should try to complete your math requirement in your freshman year, but no later than the fall semester of your sophomore year.
If I have AP credits for Calculus, will they count towards my math requirements in the Economics Department?
Yes, so long as you received a sufficiently high score. Please see the Department of Mathematics for information regarding the number of credits that you will receive based on your score and the AP exam that you have taken.
What are the math requirements for a major or concentration in Economics?
You must take both Calculus I and Calculus III. Calculus I must be completed before you take Intermediate Macro, and Calculus III must be completed before you take Intermediate Micro and Econometrics. Please note that you do not need to take Calculus II to fulfill your economics major requirements. Students who are placed in Calculus II or III (either because of their AP scores or previous class work) by the math department will be assumed to have completed Calculus I and will be allowed to enroll in Intermediate Macro.
Are all of the electives listed in the bulletin offered every year?
No, some electives are not offered in some years. The department makes every effort to offer the most popular electives and the electives that represent the primary fields in economics each year, but because of staffing difficulties it cannot always do so. However, if an elective is listed in the bulletin, then that implies that the course has been offered in the recent past and the department would like to offer it in the future.
How often are electives offered?
Most of the electives are offered at most one-time per year. The department works closely with Barnard to try to offer UN3265 Money and Banking and UN3025 Financial Economics, each semester but there may be years where that is not possible. The department also coordinates with the Business School to offer GU4280 Corporate Finance each semester.
Do independent study courses count as electives?
No, independent studies are like senior seminars and are too narrowly focused.
If I take two senior seminars, can I count one as an elective?
No, a senior seminar cannot replace an elective. Senior seminars focus on specialized topics within a field of economics, and electives introduce you to the various fields. Thus, a seminar does not provide a broad enough overview of an area of economics to replace an elective.
Can I take a course in SIPA as an elective?
In general, the answer is no. However, students wishing to take GU4737 Economics of the Environment in years when GU4329 Economics of the Environment is not offered may request permission to take the course as an elective credit. The request must be made in writing to the director of undergraduate studies. Note that the student must also seek permission from the instructor to enroll in the class as it is generally not open to registration by undergraduates.
Can I take a course offered to undergraduates by the Business School as an elective?
The Business School courses (such as Marketing Management) may only be taken for elective credit for the financial economics major (subject to the limitations as specified in the requirements for that major). You may not take these courses for elective credit for the economics major or concentration, nor any of the joint majors.
Can I take a course in the Graduate School of Business as an elective?
No, the department does not accept elective courses from the Business School.
Can I take a course with the prefix BUSI as an elective?
No. Courses with the prefix BUSI are not acceptable as economics electives. Please note that the BUSI courses are offered by the School of Continuing Education and that not all of these courses are accepted by the College towards your college degree. Please refer to the bulletin for more information.
Can I take a course in another part of the university (such as the history department) and have it count towards my economics major?
Any course that is not listed in the economics section of the bulletin is treated as a transfer course. Hence, you must get approval from the department’s director of undergraduate studies to take any course not in the econ department (see Transfer Credits for more information). In general, the economics department does not accept credits from non-economics department courses.
If I take a course in Barnard that is listed in the Columbia economics section of the bulletin, do I need to get approval from the department?
No, however you should note that there are limitations on the number of Barnard elective courses that may be taken to fulfill the major requirements (please refer to the section below on Barnard courses for more information), and that there are some overlaps between Barnard and Columbia College courses. If you take two courses that the department deems too similar, then only one of those courses will be counted towards the major or concentration. Below is a list of pairs of courses offered in the department and Barnard that cover essentially the same material so only one of them may be taken to fulfill the major requirements:
a. GU4321 and BC3029: Economic Development
b. GU4400 and BC3019: Labor Economics
c. GU4505 and BC3038: International Money
d. GU4500 and BC3047: International Trade
e. GU4329 and BC3039: Economics of the Environment
f. GU4235 and BC3041: Historical Foundations of Modern Economics
The department may add courses to the list above should other courses seem too similar. Finally, note that if you wish to receive credit for a Barnard course, you must have completed all of the prerequisites as printed in the bulletin prior to taking the course. The prerequisites for courses in Barnard often differ from those in the department, so you should read the bulletin before registering for a Barnard course.
How do I choose my electives to meet my intellectual or career goals as an economics major?
To help you choose electives that are best suited for your particular interests, the department has grouped the electives into several categories. This listing of electives is available on the Sample Programs page. You can also discuss your course selection with your major advisor.
If I take a course out of sequence–that is, if I take a course without having taken one or more of its prerequisites, will the course count towards the major?
No. Please note that if the instructor gives you permission to register for a course without having completed the prerequisite, this does not imply that the department will credit the course. In order to take a course out of sequence and have it count towards your major or concentration, you must have written approval from your advisor, and a copy of the approval must be given to the undergraduate coordinator to be put in your student file.
If I do not receive a C- or better in Intermediate Micro or Intermediate Macro, can I take an elective that requires Intermediate Micro or Intermediate Macro as a prerequisite?
Yes, but you must take the elective concurrently with Intermediate Micro or Intermediate Macro if you have to retake either of the latter courses.
Which electives can I take without Intermediate Micro and Intermediate Macro?
The department only currently offers one course, UN2257 Global Economy, which may be taken before the intermediate level courses. Barnard offers two additional courses (BC 2010 Economics of Gender and BC 2014 Topics in Economic History). Note that only one course that does not require Intermediate Micro or Intermediate Macro will be accepted towards the major and concentration in economics (this includes transfer credits from other institutions) and no courses will count towards any of the joint majors (where all electives must be at least at the 3000 level) or the Financial Economics major.
Can I take the ECPH GU4950 Economics and Philosophy Seminar or the ECPS GU4921 Political Economy Seminar?
In general, you may take these seminars only if you are an economics-philosophy major or an economics-political science major. Due to the large number of majors in these two joint majors, these interdisciplinary seminars are usually open only to those declared joint majors. However, any remaining seats are open to general registration and students may sign up provided that they have completed the seminar prerequisites.
Can I take a seminar if I am a junior? Can I take it if I am not a declared major?
Yes, but only if space permits. Juniors, non-declared students and students taking a second seminar may take a senior seminar provided that they have completed the prerequisites and there are seats available in the seminar beginning in the second week of classes. You may attend the first meeting of a seminar that you are interested in without being registered. Contact the department early in the second week of classes to see if seats are available in the seminar that you prefer.
What are the prerequisites for the seminars?
For all seminars except GU4950 Economics and Philosophy, you must have completed all of your core courses (Intermediate Micro, Intermediate Macro and Econometrics). In addition, GU4370 Political Economy is a prerequisite for GU4921 Seminar in Political Economy. For the GU4950 Economics and Philosophy seminar, you need to have completed Intermediate Micro, Intermediate Macro and statistics, however this seminar is restricted to senior econ-philosophy majors only and open spaces for general sign up is rare. Please note that when choosing a seminar, you should select only those seminars that focus on a topic that you are already familiar with from your previous course work.
If I take two senior seminars, can I count one as an elective?
No, a senior seminar cannot replace an elective. Senior seminars focus on specialized topics within a field of economics, and electives introduce you to the various fields. Thus, a seminar does not provide a broad enough overview of an area of economics to replace the study of an area.
My preferred seminar is full. Can I ask the instructor’s permission to enter his/her seminar? Can the instructor’s permission override the enrollment cap?
No. The seminar enrollment cap is imposed by the department, and it is not the instructor’s decision to allow students into their seminar.
I am a joint major with political science, philosophy or statistics. How do I register for a senior seminar?
As a joint major with political science, philosophy or statistics, you have a designated senior seminar. You will be contacted directly by the department to register for your seminar. You will not register for GU4911 Section 0.
I am a major in economics, financial economics or econ-math. How do I register for a senior seminar if I did not register for GU4911 Section 0?
If you did not register for GU4911 Section 0, then beginning on the first day of classes you may register for a seminar in person in the department. Students who did register for GU4911 Section 0 will have already received their seats in the seminar. Walk in registration is only for the seats in the seminars that remain after all of the students in GU4911 have selected their seats. You should check the department website (the Seminar Sign Up page) the weekend before classes begin to see what seminars have available seats. In general, we expect that the overwhelming majority of seats will go to students in GU4911 Section 0, so there will not be many choices left for walk in registration
How do I register for a senior seminar?
Students interested in taking a senior seminar, will register online for GU4911 Section 0 Economics Seminar Registration. Regardless of the particular seminar you would like to take, you must register for GU4911 Section 0. To register for GU4911 Section 0, you must be a declared major in economics, financial economics or the joint major with math who will have fourth year standing in the upcoming semester and who has completed the prerequisites (UN3211, UN3213 and UN3412). Complete information on how to register for a senior seminar is posted on the department website on the Senior Seminars Sign Up page.
When should I take my senior seminar?
You can take your senior seminar any semester after you have completed your core requirements (Principles, Intermediate Micro, Intermediate Macro and Econometrics). Please note that priority in registration is given to seniors, and juniors are only allowed to sign up during the second week of the semester (see the Senior Seminar Web page for details).
Although you can take a seminar without having taken any electives, seminars frequently rely on material from the elective courses. You should only register for a seminar in which you are already familiar with the background material. For example, a seminar that focuses on exchange rate crises should be taken only if you have taken a course in international monetary theory or finance.
A final point to consider when choosing your senior seminar is whether or not you need a recommendation letter from someone in the economics department. If you would like a recommendation letter from a faculty member of the economics department for the purposes of admission to a graduate school, then it is recommended that you take your senior seminar no later than the fall semester of your senior year.
How do I find out the topics for the senior seminars? Are the same seminars offered each semester (year)?
The topics are posted on the department’s Web site on the Senior Seminars page several weeks before the start of the semester. The seminar topics are chosen by the professors, so they will vary as the instructors vary. Professors rarely teach two seminars in the same year, so it is unlikely that the same topic will be offered in both semesters.
Where do I find the listings of the Barnard courses that I may take for credit towards my economics degree?
All of the courses that the department accepts towards the major or concentration from the Barnard department are listed in the economics department section of the bulletin. None of the 1000 level Barnard courses are accepted nor are any of the Barnard core courses (intermediate micro, intermediate macro and econometrics). Please note that if a course is not listed in that section, then the department does not count the course towards your economic requirements, so you should check the bulletin before you register for your classes.
How many Barnard electives may I take to fulfill my major requirements?
Beginning with the students who declared in the Spring of 2011, there are new rules regarding the number of Barnard electives courses that a student may take to fulfill major requirements. The department now limits the total number of lecture courses that may be taken outside of the department for major credit. All majors, financial economics majors, and joint majors other than the joint major with philosophy must take a minimum of 5 lecture courses in the Columbia department. Concentrators and joint majors with philosophy must take a minimum of 4 lecture courses in the Columbia department. The remaining lecture course requirements may be fulfilled with AP (or IB) credit, Barnard electives, transfer courses or study abroad courses (the latter two are subject to departmental review – see the transfer credit section of the FAQ page for more information). The following table summarizes the new requirements:
|Program||# Lecture Courses1||Min # in Department2||Max # Outside3|
1. Lecture courses do not include seminars which must be taken in the department. The lecture course counts are counts of economics courses only, so the counts do not include math, statistics or courses in other departments. There is also no change in the rule that no more than one course may be taken at the 2000 level.
2. There is no change in the rule that at least 2 of the 3 3000 level core courses must be taken in the department and no corresponding Barnard courses will be accepted. UN3025 and UN3265 will continue to be counted as departmental courses regardless of the instructor.
3. Outside courses include AP (or IB) credits for Principles (1 class), transfer credits for Principles (1 class even if it was a two semester sequence), Barnard 2000 and 3000 level elective courses and transfer credits from other universities.
If I take a course in Barnard that is listed in the economics section of the bulletin, do I need to get approval from the department?
No. However, any remaining seats are open to general registration, and that there are some overlaps between Barnard and Columbia College courses. If you take two courses that the department deems too similar, then only one of those courses will count towards your major or concentration. Below is a list of pairs of courses offered in the department and Barnard that cover essentially the same material so only one of them may be taken to fulfill the major requirements:
i. GU4321 and BC3029: Economic Development
ii. GU4329 and BC3039: Economics of the Environment
iii. GU4400 and BC3019: Labor Economics
iv. GU4505 and BC3038: International Money
v. GU4235 and BC3041: Historical Foundations of Modern Economics
The department may add courses to the list above should other courses seem too similar.
Can I take the Barnard quantitative courses as electives?
Can I take the Barnard core courses as electives?
Can I take any of my core courses in the Barnard economics department?
No. You must take all of your required courses in the Columbia department.
General Course Information
Why does Principles of Economics count as four credits but the other lecture courses in the department count as only three credits?
In the case of lecture courses the credits are associated with a class depending on the number of lecture hours that you are required to register for. Since you are required to register for an hour-long recitation for Principles but not for any other course, Principles has one extra credit hour.
The course that I wanted to take is closed. Why is the registration for some classes capped? How can I get into a closed course?
The department caps the enrollment for a number of reasons. In the case of the lecture courses there are three primary reasons: 1) space limitation; 2) TA considerations and; 3) professor preference. If the course is capped because of space considerations (i.e. the number of seats in the classroom) then the department cannot admit any additional students into the class until some students drop out. If the department can move the class to a larger room, then it will do so but there is a shortage of large classrooms on campus. If the course is capped because of TA considerations, then the department will only admit additional students if an additional TA can be assigned to the course. In both of these cases the professor cannot simply admit you into a closed class but must instead refer the matter to the director of undergraduate studies. If possible the department will try to accommodate the additional students but it is often not possible. If the course is capped because of the professor’s preference for a smaller class, then it is up to the individual professor to decide whether he or she will admit you into the class.
In the case of the seminars the department caps the seminars at 15 students and does not admit students to closed seminars. The size limitation is to insure that students have the opportunity to work on a more individual basis with a faculty member than they have had in the (mostly large) lecture courses.
If you absolutely must take a course, then you should make sure you register for it as soon as possible.
It is the registration period and the course that I want to take next semester has no day or time listed. Can anyone in the department tell me what the day and time of the class will be?
No. If the department had that information then it would be posted on the Registrar’s Directory of classes page. The reason that no day and time is listed for a course is usually because no instructor has yet been assigned to the course or the assigned instructor is no longer teaching the class. At Columbia the registration period is very early. Often times the department has not finished hiring new faculty members for the following year when the registration period begins. By listing the course, the department is making a commitment to staff the course in the following semester. However, the staffing decision is usually not made until just before the semester begins. The day and time of the class are not established until after an instructor has agreed to do the course.
Does the department have syllabi for the courses offered by the department?
No. Many faculty members post their syllabi on their personal webpages. Please see the faculty page on the department website for links to the individual faculty webpages. Alternatively, if you are registered for the class, then you can check the Course-works page for your class where the syllabus might be posted.
Can I take one of the 6000 level courses in the economics department?
In order to take one of the 6000 level courses, you must have the permission of the director of graduate studies (see the department’s home page). Please note that in order to take one of these courses, you must have completed all of your core courses in economics, Calculus I-III, Linear Algebra, GU4061 Intro to Modern Analysis, and a statistics course at the 3000 level or higher.
Who should I get to write a recommendation letter?
The best recommendation letters are from faculty members who are familiar with your work outside of your test scores. You can ask a faculty member in any department to write you a letter, although you should have at least one from a member of the economics department. If you do not have 3 recommendations from economists, then a recommendation from a quantitative or analytical department (such as mathematics or statistics) is also helpful. Because so many lecture courses in the economics department are large, it is difficult to find a member of the economics department that will be familiar with you and your abilities. Thus, it is strongly recommended that you take your senior seminar no later than the fall of your senior year, or that you write a senior honors thesis. You should also seek out research opportunities that will give you the opportunity to work more closely with a faculty member.
Should I speak with anyone in the department regarding my plans for graduate school?
Yes. You should speak with your advisor regarding your graduate school plans. In the fall semester of your senior year, you should also speak with the director of undergraduate studies and with the Dean in the fellowship office of the college who may be able to assist you in applying for fellowships for graduate study.
Are there any math or statistics electives that will better prepare me for graduate school?
If you are thinking of going to graduate school, then you should certainly take MATH GU4061: GU4062 Introduction to Modern Analysis (or at least the first semester of the class) and one of the year long sequences in probability and statistics at the 3000 level or higher (or again at least the first semester if you already have a 4000 level statistics class). Other good choices in the math department (but not as essential as the analysis course) are UN3027: Ordinary Differential Equations, GU4051: Basic Topology, GU4071: Intro to the Mathematics of Finance, and GU4081: Intro to Differentiable Manifolds. In the engineering school you will find IEOR UN3106/GU4106 Intro to Operations Research: Stochastic Models and APMA GU4101 Introduction to Dynamical Systems.
Are there any electives in the economics department that will better prepare me for graduate school?
When choosing electives, you should choose courses in the fields that most interest you in economics. When applying to graduate schools, one of the considerations is the field that you intend to study while at graduate school. By choosing courses that you are interested in, you will get an early preview of these fields in economics, which may influence your decision about which graduate school to attend.
The department also offers three advanced theory courses to prepare students for graduate work in economics. The advanced courses are designed to bridge the gap between the intermediate level courses and first year graduate courses. Two other courses that are generally useful in graduate school are Game Theory and the Economics of Uncertainty and Information. At all graduate schools, both of these topics are a significant part of the first year microeconomics sequence. For additional course suggestions see the Sample Programs page. Finally, students considering graduate work often take two senior seminars or take a seminar and write a senior thesis to maximize their exposure to research and writing in economics.
I am thinking of going to graduate school in economics. How should I prepare myself to enter a Ph.D. program?
One of the greatest problems that economics majors have when they go to graduate school in economics is that they have an inadequate background in mathematics. In order to better prepare our students for a good Ph.D. program, the economics department has established joint majors with both the mathematics department and the statistics department. Any student considering a Ph.D. in economics should consider declaring in one of these joint majors. See the bulletin for details regarding these joint majors.
The minimal math background for any prospective graduate student in economics is Calculus I-III, Linear Algebra, a probability course (3000 level or higher) and a statistics course (3000 level or higher).
Department Honors and Prizes
What prizes does the economics department award?
The department awards three prizes. The Parker prize is awarded to the best student that will be continuing his or her studies in an economics Ph.D. program. If you would like to be considered for this prize, then you should contact the director of undergraduate studies in the spring semester of your senior year. The two Romine prizes are awarded for the best paper in a senior seminar and the best senior thesis. If you would like to be considered for these prizes, then you should speak with your faculty supervisor (or seminar instructor) before the end of the semester. This is especially critical in the spring semester, since the prizes are determined two weeks before the end of the semester. Hence, you may need to complete your paper earlier than the deadline imposed by the instructor in order to be considered for the prize.
If I write an honors thesis do, I still have to take a seminar?
No, you do not need to take a seminar if you complete your thesis.
What if I drop out of the honors program after the fall semester?
You will receive R credit for the fall semester for the course, and you will need to take a senior seminar to complete your major.
When should I start thinking about my honors thesis?
You should start thinking of a topic for your thesis during the spring semester of your junior year. You should also speak with (or e-mail) a professor who you think would be interested in sponsoring your thesis. A list of the faculty members and their research interests is available on the faculty information page. You should also contact the director of undergraduate studies before the end of the spring semester to inform him or her of your intention of pursuing an honors thesis.
In the fall of your senior year, you and your faculty supervisor will set up a working schedule so that you can complete your honors thesis before the end of your spring semester. In addition, the instructor of the honors seminar will provide you with a time-table for completing a variety of landmarks during the year to insure that you are making good progress on your thesis. When completed, you will submit a bound copy of your thesis to the director of undergraduate studies, the honors seminar instructor and to your faculty advisor to be considered for both departmental honors, as well as the Romine Prize. You will find a more complete timeline on the honors and prizes page of this website.
What is an honors thesis? How do I select a topic? What is the honors thesis seminar?
Each student writing an honors thesis works on a one-on-one basis with his or her faculty advisor. The honors thesis seminar does not meet each week. Instead the instructor of the seminar will distribute a schedule of meetings that will take place throughout the seminar at a regularly scheduled time (the time is posted in the directory of classes). Students writing a senior thesis in economics must be able to attend the honors seminar when it meets. During the seminar thesis writers will be required to present their research at various stages of the thesis and to take questions from the seminar participants.
The honors thesis should represent a substantial amount of individual research on a topic of your own choosing. The topic that you choose should be both one that you are particularly motivated to study and with which you already have some familiarity. Your familiarity with the subject may arise from either a classroom or a work experience. Your faculty advisor will help focus your topic but he or she will not give you a topic.
How do I get departmental honors?
The department nominates individuals for departmental honors, but the final decision is made by the dean’s office. In order to be nominated, you need to have a minimum GPA of 3.7 in the major–both before you are registered for the Honors Thesis and at the end of your senior year (please refer to the Grades section for information on your major GPA), and to receive at least an A- in GU4999: Senior Honors Thesis. Note that GU4999 is a full-year course where you will work under the supervision of an individual faculty member. In order to register for GU4999, you will need the approval of the director of undergraduate studies. If you are interested in the honors program you should consult with the director of undergraduate studies in the spring of your junior year.
What courses are included in my departmental GPA?
All of your economics courses in the economics department, the Barnard economics department, and your required courses in the mathematics and statistics departments are included in the calculation of your major GPA.
What should I do if I receive a grade lower than a C- in Intermediate Microeconomics: UN3211 or Intermediate Macroeconomics: UN3213?
You must retake the course in the following semester. In the semester that you retake UN3211 (W3213), you may register for a course which has UN3211 (W3213) as a prerequisite, provided you have completed all of the other prerequisites for the course.
May I take any of my economics, mathematics or statistics courses pass/D/fail?
The only course that you may take pass/D/fail is Principles of Economics: UN1105 and you must receive a P. If you take another required course pass/D/fail before becoming an economics major, joint major or concentrator, then you must “uncover” your grade. Please note that once a grade is uncovered, it must remain so. For more information, please contact your class dean or your GS advisor.
If I get a grade lower than a C- in a course, will the department accept the credits from that course towards my economics major, joint major or concentration?
No. You must receive at least a C- to receive credit towards your major. This includes your mathematics and statistics courses and any transfer credits from other schools.
Are there faculty in the department who can advise?
Yes. Students may request a personal faculty advisor to discuss academic or career goals. Faculty advisors will discuss course selection to meet intellectual goals and interests, as well as career or research options. Faculty advisors will not discuss major requirements – that is the role of the graduate student advisors. If you plan on attending a PhD program in economics or pursuing economics research after graduation, then it is recommended that you request a faculty advisor. To request a faculty advisor, go to the Advisors page for instructions.
Are advisors available all year?
No, advisors are available only during the fall and spring semesters. There is no in-person advising during the summer, but students are welcome to send their questions to
Who can I talk to about transfer credits?
For information about transfer credits, students must read the Transfer credit information page and proceed accordingly. The Transfer credit page details the guidelines for transfer credit acceptance, application process to request departmental transfer credit approval, deadlines for application submission, and required course materials to be submitted along with the application. All transfer credits that students intend to use to satisfy any required courses for the major or concentration must be approved in writing by the department. Please note that advisors (graduate student and faculty advisors) cannot advise on transfer credit matters.
What can I speak to the advisors about?
Advisors are available to speak to students about major requirements, course selection, scheduling, progress in the major, and other subjects related to the major or concentration. Advisors, however, cannot advise students on transfer credit matters.
If I am not a major, joint major, or concentrator in the economics department, can I still speak to an advisor in the department?
Yes. All students (majors, non-majors, declared, undeclared) are welcome to speak to an advisor in the department.
If I have questions and cannot meet with an advisor during the weekly advising hours, what should I do?
The department has an email address where students can send their questions:
Questions will be answered in a prompt manner.
How do I find out who my major advisor is and when he or she is available to meet me?
The department has graduate student advisors during the academic year who hold weekly advising hours. The weekly advising schedule may be found in the Advisors webpage. All students are welcome to speak in person to the advisors. Additional advising hours are held during the fall and spring registration periods and at the beginning of each semester; these hours will be posted on the Advisors page.
What kinds of courses can I get transfer credit towards my economics degree?
The department gives transfer credit for only those courses that are similar to courses in the department. Although the decision is made on a case-by-case basis there are some general guidelines. To get transfer credits for either Intermediate Micro or Intermediate Macro the course must be calculus based and have an introductory course as a prerequisite. To get credit for Econometrics the course must have a statistics course as a prerequisite. No business-oriented classes (such as a marketing or management course) are acceptable with the exception of financial economics and corporate finance. Any elective that does not have Intermediate Micro or Intermediate Macro as a prerequisite can be credited at most at the 2000 level. Courses offered in departments other than economics departments can at most be credited at the 2000 level.
If I took only one semester of a two-semester sequence of an introductory economics course at another institution, then do I still have to take principles at Columbia?
If you completed one semester (either Principles of Intermediate Macro or Principles of Intermediate Micro), then you still need to take a semester of Principles here.
If I took a yearlong (two semester) introductory economics course at another school, will both courses count towards my economics major?
No, only one course will count towards the major and it will replace your Principles requirement.
How many courses may I receive transfer credit for?
Beginning with the students who declared in Spring 2011, there are new rules regarding the number of transfer credits that a student may take to fulfill major requirements. The department now limits the total number of lecture courses that may be taken outside of the department for major credit. All majors, financial economics majors, and joint majors (other than the joint major with philosophy) must take a minimum of 5 lecture courses in the Columbia economics department. Concentrators and joint majors with philosophy must take a minimum of 4 lecture courses in the Columbia economics department. The remaining lecture course requirements may be fulfilled with AP (or IB) credit, Barnard electives, transfer courses or study abroad courses (the last two are subject to departmental review – see the Transfer Credit section of the FAQ page for more information). The following table summarizes the new requirements:
|Program||# Lecture Courses1||Min # in Department2||Max # Outside3|
1. Lecture courses do not include seminars which must be taken in the department. The lecture course counts are counts of economics courses only, they do not include math, statistics or courses in other departments. There is also no change in the rule that no more than one course may be taken at the 2000 level.
2. There is no change in the rule that at least 2 of the 3 3000 level core courses must be taken in the department and no corresponding Barnard courses will be accepted. UN3025 and UN3265 will continue to be counted as departmental courses regardless of the instructor.
3. Outside courses include AP (IB) credits for Principles (1 class), transfer credits for Principles (1 class even if it was a two semester sequence), Barnard 2000 and 3000 level elective courses and transfer credits from other universities.
What information do I need to get approval in the department for my transfer credits?
If you are thinking of taking a course at another institution (either study abroad or a summer class) while you are a Columbia student, then you will meet with the study abroad advisor in the department of economics. Before taking the course, you should meet with the study abroad advisor and discuss what classes you consider taking. You should bring with you either syllabi or course descriptions of the classes to that meeting. At that time, you will receive preliminary approval for those classes. When you return to Columbia after taking the class, you will again meet with the study abroad advisor to get final approval. To receive final approval, you must bring a syllabus and examples of your coursework demonstrating that the course was equivalent to its Columbia counterpart. You must get final approval in order for your transfer class(es) to be credited towards your major or concentration.
If you have already taken the course, then you will first meet with your CC or GS advisor. He or she will give you a memo (also available online on the Transfer Credit page of the department website) that outlines what materials you need to supply with your application for transfer credits.
If the University does not accept my transfer credits from another institution, then will the department accept them?
If the University accepted my credits for economics, mathematics or statistics courses that I took at another institution, then will they automatically be credited towards my economics degree at Columbia?
No. You must apply for transfer credit approval from the individual departments in order for these credits to count towards the economics major. In the case of economics classes and Calculus I (from an American university or college), you must apply for transfer credits from the department of economics. For courses in mathematics (other than Calculus I) or statistics, you must get approval from these departments and have them notify the economics department regarding your transfer credits.
Who should I contact in the department regarding my transfer credits?
There are two advisors in the department who approve transfer credits. If you would like to receive credits for courses taken prior to enrolling at Columbia University, then you should speak with your CC or GS advisor about applying for transfer credit approval from the economics department. If you would like to receive credits for a course taken at another institution while you are a student at Columbia (e.g. study abroad credits) then you should see the study abroad advisor in the department of economics. Contact information for the study abroad advisor can be found on the Advisors page on this website.
The program that I am interested in has yearlong courses. How will transfer credits from yearlong courses be handled in the department?
The number of credits granted for a yearlong course by the College and by the department will not necessarily be the same. The College may grant you credit for 2 courses when you take a yearlong course but the department may only grant you credit for 1 course. The decision on whether or not to grant credits for two courses is made on a case by case basis. In each case the department makes the determination of whether or not a particular course is broad enough to cover two separate courses at Columbia. If so, then the department will grant credits for two courses.
Should I see my advisor before I go abroad?
Yes, you should meet with the study abroad advisor in the department before you leave to get preliminary approvals for any classes that you would like to take while you are abroad. The study abroad advisor holds special office hours during the semester to give transfer credit approvals. Please check the advisor page on this website for the office hours this semester. You may also discuss your course selections with your departmental advisor but you must still get the official approvals from the study abroad advisor. Please refer to the section on Transfer Credits for more information.
Can I take business courses abroad and count those courses towards my economics degree at Columbia?
The only acceptable business courses are the courses that are similar to the ones that we offer here which are: 1) financial economics; 2) corporate finance and: 3) financial accounting (provided you are a financial economics major). No other business-oriented classes will be credited towards your economics major or concentration even if the College accepts the credit towards your degree.
If I would like to study abroad in my junior year then how should I arrange my schedule prior to the semester that I would like to spend abroad?
You should complete all of your 3000-level core courses (Intermediate Micro, Intermediate Macro and econometrics) before studying abroad. The department will only credit core courses that are the equivalent of the ones that we offer here at Columbia. Many schools do not offer courses that we consider equivalent (for a list of the criteria see the Transfer Credit section above). It is much easier to find elective courses that the department will approve.
Internships, Independent Study, and Research Credit
Does research credit count as an elective?
How do I register for Research Credit?
After you have spoken with a faculty member about your independent study or research credit and that faculty member has agreed to supervise you, then you must contact the director of undergraduate studies to get final approval for your project.
What faculty members may give me research credit?
Any project advertised by the department is eligible for research credit. In addition, if a faculty member in the economics department, the Barnard department, the department of economics and finance in the business school, or the department of international and public affairs would like to hire you as a research assistant, then that faculty member must submit a request to the director of undergraduate studies to grant you research credit.
What is research credit?
Research credit is given to a student that works on an ongoing faculty member’s research project. Faculty members occasionally need assistants to do research and data work on projects that are developed by the faculty member. Information regarding faculty in need of research assistants can be found on the bulletin boards in the economics department and the Research Opportunities page, is distributed on the major list serve and is posted on the department at Wiki space, http://econinfoforstudents.wikispaces.columbia.edu/.
Do independent study courses count as electives?
What faculty members can supervise my independent study?
Any faculty member in the department of economics or the Barnard department of economics may supervise your independent study. In addition, members of the department of economics and finance in the Business School and some members of the department of international and public affairs may also supervise your study. In the latter two cases the director of undergraduate studies will determine if the faculty member is a suitable supervisor.
How do I register for Independent Study?
After you have spoken with a faculty member about your independent study or research credit and that faculty member has agreed to supervise you, then you must see the director of undergraduate studies to get final approval for your project. Before meeting with the director, you should send her/him an e-mail with your name and the name of the faculty member that you will be working with.
What is independent study?
Independent study is a course of study developed by a student with the guidance of a faculty member. An independent study generally focuses on a topic that is more specialized than the courses offered in the department. For example, a student interested in microfinance who has already taken a course in development may continue to study microfinance with the assistance of an interested faculty member. If you are interested in pursuing a particular topic as an independent study you need to contact a faculty member and arrange for that faculty member to supervise your work. Information about the research interests of the faculty members can be found on the faculty information page on the department’s Web site.
Does the department grant college credit for an internship?
No. The department does not grant any credits for internships. If you need credits for an internship you should discuss the issue with your CC or GS advisor.
Can I count credits from my internship towards my economics degree?
No. The department does not accept any credits from internships.
Does the department have an internship program?
No. Information regarding internships is available at the Center for Career Education and on the departmental Wiki space, http://econinfoforstudents.wikispaces.columbia.edu/ (you will be asked to login to access this website).
Information for Non-Majors, including Freshman and Sophomores
Are there any other sources of information about studying economics at the College for non-majors?
Yes, the College has an informative Major Advising Web page which allows you to review all of the requirements of the economics department and to compare those to all of the other departments.
I am an older student who declared as an economics major late. Can I take some of my courses out of sequence in order to complete my major on time?
In general, the answer is no–the department will not allow you to take courses out of sequence. However, you should see your advisor and discuss the matter with him or her, and he or she may be able to help you structure a program that will allow you to graduate on time but will not sacrifice your economics education. When meeting with your advisor be sure to bring a copy of your transcript(s) and a major checklist with you.
Since I am not a declared major and don’t have an advisor yet in the economics department, whom should I contact regarding questions that I may have about studying economics?
The best sources for information about economics are your economics professors and the teaching assistants assigned to your economics courses. You should feel free to talk to them regarding your interest in pursuing economics. They may not be able to answer specific questions about the requirements of the economics major (that is the purpose of the bulletin and this Web page), but they can certainly tell you why they chose to study economics and what they think the study of economics will add to your undergraduate education.
How do I know if I am making good progress towards the completion of my economics major?
In general, you should complete Principles of economics and your math requirements in your freshman year. In your sophomore year you should complete the two intermediate level theory courses and your statistics requirement. If you have completed these requirements by the fall of your junior year then you will have two full years to finish econometrics (do it as early as possible), take your electives (and you will have a wide selection to choose from over the two years) and your senior seminar (or two). You will be able to easily accommodate studying abroad for at least one semester in this schedule. Finally, if you decide you want to continue studying in economics in graduate school this schedule will leave you plenty of room to complete your major and take the necessary upper level math and statistics courses (see the Graduate School section).
I am a sophomore who is considering an economics major. What courses should I take before declaring as an economics major?
The department expects that every student that declares as an economics major in the spring of his or her sophomore year will have completed the math requirement, principles of economics and at least one of Intermediate Micro or Intermediate Macro (and preferably both). In the fall semester of your junior year, you should take the remaining of your intermediate courses (if any) and either Statistics or Econometrics (if you have already completed your statistics requirement). If you take statistics in the fall semester of your junior year, then you must take econometrics in the spring semester of your junior year; Econometrics must be completed before your senior year.
Why do you require Calculus I and III but not II? Do I still need to take Calculus II?
As many of you know calculus is divided into two subjects, differential and integral calculus. In your economics courses, you will rely heavily on differential calculus involving functions of one and several variables and only rarely will you see integral calculus (and very simple integral calculus). Calculus I is an introduction to the differential and integral calculus of functions of one variable. Calculus III is an introduction to the differential calculus of functions of several variables. Calculus II covers advanced topics in integral calculus of functions of one variable. Hence, only Calculus I and III are more relevant for your economics degree, and the math department has designed the calculus sequence so that you can go directly from Calculus I to III. However, students who do poorly in Calculus I will not be allowed to directly enroll in III, where they would have to compete with students that have an additional semester of college-level math. Please see the department of mathematics web site for more information regarding placement in the calculus sequence.
I am a freshman and am thinking about possibly majoring in economics. What courses should I take in my freshman year?
In your freshman year, the most important courses to take are your math courses and Principles of Economics. Ideally, you should finish your math requirement (Calculus I and Calculus III) no later than the fall semester of your sophomore year. Please see the web site of the department of mathematics for information regarding AP credits and placement in the calculus sequence. In addition, if you do not already have advanced placement or transfer credit for Principles of Economics, you should take Principles of Economics either in your first year or the fall semester of your sophomore year.
Engineering Students and the SEAS minor
Please note that the department of economics does not oversee your requirements for the economics minor. If you have questions regarding your minor requirements you should speak with your advisor in the engineering school or in the class center.
Since I am an engineering student and don’t have an advisor in the economics department, who can I ask if I have questions regarding economics courses?
A great source of information about economics courses are your economics professors and teaching assistants. They may not know the specifics of the requirements of your degree but they do know a lot about the content of the courses offered at Columbia.
On the Sample Programs page of this website you will find courses grouped by interest to help you select your elective courses. Finally, if you are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in economics, then you should consult with the director of undergraduate studies as well as read the section on graduate school in this FAQ.
Where do I find information regarding the requirements of the SEAS minor?
The requirements for the SEAS minor are listed in the engineering school bulletin. In the listing, you will find the list of required core courses (which are the same as the economics major, so please refer to the above section of 3000-level core courses) and a complete list of elective courses that you can take to fulfill your elective requirements. Please note that you must choose your courses from the list provided in the SEAS bulletin only. Courses not listed in the SEAS bulletin cannot be taken for credit towards the SEAS minor.
If I am a SEAS minor, do I have an advisor in the Economics Department?
No, you do not have an advisor in the department. If you have any problems with your minor, you should see your class dean or your advisor in the Engineering School.
If I am an engineering student and would like to transfer credit for an economics course from another institution, then who would I get to approve my transfer?
There are no transfer credits accepted for the economics minor in engineering with the exception of AP (or IB) credit for Principles of economics. If you are taking an economics course to fulfill your engineering degree requirements, then your advisor in SEAS or your class dean will approve the transfer. If he or she is uncertain as to whether the course is acceptable, then he or she should contact the economics department to find out more information. Your advisor should not send you to the economics department to get this information.
Teaching Assistants and Tutors
I am having difficulty in one of my classes. Where can I get additional help?
First, you should attend recitations (and ask questions) and take advantage of the office hours of both the teaching assistants associated with your course and of your professor. We hold office hours to answer your questions and to assist you in understanding the material. If you believe that you need more assistance than can be provided in recitations and office hours, then you can hire a private tutor. Please refer to the Tutors page on the web site for a list of graduate students in economics that offer tutoring services. The students will list the subjects that they are interested in teaching. Often times your professor or the teaching assistants for your class can help you choose one of the tutors from the list (please bring the list with you when you discuss this matter with them). The teaching assistants assigned to your class are prohibited from tutoring you for money. Also note that the department does not establish the pay rate of tutors. The rate is a matter of negotiation between you and the graduate student.
How do I apply for an undergraduate teaching assistant position?
Each semester the department hires 15-20 undergraduates to work alongside our graduate teaching assistants. Two to three weeks before the beginning of each semester the department sends out an email announcing the positions that are available. If you are interested in serving as a TA, you should respond to that email.
What should I do if I have a problem with my teaching assistant?
First, please remember that your teaching assistants are also students and like you they often have many assignments to complete or exams to study for at the same time. If a problem arises with your TA in a recitation or in office hours, then you should first speak directly with the TA. For example, if you feel that the TA ignored you or your question in a recitation, then simply approach the TA after class and tell him or her. Most times the TA will not even realize that he or she did anything wrong. If after speaking with the TA you are not satisfied with his or her response, then you should mention this to the professor who will speak with the TA directly. If you have a problem with the way that an assignment was graded or with the (un)timely fashion that a graded assignment was returned, then you should again first speak with the TA. In many of the classes there are multiple TAs, which means that each assistant only grades some or parts of each assignment. Your TA should be able to direct you to the appropriate person (including the professor) who will be able to answer your grading questions. If the assignments are handed back consistently late or if solution sets are incorrect (or nonexistent), then you should speak with the professor so that he or she can correct the problem.
What are the responsibilities of my teaching assistant?
The responsibilities of the assistants will vary depending on the needs of the course and the wishes of the professor. In the core courses the teaching assistants will hold recitation sections and office hours as well as grade homework assignments and exams. Professors oversee both the material presented in recitation and the grading of all assignments. In the elective courses some assistants will still hold recitation sections and office hours if the professor deems them necessary. Otherwise the assistants will grade.
You should also note that teaching assistants are extremely knowledgeable about the study of economics and the economics department at Columbia. They are a great source of information about the courses, the professors and the choice of courses to fit a variety of goals. They are not necessarily knowledgeable about the requirements of the various economics degrees.
Where do I find the name of the teaching assistant(s) assigned to my class?
Simply check the List of Teaching Assistants page on this web site. Teaching assistants are listed by course on this page. The page will also give you the e-mail address of your assistant.
Joint Majors and Financial Economics Majors
I am undecided between an economics major and an economics joint major. When do I need to make this decision?
Because the study of economics is highly structured at the beginning, all of the majors, concentrations and joint majors start with the same basic courses. The differences between the majors arise when you begin to take electives and seminars in the department. So you can begin your study of economics and choose your particular major only as your interests develop. Once you have selected a joint major, make sure that you are familiar with the requirements as they pertain to your particular major. Note that some courses are accepted towards the economics major that are not accepted for particular joint majors. In particular, the joint major with philosophy and the financial economics major have restricted lists of electives and you must select your electives from that list so you should read your requirements carefully.
I am a financial economics major. Do I have a specific advisor in the economics department or do I see a major advisor?
You have an assigned financial economics major advisor. You can find the name and contact information for your advisor on the Advisors page of this website.
I am a joint major in economics. Do I have an advisor in the economics department?
Yes, all joint majors have advisors in both departments. You can find the name and contact information for your advisor on the Advisors page of this website. Note that although both of your advisors can assist you in selecting courses to fit your interests, advisors can only waive requirements in their own departments. So if you would like a requirement in the economics department waived (or clarified), then you should consult with your advisor in economics.
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