The Economics Student Handbook contains a wealth of information about economics at Amherst. If you are an economics major or are considering declaring the major, you should pick up a paper copy in the department office or look at the pdf version using the menu to the left.

We have also created a brief Advising Hub that condenses some of the most essential information about economics at Amherst into one short read. You can find it on the menu at the left.

To declare an economics major please see Amy Johnson in the Economics Department Office (306A Converse Hall). To process the paperwork, an unofficial transcript and declaration of major form are needed.

Major Program

A major in economics comprises a sequence of courses that begins with Economics 111, a survey of current economic issues and problems and an introduction to the basic tools essential for all areas of economics. Economics 111 is a requisite for all other courses in economics; and for many courses there is no other requisite. After completing Economics 111 a student may enroll in any of a variety of applied courses. Students may be excused from the requirement of taking Economics 111 if they demonstrate an adequate understanding of basic economic principles. Four specific ways of being excused from the Economics 111 requirement are:

  1. Attaining a grade of 4 or 5 on both the macro and micro portion of the Advanced Placement Exam;
  2. Passing a placement exam that is given by the department typically at the beginning of each semester;
  3. Attaining a grade of 6 or 7 on the higher level International Baccalaureate in Economics.
  4. Attaining a grade of A on the A levels.

In addition to Economics 111, all majors must complete the sequence of core theory courses:  Economics 300 or 301, 330 or 331, and 360 or 361.  These courses can be taken in any order, but it is recommended that a student take Economics 300/301 or 330/331 before enrolling in Economics 360/361.  In addition, it is not generally advisable to take more than one of the core theory courses in a given semester.

Majors must take a total of nine full-semester courses in economics, which include Economics 111, the core theory courses, and at least one upper level elective numbered 400-490 (honors students must take two upper level electives, which does not include the thesis seminar in the fall of senior year). Mathematics 111 or equivalent is required in addition.  Honors students must take a total of ten courses.  Please note that there is no minimum required number of lower level electives numbered 200-290.  For example, a student can satisfy the elective requirements by taking only upper level electives (assuming the student has attained a grade of B or better in Economics 111, see section below on "Requirements for Declaring an Economics Major").  

The core theory courses and the required upper level elective course(s) must be completed at Amherst.  In exceptional circumstances (study abroad is not an exception), a student may be permitted to substitute a non-Amherst course for one of the core courses.  Such exceptions are considered only if a written request is submitted to the Department Chair prior to initiating the other work.

Credit for Five College Courses:  To receive elective credit for five college economics courses, the course must have a Economics 111/Introduction to Economics prerequisite.  Please check with your advisor if you have questions about specific courses.

Credit for Study Abroad Courses: Courses taken abroad may be used as elective courses.  Such non-Amherst courses must be taught in an economics department, and the student must receive one full Amherst College course credit for the work.  For more detailed information, see the "Study Abroad" section in left-hand column of this page.

Transfer Credit: Students who transfer to Amherst and wish to receive credit towards the major requirements for previous work must obtain written permission from the Department Chair.

Each candidate for a degree in Economics is required to pass a written comprehensive examination that is typically taken at the beginning of the spring semester of the senior year.  This is one reason why it is important to finish the three core classes by the end of the junior year.

Requirements for Declaring an Economics Major

In addition to the requirements described above, students must attain a grade of B or better in Economics 111 or a grade of B- or better in an Amherst College economics elective (numbered 200-290) before being allowed to register for a core course (numbered 300-361) or to add the economics major.  Entering students who pass out of Economics 111 may register for a core course with consent of the instructor.