Website Accessiblity

Information for First-Year Students

Dear Class of 2017,

Welcome to Carnegie Mellon University.

This is an exciting time in your life. For many of you, it is the first time you are able to choose your own courses. So, how does one create an academic schedule?  First,  reflect on your interests and assess your strengths and deficiencies. Second, become informed about the possible areas of study at Carnegie Mellon. Third, you need to understand that your mental models of academic disciplines that were formed in high school are no longer relevant at Carnegie Mellon. For example, although there are only nine department in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, there are thirty-one possible primary majors in Dietrich. Fourth, talk with faculty, classmates, and staff.

For those of you who have decided to focus on economics, let me explain to you how to structure your first two years of study at Carnegie Mellon. As you know, economics is a social science. Economists bring structure to complex social and technical problems. Economists look at the world around them, and use their "economic toolbox" to provide solutions to today's problems.

Which degree should I pursue?

Two questions that first year students often have are: "What courses should I take as a freshman that will allow me to pursue degree in economics?" and "How do I know which of the four economics degrees offered best suits my interests, skills, and career aspirations?" Students are not expected to know which degree option they wish to pursue. First–year students are not expected to know which degree option they wish to pursue. As students become involved in their course work, participate in the extra– and co–curricular activities sponsored by the Undergraduate Economics Program, and talk with their AAC and an economics advisor, the decision of which degree to pursue becomes evident. Because of the highly sequenced nature of the four degree programs, students are encouraged to meet with their AAC advisor and an economics advisor early in their career at CMU

How should I sequence my courses?

Below you will find a table listing the courses that students interested in Economics should take during their first two years at Carnegie Mellon.   What you will notice is that it is not until the first term of the sophomore year, that the B.A. in Economics, B.S. in Economics, B.S. in Economics and Mathematical Sciences, and B.S. in Economics and Statistics curricula diverge in a significant manner. During the first two terms, all students interested in pursuing an economics degree essentially take the same set of courses. The decision about which degree to pursue need not happen until after students have taken Principle of Economics and Intermediate Microeconomics. This allows students the opportunity to explore their strengths before choosing a curricular path.

The depth to which one may study economics relies also on the depth of one's studies in statistics, probability, and mathematics. The economics curriculum is highly sequenced, and students need to be aware of how the courses fit together. Below you will find three flowcharts and one table that visually present how the courses fit together and how one might approach the four terms of coursework. Student interested in applying to the B.S. in Economics and Mathematical Science degree program should follow the B.S. in Economics flowchart during their first year.


Recommended Course Schedule During the First Four Semesters







1st Year

2nd Year







21-120 (Differential and Integral Calculus)

21-256 (Multivariate Analysis and Approximation)

21-122 (Integration, Differential Equations, and Approximation)
+Required for All B.S. Degrees+

Varied Depending on Degree Program

Economic Theory

73-100 (Principles of Economics)

73-230 (Intermediate Microeconomics)

73-240 (Intermediate Macroeconomics)

73-252/3 (Advanced Microeconomic Analysis/Advanced Macroeconomics Analysis)
+Required for All B.S. Degrees+

Probability and Statistics

36-201 (Statistical Reasoning and Practice)

36-202 (Statistical Methods)
+Required Only for the B.A. Degree+

I encourage all students interested in the social sciences to take this course.

36-225 (Introduction to Probability Theory)
+Required for All B.S. Degrees+

36-226  (IntroductionStatistical Inference)
+Required for All B.S. Degrees+

73-407 (Fundamentals of Statistical Modeling)
+Required Only for the B.A. Degree+

Math Placement

Many students arrive at Carnegie Mellon having taken A.P. calculus or 'college-level' calculus during their high school years. During the summer before the first semester on campus, students take a math placement test which is administered by the Department of Mathematics. The Undergraduate Economics Program prefers for students to remain in 21-120 because placement out of a mathematics course does not necessarily suggest that a student has a deep understanding of the material, nor can they apply the material in diverse scenarios.

Students placed into 21-111 should discuss with their AAC advisor and the economics advisor how they should structure their course schedule.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me. The most effective way to reach me is by e-mail,


Carol B. Goldburg, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Economics
Undergraduate Programs

Footer Navigation