Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to frequently asked questions by high school students and parents.

Attending an undergraduate economics program information session on campus is one of the best ways to have your questions answered. For those who do not have the opportunity to visit, we have compiled a list of answers to frequently asked questions about our curriculum.

Click here for a list of answers to questions frequently asked about the life of an undergraduate economics major.

  • Are incoming students expected to have studied economics in high school?

    Absolutely not.  

  • Are there books that might inform me about economics?

    To gain an understanding of how economists structure the world, you might enjoy reading the following popular books. These books are not only highly entertaining, they are grounded in economic theory (particularly rational choice).

    • Tim Hartford's The Undercover Economist
    • Stephen D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics
    • Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson's Spousonomics
    • Stephen E. Landsburg's The Armchair Economist: Economics and Everyday Life

    Those interested in behavioral economics might want to read Daniel Ariely's Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions.

    To get a sense of how economics is formally studied, you can read the following first-year level textbooks:

    • Jeffrey M. Perloff's Microeconomics: Theory and Applications with Calculus
    • Robert Serrano and Allan M. Feldman's A Short Course in Intermediate Microeconomics with Calculus
    • Stephen D. Williamson's Macroeconomics
  • Can economics students pursue additional majors and minors?

    The majority of our students supplement their primary majors with study abroad experiences and/or by pursuing an additional major or minor degrees. Recent additional degrees our students have earned are: 

     Business Administration

     Decision Sciences

     Cognitive Psychology

     Computational Finance

     Computer Sciences

     Creative Writing

     Global Studies

     Human Computer Interaction

     Information Systems

     Instrumental Performance (for students transferring from the College of Fine Arts into our program)

     International Relations and Politics


     Modern Languages (including Chinese Studies, French and Francophone Studies, Hispanic Studies)

     Policy and Management

     Professional Writing


  • Do I have to be an economics major to take economics courses?

    Our classes are open to the entire Carnegie Mellon undergraduate population. We encourage all students to take Principles of Economics so that they may become more informed citizens of the world. Our intermediate and upper level courses are frequently taken by non-majors. The mixture of majors and non-majors in the classroom contributes to Carnegie Mellon's strong culture of interdisciplinary collaboration. 

  • How many of your graduating students knew they wanted to major in economics?

    Many of our graduates did not know upon admission that they wanted to major in economics. Through taking our entry-level courses, students may find that they are interested in using economic theory and quantitative analysis to understand and forecast behavior. Students in good academic standing, whether a Dietrich College or Tepper School student or not, have the potential to transfer into the undergraduate economics program.

  • How much writing is expected in the program?

    Being a successful communicator (in written, oral and graphical forms) is paramount to effective leadership and exchange of ideas. Our Writing for Economists is one of the nation's few undergraduate rhetoric courses that focuses on training economics students to be mindful of their audiences when writing. Our goal is to graduate students who will be able to take an idea and be able to explain it to varied audiences (e.g., professionals, local newspaper readers, national magazine readers, etc.). By the time students reach our intermediate and upper level courses, they are expected to be clear thinkers and clear writers.

  • Is it possible to pursue an economics degree and participate in Science and Humanities program or the Quantitative Social Science Scholars program?

    The Science and Humanities Program and the Quantitative Social Science Scholars Program are college-level and cross-university honors programs. Both of these programs compliment the economics curriculum and can be completed along with any of the economics degrees. 
  • Upon entering Carnegie Mellon as a freshman, do I need to know which of the economics majors I want to pursue?

    Incoming freshmen do not need to know which of the economics majors they would like to pursue. The first year curriculum for the four degrees is very similar. As students become involved in their course work, participate in the extracurricular activities sponsored by the undergraduate economics program, and discuss their experiences with faculty and advisors, the decision of which degree to pursue becomes clearer.
  • Will your majors prepare me for graduate school?

    The degrees offered by the undergraduate economics program have been successful in preparing students for admission into the most competitive doctoral and masters programs in economics, biostatistics, business administration, development economics, finance, informatics, international economics, law, linguistics, mathematics, medicine, public policy and statistics. For more detailed information about graduate school for Carnegie Mellon economics majors, please visit our careers page.