Curriculum & Requirements

Requirements for the Major in Economics

The major consists of three core courses (Economics 255, 256, and 257), two advanced topics courses numbered in the 300s, at least one of which must be designated as a seminar, and two additional courses in economics numbered 200 or above. Only one of Economics 260 and 360 may be counted toward the economics major. Because Economics 101 is a prerequisite for Economics 102, and both are prerequisites for most other economics courses, most students will begin their work in economics with these introductory courses. Prospective majors are encouraged to take at least one core course by the end of the sophomore year, and all three core courses should normally be completed by the end of the junior year. Note that Economics 255 is a prerequisite to Economics 256. Advanced topics courses normally have some combination of Economics 255, 256, and 257 as prerequisites. Qualified students may undertake self-designed, interdisciplinary major programs or joint majors between economics and related fields of social analysis.

To fulfill the major (or minor) requirements in economics, or to serve as a prerequisite for non-introductory courses, a grade of C- or better must be earned in a course. Courses required for the major must be taken on a graded basis (not Credit/D/Fail).

All prospective majors and minors are required to complete Mathematics 161, or its equivalent, prior to enrolling in the core courses. Students who aspire to advanced work in economics (e.g., an honors thesis and/or graduate study in a discipline related to economics) are strongly encouraged to master multivariate calculus (Mathematics 181) and linear algebra (Mathematics 201) early in their careers. Such students are also encouraged to take Mathematics 265 instead of Economics 257 as a prerequisite for Economics 316. The Economics 257 requirement is waived for students who complete Mathematics 265 and Economics 316. Students should consult the Economics Department about other mathematics courses that are essential for advanced study in economics.

Requirements for the Minor in Economics

The minor consists of Economics 255, and any two additional courses numbered 200 or above.  Only one of Economics 260 and 360 may be counted toward the economics minor. To fulfill the minor requirements or to serve as a prerequisite for other courses, a grade of C- or better must be earned in a course.  Courses required for the minor must be taken on a graded basis (not Credit/D/Fail).

Requirements for the Minor in Economics and Finance

The minor in Economics and Finance consists of Economics 255, 260, and 360, and one additional course at the 200 or 300 level selected from among Economics 209238, 256, 257, 302, 306, 309, 355, 370 and an Intermediate or Advanced Independent Study as approved by the finance advisor. Since Economics 255 is a prerequisite for Economics 360 and other upper level economics courses, prospective minors are encouraged to complete 255 by the end of their sophomore year. To fulfill the minor requirements or to serve as a prerequisite for other courses, a grade of C- or better must be earned in a course. Courses required for the minor must be taken on a graded basis (not Credit/D/Fail).

Economics majors cannot also minor in Economics and Finance. Economics majors who complete the requirements for this minor will be provided language by the department to enable them to indicate that they have done so.

Requirements for an Interdisciplinary Major in Mathematics and Economics

  1. Six courses in mathematics as follows: Mathematics 181, 201, 225, 265; and two of Mathematics 224, 229, 264, 304.
  2. Either Computer Science 210 or Mathematics 235 or 244 or 305.
  3. Four courses in economics with a grade of C- or better, as follows: Economics 255, 256, 316, and one other 300-level course.

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Information for Economics Majors

The Economics Department encourages majors to consider independent research projects (Economics 401) as part of their major program. Projects can be an extension of work begun in an Economics 300 course. Each year the most promising independent studies are considered for departmental honors. The attached materials are intended to provide prospective majors with an understanding of the requirements and procedures for honors and also with ideas for research projects. You will see that the range of honors topics over the past ten years has been enormous. Members of the department also have a wide range of research interests and in recent years several students have developed honors projects based upon collaboration with faculty in their areas of research.

At any time prior to the senior year, feel free to discuss your prospective research interests and the honors program with your advisor.

An independent study either builds on previous course work or explores a topic not in the curriculum. It is, therefore, expected that students taking independent study will have already taken any existing courses in their area of interest if such a course exists.

An independent study may substitute for a 300-level course as a major requirement. However, this substitution is not automatic. (For example, there may be cases in which a 401 replicates standard course material so closely that it does not constitute a distinct course of study.) Once you and your advisor work out the structure of your 401, you may petition the Department for 300-level credit.

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Honors Requirements and Procedures

I. Goals

An honors project provides students the opportunity to engage in research with close supervision of a faculty member, and moves the student beyond classroom learning.

II. Requirements for Honors

Under present College procedures, the Economics Department can recommend to the Faculty that a degree with Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors in Eonomics be awarded to a student who has a distinguished record. Based upon a student's grades in economics courses and the quality of the honors project, the department may award "honors," "high honors," or "highest honors". Except in rare circumstances when the faculty advisor makes a case for special consideration, the criteria for awarding honors are as follows.

Honors requires either: the number of A grades in economics courses minus the number of C's (or D's) is at least one but less than four and the honors committee awards the project high honors; or the number of A grades minus the number of C's is at least four and the project is awarded honors.

High Honors requires: the number of A grades minus the number of C's is at least four and the project is awarded high honors.

Highest Honors is awarded to students who meet the criteria for high honors and also have truly exceptional grades and honors papers.

(Grade calculations include the grade assessed to the independent study and grades in other second semester senior year courses.)

III. The Honors Project

The Honors Project consists of a written report based on research in some area of economics. The report should discuss the relevance of the topic relate it to recent scholarly work in the field, use methods of analysis appropriate for an advanced student in economics, and contain some own contribution to the question addressed. The own contribution may consist of testing of a new hypothesis or new data, of a new model, or of an evaluation of existing analyses in a new context. The Honors Project should provide new insights into questions of interest to economists, other social scientists, or policy makers.

IV. Procedures

A. An economics major who expects to meet the grade requirements noted above and who wishes to do research leading to Department Honors should consult the member of the department in whose field the project would be. Ideally, preliminary discussion should take place the semester before undertaking the work. If the faculty member approves the project topic, the student registers for Economics 401.

B. Some honors quality projects can be completed in one semester, but most require two semesters -- one for thorough review and preparation of background materials and another for the development and/or testing of a hypothesis. In some cases, preparatory work may be done in a regular course, particularly at the 300-level. It is also conceivable that a project could be done outside the formal framework of Economics 401-402.

C. The college catalogue describes the general rules for independent study. The independent study registration form is available from Registrar.

D. During the semester(s) the student is enrolled in Economics 401 or 402, the student and faculty supervisor should meet regularly to discuss the progress of the work. In two semester projects, the faculty supervisor may require interim papers.

E. Prospective honors candidates will normally have an opportunity to present their work-in-progress to other Economics 400 students and faculty at an Honors Seminar.

F. In one semester projects, or in the concluding semester of two semester projects, a typed first draft of the project report should be ready for review by the faculty supervisor at least three weeks before the beginning of the reading period.

G. Following the faculty advisor's review of the first draft, the student should prepare a second draft taking account of criticisms and recommendations by the faculty supervisor. It is normal to expect substantial revision between the first and second drafts.

H. The second draft is due by the beginning of the reading period. The grade for Economics 401 and 402 will be based on this draft. This draft should be typed and in good form. An manual, such as A Manual for Writers of Papers, Theses, and Dissertations by Kate Turabian, should be consulted for proper form, documentation of references, and organization.

I. If the faculty supervisor believes the project to be of Honors caliber, copies of the second draft are circulated to two additional members of the department who comprise the Honors Committee. An oral presentation is scheduled, normally during the examination period. The oral presentation concerns primarily the Honors Project, however, a student may also be asked to explore the connections between the project and the core of economic analysis.

J. Additional changes in the paper may be required after the oral presentation. These should be incorporated in the third and final draft, three copies of which are to be prepared by the student. The original is place on file in the Library, the second copy remains in the economics department, and the third is kept by the student. (The Dean of the College may be able to underwrite part of the cost of duplicating honors papers. Your project advisor can recommend such support.)

List of Recent Honors Projects in Economics »

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Study Abroad Opportunities

Many study away programs offer courses that will count towards the economics major. Students who desire credit for an economics course(s) taken away should obtain written approval from the Chair or economics advisor prior to leaving Bowdoin. Generally we encourage students to take 200-level electives abroad. The normal expectation is that students will take the three intermediate core courses (255, 256, 257) and the two required advanced-topics courses (300 level) at Bowdoin. Students are urged to have completed Economics 255, 256, and 257 before their senior year. Most students who plan to study away try to take the intermediate micro (255) and macro (256) courses before they leave.

One or two credits are granted for elective courses taken in European programs; no more than one intermediate core course and no more than two courses at U.S. institutions will normally be considered for credit toward the Economics major. One intermediate core course can be taken at the London School of Economics (LSE) and exceptions are made to grant 300 level credit for one 300 level course at LSE.

Accounting, business management, marketing, and other business-related courses are not accepted for credit.

The Off-Campus Study Office can provide you with more information about study abroad opportunities as well as a list of Bowdoin-approved programs.

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Please visit the Courses page for more information about current Economics course offerings. For more detailed information about Economics requirements, please check the Bowdoin College Catalogue or inquire at the Economics office.

Economics Student Handbook 2012-2013

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