For First Years

Thanks for your interest in economics!  It’s a great subject for nearly all first-year students.  In introductory economics courses, you’ll use many of the math tools you learned in high school, and learn about many topics and ideas relevant both to your own decision-making, and to your understanding of the economy.


The economics department offers courses at six levels: 1000-level intro courses; 2000-2499 level electives; 2500-2999 level core courses; 3000-3499 level advanced electives; 3500-3999 level advanced seminars; 4000+ level honors projects, independent and collaborative study. 


The economics department will provide an initial course placement for all matriculated students based on each student's responses to the previously required Math Questionnaire, Quantitative Skills (QS) assessment tools and their submitted AP information. (All students were required to take these surveys over the summer before arriving at Bowdoin.) 

Based on previous math experience and answers to some of the questions in the QS assessment, students may be placed in the following gateway courses for Economics:

  • ECON 1050 Introductory Microeconomics and Quantitative Reasoning
  • ECON 1101 Introductory Microeconomics
  • ECON 1102 Introductory Macroeconomics
  • or a 2000-2499 level elective

Introductory Microeconomics

ECON 1050 and ECON 1101 cover the same material, introductory microeconomics (the study of individual choice and individual markets—by contrast, macroeconomics studies the aggregation of markets and choices, i.e., the overall economy).  Neither ECON 1050 nor 1101 requires any background in economics, and both satisfy the ECON 1101 pre-requisite for higher-level courses.  The difference between 1050 and 1101 is that 1050 has a more supported Quantitative Reasoning (QR) environment, including a required weekly “lab” (85 minute-block focused on working through problems) led by QR faculty in conjunction with Economics faculty. 

Students who are placed in ECON 1050 have two alternatives.  They can take ECON 1050 or they can take MATH 1050 and then take either ECON 1050 or ECON 1101. Note ECON 1050 is taught every fall but not in the spring; MATH 1050 is taught each semester. 

Introductory Macroeconomics (AP credit required)

Placement in ECON 1102 requires a score of 4 or 5 on the AP Microeconomics exam.  While some departments allow introductory micro and macroeconomics to be taken in either order, our department requires that ECON 1101 or equivalent is taken before ECON 1102. 

2000–level Elective (AP credit required)

Placement in a 2000-level elective requires scores of at least 4 or 5 on both AP Micro and Macro exams, or an IB Economics score of 6.  (However, an IB score of 6 only counts for one course credit because an IB class has half the contact time of an AP class.) The 2000-level electives are intended to be accessible to first-year students while also being challenging and of interest to more experienced students.  ECON 2000 is designed to be particularly accessible to students who have placed out of 1101 and 1102 but have not taken an economics course in college before.

Please note that ECON 1101 is the only economics pre-requisites for two of the 2500-level core courses, ECON 2555, Intermediate Microeconomics, and ECON 2557, Economic Statistics, and ECON 1101 and 1102 the only pre-reqs for ECON 2556, Intermediate Macroeconomics (ECON 2555 and 2556 can be taken in either order). However, because these courses are more challenging, we require that students wait until at least their second semester to take them.