Carnegie Mellon University

Frequently Asked Questions 

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. 

Incoming students do not need to have studied economics in high school prior to enrolling at Carnegie Mellon.

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."

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: 

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. 

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.

Being a successful communicator (in written, oral, and graphical forms) is paramount to effective leadership and exchange of ideas. Our Strategic 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 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.

The Quantitative Social Science Scholars Program is college-level and cross-university honors program that complements the economics curriculum and can be completed along with any of the economics degrees. 

Incoming first-years 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 advisers, the decision of which degree to pursue becomes clearer.

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, visit our careers page.