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Economics | Undergraduate FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions 

Listed below are frequently asked questions about economics for undergraduate students.

Prospective Students

Current Students

 

Prospective Students

What are differences between the four programs for undergraduates in economics?
The undergraduate programs have distinctly different emphases:

  • BA, General Track: Emphasizes the economic way of thinking and its broad applications in social science. Students in the BA general track are most often interested in the intersection of economics with the law, politics, development studies, or communication/journalism. This is the most flexible degree program. Most students begin in economics by declaring the BA general track.
  • BA, International Track: Emphasizes the intersection between the discipline of economics and international service/ international business. Includes additional required classes and has a foreign language requirement.
  • BS in Economics: Emphasizes abstract thinking and quantitative skills, in both theory and measurement. This is a good choice for a student who did well and enjoyed calculus and would like a job working with numbers every day. An excellent choice for a student who might want to pursue a master's degree in a quantitative field such as evaluation of public policy.
  • BS in Mathematics and Economics: Emphasizes mathematical tools (including multivariate calculus and the construction of proofs) and their applications in economics.  This is the best choice for students with who enjoyed calculus II and linear algebra, and who want to keep open the possibility of earning a PhD in economics, mathematics, or other math-based field. Students with significant mathematics backgrounds are also highly desired in business.

 

I'm not certain which of the economics programs I want to pursue? How do I decide?
If you have not taken college calculus, or if you did not particularly enjoy it, it is wise to declare a BA program, general or international track. If you are interested in the BS program, first find out more about your interest and ability in math—the BS requires you to use relatively sophisticated math. After you have taken calculus I and/or II at AU and have had fun and done well, you are welcome to change your program. If you have taken college calculus and done well, you probably have enough information about your math interest and ability to choose the BS program if you are interested in it.

How do I declare a major in economics?
Fill out the electronic declaration of major form. The Director of Undergraduate Studies (currently, Professor Hansen) will review and approve your declaration, and will inform you of your faculty advisor assignment by e-mail within about two weeks.

 

Current Students

How do I plan for successful completion of my economics program?
Begin by consulting the recommended sequence of courses for your program on the undergraduate resources page. Then figure in your AP and transfer credits, your study abroad plans, and other academic programs. The course checklist on each degree page will help you plan and keep track of your progress towards the degree.

What is the difference between my primary academic advisor/counselor (a.k.a. professional/staff advisor) and my faculty advisor in economics? 
Your faculty advisor in economics will be able to assist you with questions regarding specific economics courses, your progress in your economics program, and your future as an economist (including graduate school and career options). You will continue to consult your primary academic counselor regarding university graduation requirements, such as general education, and other university and college policies.

I have forgotten who my faculty advisor is. How do I find out?
Click here for a list. If your AU ID does not appear on this list, please send an e-mail to econ@american.edu requesting this information, visit the economics department office in person during regular office hours to ask, or visit the Director of Undergraduate Studies during posted office hours. The Department of Economics staff or Director of Undergraduate Studies in Economics will be happy to look up this information for you.

How do I contact my faculty advisor? 
Most faculty advisors prefer that students drop by their posted open office hours, which are listed here. Some faculty advisors are also happy to correspond with students by e-mail and some have electronic office hours, but it's always a good idea to drop by and introduce yourself in person first. Contact information is usually listed on faculty profile pages.  Telephone and voice mail are typically not effective ways to initiate communication with faculty advisors.

How do I change my economics program?
Fill out a new declaration of major form indicating the new program or track you wish to pursue.

What is the difference between double majoring and getting two degrees?
You can double major in any two academic programs, but to be awarded two degrees you must complete 150 credits.  Whether your goal is a double major or two degrees, begin by declaring your second major using the major declaration form.  If you are graduating with less than 150 credits, you may specify which degree you would like to have conferred on your application to graduate. If you are graduating with 150 credits or more, at the start of your final semester, speak to a College academic counselor about earning your second degree.

Can I count courses towards more than one major?
Students may apply a course to each major program in which it meets requirements.

Can I count courses towards both a major and a minor?
Yes, but only to a point. To earn a minor you must have 12 credits that are unique to the minor.

How do I choose economics courses for study abroad?
Consult the AU Abroad guide for Economics Majors. To get course equivalencies, follow the instructions on the AU Abroad Courses & Credits page.

How many courses from study abroad can be counted towards my economics major? 
Up to six credits can be used. Three credits of 3XX-level work can be used to satisfy the "capstone" requirement. Students who complete a full year at the demanding London School of Economics (LSE) program may count 12 credits from the LSE towards the major. 

What's the LSE study abroad program?  
The LSE program is an intensive economics program, and therefore it is not appropriate for all students. Students interested in the LSE program should attend AU Abroad events on the program, should discuss their interest, mathematics background, and intended course of study abroad with their economics faculty advisor.

How many courses from study abroad can be counted towards my economics minor?
Up to three credits from study abroad can be used towards the minor. 

How do I get courses from outside the economics dept to count towards the B.A. in Economics?
Your faculty advisor can approve three credits (one course) from another department as an elective towards the B.A. in Economics. Out-of-department courses cannot be used in place of ECON electives in the B.S., the Economics minor, or the Math & Econ programs. Commonly approved out-of-department courses are FIN-365, SIS-385, IBUS-300, and MKTG-300. When you speak to your advisor about a substitution, your advisor will enter the information as an Advising Comment in the Advising Wizard on https://myau.american.edu. This information is kept on https://myau.american.edu and can be viewed by all advisors. This information will be reviewed by the Department of Economics and noted by the Registrar as your application for graduation is reviewed. If you have a special need for an updated DARS, please visit an academic advisor in the College; Ms. Anne Kaiser is especially well-acquainted with economics programs.

My College academic advisor or economics faculty advisor said I could make a substitution of an out-of-department course in my program, but the DARS report doesn't show it. How do I correct that?
When you speak to your advisor about a substitution, your advisor will enter the information as an Advising Comment (on the right-hand navigation bar) in the Advising Wizard on https://myau.american.edu. This information is kept on https://myau.american.edu and can be viewed by all advisors. Advising Comments will be reviewed by the Economics Department and recorded by the Registrar after your application for graduation.  If you have a special need for an updated DARS, please visit an academic advisor in the College; Ms. Anne Kaiser <link> has particular expertise in Economics programs.

How do I get an internship for credit in economics? 
First, identify and secure an internship opportunity. For more information on finding and securing internships, visit the Career Center and check the AU Economics page on Facebook. After you have secured an opportunity that you believe will enhance your economic program, contact the Economics Internship Advisor (currently Prof. Park). In general, for an internship to count towards your economics degree you must register for ECON-491. Fill out the Internship Registration Form. Once the form is completed, it should be taken to AU Central so that the "course" can be entered on your schedule. The deadline for adding an internship is the last day to add a course for the semester, which is normally the end of the second week of classes. If you are not certain whether an internship opportunity is likely to have sufficient economics content, please contact the Economics Internship Advisor.

What type of work will be approved to earn credit for an internship?
The Economics Department will consider approving internships for academic credit under the following criteria:

  • Will the internship student have to the opportunity to apply economic concepts and tools of analysis; conduct research, search for and utilize data, survey the literature (academic studies, governmental reports, and/or business case studies); and assist professionals and practitioners with these tools, research, and data?
  • Will the internship student be exposed to economic policy-making activities, in government agencies, international organizations, or constituent organizations dependent on economic policy; to firm-level or institutional decision-making over resources, prices, production, employment, and investment; and to the workings of markets, local, national, and international?
  • Are topic areas of the internship relevant to, or involve microeconomics and/or macroeconomics; for example, consumer behavior, producer behavior, pricing, market competition and regulation, taxation, public spending, money and banking, international trade, finance, economic development, income distribution, technology and innovation, forecasting, project evaluation, externalities, and risk analysis?

The department will generally not consider or exclude job tasks related to accounting, sales, and marketing; that is, students are not engaged in selling products or services, answering calls or handling customer relations, filing, bookkeeping, or event organization (unless internship students are involved in some substantive way with the research and presentation of papers at events, such as conferences and seminars); and other activities that are primarily clerical and administrative within the organization.

Also excluded from consideration are outside consulting work and contract work where the intern works independently and remotely from the work site. Internship students are expected to have their work guided and supervised by an on-site supervisor, and to interact with other employees and interns at the organization, and to learn useful job skills. Also excluded from consideration are businesses or enterprises run by the student.

Very importantly, internship students are expected to conduct, participate, or contribute to some well-defined project(s) at the workplace. These projects will often be the basis for the term paper that internship students submit for academic credit at the end of the internship course.

Past interns have worked in government, non-profit and for-profit firms, interest groups, industry associations, non-governmental organizations, think-tanks, research institutes, and international organizations.

The request for academic credit should clearly indicate how the internship opportunity relates to these criteria. The student should ask the work supervisor to fill out the job description form with these parameters in mind. The faculty coordinator will then evaluate the internship job description and the request for academic credit accordingly.

How do I get an internship in teaching economics? 
These opportunities are offered mainly in conjunction with large sections of ECON-100 and ECON-200, although some professors will accept teaching interns for other courses. Go directly to the professor with whom you would like to intern. 

I am in the Honors Program and plan to major in economics. What do I need to do?
Honors requirements for economics are here.  ECON-480 (Research Seminar) is required for completion of the Honors Capstone in Economics. ECON-480 is offered only in the fall semester. In ECON-480, your professor will guide you through drafting your Honors Capstone. If you desire to further refine your Honors Capstone for credit during the spring semester, you should speak to the Honors Coordinator (currently Prof. Hansen) during the finals period of the fall Semester. Exceptions to this requirement are strongly discouraged and require the approval of the Honors Coordinator, currently Prof. Hansen.

I'm interested in doing research in collaboration with a professor. What do I do? 
First, check out the faculty profiles to see which faculty have interests that coincide with your own. Then go directly to the professor(s) and tell them about your interest in doing research. Plan ahead—research is not a speedy process. Also check out the resources for undergraduate research at the Robyn Rafferty Mathias Student Reseach Conference and the AU research Web site.

What is the combined BA or BS and MA in Economics program?
Visit the combined bachelor's/master's webpage for detailed information.

 
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