"Take advantage of all the opportunities you have, and be on the lookout. There is always an opportunity for you to get involved or do something great out there!"

Amanda Camelo

Economics Major

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are frequently asked questions from students interested in majoring in economics.

If you don’t find the answer to your question, please consult an advisor. 

What is the difference between the Economics & Management majors?
What advantages does one of these majors offer over the other?
Is it possible to double-major in SSHA?
Which classes should be taken "early"?
What mathematics courses should I take?
Can you recommend some electives outside of the Economics major that would be helpful?
What courses will help me get the best possible job after graduation?
How should I prepare for graduate study in economics?
How should I prepare for an MBA program?
How should I prepare for law school?
Is it possible to enter medical school with an economics major?
What are the primary factors that graduate programs seek in applicants?

What is the difference between the Economics and Management majors?
Our Economics and Management majors at UC Merced share a common core of classes, including micro and macro economics, statistics, and econometrics. There are several key differences between the two majors, however:
  • The Management major requires a year long sequence in accounting and finance, and an upper division course in financial economics.
  • The Management major requires a Computer Science course, dealing with issues of data management and security, and basic programming.
  • Although all upper-division electives in Economics can be taken for credit by Management students, there are some that will appeal more to one major than another.
  • Management students will be encouraged to take some upper-division offerings from Cognitive Science, such as a course on Judgment and Decision Making or Management Applications in Cognitive Science.
  • Management students are encouraged to take additional lower-division courses in Engineering or the Natural Sciences to prepare them to manage professionals in these fields.
  • Economics students have the opportunity to take a year-long capstone course that will emphasize economic research and prepare them for graduate school or the workforce.
  • Management students will have the opportunity to take a one-semester capstone course that will allow them to integrate all of their skills while analyzing case studies of real businesses.   (Return to Top)
What advantages does one of these majors offer over the other?
Naturally, this depends on what your career aspirations and interests are.  The strength of the Economics major is its mathematical rigor and emphasis on applied research.  Students planning to attend graduate school (including law school, a Ph.D. or Masters program in Economics or Public Policy, or an MBA program) will find that our curriculum prepares them well (however, see the other FAQ on additional courses for students preparing for an Economics Ph.D.).  In addition, a traditional Economics degree sends a strong positive signal to employers, and will prepare you for a career in economic consulting, government research or administration, or any other field requiring strong analytical skills.

The Management major shares the analytical rigor of the Economics major, but its focus is broader.  Students interested in entering the business world will find that the Management curriculum offers more practical skills and draws not just from Economics, but also from Cognitive Science, Computer Science, and other natural and social sciences.  The hands-on nature of the (optional) capstone and internship courses and the emphasis on Entrepreneurship also prepare students well for employment and/or an eventual MBA program.
We encourage you to talk to the Economics and Management faculty in person about your interests to help determine which major is the best fit for you.   (Return to Top)

Is it possible to double-major in SSHA?
Currently the answer is no.  However the UCM faculty is working on the logistics of allowing double majors.  One thing that is for certain is that, for the time being, a double major in Economics and Management would not be allowed as the curricula overlap too much.  However, other majors across SSHA and across schools will be possible very soon, and at the latest by when you return to campus after the summer.  Keep in contact with your advisor to learn when double majors are approved.   (Return to Top)

Which classes should be taken "early"?
It is important to take Econ 1 and Calculus (Math 21) in your first year as they are prerequisites for the remainder of the major.  To assure progress it is also important to take ECON 10 in the Fall of your sophomore year followed by ECON 130 in the spring of your sophomore year.   (Return to Top)

What mathematics courses should I take?
Calculus (Math 21) is the only required Math course, however more Math experience will only help and richen your experience as an Economics and Management Major.  See “How should I prepare for graduate study in economics?” below on preparation for Graduate School to get a list of courses that will be important if you plan to pursue a graduate degree in economics.   (Return to Top)

Can you recommend some electives outside of the Economics major that would be helpful?
Here are some courses that do not count as upper-division electives for Economics, but that we would encourage you to take to become more well-rounded:

Lower division electives:
Most math courses (specifically MATH 22, MATH 23, MATH 24, MATH 32)
CSE 20, 21: Introduction to Computing I and II

Upper-division electives:
MATH 140: Mathematical Methods for Optimization
WRI 117: Writing for the Social Sciences and Humanities
MGMT 150: Services Science for Management
MGMT 153/ COGS 153: Judgment and Decision Making
MGMT 155: Decision Analysis for Management
POLI 100: Political Process and Institutions
POLI 105: Interest Groups and Political Parties
POLI 110 Governmental Power & the Constitution
POLI 120: Voting Behavior, Campaigns, and Elections
POLI 127: Race, Gender, and Politics
POLI 155: International Political Economy
POLI 170: Theoretical Models of Politics
(Return to Top)

What courses will help me get the best possible job after graduation?
There is no “one size fits all” answer to this question as necessary skill sets vary by job type. Clearly, many positions require very specific training. Economics offers an obvious advantage, compared to many other majors, due to the vast array of jobs in the business, financial, etc., sectors of the economy (just as, say, a nursing degree offers an advantage for many healthcare sector positions).

This is reflected, in part, by the higher starting salaries for our majors compared to most other SSHA majors. In any event, students will maximize their opportunities by demonstrating a consistently high level of performance in whatever courses are taken. It’s also important to note that the benefits derived from a college education extend beyond preparation for a future career.   (Return to Top)

How should I prepare for graduate study in economics?
Economics Ph.D. programs are oriented to people seeking careers in academia or the government. A detailed discussion of Ph.D. programs in economics is given in three articles in September 1991 issue of the Journal of Economic Literature, pp 1035-1109. On page 1055 a ranking of 91 departments by quality tiers is given. There is a great advantage in going to a tier 1 or tier 2 school. The first 3 of the 5 tiers are:
  • Tier 1: MIT, Stanford, Chicago, Princeton, Yale, Harvard.
  • Tier 2: Northwestern, Minnesota, UC-Berkeley, Pennsylvania, Columbia, Wisconsin, Rochester, UCLA, Michigan
  • Tier 3: Brown, Caltech, Carnegie-Mellon, Cornell, Duke, Illinois, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Michigan State, New York Univ., North Carolina, UC-San Diego, Virginia, Virginia Polytech, Washington.
Graduate programs in economics are very mathematical by comparison to undergraduate programs, and lack of mathematical ability is a key indicator of failure. a major admission criteria is the performance on the quantitative section of the GRE. At a place like MIT over half the entering class will have a score of 800, while across all Ph.D. programs the average score was 711 in 1988-89. The economics section of the GRE is much less important. Another admission criteria is what math classes you have taken.

While a major in economics is not necessarily required for admission to graduate study in economics (or related fields such as finance), a strong background in economics and mathematics provides the optimal preparation. Students contemplating graduate study in economics should talk to a student advisor as early as possible (preferably before starting their sophomore year) to select the courses which provide the required preparation.  In addition to the economic theory courses offered in the economics department completion of mathematics courses are very important to be adequately prepared.  The minimum preparation to prepare for graduate study would consist of Math 22, Math 23, and Math 24.  To be more competitive for admission to first-rate Economics Ph.D. programs students should also complete Math 32 and Math 140.

While adequate preparation in mathematics is very important for admission to Ph.D. programs students who can demonstrate some academic research experience have additional advantages.  Research experience can be gained working as a research assistant on a faculty research project or as an intern at an organization such as the Federal Reserve.   (Return to Top)
How should I prepare for an MBA program?
MBA programs generally do not require a particular undergraduate major or the completion of specific courses (except that many programs require one or two semesters of calculus). By the same token, majors in Economics have a head start on many of the topics that are covered in MBA programs.

It is also important to note that while applicants with very high grades and GMAT scores and considerable undergraduate internship, co-op, or work experience can be admitted into MBA programs immediately after the completion of an undergraduate degree, most MBA programs prefer to admit individuals who have a minimum of 2 years post-baccalaureate work experience (MBA students currently average between 6 and 7 years of work experience).   (Return to Top)

How should I prepare for law school?
Like MBA programs, law schools do not require particular undergraduate majors or courses. Thus, there is no specific pre-law major at the UC Merced and most other major universities. Since the study of economics provides students with an excellent opportunity to develop their analytical and reasoning skills, majors in this discipline tend to be particularly successful in law schools. If you are contemplating law school, you should select a good number of elective courses which require substantial amounts of writing so as to cultivate your expository skills.   (Return to Top)

Is it possible to enter medical school with an economics or management major?
Yes. There is no specific pre-med major at the UC Merced and most other major universities. While all medical (dental, etc.) schools require the completion of a minimum set of core science classes at the undergraduate level, no specific undergraduate major is required for admission. Nevertheless, economics students in particular have been quite successful at gaining admission into medical programs.   (Return to Top)

What are the primary factors that graduate programs seek in applicants?
High grades, high GRE scores (GMAT for MBA, LSAT for Law school, and MCAT for medical school), and strong letters of recommendation. In addition, various degree programs may also stress participation in extra-curricular activities, volunteer community service, work experience, and so forth. Students are encouraged to consult with a faculty advisor for guidance in planning a course of action that will maximize their graduate opportunities as early as possible.   (Return to Top)