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Economists are interested in the choices people make when they shop, when they choose jobs, and when they vote as well as the choices made in State Capitols, at the Federal Reserve, and on Wall Street. For example, understanding the sources of economic growth, differences in income across countries, the rate of inflation, and the appropriate policy responses to recessions are fundamental issues in macroeconomics, which is the study of the performance of an economy as a whole.

Microeconomists study households, firms, and markets. For example, why has the price of energy fallen relative to other prices, why do housing prices vary across locations, why do similar people earn such different pay, and why do firms produce and price things the way they do? 

Economists participate in debates about policy toward climate change, international trade, taxes, healthcare, immigration, and crime. At a deeper level, the fundamental institutions that support economic activity are important as well. Such institutions—legal principles and laws, social norms, even families and communities—facilitate market and non-market transactions, investment in human and physical capital, innovation and technological change, and social and geographic mobility. This leads to questions about the role of government in regulating, taxing, subsidizing, or otherwise affecting markets and related institutions.   

Vanderbilt’s program in economics begins with principles of macroeconomics followed by principles of microeconomics. We offer other courses that have only introductory courses as prerequisites, including labor economics, money and banking, Latin American development, economic history of the US, and strategic analysis. We recommend that students complete two semesters of calculus before moving to the intermediate level. We require one semester of calculus and we require a statistics course with calculus as a prerequisite, usually our ECON 1500.

Students who major in economics must take a semester of intermediate microeconomics and one of intermediate macroeconomics. Majors must complete six electives in economics, at least three of which have either intermediate microeconomics or macroeconomics as prerequisites.

The upper level electives address a wide range of issues in economics, such as the development of third-world countries, international trade and finance, health economics, urban growth, and American economic history. See the website for more information about the program: vu.edu/economics.

Vanderbilt’s faculty have particular strength in micro theory including game theory, international economics, econometrics, law and economics, and economic history. Economics offers a joint major with the Department of History requiring several courses in economic history at its core. 

Many students combine a major in economics with majors or minors in mathematics, a second language, political science, or psychology. A recent economics major won the concerto competition as a cellist at the Blair School of Music. About half of our students study abroad for a semester or a year.

Honors Program

Students in the Department’s honors program write an original thesis under the guidance of a faculty member. A 2015 thesis by Aaron Gau asked whether college football coaches are efficiently compensated? Macauley Muir’s 2015 thesis considered sequential auctions for coffee in Guatemala. The honors program begins in the junior year. Find titles of recent theses here:  as.vanderbilt.edu/econ/undergraduate/honors-theses-recent.php

After Vanderbilt

Many economics majors find employment with investment or commercial banks, credit card or stock brokerage firms. Consulting firms and manufacturing companies also hire a number of graduates. Some students found their own businesses or join start-up companies. About sixty percent of the economics majors intend to complete MBA degrees and understand that several years of significant work experience is necessary before enrolling in an MBA program. About fifteen percent of graduates plan to enroll in law school and many do so immediately after graduation. Several economics majors each year enroll in medical schools and PhD programs in economics or pursue other graduate programs.


The 40 faculty in economics have won teaching awards at Vanderbilt and elsewhere and offer courses from introductory classes with 250 students to seminars with 15 students. 


Malcolm Getz
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Department of Economics
415 Calhoun Hall
Nashville, TN 37235
Phone: (615) 322-2871

Economics Website