ECON 256: Practical Financial Markets - Summer 2021

close up of computer screen with stock prices

Are you currently a first-year or sophomore who wants to learn more about working in the financial markets? This summer, Duke Summer Session is offering a fully online version of the popular semester course ECON 256: Practical Financial Markets. This course is open to both Duke and non-Duke students and prepares you for success in the rigorous investment bank recruiting process that now starts in sophomore year

Dates June 28-August 5 (Summer Session II)
Times taught synchronously Monday-Friday, 9:30-10:45 AM EST (All sessions will be recorded for later viewing by students with periodic time conflicts.)
Duke Credits 1 (equivalent to 3 credit hours at other universities)
Prerequisites none: no prior finance or economics coursework required. Designed to be taken in the summer after your first or second year of college.
Textbooks none, though students are encouraged to read the Wall Street Journal.
Cost view tuition and fees
Application deadline for non-Duke students June 14


The goal of ECON 256 is to prepare students for interviews and internships in the financial markets. Students will learn in detail the roles of analysts in investment banking and sales & trading, as well as introductions to other areas of the financial markets. The course will provide hands-on training in building the typical spreadsheet models used by Wall Street. Students will also learn how to read and interpret financial market data, and how to synthesize the enormous wealth of financial information into concise summaries of daily market activity. The course will also address qualitative aspects of the recruiting process: how to prepare a résumé for finance applications, and tips for interview success.

Topics covered include:

  • Introduction to accounting & Excel spreadsheet fundamentals
  • Corporate valuation techniques: DCF, comparable companies, precedent transactions, and LBO models
  • Financial market asset classes: bonds, equities, currencies and commodities and their interconnection within the global macroeconomy
  • Recruiting preparation: creating the résumé, responses to typical “technical” interview questions, and guidance on preparing for “behavioral” questions.

Students will also form teams and participate in two bank-sponsored competitions: a trade pitch from Goldman Sachs and a corporate valuation exercise from Wells Fargo. In both cases, the top ten teams will be invited to present their work to a panel of judges from the sponsoring firm.

The course is taught by Duke faculty John Caccavale and Emma Rasiel, former Wall Street professionals who teach finance courses in the Economics Department and advise hundreds of students each year about finance careers. 

Duke students can register now via DukeHub.

Non-Duke students can apply via the Duke Summer Session Visiting Student Application by June 14.

Questions? Email dfe@duke.edu.

"With no prior finance knowledge, I decided to take ECON 256 to give me some insight into the industry. I truly knew nothing about investment banking or markets before taking the class. This shouldn’t stop anyone from taking it. Throughout the class, I began to understand the different roles within finance and how the market moves with current events. Different group projects helped me decide which aspects of finance were most interesting to me, which set me on the right track when searching for an internship. I would recommend this class to anyone who thinks they might be interested in a career in finance or just wants to learn more about the industry! By the end, I was much more confident in my decision to pursue a career in finance and felt knowledgeable about the different paths." - Duke student, Class of 2022

“Preparing for a career in finance requires more than knowledge of LBOs and DCFs. It’s also important to build a strong foundation that covers all areas of finance, considering how broad it is as an industry. Beyond that, students need to develop the “soft skills”—résumés, networking, and general attitude—that set them apart from the other candidates. ECON 256 offers all of this and from professors who have decades of experience in the industry.” - Duke student, Class of 2022

“While ECON 256 provides sophomores a robust lecture curriculum covering interview technicals, financial market dynamics, and current events, some of the most valuable learning experiences come outside of the classroom through firm-sponsored competitions. Duke students have a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience creating a trade pitch for Goldman Sachs or advising M&A for a theoretical company at Wells Fargo. These exercises provide students real experiences to discuss in an interview and test their interest in a potential career path. - Duke student, Class of 2022