Duke Beats Out Harvard, Yale as Top College for an Economics Degree

Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Duke Beats Out Harvard, Yale as Top College for an Economics Degree

09 December 2014 2:08PM

Duke University has bested its Ivy League competitors to claim the No. 1 spot in a ranking of best economics colleges for undergraduates in the United States. The list, published on USA Today, is based on College Factual’s ranking system for evaluating overall academic quality. Rounding out the top five are Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia.

“What’s meaningful about this ranking is that it combines objective information about both the academic environment for studying economics here at Duke and the future career prospects of our graduates,” said Patrick Bayer, chair of the Department of Economics.

College Factual is a website that uses “outcomes-focused” data rather than “subjective survey responses” to create rankings that can help guide prospective students during the college selection process. This includes looking at a variety of factors, including overall school quality and graduate earnings.

Reputation is often closely associated with school quality, and Duke is consistently recognized as one of the best universities in the nation. Most recently, it tied for eighth in the U.S. News & World Report ranking of national universities that offer doctoral degrees, and claimed top 10 spots in LinkedIn University rankings for investment banking and finance jobs placement.

The most popular jobs for Duke economics majors are, in fact, finance related. From the graduating class of 2014, a plurality – 39 percent – went into finance. The second most popular jobs were in consulting. According to the data College Factual pulled from PayScale, an online salary comparison company, the average starting salary for a Duke economics graduate is $62,000, and the average mid-career salary is $117,000.

Beyond reputation and salaries, College Factual also places importance on the popularity of the major, which in this case is measured by the percentage of students at Duke who are studying economics. In an explanation of its rankings methodology, the company said, “It is also important to recognize this as a signal from the students at a college who are voluntarily choosing the major, that they can recognize the strength of the program.”

As of fall 2014, economics is the most popular major among the university’s degree-seeking undergraduates, and the department is currently home to 712 undergraduate students, both majors and minors.

Moreover, College Factual said the presence of “significant” graduate and doctoral programs at an institution can be a boon to its undergraduate students: “This can mean more resources available to all students, not the least of which is access to an expanded group of professors and research opportunities.”

With four graduate-level degree programs and a vibrant, research-active community, Duke Economics more than exemplifies a department with substantial post-graduate resources.

“I think what stands out most about Duke Economics is the blend of a top research environment with a real focus on undergraduate education that is the hallmark of Duke,” Bayer said. “Plus, we have a network of amazing Duke Economics alumni around the world who provide tremendous support and inspiration for our current and future students.”


See the complete list on 

USA Today: Top Colleges for a Major in Economics.

Learn about our undergraduate program.