Duke Reclaims Title as Best School in U.S. for Economics

Duke Economics honors program students and Professor Michelle Connolly at the department's commencement ceremony in 2017.

Duke University has reclaimed the No. 1 spot in a new ranking of best economics colleges for undergraduates in the United States. The remaining top five schools include Harvard, Columbia, University of Chicago, and Georgetown. Duke previously beat Harvard and Yale for the top spot in 2014 and was No. 5 in 2017.

The 2018 list, compiled by College Factual, evaluates 435 four-year colleges and universities for overall academic quality as well as “outcomes-focused data.” This includes looking at a variety of factors, such as graduate earnings, reputation, and popularity of the major. Additionally, a 2017 Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings report lists Duke among top five schools that "did extremely well in the two areas that carry the most weight in the rankings: student outcomes and academic resources." In that ranking, Duke tied with Harvard University for the top spot in outcomes, which evaluates graduation rate, reputation, and student financial outcomes.

College Factual specifically recognized Duke for students' superior earnings outcomes. According to data from PayScale, an online salary comparison company, “a student who graduates from Duke with a degree in economics will make average early-career earnings of $62,000 and average mid-career earnings of $117,000. This is 54.7 percent above the national average of all graduates who make $40,000 in their early career. It is also 73.2 percent above the average graduate’s mid-career salary of $67,000.”

For the last five years, an average of 80.8 percent of Duke Economics undergraduates have accepted full-time jobs by graduation, with 64.3 percent going into finance, 16.1 percent into business and management consulting, and 6.9 percent into business services such as accounting and marketing.

Reputation is often closely associated with school quality, and Duke is consistently recognized as one of the best universities in the country. Most recently in U.S. News & World Report, it placed ninth in the ranking of national universities that offer doctoral degrees and tied with Yale for 10th in the ranking of best undergraduate teaching among national universities.

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.”

Economics is one of the most popular subjects for Arts & Sciences undergraduates at Duke and is currently home to 897 majors and minors, as well as 70 finance minors.