Why Study Economics?

At its core, economics is the study of resource management and allocation, but it is also a way of understanding the world and human behavior. At Duke Economics, we believe that our undergraduates should first and foremost view their education as an opportunity to further their thinking in as broad a range of fields as possible, and beyond their immediate career interests. Our department offers a liberal arts curriculum that prepares students for success not only in school but also everyday life.

STEM Designation

The B.S. in Economics and B.S. in Economics, Finance Concentration classify as STEM (CIP Code 45.0603: Econometrics and Quantitative Economics). Students with these majors can apply for a 24-month STEM extension of F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Career Paths

An undergraduate degree from Duke University is a door-opener in and of itself, but it is widely acknowledged that an economics degree can be even more marketable — and profitable. Graduating with a degree in economics can serve as a strong signal to potential employers that you have analytical and reasoning skills — applicable to both qualitative and quantitative data, and the ability to think critically and draw inferences. The most popular destination for economics majors are careers in business and finance; however, recent graduates also have entered a broad range of careers, including medicine, law, teaching, government, and policy.

Alumna Susan Athey (B.A. '91), an economics of technology professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, hosted a Q&A session on Quora to discuss the future of economics, as well as potential career opportunities for undergraduate economics majors in both academia and industry. Read more about our alumni and the value of an undergraduate degree in economics.

Academia & Graduate Studies

Approximately 10 percent of economics undergraduates plan to eventually attend graduate or professional school. On average, 40.6 percent economics  students surveyed at graduation reported that they have plans to pursue a master's in business administration. Students who are interested in pursuing graduate studies in economics should plan to take courses at the Departments of Mathematics and Statistical Science, as most competitive programs are quantitatively rigorous. Useful courses include multi-variable calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, real analysis, and introductory statistics and probability. Students contemplating a career in academia or economic research are strongly encouraged to consider participating in the Duke Economics Honors Program, through which they have the opportunity to engage in a meaningful, sustained research project — and graduate with honors. 


For the last five years, an average of 80.8 percent of students 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. Students considering a career in finance should consider getting a minor or concentration in finance through the Department of Economics and acquaint themselves with programs and events organized by the Duke Financial Economics Center.

PayScale compiles a list of college majors by salary potential. Finance and economics rank in the of the top 30 highest-paying bachelor degrees, competing with STEM field majors such as engineering, mathematics, and computer science. 

Rank Major Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay
24th (tie) Finance & Economics $55,700 $101,000
28th Economics $52,100 $98,500