Choosing Your Economics Degree

The Department of Economics offers both the Bachelor of Arts degree and the Bachelor of Science degree. Learn more about the requirements for each degree:

B.A. or B.S. – How to Choose?

The Department of Economics offers both a B.A. and a B.S. in economics. The two degrees differ in admission requirements and in graduation requirements. Which degree is best for you depends upon your abilities, your interests, and your goals.

If the appeal of economics is its challenging and analytical approach to explaining social phenomena and if you are enthusiastic about economic problems and questions and the answers economists offer, then the B.A. is probably the choice for you.

If you discovered economics as you were taking other stimulating and rigorous courses in mathematics and the sciences, it is possible that the B.S. in economics with its more pronounced quantitative emphasis is the choice for you.

What are your goals after graduation? Most students will graduate and enter some sort of employment, finding that a career takes shape after a succession of employment positions. Most students do not have plans for advanced study after graduation in economics or other fields. Some students consider that they might go on to graduate or professional school such as law, medical school, business administration, public affairs, education, or international studies. The B.A. in economics provides the flexibility to allow all these students to pursue a demanding major in a social science, be prepared for employment in a variety of areas, and to take related and complementary courses outside the department.

If your goal is to earn a Ph. D. in economics, then completing the requirements of the B.S. would be the appropriate choice for you. Both the admission and the graduation requirements for the B.S. in economics prepare one for and give an indication of the nature of graduate study in economics. To be admitted to the BS one must have a year of calculus, and a year of calculus is the minimum mathematics required by graduate programs in economics. The more rigorous and quantitative courses required to graduate with a B.S. give one a taste, at the undergraduate level, of the emphasis on economic theory and statistics characteristic of graduate study in economics.

If you intend to earn a Master’s degree, for example in one of the Applied Economics programs offered by some universities, the B.S. is also the appropriate choice for you because it has been designed with preparation for graduate studies in economics in mind.

Is it possible to switch from the BA to the BS in Econ or the BS to the BA?  Yes, it is possible, but students wishing to switch from the BS to the BA in Econ must apply.  You would submit the application just as you did when applying for the BA, except that you do not need to take the RTW again.  Be sure to check the box on the application indicating that you are applying to switch, do well in any math and econ courses you take as your entire transcript will be looked at, and be sure to include your reasons for wanting to switch in your personal statement.  Students wishing to switch from the BS to the BA simply need to stop by our office during drop in advising and we can complete the Change of Major form to add you to the BA.  

Economics or Business?

People frequently ask “What’s the difference between economics and business?” “Aren’t they about the same thing?”

Economics is the study of how resources are used by society to satisfy human wants. Business administration is the study of methods for improving the profitability of an individual business enterprise.

The tools of economics analysis are used in business administration courses and students applying to the undergraduate business major are required to take introductory economics courses. Business administration also calls on tools such as accounting and marketing that are more narrowly concerned with the management of a business enterprise. Economic analysis has had an enormous impact on the development of business administration studies and on other social sciences in the second half of the 20th century and will continue to do so into the 21st century.

If a student decides to pursue majors in both economics and business administration, the University of Washington designates this as a double degree, which requires completion of 225 credits.