Undergraduate Information

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Why Study Economics?

Economics is the most advanced of all social sciences. It is therefore both hard and useful. These two attributes together ensure that knowledge of economics pays off nicely. Below are a few reasons to acquire yours at Clemson.

Our department has a truly outstanding faculty roster, if you consider all reasonable criteria — education, research record, and awards for excellence. A number of our faculty come from the doctoral program of the University of Chicago, where they have studied under several Nobel laureates. Others come from PhD programs at Harvard, MIT, Stanford, the University of Virginia, and the University of Washington. They write and publish in the top journals of the profession, such as the American Economic Review, the Journal of Law and Economics, or the Journal of Political Economy. Our faculty have previously held positions at Chicago, Stanford, Dartmouth, and Texas, among others. The quality of their teaching has been recognized with awards and honorific titles such as Alumni Master Teacher, Philip Prince Innovative Teacher of the Year, and Outstanding Honors Professor.

If you care about intellectual directions within the science of economics, you may find it useful to know that our department is known for its appreciation of the “Chicago School” of economics. In 1997 the Templeton Foundation cited Clemson as one of a handful of departments that “set examples for others to emulate”, for the excellence of its undergraduate program. A more specific description of what this means you can find in the 1998 edition of Choosing the Right College: The Whole Truth About America’s 100 Top Schools:

Clemson’s department of economics offers a superior education by giving students a broad view of the discipline while focusing on its traditional values as well. The program emphasizes environmental economics, and its undergraduate curriculum prepares students for careers in business or government by emphasizing problem-solving skills.

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White benches at the reflection pond

What can I do with a degree in economics?

Majoring in economics will prepare you for a wide variety of career options. Fields traditionally entered by economics majors are law, politics, banking, academia, and government service. As you can see in the list below, Clemson economics is well represented in these fields. The common aspect of these diverse fields is their emphasis on analytical skills.

What is economics about?

Economics is a way of thinking about every aspect of human behavior, from the management of a business firm to the raising of children. At its core, the “economic approach” is the application of the basic principles of rational choice to business decisions, public policy issues, and everyday life. Economics majors become adept at thinking logically, which prepares them for success in the widest possible variety of occupations.

What special activities does the economics department offer its students?

Every spring we offer a Senior Seminar in Public Policy, a capstone course that allows students to apply what they have learned in other courses toward a comprehensive analysis of a current public-policy issue. The course includes a trip to Washington, DC, during which members of the class meet with a variety of policy-makers and analysts in the executive and legislative branches of the federal government as well as economists affiliated with the Federal Reserve System or independent “think tanks”.

All junior and senior majors are the department’s guests at a banquet honoring that year’s Harris Distinguished Visiting Professor of Economics. The Harris Professorship, endowed by a gift from the family of John Harris ‘74, brings an eminent scholar to campus for the purpose of interacting with undergraduates in and out of class. The list of previous Harris Professors is a distinguished one that includes three past presidents and several vice presidents of the American Economic Association, three members of the National Academy of Sciences, a Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, and two recipients of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.

What do economics majors do after graduation?

The simple answer to this question is, anything they want to do. If you want to begin your career right away, you should know that economics majors offer potential employers a set of skills that are valuable in just about every imaginable field. The most common first job for our graduates is in banking and finance, but Clemson economics majors are well represented in management and marketing positions also. Alumni of our department also hold key positions in government at both the state and federal level.

If you want to get an MBA degree, you should be aware that the top business schools favor applicants with strong analytical and quantitative skills. The study of economics offers you one of the best opportunities to develop those skills, and admissions committees at the best business schools know this.

Benches at the Hendrix Center
If you want to go to law school, you’ll want to know which majors offers the best pre-law training. Along with your grades, the most important factor in law-school admissions is the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). A recent national study found that economics majors consistently perform better on the LSAT on average than students majoring in any other subjects. The likely reason for this is that the LSAT is largely a test of logical reasoning skills, which economics majors have spent years developing. No LSAT-prep course is an adequate substitute for the training you will receive in the economics department. Perhaps that’s why recent Clemson economics majors have been offered admissions to, and excelled at the law schools of Chicago, Harvard, Duke, Emory, UNC, Virginia, and Yale.

Who is John E. Walker?

John E. Walker ‘58 has been both an economics professor and a highly successful entrepreneur. Founder of Andesa TPA Inc., Dr. Walker is a pioneer of the information economy, whose business vision was a direct outgrowth of his economics training. Because of his belief in the fundamental importance of economics as a field of study and his dedication to Clemson, in October 2001 Dr. Walker announced his gift of nearly $7 million to fund the expansion of the department’s faculty and the enhancement of its programs. Dr. Walker was also instrumental in developing the Walker Golf Course, named after his father, Colonel John E. Walker Sr. ’26.

What kind of reputation does the economics department have?

The department is known to students, alumni, and outside observers as a place that offers a first-rate education. Here are a few examples of recent honors and recognitions:

  • Professor Emeritus John Warner received the Thomas Green Clemson Award for Excellence for his service to Clemson University, December 2009.
  • Students Ben Ward and Bryson Smith received the Wallace Dabney Trevillian Merit Award in 2009 and 2011 respectively. This award is traditionally given to the top student in the College of Business and Behavioral Science. Ben previously won the 2007 J.T. Barton Ethics Essay Competition for his analysis of the ethical exercise of legal rights. He is currently at Vanderbilt University studying for his PhD. Bryson is pursing his law degree at Yale University.
  • In 2008-09, three economics professors — Scott Baier, Bill Dougan, and Chuck Thomas — received awards of distinction from the Clemson University National Scholars Program. Of the 12 awards bestowed, three were for economics faculty members.
  • Professor Howard Bodenhorn received the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship for 2008-2010, to support his research on the political economy of banking reform in the Jacksonian era. Bodenhorn joins a select group of economists from the University of Chicago, Harvard, Princeton and Wisconsin as 2008 Guggenheim Fellows.
  • Alumnus Brian Eyink ‘06 attended Duke Law School, where he won the 2008 Dean’s Cup Moot Court Tournament (judged by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito), and was appointed Executive Editor of the Duke Law Journal.
  • Clemson’s Economics Faculty have regularly won college, university, and national awards for outstanding teaching in the honors college and at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as recently as 2012.
  • “Prestigious Major Becoming Clemson’s Best Pick” – The Tiger, November 30, 2001.
  • “[Clemson students] have a team of all-star economists preparing them for careers in banking, finance, real estate or graduate study in business, economics and law.” – Clemson World, Winter 2000.
  • “The department has an excellent reputation in the profession. I knew from past experience that Clemson economists are extremely smart and tough-minded. They concentrate on real economic problems rather than narrow theoretical issues.” – Sherwin Rosen, past president of the American Economic Association, 1999.
  • “Clemson’s Department of Economics is a superior program which offers its students a broader view of the discipline while focusing on the traditional values of the field. The quality of the faculty is quite high.” – The John Templeton Foundation, 1997.