Pursuing economics bachelor’s degrees is ideal for analytical, data-oriented thinkers who enjoy using mathematical models to discover industry trends. Economics is a social science discipline focused on examining how material wealth is produced, consumed, and transferred. Studying economics can open professional doors for market research analysts, benefits managers, actuaries, credit analysts, public policy consultants, and management analysts. Post-baccalaureate students who continue for a master’s degree could also become economists where the median salary is $99,180 yearly. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance placed economics as America’s #7 best college major with a projected 10-year job growth of 15.5 percent. Given how interesting and lucrative the field of economics is, we created this list of the Top 15 Bachelor’s Degrees in Economics for students interested in obtaining their undergrad.
Our ranking is based on the best value-added education for great return on investment post-graduation. We consulted with the PayScale College ROI Report for economics and selected the 15 with the highest 20-year net return. Each prospective school also had to be regionally accredited, hold national U.S. News rankings for prestige, and achieve a four-year graduation rate above 70 percent. Attention was placed on economics departments offering experiential learning, i.e. internships, clubs, and global experiences. Other important factors were financial aid, class size, student support, curriculum rigor, and faculty credentials.
Here are our selections for the Top 15 Bachelor’s Degrees in Economics:
1. University of Pennsylvania
Endowed for $10.71 billion, the University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League AAU founder tracing back to 1740 that’s educating over 10,400 undergraduates on its 1,094-acre urban campus in Philadelphia next to Drexel. Graded A+ as America’s #1 “Best Business College” on Niche, UPenn is ranked the eighth best national university and 11th top value by the USNWR. The School of Arts & Sciences offers a 12-course Economics Major and 16-course Mathematical Economics Major. Students can contribute to the Penn Institute for Economic Research, study abroad in Hong Kong, and intern with Franklin Square Capital Partners.
20-Year Net ROI: $950,000
Graduation Rate: 96%
2. University of Maryland – College Park
Noted for alumni like Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Comcast chairman Ed Snider, the University of Maryland-College Park is a public, land-grant RU/VH institution enrolling over 27,400 undergraduates on its 1,250 suburban acres near Washington, DC. Named America’s 26th “Best Big College” on Niche, UMD is deemed the 60th best university and 25th most innovative school according to the U.S. News. From Tydings Hall, the Department of Economics confers a 120-credit Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science. Students with a minimum 2.5 GPA complete internships with companies, including Cambridge Associates and Compass Lexecon.
20-Year Net ROI: $900,000
Graduation Rate: 85%
3. University of California – Berkeley
Belonging to the URA Consortium, the University of California-Berkeley is a “Public Ivy,” land-grant RU/VH college endowed for $4 billion to educate over 27,400 undergraduates from a 178-acre urban campus in the San Francisco Bay Area. Placed in the Times Higher Education’s global elite six with Oxford and Harvard, UC-Berkeley is ranked the 20th best national university and 11th most veteran-friendly school by the U.S. News. Located in Evans Hall, the Economics Department awards a B.A./B.S. Major. Students benefit from joining Omicron Delta Epsilon, free economics tutoring, research in the Econometrics Lab, and a 17:1 student-faculty ratio.
20-Year Net ROI: $891,000
Graduation Rate: 91%
4. SUNY Binghamton University
Established as Triple Cities College in 1946, SUNY Binghamton University has evolved into a public, space-grant RU/H center with over 13,500 undergrad Bearcats studying upon its 887-acre suburban campus in Vestal within New York’s Southern Tier. Crowned America’s 158th “Best Value” on Niche, SUNY Binghamton is ranked the 86th best national university and 36th top public college by the U.S. News. Economics majors can pursue a 16-course B.A. or B.S. with specializations in Economic Policy Analysis or Financial Economics. Experiential learning is gained with the J.C. Liu Senior Honors Thesis and Fleishman Center CDCI Internship.
20-Year Net ROI: $864,000
Graduation Rate: 81%
5. Rutgers University – New Brunswick
As a public-private hybrid, land-grant RU/VH institution in the Big 10 Academic Alliance, Rutgers University-New Brunswick carries a $3.91 billion budget to educate over 48,000 undergraduates from its 6,088 urban acres near Piscataway, New Jersey. Ranked America’s 70th best college and 42nd best for vets school by the USNWR, Rutgers placed #27 nationally for helping low-income students in The New York Times. The School of Arts and Sciences offers Rutgers’ second-largest major, the 14-course Economics B.A. Students may add a Certificate in Quantitative Economics, join RECONS, participate in the College Fed Challenge, and intern with Goldman Sachs.
20-Year Net ROI: $808,000
Graduation Rate: 81%
6. University of California – San Diego
Affiliated with 20 Nobel laureates, the University of California-San Diego is a public, research-oriented CCAA member that’s serving more than 26,500 undergraduates on 2,141 suburban acres in La Jolla along the Pacific Ocean. Deemed America’s 75th “Hardest College to Get Into” on Niche, UCSD is ranked the 44th top university and 10th best public school by the U.S. News. Since 1968, the Department of Economics has awarded an Economics B.A. and Joint Mathematics-Economics B.S. Valuable opportunities include researching with the Center for Environmental Economics, traveling to Japan, and earning the $1,500 Rising Leaders Scholarship.
20-Year Net ROI: $774,000
Graduation Rate: 86%
7. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
Boasting over 500,000 living alumni, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor is a public, space-grant AAU member holding a $7.05 billion budget to provide 390+ academic programs in the “Great Lakes State’s” Washtenaw County. Ranked the #1 “Top Public University” on Niche, UMich is America’s 27th best college according to the USNWR. The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) offers a 12-course Economics Major or Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Major. Bachelor’s students can join the Michigan Economics Society, receive EARN Mentoring, earn the Sims Honor Scholarship, and contribute to the Office of Tax Policy Research.
20-Year Net ROI: $760,000
Graduation Rate: 91%
8. University of Virginia
Attracting over 15,800 undergrad Cavaliers from 147 nations, the University of Virginia is a public-private RU/VH institution endowed for $5.8 billion with a 1,682-acre suburban campus in Charlottesville tracing back to Thomas Jefferson’s founding. Recognized for America’s #7 “Best Student Life” on Niche, UVA is ranked the 24th best national university and 46th top value by the U.S. News. The College of Arts & Sciences awards an Economics Major (B.A.) with concentrations in Financial Economics, Industrial Organization, International Economics, or Public Policy. Students also access resources like Econ Club, the South Asia Center, and Kenneth G. Elzinga Scholarship.
20-Year Net ROI: $722,000
Graduation Rate: 94%
9. University of California – Los Angeles
Located on a 419-acre urban campus near Sunset Boulevard, the University of California-Los Angeles is the system’s second-oldest public, land-grant RU/VH institution educating over 30,800 undergrad Bruins with a 17:1 student-faculty ratio. Recognized as America’s #3 “Best Big College” on Niche, UCLA is the 24th best university and 14th most veteran-friendly college according to the U.S. News. Bunche Hall houses a B.A. in Economics, B.A. in Business Economics, or B.S. in Mathematics/Economics program. Majors can reap benefits like joining Omicron Delta Epsilon, participating in the Sharpe Fellows Internship, and taking the six-month Social Enterprise Academy.
20-Year Net ROI: $685,000
Graduation Rate: 91%
10. University of California – Santa Barbara
Designated as a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI) in 2015, the University of California-Santa Barbara offers public, research-oriented education to over 20,600 undergrad Gauchos studying upon its 1,055-acre suburban campus on the American Riviera. Ranked #13 for The Princeton Review’s “Top 50 Green Colleges,” UCSB is America’s 37th best university according to the U.S. News. The College of Letters & Science confers an Economics Major B.A. or Economics and Accounting Major B.A. from North Hall. Students may study at China’s Fudan University, join the Strategic Business Program (SBP), research in the Laboratory for Aggregate Economics, and intern with Google.
20-Year Net ROI: $681,000
Graduation Rate: 81%
11. Florida State University
Distinguished as one of the “Sunshine State’s” two preeminent public, RU/VH institutions by Governor Rick Scott, Florida State University welcomes over 32,600 undergrad Seminoles on its 1,391-acre urban campus in Tallahassee. Noted for America’s 140th “Best Professors” on Niche, FSU is ranked the 92nd best national university and 38th top public school by the U.S. News. The College of Social Sciences & Public Policy provides a 120-credit Economics Undergraduate Program with elective tracks from Public Sector to Environmental. Upper-division students complete a semester-long internship at companies like Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, and Northwestern Mutual Financial.
20-Year Net ROI: $640,000
Graduation Rate: 79%
12. University of Iowa
Founded in 1847 after the 29th state’s admission to the Union, the University of Iowa is a public, space-grant RU/VH hub endowed for $1.25 billion that’s serving over 24,400 undergrads from 1,700 urban acres in Iowa City. Ranked the 82nd best national university and 33rd top public school by the U.S. News, UI is deemed America’s 106th “Most Liberal College” on Niche. The AACSB-accredited Tippie College of Business awards a BBA in Economics with Business, Policy, or Analytical tracks. Students can study globally in 11 countries, intern at The Washington Center, and run the Iowa Electronic Markets.
20-Year Net ROI: $619,000
Graduation Rate: 70%
13. University of Wisconsin – Madison
Generating research expenditures beyond $1.1 billion, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a public, land-grant RU/VH member of the AAU with over 43,300 Badgers upon its 936-acre urban campus along Lake Mendota. Graded A+ as America’s 11th “Best Big College” on Niche, UW-Madison is crowned the 44th best university with the 14th top undergrad teaching by the U.S. News. The William H. Sewell Social Science Building houses a B.A. in Economics with an optional Mathematical Emphasis. Majors could benefit from writing an Honors Thesis, studying in Israel, interning with TradeChile, or joining the Women in Economics Club.
20-Year Net ROI: $596,000
Graduation Rate: 84%
14. University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign
Featuring alumni like YouTube co-founder Steve Chen and Nobel Prize winner John Bardeen, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a public, sea-grant RU/VH institution educating over 32,800 undergrads on its 4,552-acre urban campus south of Chicago. Noted for America’s 18th “Best Student Life” on Niche, UIUC stands as the 44th best national university on the U.S. News survey. From Kinley Hall, students pursue the BALAS in Economics or BS in Agricultural and Applied Economics. Majors also enter the James Scholar Honors Program, join the Econ Ambassadors, study abroad in Rome, and intern with the Department of Labor.
20-Year Net ROI: $569,000
Graduation Rate: 84%
15. University of Texas at Austin
Included in the SURA Consortium, the University of Texas at Austin is a public, space-grant RU/VH research powerhouse endowed for $3.3 billion to educate over 39,600 undergrad Longhorns from a 434-acre urban campus. Ranked America’s #9 “Happiest College” in Daily Beast, UT-Austin is the 56th best university and 14th most innovative school according to the U.S. News. The College of Liberal Arts confers a four-year B.A. in Economics for 120 credits. Valuable learning opportunities include the Econ Peer Mentor Program, Texas Economics Association (TEA), Business Economics Option, and Liberal Arts Internship.
20-Year Net ROI: $551,000
Graduation Rate: 81%