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Academic Preparation After Declaring Your Major

Once you declare Economics as your major, here are some important issues that you should consider as soon as possible.

If you have a GPA of at least 3.0, you should consider applying for the Honors Program. Please visit the Honors Hawaii page for more information. If you have an Economics GPA of 3.3, you should also apply to the Economics Honors Program. The Economics department provides a separate documentation noting the student graduated with Honors in Economics with the appropriate designation in addition to the special diploma for Honors students. Please visit the ECON Honors Track for more details.

Think about your plans after graduation. Are you entering the job market? What type of job are you interested in? Are you thinking about graduate school? What type of graduate degree are you going to pursue?

Unfortunately, many students do not think about these issues early enough. Your future plans should guide you as you chose your course work. While getting good grades, convenient class times, and taking fun courses are important, your postgraduation plans should play a central role in your course selection.

For example, if you would like to work in the financial services sector after graduation, you may wish to take Econ 340, Econ 440, Econ 461, Econ 450 and/or Econ 452 as part of your curriculum. If you are interested in working in International Business, you may wish to take Econ 362, Econ 410, Econ 460, Econ 461 and/or one or more of the regional Economics courses such as Econ 317, Econ 416 or Econ 415. Also, once you know your areas of interest, the Undergraduate Economics Advisor should be able to help you choose the Economics courses you need to achieve your goals.

The same reasoning should be used in choosing your courses outside of Economics. To be competitive in the job market you are interested in, you may require specific skills. How are your math skills? How are your communication skills? How are your writing skills? How are your computer skills? If your mathematics is your weakness, make sure you strengthen it before you graduate by taking more math courses. If communication is your weakness, make sure you know how to communicate by taking speech and communication courses before you graduate.

If you are going to graduate school, do some advance research and find out what kind of courses you should be taking the next two years so that you are fully prepared for graduate work. If you are interested in an MA or PhD in Economics, please visit our Graduate Program & Overview for information on how to prepare yourself for grad school. You may want to talk to faculty members and graduate students in the areas that you are interested in to get a feel for what life in graduate school may be like.

After you declare your major, you should go to Career Services in QLCSS 212. Career Services offer various services that will help you prepare for life after graduation. How should you choose your career? Career Services has counselors and books in their library that will help you find the right career. Do you have a resume? If not, they have workshops on how to write resumes and cover letters. If you do have a resume, the counselors will critique it for you. Do you want to prepare for job interviews? They offer interview workshops, too. Do you need a place to store recommendation letters for jobs and graduate schools? No problem, they offer that service, too. Do you need a list of internships? They have a library full of such information. So do visit Career Services soon, not just right before you graduate.

Consider doing an internship and taking part-time jobs that give you good experience. While it is true that many students must work to finance their education, it is also imperative that you get good experience even if it means sacrificing some income. Even though they may not pay you a salary, a great internship at Merrill Lynch may be a much better long-term investment than working in a restaurant. To earn academic credit for your internship, register for Econ 390 (Internship) and/or Econ 391 (Co-op Education). For more information visit our internships page.

The Econ Club is another great way to gain experience working on economics-related projects. Let the Undergrad Econ Advisor know if you're interested in joining and he will put you in touch with the Club. Economics also supports membership to Omicron Delta Epsilon, an International Economics Honors Society, for top students in Economics. Please ask the Undergrad Econ Advisor for more details. The more involved you are in these types activities, the more experience you gain, and the better your resume will look.

During your senior year take advantage of the expertise of the counselors at Career Services. They will help you decide who to send your resumes to. Keep in mind that many of the best positions may be filled quickly, so don't wait to look for jobs until after graduation. Ideally, you should have an offer in hand before you graduate.

If you are planning to go to graduate school, you should also be checking out the deadlines for applications, the tests that various schools require and any other requirements that a particular school may have, such as the number of recommendation letters, etc. You may even consider visiting the schools you are really interested in, to confirm whether those schools really fit your needs.

The worst-case scenario would be to not get into grad school and not have prepared for the job market so that you will be behind everyone else in terms of preparation. Therefore, the old adage of "Prepare for the worst and hope for the best" applies here and while it will involve extra work, diversifying your risk by preparing for both will be well worth the trouble.

Preparation for Graduate Studies in Economics (MA/PhD)

Begin by looking at our Graduate Program & Overview. The website provides information on our graduate program and basis for evaluating graduate programs at other universities. The first-year curriculum in any economics graduate program (M.A. or Ph.D.) requires knowledge of mathematics and statistics far beyond the training of a typical undergraduate economics student. If you are considering a graduate degree in Economics, we strongly recommend the following courses.

  1. Statistics: Take Math 371 (Elementary Probability Theory) and 373 (Elementary Statistics) instead of Econ 321 (Introduction to Statistics). Our Econ 321 does not require knowledge of calculus while Math 371 and 373 do. These two courses will provide you with the statistical skills needed during your first year of graduate school.
  2. Calculus: Take at least two of the courses in the calculus sequences (Math 241-244: Calculus I-IV or Math 251A-253A: Accelerated Calculus I-III). You will be very well prepared if you take the entire 3- or 4-course sequence. Techniques on differentiation, integration, differential equations, optimization, and more are covered, all skills that you will need in the first year of graduate school.
  3. Linear Algebra: Take Math 311 (Introduction to Linear Algebra). Knowledge of linear algebra is a must for first-year graduate students; it is used in microeconomics and econometrics courses.
  4. Upper Division Economics Courses: We also recommend that you take Economics courses from our Upper Division II 400-level offerings to strengthen your analytical and theoretical skills. See the UHM Economics Department's "Majoring in Economics" Guide for a listing of these courses. It is available on the web as the Guide to the Undergraduate Program. These courses cover more advanced theory or extensions of the basic micro/macro theories and develop your ability to understand and use economic theory in various fields of economics. These courses may also help you choose which areas of economics to specialize in during your graduate career.
  5. Mathematical Economics and Econometrics. You should also strongly consider taking Econ 420 (Mathematical Economics) and Econ 425 (Introduction to Econometrics). Please refer to the catalog for topics covered and the prerequisites.
  6. Graduate Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. In addition, very advanced undergraduates may receive permission from the department to audit Economics 606 and 607, the first-year graduate microeconomics and macroeconomics theory courses.

For further information about our graduate program, please contact the Chair of the UHM Economics Graduate Program.

This planning information is also available for download.