Best Online Master’s in Economics Programs

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Economics is a branch of social science focused on how money, goods, and services are produced, consumed, and distributed. The term ‘economics’ has been used since the 19th century, but this discipline has been studied since ancient times. Modern economics is rooted in finance, sociology, history, political science, mathematics, and statistics. The field is divided into two primary schools: microeconomics, or the way individuals and organizations handle wealth; and macroeconomics, which deals with national, regional, and global economic markets. Additionally, economists today distinguish between positive economics, which reflects current realities, and normative economics, which focuses on ideal conditions.

While economics is a popular field of undergraduate study in the U.S., many students choose to advance beyond their bachelor’s by earning a master’s degree in economics. The curriculum of a master’s in economics degree program is largely grounded in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory, as well as econometrics, or the statistical analysis tools and metrics used to measure and evaluate economic activities. A large number of economics master’s degree programs culminate in a capstone experience, which requires students to compose a comprehensive research paper that addresses a contemporary issue in economics. Internships are also widely available, but rarely required as part of the master’s curriculum.

Many of today’s students are choosing to earn their master’s degree in economics online, rather than in a classroom. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curricula as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to similar job opportunities after the degree requirements have been completed. The asynchronous (or self-paced) format of most online master’s in economics programs is also ideal for students with other commitments that may interfere with campus-based education, such as part-time employment or family obligations.

Learn more about what you can do with an online master’s in economics and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.

WILL AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN ECONOMICS PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

The master’s in economics degree is designed to build on the foundational knowledge and skills of undergraduate-level study while introducing more advanced theories and approaches to the field of economics. A large number of colleges and universities allow students to follow concentrated study tracks; these degree specializations will help them pursue careers in niche areas of the economics profession. Capstone experiences and internships can also build their career standing by exposing them to real-world working conditions and enabling them to glean insights from experienced professionals.

WILL AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN ECONOMICS PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?

Master’s in economics online programs offer a flexible, user-friendly alternative to traditional higher learning. Students can to download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors — all from the comfort of their home computer. Current technology also allows them to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other portable devices with Wi-Fi capabilities.

WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY MASTER’S IN ECONOMICS?

A master’s degree is considered the minimum educational attainment level for most economist positions in the private and public sectors. Additionally, those with a master’s in economics will be well-positioned to compete for other jobs that are attainable with a bachelor’s degree; these roles include finance analysts, market research analysts, statisticians, and financial advisors. The master’s in economics can also serve as a stepping-stone for those who wish to proceed into a doctoral or Ph.D. program, though this study track is typically reserved for aspiring college professors and academic researchers.

WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MASTER’S IN ECONOMICS PROGRAMS?

Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online master’s in economics programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you are considering an online master’s degree in economics, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost % Enrolled Online Location Description
1 Johns Hopkins University 90.40 7% Baltimore, MD

Johns Hopkins offers several online graduate programs in fields such as business, engineering, biotechnology, and education. The online master's of science in applied economics can be pursued either part-time or full-time and students can enter the program in fall, spring, or summer semesters. This online master's in economics is comprised of 10 courses in areas like microeconomic and macroeconomic theory, econometrics, and statistics. Students are able to tailor a course of study in areas such as financial economics and the macroeconomy, spatial economics, environmental economics, health economics, and quantitative economics. A formal concentration in financial economics is also available. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and must meet various economics requirements to be considered. John Hopkins encourages out-of-state students to contact an admissions representative for state-specific information for online program, like state authorization, before applying.

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2 Purdue University 66.79 13% West Lafayette, IN

Purdue University offers graduate-level online programs in fields such as hospitality management, engineering, education, and aerospace management. The completely online 30-credit master's of science in economics is a two-year program designed for students with strong analytical skills and undergraduate degrees in STEM fields. The program’s 14 courses cover a variety of core economic concepts, including behavioral economics, econometrics, microeconomics, and macroeconomics. Students can choose from two concentrations: applied economics/business or advanced theory. Online students have the option to study on-campus as well. Graduates of this online master's in economics program can pursue careers in policy-making and managerial, or continue their education in a doctoral program. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0, and current GRE scores, to be considered. Unlike many online economics master's degree programs, Purdue doesn’t require applicants to have earned an undergraduate degree in the field.

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3 American University 62.07 5% Washington, DC

American University’s online programs offer the same academic rigor and world-class instruction as on-campus classes. AU offers a variety of online graduate degrees in fields like social enterprise, business administration, sports analytics and management, and international services. The master's of arts in economics teaches students learn to develop mathematical models, interpret economic data, test their economic hypotheses, and learn to use Stata -- a software tool used in the field to analyse economic data. The 30-credit master's in economics online can be completed in as few as 20 months and includes 10 eight-week long courses. The curriculum includes courses in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory, applied econometrics, labor economics, and a capstone requirement in which students apply what they have learned in a practical setting. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree, current GRE test scores, and completed Calculus 1 or an equivalent to be considered.

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4 University of Detroit Mercy 57.06 13% Detroit, MI

The University of Detroit Mercy offers students an education that is rooted in the values of the school’s Jesuit and Mercy traditions. UD Mercy offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including two online economics degrees: a 30-credit master's of arts in economics and a 30-credit master's of arts in financial economics. The MA in economics is comprised of 10 courses and can be completed entirely online. This master's of economics online program includes courses in quantitative economic analysis, international trade, and financial economics. The MA in financial economics can also be completed fully online and includes courses in money/capital markets, contemporary economic systems, econometrics, international trade, and economic development. Students also study moral and ethical issues related to the field. Applicants to each program must have a bachelor's degree (preferably in economics or business administration) with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to be considered.

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5 Youngstown State University 36.80 20% Youngstown, OH

Youngstown State University was founded in 1908 by the YMCA to provide a law course to a small number of students. Today, YSU offers a wide range of affordable degree programs to approximately 12,700 students each year. Located in northeastern Ohio, YSU has a catalog of 115 undergraduate and 40 graduate degree programs, some of which are delivered fully online. In the 33-credit master's of arts in financial economics, students learn about corporate financial management through the analysis of economic models, management of financial capital, and analysis of stock valuations. This online master's in economics can be completed in only six semesters and includes courses in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory, econometrics, security analysis, and multinational accounting and finance. Students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher throughout the program in order to graduate. To be admitted to the program, students need to have taken coursework in the principles of microeconomics and macroeconomics, a statistics course which introduces regression analysis, and introductory calculus.

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How Long is an Online MBA Program?
18 months to 2 years
Program costs (when available)
$25,000 to $50,000
Concentrations
Accounting and Finance, Statistics, Sociology, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Financial Analysis, Fundraising, Risk Management

WHAT TO EXPECT AS A STUDENT IN AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN ECONOMICS PROGRAM

The curriculum of a master’s in economics degree program will usually focus on three core areas: economic theory; econometrics; and applied economics, or the use of theory and econometrics to address issues and trends in specific settings. Coursework will also delve into the economic practices of particular regions of the world, such as Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East. Most programs include a handful of math courses, largely concentrated in fields like statistics and probability, calculus, and linear algebra. Other areas of study may include trade, money and banking, economic development, game theory, empirical asset pricing, and law and ethics.

Due to the extensive reach of the economics field, degree specializations are quite common. Some common concentrations for master’s in economics students include international finance, experimental economics, public finance, monetary economics, marketing research, and real estate. The nature of a student’s capstone research project will largely depend on their area of specialization; the best online master’s in economics programs provide each student with a faculty advisor to assist him or her during the different stages of the capstone experience.

It’s crucial to research the accreditation status of an MBA program before fully committing to it. In the U.S., most online master’s programs in economics do not receive programmatic accreditation; exceptions are usually business administration degree programs with an economics focus, which may receive accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). However, students should make sure that their college or university has received regional or national accreditation before committing to it.

JOB PLACEMENT: MASTER’S IN ECONOMICS

Currently, the job outlook for professional economists with a master’s degree is somewhat mixed. On one hand, master’s degree recipients tend to enjoy lower unemployment rates than their colleagues with lesser credentials. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average master’s degree-holder faces an unemployment rate of 2.4%; comparatively, those with a bachelor’s or associate degree face unemployment rates of 2.8% and 3.8%, respectively. On the other hand, minimal growth has been projected for the economist profession. The BLS predicts that jobs in this industry will rise 6% between 2014 and 2024, resulting in only 1,200 new jobs during that time.

Thankfully, those who graduate with a master’s in economics may also be qualified for other professional roles related to financial analysis and management. Using data from U.S. News & World Report, the following table looks at some of these occupations and their corresponding unemployment rates.

Occupation Unemployment Rate (2017)
Statistician 0.8%
Mathematician 0.8%
Financial Advisor 2.0%
Financial Manager 2.0%
Accountant 2.5%
Financial Analyst 2.1%
Market Research Analyst 3.1%

Source: U.S. News & World Report

The average unemployment rate of the seven positions listed is 1.9% — much lower than the average unemployment rate for all occupations nationwide, which is currently set at 4.5%.

EARNING A LIVING

According to the 2016-17 PayScale College Salary Report, students who graduate with a master’s in economics earn median annual salaries of $64,900 during the first five years of their careers and $115,000 after 10 years in the workforce. However, the salary potential for someone with a master’s in economics will often depend on their specific job title. Other factors to consider include experience level, employer size, and city/state of employment. The next table looks at 20-year earnings growth estimates for five of the most common careers for economics master’s degree recipients.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)
Economist $62,222 $88,169 $99,833 $118,434
Senior Economist $74,228 $100,040 $118,055 $135,238
Market Analyst $51,067 $61,109 $67,334 $67,558
Data Analyst $55,275 $64,619 $66,420 $69,131
Economic Development Specialist $46,236 $48,230 $55,000 $84,670

Source: PayScale

All five occupations experience salary growth of at least 25% after 20 years on the job. Economists reported the highest growth rate: a staggering 90.3% increase in earnings between the entry-level and late-career stages. Economic development specialists ranked second with 83.1% salary growth, followed closely by senior economists with 82.2% growth.

Career Opportunities

Those leave school with a master’s in economics will be qualified for dozens of top-level jobs, although individual eligibility may depend on their field of degree specialization. Four popular career pathways in economics are outlined below.

Economists: Economists analyze activities in money markets around the world in order to determine patterns and trends that may impact the way goods and services are valued and distributed. More than 20% of working economists are employed through the federal government, while another 18% work for consulting services.

Financial Managers: Financial managers oversee the finance departments at private companies, firms, postsecondary institutions, healthcare facilities, and other profit-generating organizations. Their regular duties include writing financial reports, reviewing organizational expenses and activities, and working with executives to create strategies that maximize profits and overall efficiency.

Financial Analysts: Financial analysts provide investment advice to individuals and organizations. They must have a strong background in economics and market activities, and be able to accurately predict how stocks, bonds, and other investments will perform.

Financial Examiners: Financial examiners review the financial records of companies and organizations to ensure that all activities and transactions are ethical and legally compliant. They typically spend their days reviewing balance sheets, bank statements, income and expense accounts, invoices, and other types of financial documentation.

Occupation Median Annual Salary Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)
Economists $99,180 6% (+1,200 jobs)
Financial Managers $117,990 7% (+37,700 jobs)
Financial Analysts $80,310 12% (+32,300 jobs)
Financial Examiners $78,010 10% (+3,700 jobs)

Source: Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to economics is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for economics professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

  • American Economic Association: Established in 1885, the AEA is a not-for-profit organization that specializes in economic research, particularly in the fields of historical and statistical analysis. The association publishes seven academic online journals, and hosts conferences and gathering throughout the year.
  • National Association of Business Economics: NABE is one of the largest organizations in the country dedicated to business-related micro- and macroeconomics. Membership benefits include complimentary magazines and newsletters, invitations to economics conferences, and discounts on certificate and continuing education programs.
  • National Economic Association: The NEA was founded in 1969 by the Caucus of Black Economists to provide a professional outlet for minorities working in the economics industry. Professional and student membership rates are available.

Despite the relative affordability of online master’s programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR WOMEN

Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

SCHOLARSHIPS AND FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE STUDENTS

Students who pursue online degrees will be eligible for scholarships, grants and other financial aid that is unavailable to their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Learn more about these financial opportunities for web-based learners.

MASTER’S IN FINANCE

Finance — the study of money and asset management — is one of the most popular degree concentrations for MBA students. Learn about the best schools for this area of study with our comprehensive degree guide.

MASTER’S IN HUMAN RESOURCES

Another popular specialization field for MBA students, human resources (or HR) focuses on hiring, new employee orientation and other administrative needs. Visit our guide to master’s degrees in HR for more information.

BUSINESS RESOURCE

Our page dedicated to resources for business students includes links to professional organizations, open courseware, industry publications, books and business-minded users to follow on Twitter.

BUSINESS CAREERS

Our career page for business degree graduates includes a state-by-state breakdown of business careers and academic options for business students, as well as popular job sites, professional organizations and continuing education opportunities for established professionals.