Any professional with a thorough understanding of supply and demand, pricing, risk, and how much a product sells for can find a job. As such, earning an economics degree constitutes a timeless investment that should ensure strong employment opportunities for the rest of your life.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the number of jobs in almost every career path in economics to grow at above-average rates over the next decade. Market research analyst positions are projected to grow by 23% through 2026.
An economics degree positions you well for the current and future job climate. Below, we discuss why you should earn a bachelor of science in economics, what kind of jobs you can get with the degree, and how to choose a program.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Economics?
People with significant quantitative and mathematical skills interested in money and markets can thrive in an economics program. While an online degree appeals either to professionals who work full time or to individuals without easy access to a college campus, an on-campus economics programs caters more to students who want the support of set class times and an in-person peer group. Likewise, professors may make themselves more accessible in on-campus programs. On-campus economics programs also offer access to software and other quantitative applications in laboratory type courses.
No matter which delivery method it uses, a bachelor's degree in economics provides students with knowledge in foundational areas such as supply, demand, macroeconomics, microeconomics, and elasticity. Students may also complete general mathematics coursework in areas such as statistics and calculus. All jobs in the economics field require candidates to possess this foundational knowledge.
Most economics programs also offer some sort of employment benefits to students. While enrolled, students often ask their programs to help them find internship and direct-experience opportunities. After graduating, most programs provide some sort of counseling, assistance, or placement services to help graduates find jobs. Since most schools use job placement rate as a recruiting tool, it benefits them to help graduates find jobs.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Economics?
Given their knowledge of supply, demand, products, and pricing, economics degree graduates can analyze markets, finances, and risk for private and public organizations. Most positions in the economics field require employees to work typical business hours in traditional office settings, though these positions occasionally require overtime.
Below, we explore five of the top options available to students with a bachelor's degree in economics.
Economists study supply, demand, and resource production and distribution. They often work in an office or governmental agency -- such as the Federal Reserve Bank -- with other economists. A bachelor's degree helps professionals enter this field; however, employees may need to earn a master's degree or a Ph.D. to advance.
Median Annual Salary: $102,490
Projected Growth Rate: 6%
- Accountant or Auditor
These two financial professions require individuals who can examine, prepare, and verify the accuracy of financial records. They often deal with taxes and organizational effectiveness, as well. All accountants and auditors need a bachelor's degree. Accountants may need to pursue the certified public accountant certification for certain positions.
Median Annual Salary: $69,350
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Market Research Analyst
Market research analysts use their economics and marketing knowledge to determine how well a product might sell. They work either as independent consultants or as in-house employees for companies. Most market research analysts only require a bachelor's degree, though some do require a graduate degree.
Median Annual Salary: $63,230
Projected Growth Rate: 23%
- Financial Analyst
Financial analysts often work for either businesses or individuals, performing the same function in each case: investment advice. These professionals need a thorough understanding of the stock market, bonds, and other opportunities for investment. Professionals cannot earn a financial analyst position without first earning a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $84,300
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
Actuaries use their finance and economics expertise to determine the cost of risk. As such, they often work for insurance companies, though some actuaries also work as independent consultants. All aspiring actuaries need a bachelor's degree and must pass several exams before they can find work in the field.
Median Annual Salary: $101,560
Projected Growth Rate: 22%
How to Choose a Bachelor's Program in Economics
Many students focus strictly on cost and program rankings when evaluating which economics program best fits them. However, several other factors should also enter the discussion. Students should determine how long they want to spend in school and how much time they can commit to their studies. Some students prefer immersing themselves in college through full-time programs, while others prefer to continue working and complete coursework through a part-time format. Also, online and on-campus economics programs cater to different types of students. You should determine which delivery method best suits your needs.
Students should take into account whether a curriculum includes concentrations, a capstone experience, or or direct experience, which can help distinguish between programs that otherwise look similar.
Schools often boast many connections to employers in their immediate vicinity. As such, students should ensure that they feel comfortable working in their school's surroundings after they graduate.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's Programs in Economics
In terms of accreditation, two types stand above the rest: regional and programmatic. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversee regional accreditation. In this process, third-party evaluators visit a school to ensure that its operations comply with a set of standards.
Programmatic accreditation refers to organizations that focus on accrediting specific types of programs. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business oversees programmatic accreditation for economics programs; it also oversees programs in adjacent fields such as business, finance, and accounting. Students should not enroll in economics programs without both regional and programmatic accreditation. If they do, they may find that employers do not recognize their degrees and immediately eliminate them from job searches.
Bachelor's in Economics Program Admissions
On-campus undergraduate programs list similar admission requirements. In most cases, prospective students must fill out an application -- which includes personal information and personal essays -- submit transcripts, take standardized tests, and submit letters of recommendation. The Common Application, which many on-campus programs use, allows users to fill in one application for many schools.
Online program admissions can differ slightly from on-campus admissions. Online admission often requires more involvement from both sides of the process, as some online programs require admissions interviews, admissions counseling, or ask applicants to complete an online learning readiness assessment.
No matter which delivery method they choose, students should apply to at least three schools, including at least one "safety" school to ensure that they earn admission somewhere.
- Minimum GPA: Many undergraduate economics programs require a minimum high school GPA of at least 2.5; however, applicants can sometimes offset this requirement through outstanding performance in another area (e.g. high SAT scores or strong recommendation letters).
- Application: Students should allocate at least an hour for the personal information section of each application and five to ten hours for each essay. If you apply to schools that use the The Common Application, you only need to fill out the personal information section once.
- Transcripts: Your high school should send your transcripts -- a list of the courses you took and the grades you earned in them -- to all of your prospective schools free of charge. Junior colleges or previous colleges should do the same.
- Letters of Recommendation: Applicants should ask for at least two letters of recommendation from former teachers or professors. You should give them at least two to three months advance notice.
- Test Scores: Students should take both the ACT and the SAT at least once. Minimum scores vary from school to school. Some programs do not require these test scores for entrance.
- Application Fee: A typical application fee ranges from $20 to $100. Students who demonstrate need can sometime get this fee waived.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's Program in Economics?
Below, we highlight typical concentrations and courses in bachelor's in economics programs. While curricula necessarily include similarities and industry-standard competencies -- as all programs prepare graduates for the same workforce -- bear in mind that courses and concentrations can vary from program to program.
|Developmental Economics||Economics students with an interest in social issues or social justice should pursue developmental economics, which deals with economic development in poor countries. Graduates with a degree in this concentration may end up working with NGOs or nonprofits in third-world countries.||Economic developer, international development analyst|
|Business Economics||Focusing on applied economics that function in the workplace and data analytics, this concentration prepares students who want to help businesses run as efficiently as possible. They often find work as market research analysts, forecasting how well a company's product will sell in the market.||Economist, market research analyst|
|Management||Students who want to go straight from school to a lower or mid-level management role can enroll in this concentration, which shares some coursework with a typical business administration degree. The concentration includes a distinct managerial focus, often offering coursework in fields such as organizational behavior and performance.||Manager|
|Business Administration||Students who want to pursue an MBA or go into business should consider enrolling in this concentration, which blends courses in economics with foundational business studies in areas such as finance, marketing, and accounting. Graduates can further their studies at the MBA level or immediately find work in business.||Manager, executive, accountant|
|Pre-Law Economics||This concentration blends economics coursework with pre-law studies, expanding the options available to students when they graduate. Some graduate schools offer joint economics-law Ph.D. and J.D. programs that cater to students in this concentration. Graduates can pursue careers as lawyers or economists.||Lawyer, paralegal, economist|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Economics Program
Below, we list five common core courses found in most bachelor's in economics curricula. While elective and concentration courses can differ, most programs offer the same core courses in order to teach core competencies.
- Intermediate Macroeconomics
This survey course covers topics related to macroeconomics, including national income, GDP, public policy, inflation, and debt. Other topics include pricing, output, and employment. The course prepares graduates to work as market research analysts or economists.
- Intermediate Microeconomics
Very similar to its macro peer, this course uses the survey approach to cover a wide range of topics related to microeconomics. Possible topics include decision making at an individual or firm level, resource allocation, market structure's effect on welfare and choices, and the effect of government intervention on markets.
- Introduction to Statistical Methods
Students in this course learn different techniques for statistical presentations. Possible topics include correlation, regression (simple and multiple), variance, hypothesis tests, confidence tests, and other foundational statistical ideas. This course prepares students for any stats-heavy career. It often applies to other quantitative majors aside from economics.
This course gives students the basic tools they need for studies in econometrics. Possible topics include hypothesis testing, regression models, predicting outcomes using quantitative data, and other statistical techniques. Many courses include the use of software such as Gretzl. The course prepares graduates for economist and market research analyst positions.
- History of Economics
This course covers the history of economic growth and theory by introducing students to different economic thinkers. In most cases, the course starts with Adam Smith and moves through Classical political economists, Neoclassical economics, John Keynes, and other distinct economic periods. The class helps students who want to eventually work as professors gain crucial background knowledge.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Economics?
It generally takes four years of full-time study, or 120 credits, to earn your economics degree. This general rule applies to both on-campus and online programs.
Several factors can alter this timeline. For example, some schools offer accelerated economics programs that allow students to double up on credits in some semesters and graduate faster. Other schools offer completion programs that allow students to transfer in previously earned general education credits in order to graduate with an economics degree more quickly. Still others only offer part-time study, which makes programs take longer to complete. These factors can affect tuition costs if schools charge tuition per semester instead of per credit.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Economics?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average college charged a tuition fee of $26,120 in the 2015-2016 school year. If you multiply that figure by four years of full-time study, students should expect to spend over $100,000 on their bachelor of science degree in economics. Economics does not differ from other fields of study in terms of its typical expenses.
Nevertheless, this figure constitutes an estimate, and several factors can alter that price. For example, schools often allow online students to pay either discounted or in-state tuition no matter where they live. Online students also avoid many additional costs that on-campus students must take into account, including meal plans, housing, and technology and activity fees. Students can also apply for need-based financial aid or merit-based scholarships to ameliorate the listed price of tuition.
Whether a program charges tuition per semester or per credit can also affect final tuition prices. Part-time students should ensure that they enroll in per-credit tuition programs, as they likely do not take enough courses per semester to make the per-semester tuition model worthwhile.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Economics Prepares For
- Certified Public Accountant
The CPA designation helps any accountant advance their career. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants oversees the process, requiring candidates to pass an exam to earn the credential. Any accountant who wants to go further in their profession should do their best to earn the CPA designation.
- Economic Development Finance Professional
Offered by the National Development Council, the EDFP certification prepares professionals to create developmental opportunities in communities. All candidates must pass four courses and a comprehensive examination. Professionals who earn this certificate prepare themselves to work in the field of developmental economics, often in international development scenarios.
- Chartered Economist
Awarded by the American Academy of Financial Management, this certification requires students to hold an AACSB-accredited economics degree, three years of work experience, and a commitment to continuing education through AAFM. Candidates must also agree to an ethics standard and need only fill out an application.
- Certified Economic Developer
Overseen by the International Economic Development Council, the CEcD certification shares multiple elements with the EDFP certification. All candidates must possess four years of professional experience in economic development, must display a commitment to professional development through coursework, and must pass a comprehensive examination.
- Certified Business Economist
Awarded by the National Association for Business Economics, this certification focuses primarily on data analytics and applied economics. Candidates must pass an examination, commit to continuing education, and sign the NABE's ethical conduct agreement.
Resources for Economics Students
Likely the world's preeminent popular publication dealing with economics, The Economist allows students to keep up with global affairs involving economic developments.
An open-access and open-assessment journal, the Economics E-Journal offers diverse perspectives on different topics in the field.
Economy Watch follows financial developments around the globe, focusing particularly on the U.S., China, and India.
Based in Austria, the Mises Institute focuses on spreading the message of economics, free enterprise, and capitalism. It offers education, events, and access to a library.
CEE aims to "teach K-12 students about economics and personal finance." The organization accomplishes that goal primarily by providing tools -- lesson plans and guides -- to K-12 educators.
Professional Organizations in Economics
Economics professional organizations can help young professionals network, find job opportunities, learn, and develop professionally. Since economics involves more research than most fields, many of these organizations provide access to publications and the latest research to all of their members, allowing them to stay on top of the latest advances and developments. Below, we highlight five of the field's top professional organizations.
AEA primarily focuses on spreading original research, providing members with access to publications and journals. The organization also hosts an annual meeting to discuss the latest economic research.
NABE focuses on "business economics and those who use economics in the workplace." The organization's services include career development, research, and member roundtables.
NEA offers an annual conference, access to publications and research, and several grants and fellowships. Originally founded as the Caucus of Black Economists, the organization also focuses on helping minorities advance in the field.
SEA's main functions involve publishing the Southern Economic Journal, one of the nation's oldest scholarly economic publications. Living up to its name, the organization also offers an annual conference hosted in a different Southern location each year.
AERE currently counts over 1,000 environmental and resource economists from over 30 countries among its members. The organization offers conferences, access to journals, and a jobs board.