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.
What are the best economics programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||Johns Hopkins University||Baltimore, MD|
|2||Purdue University||West Lafayette, IN|
|3||American University||Washington, DC|
|4||University of Delaware||Newark, DE|
|5||University of Missouri||Columbia, MO|
|6||University of North Dakota||Grand Forks, ND|
|7||West Texas A&M University||Canyon, TX|
|8||Georgia Southern University||Statesboro, GA|
|9||University of Detroit Mercy||Detroit, MI|
|10||Murray State University||Murray, KY|
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.
The Best Online Master's in Economics Programs
Johns Hopkins University
|Baltimore, MD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 93%||
Graduate students can complete a 10-course master of science in applied economics at Johns Hopkins in one or two years. Participants can take classes online and in the evening at the school's Dupont Circle location in Washington, D.C. Enrolled students learn to construct and analyze economic models.
Applied economics students take four core courses covering topics like economic theory, statistics, and econometrics; one advanced econometrics course; and five electives in an area of interest. Possible specializations include public policy, financial economics, international economics, and spatial economics.
This program accepts applications on a rolling basis and welcomes all undergraduate majors with a minimum 3.0 GPA to apply. Applicants should demonstrate completion of some undergraduate coursework in economics and calculus, submit a 250-word statement of purpose and a resume, and upload contact information for two recommenders.
|West Lafayette, IN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 81%||
Founded in 1869, Purdue now serves more than 40,000 students through several locations and online. Online degree offerings include a 30-credit master's in economics with specializations in data analytics, financial economics, public policy, and advanced theory. Students can start in August or January and finish in 20-36 months.
Purdue's online courses typically last eight weeks. All economics graduate students must take courses that cover economic theory and econometrics. Specialization class topics include big data, financial valuation, and game theory.
This program does not require undergraduate coursework in economics or GRE scores. Applicants must submit a statement of purpose, video essay, resume, and two recommendations. Video essay questions relate to business competencies such as motivation and leadership potential.
|Washington, DC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 80%||
AU offers a master's in economics with five specializations, including an online track in applied economics. This 10-course degree emphasizes policy and data analysis and combines theory with practical applications. Students may complete the entire program online or take up to six credits on campus.
AU's online graduate economic courses last eight weeks. Core courses include economic theory, econometrics, and a concluding capstone course. Elective options include labor economics, public economics, and financial stability.
Applicants must complete calculus before starting the program. They should also submit a resume, a statement of purpose, and two recommendations. The program can be completed in 20 months. AU reports that 96% of program graduates find employment in the field and/or enroll in graduate school within six months.
University of Delaware
|Newark, DE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 81%||
UD has roots dating back to the 1700s. The university offers a hybrid master's in economics and entrepreneurship for educators. UD designed this program to prepare teachers to become leaders in teaching economics, personal finance, and entrepreneurship.
This 30-credit degree requires six transfer credits. Students complete introductory coursework and projects online during the school year and two four-week sessions on campus during the summer. Summer courses during the first summer include micro- and macroeconomics. During the second summer, students explore money, international trade, and economic education.
Educators with at least three credits in economics and a recommendation from their school, district, or another relevant organization may apply. Applicants must submit a resume, personal statement, and three letters of recommendation.
University of Missouri
|Columbia, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 69%||
Founded in 1839, Mizzou currently serves more than 30,000 students. The university offers a 30-credit master's in economics that students can complete entirely online. The program emphasizes globalization and big data.
The economics curriculum includes five core courses and five elective classes. Required courses include economic theory, econometrics, and a research workshop. Students may select from electives like international trade, game theory, and public budgeting. Interested students may take up to 12 credits before officially applying to the program.
Mizzou seeks applicants with a minimum 3.0 GPA over their last 60 undergraduate credits. Applicants must submit transcripts, contact information for two recommenders, a resume, and a personal statement. However, students need not submit GRE scores. All distance learners qualify for in-state tuition.
University of North Dakota
|Grand Forks, ND||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 55%||
UND offers a master of science in applied economics and predictive analytics designed for individuals interested in a career in economic research and/or forecasting. Students may complete this 30-credit degree entirely online in two years.
Required core courses include economic theory and econometrics. Students must also take 12 credits in data analytics and complete a three-credit independent study course. Many of UND's classes require students to participate in synchronous, online discussions, which are usually held in the evenings.
Applicants must possess an undergraduate degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA (or a minimum 3.0 GPA during their junior and senior years) and have completed coursework in microeconomics, calculus, and statistics. Applicants who do not meet these requirements may qualify for provisional status. Online students can access UND's online tutoring services.
West Texas A&M University
|Canyon, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 44%||
WTAMU offers a 36-credit, two-year master of science in finance and economics that is well suited for professionals working in fields like finance, policy, economic consulting, and education. Students may complete all coursework online.
This degree emphasizes the application of economic theory. Students begin by demonstrating proficiency in economics, accounting, finance, and statistics through undergraduate or graduate coursework or by passing advanced standing exams. Degree requirements include core courses in economic theory and policy, corporate and international finance, asset valuation, and quantitative analysis.
Applicants with a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA may apply for a GMAT score waiver. All applicants must submit three recommendations, a resume, and a goals statement. Master's candidates must pass a comprehensive exam to graduate.
Georgia Southern University
|Statesboro, GA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Serving more than 25,000 students, Georgia Southern offers an online master of science in applied economics. This program is focused on giving graduates the skills needed to analyze financial markets, regulatory issues, and economic development. Learners can complete this fully online, asynchronous program in two years by taking two courses each semester.
The program requires five courses in math, economic theory, and applied econometrics. Students then select five courses in areas such as international economics, industrial organization, health economics, and behavioral economics. Additional course topics include regional economic development and financial economics.
Candidates should possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and competitive GRE scores. They should also have completed coursework in micro- and macroeconomics, calculus, and statistics. Graduate degree-holders may apply for a GRE waiver. Students who do not meet these requirements may receive provisional admission.
University of Detroit Mercy
|Detroit, MI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 65%||
Founded by Jesuits in 1877, UD Mercy oversees more than 100 programs, including eight online master's pathways. The university offers an online master's in economics that enables students to select a theoretical or applied concentration.
UD Mercy's graduate economics program requires 15 credits of core classes and 15 credits of electives. Core course topics include economic analysis, financial economics, and international trade theory. Elective offerings include labor economics, international monetary analysis, and economic modeling. Students may also opt to complete individual research or a master's thesis as part of their elective coursework.
UD Mercy prefers applicants who possess an undergraduate degree in business or economics with a minimum 3.0 GPA. The university may require additional prerequisites.
Murray State University
|Murray, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 55%||
Murray State offers 17 graduate programs online, including a master's in economic development. This fully online degree prepares students for careers in economic development. Participants can complete this program in a year by taking two eight-week classes each session.
Murray State's program emphasizes hands-on learning. Students receive training in current statistical tools and complete directed study in an area of interest, an internship, and a capstone project. Required course topics include economic development methods, finance, and data analysis.
Applicants must possess a minimum 2.75 GPA, a GMAT score of at least 450, or a GRE score of at least 289. Applicants with professional certifications or experience in economic development may qualify for credit, and applicants may transfer in up to 12 credits of relevant graduate work. Online tuition rates are the same for residents and nonresidents.
Choosing a Program
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.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Economics Program?
|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)|
|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)|
|Economic Development Specialist||$46,236||$48,230||$55,000||$84,670|
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.
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)
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.
Financing Your Online Master's in Economics
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.