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.
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.
Accredited Online Master's in Economics Programs
|1||Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 47%||
Johns Hopkins offers several online graduate programs in fields such as business, engineering, biotechnology, and education. The online master's of science in applied economics can be pursued either part-time or full-time and students can enter the program in fall, spring, or summer semesters. This online master's in economics is comprised of 10 courses in areas like microeconomic and macroeconomic theory, econometrics, and statistics. Students are able to tailor a course of study in areas such as financial economics and the macroeconomy, spatial economics, environmental economics, health economics, and quantitative economics. A formal concentration in financial economics is also available. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and must meet various economics requirements to be considered. John Hopkins encourages out-of-state students to contact an admissions representative for state-specific information for online program, like state authorization, before applying.
|2||Purdue University West Lafayette, IN||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 21%||
Purdue University offers graduate-level online programs in fields such as hospitality management, engineering, education, and aerospace management. The completely online 30-credit master's of science in economics is a two-year program designed for students with strong analytical skills and undergraduate degrees in STEM fields. The program’s 14 courses cover a variety of core economic concepts, including behavioral economics, econometrics, microeconomics, and macroeconomics. Students can choose from two concentrations: applied economics/business or advanced theory. Online students have the option to study on-campus as well. Graduates of this online master's in economics program can pursue careers in policy-making and managerial, or continue their education in a doctoral program. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0, and current GRE scores, to be considered. Unlike many online economics master's degree programs, Purdue doesn’t require applicants to have earned an undergraduate degree in the field.
|3||American University Washington, DC||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 20%||
American University’s online programs offer the same academic rigor and world-class instruction as on-campus classes. AU offers a variety of online graduate degrees in fields like social enterprise, business administration, sports analytics and management, and international services. The master's of arts in economics teaches students learn to develop mathematical models, interpret economic data, test their economic hypotheses, and learn to use Stata -- a software tool used in the field to analyse economic data. The 30-credit master's in economics online can be completed in as few as 20 months and includes 10 eight-week long courses. The curriculum includes courses in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory, applied econometrics, labor economics, and a capstone requirement in which students apply what they have learned in a practical setting. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree, current GRE test scores, and completed Calculus 1 or an equivalent to be considered.
|4||University of Oklahoma - Norman Campus Norman, OK||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 36%||
The University of Oklahoma offers a master of arts with a major in economics that emphasizes applied and managerial economics in public and private businesses, as well as national and global economic systems. Requiring 32 hours of coursework, this accelerated program addresses topics such as managerial economics, statistics for decision making, contemporary economic methods, applied statistical methods, and world economic development. Prior to graduation, degree candidates must complete a research paper and pass a comprehensive exam.
Program applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally-accredited institution and demonstrate an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0. Along with transcripts and applications, prospective students should submit a 300-500 word statement of goals and pay a non-refundable application fee.
|5||University of Delaware Newark, DE||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 13%||
The University of Delaware’s master of arts in economics and entrepreneurship for educators presents the tools teachers need to inspire and develop future investors, consumers, and entrepreneurs. Envisioning educators as agents of economic change, the program builds leadership skills and economic teaching strategies through a combination of online coursework and two summer semesters at the university’s Newark campus.
The program is open to instructors who have earned a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. While GRE or GMAT scores are not required, international applicants must submit TOEFL exam scores. All prospective students should provide unofficial transcripts, a personal statement of intent, a resume, three reference letters, and must have completed at least three semester hours of economics coursework.
The online master’s in economics degree is offered through UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, which has maintained its business accreditation for over 50 years through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, AACSB International.
|6||University of Missouri - Columbia Columbia, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 29%||
Mizzou Online’s online master of arts in economics develops the practical skills needed to analyze and process information in the areas of international finance and trade, public sectors, and economic development. The 30-credit master’s in economics online program examine concepts and trends in macroeconomic and microeconomic theory, banking, econometrics, international trade and monetary systems, and quantitative economics. Courses follow a semester schedule, and most students earn their degree in around two years.
Prospective students should hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution, and must have maintained a minimum GPA of 3.0 in their final 60 hours of undergraduate work. Applicants who are not native English speakers must provide satisfactory TOEFL or IELTS scores. GRE scores are not required. All distance learners qualify for in-state tuition.
|7||The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Chicago Chicago, IL||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 1%||
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s master's in behavioral economics online program presents a unique alternative to traditional MBA programs. Providing a broad foundation in advanced psychology, it explores the many business applications of behavioral science, such as marketing, negotiation, consumer behavior, and human decision-making. Courses examine the brain and behavior, choice architecture, and consumer motivation. The program includes 30 hours of fieldwork, and culminates in a written capstone project. Full-time students typically complete the master’s of economics online program in two years.
Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field from a regionally accredited institution, and should submit an application fee, resume, 500-700 word essay, and official transcripts. Work experience is recommended. All online students pay $1,127 per credit hour.
|8||West Texas A & M University Canyon, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 82%||
West Texas A&M University offers a master of science in finance and economics degree that may be completed entirely online, on campus, or through a hybrid program. The MSFE curriculum improves students’ understanding of finance and economics by addressing concepts in corporate governance and ethics, security analysis, financial management of healthcare, advanced business forecasting, and international finance. While the 36-hour program is designed for a two year timeline, some learners may earn their degree in as little as one year.
Applicants to the economics master’s degree online program must demonstrate an undergraduate degree with GPA of 3.0 or higher, and should have completed a series of foundational business courses. Prospective students must also submit official transcripts, a resume, three letters of recommendation, and a statement of goals along with their application. The university also considers relevant professional or military experience when reviewing applications.
|9||University of Detroit Mercy Detroit, MI||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 17%||
The University of Detroit Mercy offers students an education that is rooted in the values of the school’s Jesuit and Mercy traditions. Detroit Mercy offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including two online economics degrees: a 30-credit master's of arts in economics and a 30-credit master's of arts in financial economics. The MA in economics is comprised of 10 courses and can be completed entirely online. This master's of economics online program includes courses in quantitative economic analysis, international trade, and financial economics. The MA in financial economics can also be completed fully online and includes courses in money/capital markets, contemporary economic systems, econometrics, international trade, and economic development. Students also study moral and ethical issues related to the field. Newly added to the program is data analytic courses and badges. Applicants to each program must have a bachelor's degree (preferably in economics or business administration) with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to be considered.
|10||Georgia Southern University Statesboro, GA||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 59%||
Georgia Southern University’s AACSB accredited online master of science in applied economics program arms graduates with a comprehensive understanding of financial economics, economic development, and related regulatory issues. This competitive online economics master’s degree program covers the competencies and skills needed to take on roles in public and private economic enterprises, including quantitative analysis, financial economics, market analysis, and regulatory industry analysis. Required courses include international economics, applied econometrics I and II, the history of economic thought, microeconomics and macroeconomics. The 30-credit, two-year program is offered entirely online, with no on-campus components.
Prospective students must hold a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA from an accredited college or university and adequate GRE scores. Applicants should also have completed coursework in statistics, calculus, and math for applied economics, with a grade of C or better in all courses. Those who have not fulfilled all prerequisite conditions may be admitted provisionally.
|11||University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 53%||
The University of North Dakota’s online master of science in applied economics is ideal for students intending to work in fields such as economic development, consulting, strategic planning, and applied research. This online master’s in economics program develops advanced research skills and allows students to pursue an area of specialization, such as business economics or economic development. Students may also participate in an optional research internship. Required courses include advanced macroeconomic theory, topics in applied econometrics, advanced price theory, applied economic analysis, and demographic methods for economics.
UND’s MS in applied economics degree program consists of 31-32 credit hours, and typically takes around two years to complete. Courses are semester-based, and consist of live streaming classes presented at set times. All distance learners pay in-state tuition.
|12||Eastern University Saint Davids, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 39%||
Eastern University’s MBA in economic development is a unique program centered upon microfinance, sustainable development, holistic community development, and social entrepreneurship. The 44-credit curriculum includes a three-month development field practicum, in which students work with an organization in a developing country and create a written community development project proposal. Students may choose between international and urban concentrations, and many graduates go on to aid economic development in Asia, Africa, and beyond.
Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree or equivalent with a minimum GPA of 2.5. Prerequisite business courses include introductory managerial and financial accounting, introductory business finance, business statistics, and introductory micro- and macroeconomics. All distance learners pay a flat tuition rate, regardless of their state of residence.
Eastern University is accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education, MSCHE, and Association of Theological Schools in the U.S. and Canada, and is a candidate for the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, or ACBSP.
|13||SUNY Empire State College Saratoga Springs, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 89%||
SUNY Empire State College’s master of arts in community and economic development features an innovative curriculum that emphasizes the role of social capital in community development. Over 36 credit hours, students explore methods of enacting positive economic changes in underserved areas through the public policy process. The fully-online MBA degree program culminates in a final project, in which students closely examine the community development issue or problem of their choosing.
By completing a series of elective courses, distance learners may also incorporate an advanced certificate into their master’s of economics online program. Advanced certificate credential options include financial management and analysis, community advocacy, social entrepreneurship, project management, nonprofit management, and workforce development.
Applicants should hold an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited college or university, and must have completed courses in macroeconomics and statistics.
|14||Ohio University-Main Campus Athens, OH||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 42%||
Ohio University’s online master of financial economics offers an introduction to macro- and microeconomics, financial statement and equity analysis, econometrics, portfolio theory, and other integral concepts in the field. Exploring topics in managerial accounting, financial statement and fixed income analysis, and quantitative analysis for financial markets, the 50-credit master’s in economics online program prepares students to sit for the chartered financial analyst exam. To complete the program, degree candidates may conduct a research project, an internship with a financial company in the US or their home country, or write a financial report.
Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent from an accredited institution, an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better, and demonstrate English proficiency. Along with an online application, prospective students must submit three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and current resume.
|15||Regent University Virginia Beach, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 92%||
Regent University’s MBA in economics builds crucial skills in business analysis and economic forecasting, offering insight from a biblical perspective as well as the financial sector. This 42-hour program examines the foundations of enterprise, work and wealth, interest and debt, and the government’s role in economic growth; providing learners with the analytical tools needed to solve common finance issues and understand trade policies. Courses explore the major principles of economics, data analysis, international business law, marketing, and corporate and personal ethics, as well as leadership concepts related to operations and supply chain management.
Those applying to the online economics master’s degree program must hold an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution or equivalent from a foreign institution. Along with an online application and fee, applicants should provide unofficial college transcripts and a recent resume, and must complete an admissions survey.
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.
- Best Online Master's in Economics Programs of 2017
Rank School Location 1 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD 2 Purdue University West Lafayette, IN 3 American University Washington, DC 4 University of Detroit Mercy Detroit, MI 5 Youngstown State University Youngstown, OH