The Top Online Master’s in Economics Programs

Find information about an economics graduate degree and relevant careers, and check out which schools offer the best online master's in economics.
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Updated on February 14, 2024
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Economics is the study of the production, consumption, and distribution of resources, goods, and services. A master's degree in this field provides students with educational and professional flexibility. In a master's in economics program, students analyze the economy in depth at different scales, including at the individual or organizational level and on a national and international level.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of the 2019-20 academic year, the average tuition and fees for a graduate program was $19,792 per year. Learners who earn a master's in economics can access some very appealing careers, including many business-related professions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the addition of more than 750,000 business and financial positions between 2020 and 2030.

Many of the top online schools offer online master's in economics programs, giving prospective students ample study options. To provide learners with more insight about what to expect from these programs, we detail the application process and common economics coursework. This guide also explores some of the most popular career pathways to help students plan their academic and professional journey more effectively.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Economics Program?

Most economics students have an interest in mathematics and statistical analysis. These two-year programs usually feature 30-45 credits and focus on developing knowledge of foundational economic theory and analytical skills and methods. When preparing for graduate school, prospective students should be aware of the different degree and concentration options available in this field.

A master's in economics program may award an MA or MS degree, with possible differences in the electives, focuses, and eventual career paths. MA curricula, for example, tend to look more at theoretical economics and interdisciplinary approaches, such as public policy. In contrast, MS degrees curricula may delve more deeply into the technical side of economics.

In addition to different degree types, prospective students may have a choice of concentrations. A master's in economics program may feature options like financial economics, data analytics, and international economics. Each concentration features a section of specialized courses and training that can help improve the chances of employment in a particular subdiscipline.

While most training takes place in the classroom, economics students should be prepared for practicum and/or internship experiences. Both degree types may offer these as an outlet for practical application of theoretical knowledge. Even students in an online master's in economics program can participate in a practicum, though distance learners may have to find a location close to home.

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Popular Online Master's in Economics Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Online Master’s in Economics Rankings Summary

Jump to a school below using the links in the "School" column.

Rank School In-State Tuition Out-of-State Tuition Acceptance Rate
#1 George Mason University
Fairfax, VA
$13,035 $34,347 91%
#2 University of Detroit Mercy
Detroit, MI
$21,276 $21,276 93%
#3 American University
Washington, DC
$37,447 $37,447 64%
#4 Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, MD
$58,720 $58,720 8%

Best Accredited Online Master's in Economics Programs

How We Rank Schools

To create this ranking, BestColleges sourced the most recent data available from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard. We then ranked each school according to the top variables college students selected in our College Choice and Admissions Survey. To learn more, check out our full rankings methodology or read the summary below.

Ranking Methodology Summary

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To qualify for our rankings lists, each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution. Each eligible school was then ranked based on a formula measuring:

  • Affordability (30%)
  • Student outcomes (30%)
  • Reputation (20%)
  • Diversity and social mobility (20%)

In addition, we only included colleges with graduation rates in the top third of all online colleges.

We use datasets from sources like the National Center for Education Statistics to inform the data for these schools. BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site. from our partners appear among these rankings and are indicated as such. All data is current as of the date this article was published. Program-specific information may vary.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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#1 The Top Online Master’s in Economics Programs

George Mason University

  • Fairfax, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $1,100
Out-of-State | $1,100

Credits to Graduate: 30

Mason's fully online MA in economics covers experimental, public choice, and Austrian economics and focuses on comparative institutional analysis. Students take courses such as mathematical economics, gender economics, and market process theory. The 18-month program is available in part-time and full-time formats.

After graduation, you could pursue a career as a statistician, economic analyst, or research scientist. You should have completed a bachelor's degree and courses in intermediate microeconomics, intermediate macroeconomics, calculus, and statistics to apply. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$9,510
Out-of-state
$32,970
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$13,035
Out-of-state
$34,347
Retention Rate
84%
Acceptance Rate
91%
Students Enrolled
38,628
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
78% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#2 The Top Online Master’s in Economics Programs

University of Detroit Mercy

  • Detroit, MI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $953
Out-of-State | $953

Credits to Graduate: 30

UD Mercy's master of arts in economics is a fully online, one-year program that equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to pursue a research career or apply for a doctoral program. Courses include economic analysis of enterprises and analysis of economic conditions. You can choose either a thesis or a non-thesis track.

This online program costs about half what the same degree costs on campus. To apply, you must have a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution and a GPA of 3.0 or higher. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$30,154
Out-of-state
$30,154
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$21,276
Out-of-state
$21,276
Retention Rate
83%
Acceptance Rate
93%
Students Enrolled
5,227
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
79% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#3 The Top Online Master’s in Economics Programs

American University

  • Washington, DC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $1,922
Out-of-State | $1,922

Credits to Graduate: 30

AU's online master's in economics with a specialization in applied economics is a policy-oriented program that emphasizes data analysis and economic policy. Courses include applied econometrics I and II, labor economics, and a capstone seminar. 

About 96% of the program's graduates work in the field or pursue a graduate degree within six months of graduation. For admission, you should have a bachelor's degree from an accredited school and have taken calculus I. You can complete the degree program in 20 months.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$50,542
Out-of-state
$50,542
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$37,447
Out-of-state
$37,447
Retention Rate
90%
Acceptance Rate
64%
Students Enrolled
14,852
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#4 The Top Online Master’s in Economics Programs

Johns Hopkins University

  • Baltimore, MD
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $1,730
Out-of-State | $1,730

Courses to Graduate: 10

Johns Hopkins' MS in applied economics is a 10-course program that takes 12-24 months to complete. This multidisciplinary degree lets you emphasize public policy or financial, environmental, health, international, or spatial economics. You can study on campus or online, full time or part time. 

After graduation, you could pursue a career as a budget analyst, statistician, or operations research analyst. You need a bachelor's degree from an accredited school with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to apply. Prerequisites include statistics, calculus, and macro and microeconomics.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$58,720
Out-of-state
$58,720
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$58,720
Out-of-state
$58,720
Retention Rate
96%
Acceptance Rate
8%
Students Enrolled
32,049
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
80% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Economics Program?

Statistics and Probabilities

This course examines major statistical methods, techniques, and applications in different contexts. Students learn how to gather sample data, make and test hypotheses, and make estimations and data interpretations.

Microeconomics

In this course, students learn about the fundamentals of supply and demand, income distribution, and various markets. They study the effects of taxes and price controls and how markets can best achieve effective outcomes.

Macroeconomics

Macroeconomics courses may look at the tools and methodologies used to analyze the field or they may examine various problems with macroeconomic policies. Coursework will focus on monetary policies and economic growth, as well as the history and development of the field.

Econometrics

This course shows students how to perform various types of economic analysis, tests, and forecasts. Degree-seekers learn to interpret models, determine the statistical importance of data, and apply that information to assist organizations.

Economic Development

This course looks at economic development and the processes and policies involved. Students may learn about institutional involvement, developing countries, individual household finances, and microfinancing.

What Are Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Economics Program?

The admission requirements for an online master's in economics depend on the program, but most prospective students need a bachelor's degree. Some programs may require a minimum GPA or specific GRE or GMAT scores, as well. Schools may also request that applicants have certain math prerequisites.

According to our graduate admissions guide, most programs ask for the following list of requirements. Additional components, like interviews, may also be needed depending on the school and program.

Application

Prospective students usually apply to prospective schools by filling out an online application. At the graduate level, most students must be accepted into both their target school and their target program.

Test Scores

Schools handle test score requirements differently. Some schools are moving on from standardized test requirements, although these scores are still optional or required at some institutions. Since strong test scores can help candidates earn admission into their target program, prospective students may want to pursue GMAT or GRE prep courses.

Letters of Recommendation

Most schools ask for 2-3 letters of recommendation from professionals who know the prospective student. These letters provide informed details about the applicant from former teachers and employers. Referrals may, for example, address how the candidate performed under their supervision or how they might fare in a graduate-level program.

Resume and Work Experience

Many applications include resume requirements, which can give schools a look at the applicant's previous professional experience. Degree-seekers may want to go through our resume and cover letter guide to help improve their documents before sending them in. Some graduate programs also require prospective students to possess a specific amount of work experience.

Essays

Most applications feature essay requirements, giving schools more information about the prospective student and their writing abilities. At the graduate level, these essays often provide information about the candidate's research goals, career interests, and what they like about the specific program. Prospective learners can read through our tips for a grad school essay to improve these documents.

Official Transcripts

When submitting their applications, prospective students need to send in their transcripts. These records provide details about the applicant's prior education, including grades, credits, and prerequisites. If you already have some graduate-level experience, your new program may also look at your transcript to see if you qualify for transfer credits — learn more about this process in our transfer guide.

What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Economics Degree?

Career Outlook

Graduates with a master's degree in economics can help people, businesses, and governments better understand markets, risks, and opportunities. Their specialized training can apply to many industries, including business, finance, and healthcare. The BLS projects 13% growth for economists between 2020 and 2030, which is five percentage points higher than the projected growth rate for all occupations over that period.

This career path is also quite lucrative, with economists earning median annual wages of $108,350 (as of May 2020). Economics graduates tend to be skilled at working with numbers and statistics; these abilities can also be applied to in-demand roles like statistician and research analyst. Though not exhaustive, the following list of careers shows a few popular career pathways for economics graduates.

Career Paths

Economist

These professionals study the economy and the movement of goods and services, looking for solutions to problems for business and governments. They evaluate historical trends and market data, create models for interpretation, and present their findings as forecasts and potential opportunities. Economists may use their expertise in the fields of risk management and consumer demand, employment, and laws and regulations.

Median Annual Salary: $108,350

Mathematician and Statistician

These professionals work in various industries using complex mathematical techniques and models to solve problems. They create surveys and experiments to gather data, analyze the information, and present or apply their findings in understandable and illustrative ways. They can work in areas like education, the government, or healthcare.

Median Annual Salary: $93,290

Operation Research Analyst

These professionals work with organizations to help improve operational processes through statistical analysis and other means. They evaluate operations, logistics, and financial information, looking for inefficiencies and problems. They can assess future performance and risks through predictive modeling.

Median Annual Salary: $86,200

Budget Analyst

These professionals help individuals and organizations plan and improve their budgets. They analyze spending and finances and look for optimal use of funds. They focus on meeting goals and satisfying organizational initiatives, while also ensuring compliance with relevant laws and policies. Budget analysts may also identify inefficiencies and ways to redistribute funds in a more practical or opportunistic manner.

Median Annual Salary: $78,970

Survey Researcher

These professionals create surveys for organizations to collect information for various reasons, such as researching market data for businesses or employment information for the government. Researchers often design surveys themselves based on the target information they need to acquire. They may also analyze or revise existing surveys.

Median Annual Salary: $59,870

Economics Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

While many graduates with a master's in economics enter the workforce after graduation, continuing education may be important for some roles. For example, aspiring postsecondary teachers and researchers can pursue doctoral programs in economics or a related discipline, such as a doctorate in business administration.

Additionally, earning a Ph.D. in economics can position graduates as thought leaders in the field. These professionals may be capable of influencing policy and developments within many industries.

How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Economics Program?

Cost

When considering the cost of an education, prospective students should evaluate the true program cost, which takes into consideration variables like tuition, room and board, and lost income. Applicants should also compare online vs. on-campus costs, along with in-state, out-of-state, public, and private programs.

Program Format

Online programs feature different formats, which can impact study schedules and the educational experience. Prospective learners should compare asynchronous vs. synchronous formats, along with part-time and full-time schedules. Some schools also offer accelerated programs for more flexible learners looking to graduate quicker.

Location

School location may matter most for on-campus students, but online learners should still take this into consideration. After choosing between online and on-campus schools, prospective online students should check what — if any — on-campus requirements their program has. If they need to attend a residency, orientation, or proctored exams, they should make sure they have a way to get to campus as needed.

Accreditation

Prospective students should pay close attention to accreditation, particularly at the institutional level. As outlined in our online college accreditation guide, regional accreditation can influence a student's ability to receive federal financial aid, transfer credits, and qualify for employment. Economics programs do not have mandatory programmatic accreditation, but some of the top programs hold recognition from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Student Support

Student services can significantly enhance a learner's experience at college. Prospective students should look into what online student services potential schools provide, such as academic support, career services, college mentorship programs, and internship and practicum opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Economics Programs

Is a master's in economics worth it?

A master's in economics prepares graduates for many promising and attractive career pathways. Not only does this degree meet the minimum requirements for the economist profession, but it qualifies graduates for many business-related and management careers.

The flexible training and skills learned in an economics program can be applied to various industries, making this degree very useful for students who know they want to go to graduate school but are still unsure about their exact professional plans.

What can I do with a master's in economics?

Professionals with a master's in economics meet the academic requirements for many occupations. Those interested in the most direct career path often pursue an economist position. These professionals may work for the government, businesses, finance organizations, or research and development agencies.

Graduates can also enter into other roles in the business and finance world, taking on consulting or analyst careers or management positions. Another option is to pursue further education, such as a doctoral degree. Graduates with a Ph.D. can become postsecondary teachers or tackle advanced research and development positions.

Are economics majors in demand?

In addition to a need for economists within the government to analyze the economy and economic policies, a growing number of businesses look to economists for support. These professionals may help identify pricing sweetspots, risk management, and market opportunities. The BLS projects 13% growth for economists between 2020 and 2030.

The demand for statisticians is even more significant, with the BLS projecting 33% growth between 2020 and 2030. The growth in data collection and data analytics has created a huge need for professionals who can help organizations make more informed decisions.

How much money can I make with a master's in economics?

Graduates with a master's in economics can earn very lucrative salaries. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for economists was $108,350 in 2020 — more than $65,000 higher than the median annual wage for all occupations. The top 10% of workers in the field earned more than $198,230.

Other accessible occupations pay high wages as well, including mathematicians and statisticians, who earn median annual wages of $93,290. Financial analysts make median annual wages of $83,660, and budget analysts make median annual wages of $78,970.

What are the highest-paying jobs I can get with a master's in economics?

Many factors impact salaries, including a worker's location and individual employer. Among careers in related fields, however, the highest-paying job for graduates with a master's in economics may be the role of actuary. According to the BLS, these professionals earn median annual salaries of $111,030.

While the median annual wage for economists comes in slightly lower, certain industries pay these professionals some of the highest rates in the field. For example, according to the BLS, economists in the finance and insurance industry earn median annual wages of $129,060.

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