Best Online Master’s in Economics Programs

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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.

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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.

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.

2021 Best Accredited Online Master's in Economics Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1 Best Online Master’s in Economics Programs

Purdue University-Main Campus

  • West Lafayette, IN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

A public university in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue University offers an online master's in economics through its Krannert School of Management. Well-suited for business professionals, the 30-credit program provides scheduling flexibility and can be completed in two years.

Students select from four concentrations: financial economics, business and data analytics, public economics and policy, and advanced theory. Except for the advanced theory specialization, which requires a fall and spring semester on campus, the school offers all coursework online.

Purdue is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and the Krannert School of Management is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Economics
School Status: Public
Tuition: $970 per credit (in-state); $1,080 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 20-36 months
Format: Hybrid for advanced theory; 100% online for other specializations
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum requirement
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,208
Out-of-state
$28,010
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
60%
Students Enrolled
45,500
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#2 Best Online Master’s in Economics Programs

American University

  • Washington, DC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

American University, a private institution in Washington, D.C., was founded in 1893. The university offers an accelerated online master's in economics with an applied economics specialization. The school's location plays a role in the program's curriculum, providing connections to leaders and influencers in today's global economy.

Students can complete the entire program in 20 months. Classes are delivered through eight-week sessions, and online learners have the option to fulfill up to six credits on campus. Throughout the program, students develop a thorough understanding of economic models and indicators.

American University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Economics, Applied Economics Specialization
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,800 per credit (fall and spring); $1,580 per credit (summer)
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 20 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum requirement
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Average Tuition
In-state
$49,070
Out-of-state
$49,070
Retention Rate
87%
Admission Rate
36%
Students Enrolled
14,318
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#3 Best Online Master’s in Economics Programs

Georgia Southern University

  • Statesboro, GA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Statesboro-based Georgia Southern University offers students an online master of science in applied economics. Throughout this program, students take two courses per semester. The curriculum accommodates busy professionals committed to advancing their careers.

Core competencies in the all-online program include micro and macroeconomics, math for applied economics, and applied econometrics. Focused electives cover topics like international, health, and behavioral economics, which faculty present through simulations, multimedia presentations, and discussions. Online students participating in the five-semester curriculum pay the same tuition rates as in-state residents. Enrollees have the option to start in the spring or fall.

Georgia Southern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on College.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Applied Economics
School Status: Public
Tuition: $360 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 20 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Average Tuition
In-state
$4,371
Out-of-state
$15,425
Retention Rate
78%
Admission Rate
54%
Students Enrolled
26,054
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
41% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 Best Online Master’s in Economics Programs

University of North Dakota

  • Grand Forks, ND
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Based in Grand Forks, the University of North Dakota offers an applied economics and predictive analytics master's degree online. Students can establish or advance careers related to areas like data analytics, data consulting, and forecasting.

Open-schedule online classes combine with evening discussions to accommodate students balancing work and studies. The program features a three-part curriculum, including an economics core, data analytics coursework, and an independent study capstone. Regardless of their location, all online students pay in-state tuition and can take advantage of tutoring, library access, and career assistance.

The Higher Learning Commission provides regional accreditation to UND, and its applied economics program holds specialized accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Applied Economics and Predictive Analytics
School Status: Public
Tuition: $540 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 20 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Primarily asynchronous with scheduled evening discussions

Admission Requirements

GPA: Minimum 2.75 cumulative or minimum 3.0 over the last 60 credits of coursework
Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Average Tuition
In-state
$8,212
Out-of-state
$14,371
Retention Rate
78%
Admission Rate
81%
Students Enrolled
13,581
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
45% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#5 Best Online Master’s in Economics Programs

University of Missouri-Columbia

  • Columbia, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Missouri, a public research institution based in St. Louis, offers a master's in economics online. This program was launched in 2017. The curriculum prepares participants for careers related to data and financial analysis, institutional research, energy markets, and economic development.

Students learn largely at their own pace and participate in hands-on research. Learners complete 15 credits of required classes and 15 elective credits. Coursework covers topics like banking, economic development, macroeconomic and microeconomic theory, econometrics, international trade and monetary systems, and quantitative economics. In-state tuition rates extend to online students, regardless of their location.

The Higher Learning Commission provides regional accreditation to Mizzou.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Economics
School Status: Public
Tuition: $450 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum over the last 60 credits of coursework
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,120
Out-of-state
$26,991
Retention Rate
88%
Admission Rate
81%
Students Enrolled
30,014
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
32% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Economics Programs

Is a master's in economics worth it?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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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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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