- Amount Awarded: $500
- Deadline: December
- Eligibility & Requirements: Applicants currently working toward a degree in business who maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 may qualify.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), economists earned a median salary of $102,490 in 2017, nearly triple that for all other occupations that year. Despite the lucrative salaries this field offers, only 16 states require students to take a course in economics in order to graduate from high school.
With so few students possessing even a fundamental understanding of economics, an advanced degree gives you an enormous advantage when applying for high-paying positions as an economist, actuary, or statistician. This page provides an overview of why you should consider earning an online master's in economics and advice on how to do so.
Many undergraduate students who major in finance or economics pursue a master's immediately after earning their bachelor's degree. Others continue their education after several years in the workforce, seeking an online master's in economics in order to advance at their current firm, take on a more specialized role, or change career paths entirely. Most jobs in this field, especially senior-level and high-paying positions, require an advanced degree.
An online master's in economics equips you with the knowledge and skills needed to take on more specialized roles. For example, students who complete graduate-level coursework in areas like the economics of education may qualify for positions within large, urban school districts and state education agencies. Likewise, students who explore topics like international trade may choose to pursue jobs in the private sector, such as analyzing consumer demand for a multinational corporation.
According to the BLS, most economists need at least a master's degree to qualify for jobs at private organizations or to advance to higher-level positions in either state or federal government. Similarly, statisticians must possess an advanced degree for all but the most entry-level roles in their field. For other related jobs, such as actuary or financial analyst, a graduate degree may help position you for a promotion or higher salary.
Pursuing an online master's in economics typically requires you to collaborate at a distance with a diverse group of classmates and instructors. This experience can prove invaluable to your future career success, as economists and analysts of all stripes must often communicate with colleagues or partner organizations around the world to collect, interpret, and apply financial data. Online learning also demands exceptional time-management skills, another key to success in both business and nonprofit contexts.
Before you apply to an online master's in economics program, research the school's admission requirements. Generally, graduate applicants must possess a bachelor's degree and some relevant professional experience.
The BLS estimates that economists earned a median salary of $102,490 in 2017. The lowest 10% of economists, usually those working in smaller markets and those relatively new to the field, earned less than $56,400 that year. The highest 10% of economists, generally those with many years of professional experience and an advanced degree, earned more than $172,580. An online master's in economics can also prepare you for careers as an actuary, statistician, financial analyst, or even a software developer creating computer programs with economic applications.
Median Pay: $115,110
Job Growth: 3%
Political scientists study the development of shifting political attitudes and systems over time, and those with economist expertise possess the ability to assess political trends specifically related to the economic marketplace. This is generally an office position that requires overtime hours on time-sensitive reports.
Ideal for: Those with strong statistical analysis skills and the ability to assess changing political issues objectively.
Median Pay: $102,490
Job Growth: 6%
Economists collect and analyze economic data, research historical economic trends, and evaluate economic issues. They may work in the private sector helping businesses use economic data to make better decisions or within the public sector helping government agencies design and evaluate programs.
Ideal for: Those with exceptional analytical and critical-thinking skills. Economists must also know how to write well to convey their findings.
Median Pay: $84,760
Job Growth: 33%
Statisticians use statistical theories and techniques to help understand or address problems in fields like education, healthcare, business, or engineering. They must often design surveys (or other tools used to collect data) before analyzing and reporting on the data they gather.
Ideal for: Those who excelled in math during high school and college. Statisticians must also possess strong analytical skills.
Median Pay: $101,560
Job Growth: 22%
Actuaries assign financial values to risk and uncertainty. For example, an actuary working for an insurance company may calculate the cost of providing life insurance to a certain individual based on her age, gender, and health-related habits, such as whether she smokes tobacco.
Ideal for: Those who can combine their strengths in math and data analysis with the ability to communicate their recommendations to colleagues without statistical expertise.
Median Pay: $81,390
Job Growth: 27%
Business operations analysts, also known as operations research analysts, help organizations investigate complex issues and make better decisions. An analyst working in the airline industry, for example, may look at factors like fuel costs and passenger demand to make a recommendation regarding ticket pricing.
Ideal for: Those who possess strong critical-thinking and problem-solving skills in addition to an above-average understanding of mathematical and statistical analysis.
Median Pay: $145,620
Job Growth: 10%
Marketing research managers plan and implement marketing programs. They may determine demand by monitoring market patterns, recommend prices that help companies maximize their profits, or conduct research to investigate whether consumers need new products or services.
Ideal for: Those who understand both quantitative and qualitative data, as market research often requires examining numerical data and reasons behind certain behaviors.
Median Pay: $84,300
Job Growth: 11%
Financial analysts who serve clients with a relatively small number of employees, otherwise known as small business consultants, help entrepreneurs better understand and meet the needs of their market. They may work independently or as part of a larger consulting firm that specializes in small business support.
Ideal for: Those with an understanding of business operations across several industries who want to apply their expertise in a variety of settings.
Median Pay: $103,560
Job Growth: 24%
Software developers create computer applications and systems to meet the needs of their users. Developers with a background in economics may, for instance, create a program for banks that helps them determine whether an individual or company can generate sufficient profits to pay back a loan.
Ideal for: Those with strong computer programming skills and a background in both finance and information technology.
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017-2018
Pursuing an online master's in economics often gives you the flexibility to learn on your own schedule and at your own pace, meaning you can follow an accelerated track in order to graduate sooner and save money. Part-time students balancing their studies with a job or family obligations may instead prefer a lighter course load and more spread-out tuition payments. By seeking a degree in economics, you may also qualify for scholarships or financial aid targeted at students in this field.
You can earn a degree in economics on a part-time, full-time, or accelerated basis. Generally speaking, full-time students graduate from these programs in fewer than two years, while part-time students may require up to four years to complete their studies.
Part-time students usually take one or two courses at a time, making it easier to focus on the material at hand and schedule their learning around other responsibilities in their lives. Most part-time students graduate in three or four years.
School Name: Southern New Hampshire University
Total Credits Required: 36
Summary: At SNHU, part-time students typically earn their online master's in economics in three years. As tuition rates change annually, students may end up paying more per credit at the end of their studies than when they first enroll.
Full-time students take between two and four classes each semester, usually meeting all of their program's graduation requirements in two years or fewer. While not impossible to do through asynchronous learning, students may struggle learning full time while keeping their job or caring for family members.
School Name: Ohio University
Total Credits Required: 36
Summary: Full-time students at Ohio University can earn their master's in fewer than two years. The university offers a slight tuition discount to residents of Ohio.
Designed for students who want to earn their degree as quickly as possible, accelerated courses of study often feature self-paced learning, meaning you can advance through your material as soon as you can demonstrate understanding of key concepts. In some cases, you can earn a master's in as few as 12 months.
School Name: Boston College
Total Credits Required: 24
Summary: Boston College offers an accelerated path to a master's for students who earned their bachelor's within the last three years and completed significant undergraduate coursework in economics, finance, and statistics. Students on the accelerated path can graduate in as little as one calendar year.
Scholarships represent one of the best ways to pay for your online master's in economics. Seek awards that match your unique background, like scholarships for students in your field of study or from your hometown.
Most online master's in economics programs consist of 30-36 credits, and full-time students can usually earn their degree in two years or fewer. Students who did not major in economics or a related field during their undergraduate studies may need to complete introductory coursework before tackling more advanced subjects.
In asynchronous online programs, students can watch lectures, complete assignments, and take exams entirely on their own schedule. Synchronous programs require students to log in at set times to participate in live discussions or activities.
Many programs feature multiple start dates throughout the year, making it easier for working professionals to begin their graduate studies when most convenient for them.
A master's program in economics builds on undergraduate coursework in areas like statistics and financial analysis. If you did not take these classes in college, you may need to complete them immediately upon entering a graduate program.
After meeting foundational coursework requirements, master's students begin to explore more advanced subjects in their field, including macroeconomics and applied econometrics. Full-time students usually complete this coursework in their first year.
Depending on your area of specialization, you may take electives in areas like managerial economics, monetary policies, or international corporate finance. Full-time students usually complete this coursework in their second year.
A capstone project offers students the chance to apply their learning to a real-world issue. For example, they may partner with a nonprofit organization to analyze the economic impact of a public housing program.
After completing your capstone project and meeting all of the credit requirements specific to your program, you formally earn your master's degree in economics.
In an online master's in economics program, you can expect to take courses in statistics, micro and macroeconomics, and econometrics. You may also choose from a slate of electives to prepare for specialized roles in the field.
This course builds on undergraduate coursework in statistical analysis by introducing more advanced concepts, such as regression and inference. Students also learn to translate results of their analysis for lay audiences.
In this course, students explore several topics related to game theory, including the interaction between firms and the market; the links between market structure, firm conduct, and economic performance; and the role of government regulation.
Broadly speaking, econometrics involves the application of statistical methods to describe economic systems. This class equips students with the theory and skills needed to use observational data in the construction of econometric models.
Ideal for students who want to take on leadership or supervisory roles in business, this course allows students to apply economic theory and the tools of decision science to the work of increasing organizational efficiency.
Students examine capital restructuring, financial markets, budgeting, investments, and portfolio management. Relying heavily on an understanding of economics, this course helps students better understand the risks and opportunities that face an individual firm within the larger marketplace.
Economists need at least a master's degree to qualify for most jobs, and some positions may even require a Ph.D. or doctoral equivalent. Economists do not need a license to practice, though they may seek out voluntary certifications to demonstrate expertise and improve their job prospects.
Certain related fields do require certification, however. For example, in addition to coursework in economics and applied statistics, actuaries must pass a series of exams administered by either the Casualty Actuarial Society or the Society of Actuaries in order to become a fully certified professional.
After earning your online master's in economics, joining a professional organization can help advance your career. Beyond simply advertising job opportunities on their websites, these groups host national and regional networking events to help their members collaborate and build professional connections. They also offer continuing education and professional development opportunities, and many sponsor mentorship programs, allowing new members to call upon the expertise of more established ones.