Online Master’s in Economics From Selecting a Program to Advancing Your Career

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As the old saying goes, "the business of America is business." But it is economics that supplies America's (and the world's) understanding of how business works. Economics, in its most general sense, is the study of wealth, how wealth behaves and how it can be manipulated to meet the needs and desires of human beings. While quite a broad definition, it is, however, one fitting of a subject that affects virtually everything we do. It's no surprise, then, that economics has become one of the cornerstone fields of study at almost every college and university out there, including those in the world of distance learning.

The purpose of this guide is to explore formal economics education, specifically the online master’s in economics degree, by taking an extensive look at exactly what the Master of Economics is, what a prospective student is likely to encounter when pursuing one, what one costs in terms of both time and money and what benefits a graduate can expect to enjoy by earning this degree. In short, this guide will help you decide if a master’s in economics is the right degree choice for you.

Top Online Master's in Economics

Earning a master’s in economics can offer a whole new world of job possibilities and career advancement, but for the already working professional, it can be hard to find the time to fit classes into their schedule. Enter the increasingly popular online degree, which can allow students to earn their master’s and reach for these new possibilities while continuing to balance their busy everyday lives. These school have been ranked best for those looking to pursue a master’s level degree in economics online.

SCORE:  98.48 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: New Hampshire

Southern New Hampshire University offers multiple economics degrees online, including a Master of Science in Applied Economics and a Master of Business Administration in Economics. Each degree consists of classes taught by experts in the field. Students enrolled in the Master of Applied Economics program can expect to take courses in Macroeconomics Theory and Analysis and Financial Management, while those earning an MBA in Economics may take classes like Responsible Corporate Leadership and Quantitative Analysis for Decision Making.

Students earning an online degree from SNHU will have access to the same resources as traditional students, including web-based library books and journals and 24/7 technical support.

  • MS in Accounting
  • MS in Accounting (Auditing)
  • MS in Accounting (Forensic Accounting)
SCORE:  97.13 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Pennsylvania

The main campus of Pennsylvania State University offers an online Master of Professional Studies in Community and Economic Development degree. Students gain skills that help them build sustainable communities, collaborate with community members and strengthen the local economy. Graduates may work as directors, development specialists, project managers and other roles.

Penn State Online allows students to attend classes at the time and pace of their choosing, with classes lasting 12 to 15 weeks. Students must earn 30 credits to complete the degree. Instructors and students communicate online using the Blackboard system, or Skype for some classes. Graduates have the option to attend the university’s commencement ceremony.

  • Master of Applied Statistics
  • Master of Professional Studies in Community and Economic Development
  • Master of Finance
SCORE:  96.39 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Arkansas

The Master of Science in Community and Economic Development degree at the University of Central Arkansas can be completed in three semesters. Students can choose from two different program tracks. The first is a 36 credit-hour option with 24 credits of core classes, nine credits of electives and a 3-credit internship. The second option is also 36 credit-hours, but consists of 30 credits of core classes and six hours of electives. The program is designed for students new to the field, as well as those with experience in community and economic development.

  • MS in Community and Economic Development
SCORE:  94.89 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Georgia

Students at the University of Georgia can earn their master’s degree in financial planning, housing and consumer economics online. Some classes within the 36 credit-hour requirement include Practice Management in Financial Planning, Estate Planning and Applied Theory and Research in Financial Planning. A Capstone in Financial Planning course enables students to apply program concepts to case studies for real-world experience. There’s also a Directed Study course, which could include an internship, elective classes or research projects with faculty. Classes last for eight weeks and no thesis is required.

  • MS in Financial Planning Housing and Consumer Economics
SCORE:  94.63 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: North Dakota

Students can enroll in the Master of Science in Applied Economics program at the University of North Dakota three times per year, in August, January and May. Consisting of 31-32 credits, the program takes at least two years to complete. Students develop skills in the areas of economic development, strategic planning, consulting and applied research. In addition to online classes, students participate in research and experiential learning, helping them apply concepts of economic theory and data analysis.

Online classes at UND are scheduled at specific times, and there are deadlines for assignments and exams.

  • MS in Applied Economics
SCORE:  94.18 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Ohio

The financial economics degree at Youngstown State University prepares students to analyze microeconomic and macroeconomic models, use advanced statistical software and learn econometric techniques. Graduates will also be able to analyze financial markets and understand hedging versus speculating.

Distance learning at YSU may be web-based, hybrid or a video conferencing model, depending on the class. Online students have access to YSU’s online library, Math Assistance Center, Writing Center and disability services. They can also take advantage of e-tutoring, which consists of a writing lab, live tutoring and offline questions.

  • MA in Financial Economics
SCORE:  92.09 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Pennsylvania

The MBA in Economic Development at Eastern University is a blended program, which means some classes are completely online while some take place on campus. Students can choose from an international or urban concentration. With help from mentors, students research the areas of microfinance, community development and social entrepreneurship. As Eastern University is a Christian school, the program is designed to cultivate theological knowledge as well as a sense of social justice. Core courses include Applied Research and Evaluation, The World Economy in Trade, Economic Development of Developing Countries and Advocacy and Public Policy and Human Rights.

  • MBA in Economic Development
SCORE:  83.92 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: No STATE: Georgia

Students in the online Master of Science in Applied Economics program at Georgia Southern University will learn quantitative and analytical skills, which can be applied to market analysis and economic development. Core curriculum is supplemented by electives courses like International Economics, Industrial Organization and Applied Dynamic Optimization. Additionally, students will gain real-world experience.

Distance learning at GSU starts with an Online Education Readiness Assessment. The test helps students identify their strengths and weaknesses to ensure a successful online education.

  • MS in Applied Economics
SCORE:  83.05 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: No STATE: New York

At SUNY Empire State College, online students can earn their Master of Arts in Community and Economic Development degree at their own pace and schedule. Consisting of 36 credit-hours, the program focuses on social capital, community capacity and economic development. Required courses include Public Policy Analysis, Stakeholder Sensitive Business Models and Research Methodology. Students also complete a capstone project, typically consisting of a community plan, to showcase what they’ve learned in the program.

Program applicants must have earned a bachelor’s degree and completed courses in statistics and macroeconomics.

  • MA in Community and Economic Development

Master’s in economics vs. Master’s in Finance vs. MBA

There are countless online master’s in economics programs to choose from, but this degree is not the only option for graduate students interested in an economics-related master’s degree program. There are two others: the master’s in finance (most commonly entitled the Master of Science in Finance or MSF) and the master’s in business administration (MBA). Each of these degrees concerns a different aspect of economics, and anyone considering a master’s program in the field would be wise to have a clear understanding of these differences prior to making their choice. Here is a brief overview that highlights how each is set apart from the other:

Master’s in Economics

The master’s in economics might best be characterized as an academic, theory-focused degree. It is more mathematically rigorous than the MBA and more theoretically based than the master’s in finance. Master’s of economics students learn how to collect and interpret economic data and analyze policy-related issues. Graduates often pursue careers in academia as researchers and teachers. A MEcon degree typically requires one to two years of full-time study to complete.

Master’s in Business Administration (MBA)

As opposed to the master’s in economics, the MBA is a professional, applied, subject-focused degree. The MBA curriculum covers a broad range of topics including business operations and management, organizational issues, human resource management, finance, accounting, marketing and leadership. MBA graduates most often go to work in the private sector for corporations or financial institutions and firms. Students should plan on a 2- to 3-year full-time commitment to complete their MBA program.

Master’s in Finance

Individuals who intend to focus primarily on finance theory and its application in the world of investments and trading will likely find the master’s in finance to be the best fit. Master’s in finance students can expect coursework in subjects such as economics, investment management, capital markets and financial strategy. MSF graduates often go to work in the private sector for banks, investment houses and private equity firms, insurance companies and for corporations in fields like oil and energy. Earning a master’s in finance degree normally requires one year to two years of study.

Inside the Online Economics Master’s Degree

Master’s of economics degrees come with many designations (MS in Economics, MA in Economics, MEcon, MEc amongst others) and programs can vary substantially in emphases and curricula from school to school. Nevertheless, Economics master’s programs are offered by literally hundreds of postsecondary institutions in the United States and worldwide.

The popularity of earning a master’s degree in economics online has grown in popularity over the last few years, with contributing factors being the great accessibility and tremendous flexibility these kinds of programs can offer to working students returning to school as a means furthering their careers.

Even more appealing to working students is the fact that the majority of these distance learning degree programs can be completed either 100 percent online or with only a very small on-site residency requirement. Colleges and universities are quickly realizing that the key to attracting students to their online programs is to provide them as much convenience as possible. As a result, most schools now offer a variety of software programs and other online tools including full access to online books, course materials and libraries as well as financial, career and personal support services. Prospective economics students should also strongly consider the following elements when selecting an online degree program:

Accreditation

As one might expect, the employment field for economics graduates is very competitive; it’s therefore important for students to make the most of every potential advantage offered by a particular degree program and, more importantly, to avoid any potential pitfalls a program could encumber them with. That’s why proper accreditation is so important. Accreditation is almost never a concern when it comes to well-established and reputable colleges and universities, whether the degree program offered is online or not. Strictly for-profit online-only degree providers are another story, however. When considering any distance learning program of any kind, students should only consider schools that are accredited by a reputable institutional accrediting agency. They should additionally strongly consider only those degree programs that are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

School Reputation and Program Quality

Another factor prospective students should consider when choosing a master’s of economics degree program is institutional reputation and program quality. The cold, hard truth is that it’s a tough employment market out there, and the better a candidate’s resume looks, the better chance he or she will have at landing a great job. One of the best ways to make a resume shine is with a graduate degree from a prestigious college with a respected economics program. Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent master’s in economics programs available online, which are offered by some of the best colleges and universities in the country.

Internships

Still looking for a way to make a resume stand out? Think internship. Some master’s curricula come with a work experience or internship requirement, while others simply recommend that students seek out an internship program on their own. In either case, a quality online master’s of economics program will provide its students with solid connections to internships in top companies and firms. Remember, employers have plenty of qualified job seekers to choose from. Experience gained through a good internship program may give an applicant the boost they need to stand out above all others.

Solid Employment Rates for Graduates

One of the best ways of determining the value of a college degree program is to look at the career success of its graduates. Most quality colleges and universities, both online and otherwise, keep statistics regarding their former students, including employment and job retention rates. Students should request such statistics from all prospective degree programs before signing up.

Specializations & Coursework

Given the broad nature of the field, it is no surprise that colleges and universities have come up with a number of areas of specialization and concentration for their Master of Economics programs. This is also true for online degree institutions. The job market for economics graduates is highly competitive, and one of the best ways for a degree holder to set him or herself apart in the sea of job seekers is to specialize in an area of the field that appeals to a particular segment of the business population. Programs that offer specialized courses of study each have their own set of specialization or concentration titles. The list below offers a few of the specializations a prospective student might run into during his or her search for a master’s in economics program:

Corporate Finance

The corporate finance specialization is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to make decisions relating to company financing and investments. Topics covered include financial analysis, fundamentals of accounting, international financial management, budgeting and many others. The result of choosing this specialization is a better understanding of the workings of financial markets, new product innovations and the broad financial issues and choices faced by companies.

  • Chief Operating Officer

    A Chief Operating Officer, or COO, is in charge of the day-to-day operation of a firm or corporation. The COO’s responsibilities include meeting budget and other financial goals, short-term and long-term planning, allocating resources, developing policies for senior management and many others.

  • Corporate Financial Manager

    Responsible for analyzing company financial needs and providing advice and making recommendations to corporate leadership. Corporate Financial Managers must have a strong grounding in budgetary planning for both the short and long terms.

  • Director of Mergers and Acquisitions

    Mergers and acquisitions experts work primarily in the private sector for companies and financial institutions in the areas of purchasing, sales, mergers and company takeovers. M&A Directors often oversee a team of analysts, each specializing in one sector of an industry.

Data Analytics

With more and more emphasis on the importance of data collection and analysis, a specialization in data analytics may be a good choice for forward-minded students. The data analytics specialization teaches a number of skills in quantitative methods and data management, and the application of those skills to the business, finance and economics fields. Students become well-versed in the design and delivery of robust statistical analysis and how to effectively communicate the resulting insights and conclusions.

  • Business Analyst

    A Business Analyst or Systems Analyst is the person who converts the goals and needs of a company or firm into practical policies and solutions to improve competitiveness and performance. They may specialize in a particular area such as corporate structure or inventory management.

  • Data Architect

    Builds complex database systems for companies and private financial firms, governments and public works and utilities. Typically working with a team of experts, they are responsible for the creating, maintaining, testing and securing data and the systems that house it.

  • Statistician

    Creates and employs statistical methods to collect and analyze data for businesses and other organizations throughout all economic sectors. Statisticians design polls, surveys, questionnaires and other data collection systems, interpret information and report conclusions based on their analysis.

International Economics

The international economics specialization is designed to provide students with a solid understanding of the theories and applications of economics and finance as well as the functioning of the international economic system. Subjects covered in coursework include the international money market and money standards, analysis of the economic effects of tariffs and quotas, exchange variations and the objectives of international monetary policy.

  • Foreign Policy Analyst

    A Foreign Policy Analyst (or Foreign Affairs Analyst) is responsible for collecting and analyzing information regarding international issues and policy concerns and reporting his or her findings and proposals for addressing those issues.

  • Foreign Service Officer

    Foreign Service Officers are commissioned members of the U.S. Foreign Service who serve at one of over 270 embassies, consulates and other missions throughout the world. Foreign Service Officers typically choose from among five career tracks: consular, economic, management, political and public diplomacy.

  • International Banking Manager

    Directs and oversees the international policies, objectives and activities for banks and other financial institutions and firms. International Banking Managers must keep up-to-date with the most current legal and cultural issues as they pertain to global economics.

Sustainability

The sustainability specialization teaches students how to apply current economic models to formulate essential conclusions and create socially responsible business plans. Instruction incorporates the study of issues such as social and economic development, environmental improvement and corporate governance to better understand the impact they have on society and the environment. Course topics include business and the environment, building sustainable businesses and investing in energy.

  • Clean Technologies Specialist

    Works in both the public and private sectors providing advice primarily in regard to alternative energy resources, such as photovoltaic systems, thermal systems, hydro systems, solar water systems and green building technologies.

  • Environmental Consultant

    Working in all sectors of the economy, environmental consultants analyze problems and make recommendations to clients on environmental issues such as air quality, soil contamination, water pollution and waste management.

  • Resources Manager

    Often employed by local, state and federal government agencies, resource managers oversee and implement conservation and sustainability plans for natural resources such as parks, nature preserves, mining and lumber operations.

Anyone wondering whether or not a master’s degree in economics is the proper choice for advancing his or her career would be wise to take a close look at a typical economics degree curriculum, and the types of courses they will be encountering. Below you will find a sample list of actual classes from real economics master’s programs, along with brief descriptions of each:

Behavioral Economics

Explores the subject of human economic behavior with an emphasis on laboratory and field experiment methodology. Specific topics covered include behavior in markets for financial assets and auction markets; how people bargain with and exhibit social preferences with others; and decision-making and anomalies for risky and uncertain choices.

Industrial Economics

A study of the structure of industrial markets and the behavior of business firms. Subjects include the theoretical and empirical appraisal of welfare implications of alternative market structures and business behavior and the impacts of international influences on behavior of domestic firms.

Microeconomic Theory

Designed to present the basic analytical tools of microeconomic theory. The course examines, among other topics, the decision making of individual consumers and how their decisions can be improved, the way firms make and coordinate their decisions under varying market structures, the strategic behavior of imperfectly competitive markets, bargaining theory, information economics, environmental externalities and public goods.

Macroeconomic Principles

The study of the scope of economics through topics that include monetary institutions and money supply; monetary policy, taxes and government borrowing; measures and deterrents of the level of aggregate income; inflation, employment and economic development; and expenditures, fiscal policy, international trade and alternative systems of economic organization.

Industrial Organization

Provides a graduate level introduction to industrial organization covering the theoretical and empirical work dealing with the structure, behavior and performance of firms and markets. Subjects discussed include the organization of the firm, monopoly and oligopoly, auctions, price discrimination, market entry and vertical market structures.

Personal Economics

Application of microeconomic and macroeconomic theory to the workings of the labor market. The course investigates the determination of wages and compensation, and the differences in the forms of payment for labor for workers within an occupation, across occupations and across cultures. Other topics include the connection between investments in education and training and labor market outcomes.

Applied Econometrics

Empirical research in microeconomics with an emphasis on the three main sub-fields: labor economics, public economics and industrial organization. Advanced topics include time-series techniques; limited dependent variables models; sample selection and censoring; simultaneous equations; fixed affects and panel methods; instrumental variables and program evaluation using quasi-experimental data.

Environmental Economics

Covers the efficient and equitable use of environmental resources and surveys the most critical topics in environmental economics including: the economics of population growth; market failures; economic valuation; poverty and income distribution; economic incentive instruments; food and water resources; international agricultural markets; and fisheries and wildlife conservation.

Economics and the Public Sector

This course offers an in-depth examination of the role of the public sector in a market-based and market-driven economy. Course topics include budgeting, priority setting, efficiency criteria in decision-making and economic analysis of the incidence and economic effects. Provides and introduction to basic macroeconomic concepts which concern the aggregate economy.

Financial Derivatives

A rigorous introduction to financial derivatives with applications. Topics covered include: American and European options, forwards and futures; put-call parity; delta and gamma hedging; implied volatility; Merton jump-diffusion and Heston models; and the Black-Sholes-Merton pricing formula and its derivatives.

The Online Master’s in economics Timeline

There are two major investments a person makes when enrolling in a master’s in economics program: time and money. Both investments are substantial and require a good deal of thought and planning to ensure success. As mentioned briefly above, it normally takes between one and two years of full-time study to earn a Master of Economics degree. The following timeline is based on a 2-year time frame. Keep in mind, however, that one of the main advantages to online degree study is flexibility and that programs are normally designed to accommodate both full- and part-time students.

Year 0

Do not underestimate the significance of time spent choosing and applying for the right graduate school program. In many ways, acceptance into a well-respected program is as important as the actual coursework itself. Successful navigation of the application process is crucial to getting admitted into your master’s in economics program of choice. It is the best way to show an admissions committee that, not only is an applicant qualified for admission, but that he or she will additionally prove to be a valuable asset to the program, its instructors and fellow students.

Candidates should be aware that there are significant differences between the undergraduate and graduate application processes. It is necessary to understand that students applying for an undergraduate program are actually applying to the college or university in general as opposed to the specific degree program or academic department. Therefore, more weight is given to an applicant’s general academic achievements, SAT scores and overall high school GPA. Graduate school applicants, on the other hand, apply directly to a specific degree program and should therefore fashion their application documents, including any required personal statements, to address the stated wants and preferences of the program’s admissions committee.

The process for application to a Master’s in economics degree program will vary slightly from school to school, but there are virtually no differences in the process between online and traditional on-campus programs. What is most important to understand is that candidates cannot expect to prepare one set of application documents and have them work for every program to which they apply. Each admissions committee is looking for candidates to meet their own unique criteria, so applicants must tailor each individual application package with these preferences in mind.

The following is a list of helpful tips to insure a successful application process:

Deadlines

It is vitally important to meet all application deadlines and due dates. Missing a deadline could easily end an applicant’s chances for admission to the program of their choice. Create a calendar containing all important application dates, including those for submission of the application package, receipt of standardized test scores, letters of recommendation by the admissions committee and any scheduled online or in-person interviews.

Tests

Almost all online master’s in economics degree programs require applicants to submit standardized test scores, typically for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). It is therefore imperative that students prepare for and complete the required standardized test on time. Begin preparing for the test approximately one year prior to the planned start date of one’s graduate program. Expect to complete the test (assuming a fall semester start to graduate school) no later than in September or October of the previous year.

Letters of Recommendation

Determine as early as possible who you wish to provide your letters of recommendation and make your requests to those individuals no later than by September or October. Be sure to provide your writers with all of the information necessary to assure their letters are properly submitted on time.

Financial Aid

Start your search for financial aid early, no later than September or October prior to a fall program start. Admission deadlines for scholarships, loans and grants vary by provider, so be sure to understand each one’s specific application requirements and note all important due dates.

Personal Statements

Expect to be required to submit one or more statements of purpose or personal statements along with your program application forms. Admission committees take these statements very seriously, as should applicants. Procrastination on your personal statements is unwise, and they should be made a high priority on your personal application preparation timeline.

Follow Up

Follow up with financial aid sources, interviewers, letter writers and, most importantly, the admission committees for every program to which you’ve applied. Be sure each has received all documents necessary to assure your acceptance into their program.

Year 1

Students in the first year of a 2-year online master’s of economics degree program can expect to focus on coursework in curriculum core subjects such as mathematical economics, microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, research methods and statistics. First year students should also take the opportunity to research various degree specializations and explore the range of career options available upon graduation. Students not employed in the economics field during their first term should also seriously consider volunteering for faculty research projects or interning with local corporations, government agencies or non-profit organizations. Remember, experience beyond the classroom is an essential element of an effective resume.

Year 2

The coursework for second year students will focus on electives and specialization or concentration courses in subjects such as business, applied economics, advanced theory, international economics, law and behavioral economics. In addition, most master’s in economics programs require degree candidates to complete some form of significant written project, commonly either a written thesis paper or capstone project. If they haven’t yet, students should begin to explore their postgraduate options, including any future educational or employment plans they may have. They are encouraged to take advantage of the career planning and job placement services offered by their schools.

An Inside Scoop on Economics

Olive Tobias is a Master of Applied Economics graduate who now works as an investment banker. She shares this advice to students planning to pursue a graduate degree in economics:

It’s a good idea to minor in subjects like business management or banking and financial support services. Doing so could give students leverage to enter the corporate world at the management levels.

Graduate economics programs are intensive. Students should ensure that they have the time to focus on class work as well as studying. Economics curricula aren’t the types of courses students should take lightly if they plan on earning a passing grade. It certainly doesn’t hurt to develop a weekly study schedule before classes start.

If they don’t already have a job, students should start their job search efforts at least a year before they are scheduled to graduate. They might even be able to get the remainder of their tuition paid for by their new employer.

The Online Economics Master’s and Money

Cost-benefit analysis is a system of weighing the strengths and weaknesses of an activity to determine whether taking on the activity is worthwhile. For example, a prospective economics student might want to weigh the costs of pursuing a master’s degree against the ultimate benefits he or she may see once the degree is earned. Of course, the ultimate value of a degree can only be subjectively determined by the individual student. Nevertheless, it’s worth taking a look at the costs and benefits of a Master of Economics degree using the objective measure of dollars and cents.

Weighing the Costs

A college education is always an expensive endeavor but, as the old saying goes, “nothing worth having comes cheap.” The question every student must answer is: “Is a Master’s in economics degree worth having?” To answer that question, one must begin with cost. While online degree students may be able to avoid some of the living expenses associated with attending classes on a regular campus, there is still the matter of tuition, fees, books and course materials. These costs tend to run about the same as for a traditional on-site program. The total costs for an online master’s in economics varies substantially depending on the school. Tuition costs alone can range from the mid-$10,000s for a quality public university to the upper-$30,000s for a prestigious private college.

The Payoff

While the associated costs of entering into a program are a major determining factor, they’re only half the story. Just as important are the benefits that will be gained upon graduation and entering the working world. Estimating those benefits over the length of an entire career is complicated, however, and accurate figures can be hard to find. An excellent source for information on practically all occupations is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Latest numbers (2013) from the BLS put annual earnings estimates for economists as such:

Top 10% $158,090
Median (50%) $93,070
Bottom 10% $49,940

A recent study by The Hamilton Project provides another perspective on the payoff offered by an economics degree by comparing the estimated lifetime earnings for different professions. Below are its calculations for the lifetime earnings of individuals with a bachelor’s degree in economics when compared with all persons with bachelor’s degrees – regardless of subject – and those with no postsecondary degree:

Earnings Group Top 10% Median (50%) Bottom 10%
Bachelor’s in Economics Degree $4.52 $1.57 $0.44
All Bachelor’s Degrees $2.61 $1.15 $0.33
High School Degree or GED $1.26 $0.58 $0.15
In Millions of 2014 Dollars

Source: The Hamilton Project

It’s important to remember that these figures represent averages for the profession in general, and that individual results will vary. Nevertheless, these numbers make a compelling argument for the real value of a postsecondary economics degree.

Growth Industries in Economics

The BLS is also a great source for data on job growth in the United States. Its most recent Occupational Outlook Handbook for Economists predicts the job market for economists to grow 14 percent between 2012 and 2022, quite a large jump in comparison to the predicted 11 percent job growth amongst all other occupations. The following chart takes a look at BLS forecasts for several economics-related occupations over the same time period:

Occupation
Expected Growth in Hiring
Personal Economics Advisors
27%
Statisticians
27%
Actuaries
26%
Management Analysts
19%
Financial Analysts
16%
Economists
14%

Surprising Paths for Economics Master’s Graduates

Economics plays a part in every aspect of human activity, and skilled economists are put to work in every industry of every sector of the economy. That means job opportunities for Master of Economics graduates exist in pretty much every field imaginable. Typically, economics graduates limit their career options to the mainstream, or those job titles that are traditionally filled by “economists.” The mainstream is not meant for everyone, however, and with just a little out-of-the-box thinking, economics master’s graduates will find that their degrees can put them onto professional paths they had never thought possible. The following are just three of these possibilities:

  • Consumer Scientist

    Consumer science (or family science, as it’s also sometimes known) concerns the economics of the home and community. Consumer scientists are those professionals interested in the marketplace and its products for consumers. Consumer scientists conduct research into the needs, tastes and preferences of consumers, analyze the data collected and make recommendations on how to improve the quality, design, production and delivery of goods and services. Other job tasks include recruiting test subjects and conducting training panels, focus groups and consumer interviews. Economics majors will be able to put their knowledge and skills in marketing, quality assurance and the development of products and services to good use in the consumer science field.

  • Pollster

    A master’s in economics program provides its students with a solid foundation in the theory and practice of collecting and analyzing data from all types of sources, and that knowledge and training can be applied to any number of subjects and industries. A good example is polling. Pollsters work in all sectors of the economy in positions with private companies, market research and polling firms, government agencies and, of course, politics. Pollsters play a crucial role in the planning, conducting and success of political campaigns for candidates in races for everything from small town council seats to the White House.

  • Urban Planner

    Generally stated, urban planning has to do with the quality of life and health of city, small town and regional communities. Urban planning professionals concern themselves with the development and implementation of programs and plans for land use. More specifically, they work to design and create communities to accommodate population growth and to revitalize the physical works, structures and systems of towns, cities and metropolitan areas. Some urban planners are involved with overall community planning while others are focused on specific projects or issues, such as economic development. Most professionals in the field are employed in the public sector by communities and municipalities, although positions with private corporations and firms can also be found.