What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Economics

As a student seeking an online degree in economics, you can expect to find classes that contain the same information as those taught on a traditional campus. Online degrees offer greater flexibility, ideal for those already working full-time or with many obligations. Your coursework should include information on how money, goods, services, and wealth are produced and may also include the study of sociology, history, and the dynamics between wealth and human behavior.

Available concentrations

There are several areas in the field of economics that you can specialize in, depending on your program. Below are some standard concentrations offered for individuals earning a degree in this field.

  • Accounting and finance: Focuses on advanced financial management and accounting studies. Courses include international accounting, tax laws, and risk management. Graduates with this concentration will be well-equipped for jobs such as certified internal auditors or risk managers.
  • Statistics: Includes extensive quantitative economics study and applying statistical skills to social science. The curriculum includes applied economics, advanced mathematics, and statistics classes. This concentration arms graduates with the knowledge to succeed as a statistical analyst for a government agency or a quantitative analyst for a consulting firm.
  • Financial analysis: Examines leading-edge financial practices and analytical practices and procedures. Classes include analysis of financial data to predict patterns and shared strategies to improve a company’s financial standing. The curriculum consists of financial management, investment analysis, and portfolio management. This concentration can lead to work as an Investment analyst, financial analyst, corporate treasury manager, or funds manager.
  • Risk management: Explores techniques to analyze and predict movements in the financial markets to achieve company growth. Courses include protecting investments in public and private sectors and mathematics, computing, actuarial science, project management, and engineering. You will learn what you need to know to become a broker, credit analyst, foreign exchange trader, risk manager, actuary, or financial consultant.
  • Microeconomics: Studies the process of how single decisions affect financial outcomes. Classes include the effects of changing markets on consumers, taxes, and scarcity of resources. Other courses include cost/benefit analysis, strategic decision-making, and money management. With this concentration, a student could graduate as a finance director, research analyst, consultant, or financial writer.

Common degree curriculum

Courses for a master’s in economics typically concentrate on one of three areas: economic theory, econometrics, or applied economics. Your area of focus will determine which upper-level courses you take, but all degrees include classes in mathematics, such as statistics and probability, calculus, and linear algebra. Other core classes include studying worldwide economic practices, trade, money and banking, game theory, and law and ethics. Some concentrations may require practical applications, including work experience or internships.

Examples of general economics courses include:

  • Foundations of Microeconomic Theory: Examines positive and normative analysis in economic theory with an emphasis on policy applications of the theory.
  • Money, Banking, and Financial Markets: Studies the role of financial markets and institutions in resource allocation, focusing on real-world examples. Topics also include the financial regulatory and policy infrastructure influencing financial activity and infrastructure to promote efficiency in asset valuation, risk management, and economic growth.
  • Economics of Multinational Firms: This course takes a company-level approach to international investment analysis. Topics include trends in multinational activity, reasons behind investment decisions in other countries, the different types of foreign investment, the impact of global firms, and how government policies impact foreign direct investment.
  • Monetary Policy: Students learn about the effects of monetary policy on aggregate economic activity and the distribution of resources, the effect various government policies have on this, and the optimal policy in light of various institutional restrictions.
  • Behavioral Game Theory: Focuses on the static and dynamic games of complete and incomplete information and other advanced topics in game theory.

Certification and license preparation

There are several possible certifications and licenses for individuals with an online master’s in economics. You may apply for certification through the Risk Management Association’s Credit Risk Certification program after five years of business experience. You must sit for an examination proctored by the National Association of Credit Management. Upon passing, you will be considered a Certified Credit Analyst.

Many financial institutions require certification to become a loan officer. The American Bankers Association and the Mortgage Bankers Association both offer training and certification. Loan officers are required to renew their licenses annually.

A Certified Financial Planner credential requires an examination proctored by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, three years of relevant work experience, a bachelor’s degree, and specific professional ethical standards to which certificate holders must adhere. Certification as a Certified Financial Analyst is offered through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and requires both an exam and sponsorship by your employer.

Program accreditation

Any university you consider should be accredited by a professional agency such as the Higher Learning Commission, Middle States Commission on Higher Education, or the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. It’s crucial to research your online master’s in economics program, as many online programs do not receive programmatic accreditation. Business administration degree programs focusing on economics are generally the exception; online degree programs typically receive accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). If you’re planning to pursue a Ph.D. in economics after your master’s, then you may not be accepted to the program unless your master’s degree is from an accredited institution.

Program completion timeframe

Many online master’s in economics degrees are designed to be completed in two years of full-time study. Some programs have a thesis requirement rather than an externship or work-study, which may change your program’s length. Most master’s in economics degrees consist of 30 to 40 credit hours, including the internship credit hours. Degrees are typically separated into an MBA focusing on economics and a master’s of science in economics.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Economics Graduates

Nearly every specialty career in economics requires a master’s degree; consideration for a position in both the public and private sectors usually requires a master’s degree at a minimum. While those with a bachelor’s degree and proper certification may find positions as financial analysts, market research analysts, statisticians, or financial advisers, those with a master’s degree tend to be preferred candidates. The master’s degree in economics is also the next step toward a Ph.D. for those seeking a career in academia.

Job prospects for those with an economics degree are mixed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the average unemployment rate for someone holding a master’s in economics is 2.4 percent, compared to a bachelor’s degree rate of 2.8 percent and an associate’s degree at 3.8 percent. Job growth by the BLS is estimated at 6 percent through 2032, which is faster than most employment sectors.

Increased job opportunities are one benefit of a master’s degree in economics. Advanced credentials in economics can increase a base salary and potential bonuses significantly.

Geography can affect your learning potential.

Your degree may allow you to work in different areas of the financial field or concentrate on a particular specialty. A master’s in economics gives you plenty of knowledge to obtain professional certification that will open paths to other careers in the field.

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate
Economist Economists work in both the government and the private sector. Approximately 27 percent of economists work for the federal government, and a further 20 percent as consultants to private companies. These jobs focus on analyzing money market accounts worldwide to determine patterns and spot trends, allowing their government or company to make thoughtful financial decisions. $113,940 per year 6%
Financial Manager Financial managers work in various industries, including private companies, colleges and universities, healthcare facilities, hospitals, and hospitality groups. These jobs include writing financial reports, reviewing organizational expenses, including payroll and accounting, and working with the board or C-level directors to maximize profits and economic efficiency. $139,790 per year 16%
Financial Analyst Financial analysts provide corporations, individuals, and government agencies with investment advice. A strong background in economics is preferred, as are professional certifications. Duties include predicting how stocks, bonds, and other investments will perform alone and as part of a managed portfolio. $96,220 per year 8%
Financial Examiner Financial examiners review company records to ensure legal and ethical compliance, including reconciling bank statements, balance sheets, invoices/A&R, expense accounts, and income statements. They also recommend streamlining expenses or making changes to reduce extraneous spending. $82,210 per year 20%

Professional organizations

Professional organizations for economics professionals are vital for making contacts within the industry. Some organizations are exclusively for those with specific certifications, while others are open to many in economics.

  • American Economic Association: The AEA has a history stretching back nearly 150 years and specializes in economic research and historical and statistical analysis. It publishes academic journals, which members can submit papers for publication, and hosts annual conferences.
  • National Association of Business Economics: The NABE is one of the largest organizations in the country, focusing on business-related aspects of micro- and macroeconomics. It offers continuing education programs for members, conferences, trade publications, and periodic economic conferences.
  • National Economic Association: The NEA was founded in 1969 by the Caucus of Black Economists to provide a professional outlet for minorities working in the economics industry. While membership is open to all, this organization focuses on advancing minorities in the different fields of economics.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Economics Degree

Many online programs may be less expensive than traditional on-campus degrees, but these expenses still may be out of reach for many potential students. The first step when seeking financial aid is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which allows you to explore grants, government assistance, loans, and other financial aid options. These resources can help you finance your master’s degree.

Student finance resources and guides

Multiple resources are available to help students pay for an online master’s degree in economics, as well as websites to help you understand the decisions you need to make and the best options for you and your financial situation. Here are a few good sources of information for you to review:

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Interested in a degree?

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