Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in economics teach students about the basic principles of this science, including micro- and macroeconomics, economic forecasting and international economics. Undergraduate programs also prepare students for further education. Careers in economics are extremely competitive, so students are encouraged to earn at least a graduate-level degree.
Master's degree students have several options for study. Some programs focus on economics as it relates to business, while others look at the science of economics itself. In most of these programs, students learn about the history of economics, study economic trends and learn to forecast economic upswings and downturns. They can usually specialize in a particular area.
There are online degree programs in business economics available at all degree levels.
Associate of Arts in Economics Degree
Most associate's programs in economics allow students to transfer to 4-year colleges and universities and earn their bachelor's degree. These programs teach students the basic principles of economics and business. The only prerequisite requirements are a high school diploma or GED. An associate's degree should mainly be used as an introductory program used to transfer into a 4-year degree. Most jobs require a master's or a Ph.D. degree.
Most of the core courses in an associate's program are introductory economics courses that teach basic business practice and theory. In most associate's degree programs, these courses are designed as general business courses that easily transfer over to 4-year bachelor's programs. Introductory courses like these are most commonly offered:
- Introduction to microeconomics
- Introduction to macroeconomics
- Introduction to business mathematics and statistics
- Introduction to accounting
Bachelor of Science in Economics Degree
A bachelor's degree program in economics gives students the minimal education they will need to pursue a full-time position in economics. This program teaches students the cause and effect relationship of economics and the ability to make minimal forecasts for private or state and federal groups. If students are unsure of their future in economics, some schools offer a business degree with a specialization in economics, which will give students a more diverse background and larger potential career avenues.
Students will learn how to graph and chart theories, make and support logical, evidence-based arguments, learn problem-solving methods and skills, and understand simple mathematical skills and equations. These are some of the most common courses students will take in the bachelor's program that are not included in the associate's program:
- International economics theory
- Forecasting economics
- Economic law and policy
Master's Degree in Economics
Students interested in earning their master's degree in economics have several choices, a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Science, or a joint MBA/Master of Arts program. These programs teach students the history, theory and practices of economics. Students develop skills to be able to forecast and adapt to newer policies, issues and economic climates.To enroll in any of these programs, students must have two letters of recommendation, have taken the GMAT or GRE, and have a bachelor's degree in business or a related field. If students have a degree in a non-related field, most programs will require the students to take business preparation classes.
Depending on the program, students should be able to specialize in different areas. Most programs will offer environmental, finance, non-profit, and international economics. Regardless of the track that students choose, they will often come across these courses:
- Modern economics research
- Micro and macroeconomic analysis
- Advanced economic law and policy
- Advanced economic theory
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected that economists will have 6% job growth for the decade 2014-2024. In May 2015, economists earned $99,180 as a median annual wage.
Students pursuing careers in economics must continue on to receive their bachelor's degree at a minimum. Many positions require master's degrees and higher. While the bachelor's degree is a step in the right direction, it may not be enough for many careers in economics. That is why it's crucial for students serious about their economic career to continue on to either the master's or Ph.D. programs.
The final step for an economist is to go after their Ph.D. Students interested in their Ph.D. should be highly trained in business mathematics and statistics, econometrics, and theory before entering the program. Similarly to the master's degree, most programs will offer students different tracks. Students who have received this degree can pursue any economics job they want and have the skills to work in many jobs in economics or finance. A Ph.D. degree program is very similar to a master's degree program since it focuses on research and advanced coursework too.
Educational opportunities in business economics are available at all degree levels, from associate's to doctoral. For most entry-level positions, students should pursue at least a bachelor's degree, and many choose to continue their education through the doctoral level.