Most programs in consumer economics are offered by the departments of consumer sciences, human resources and agriculture at a variety of colleges and universities. At the bachelor's degree program level in consumer economics, students receive an introduction to economics and they discover how to assess financial data.
Master's degree programs might prepare students for even higher education and emphasis is placed on research methods. Most master's programs in consumer economics require completion of a thesis paper or project based on original research. Similarly, doctoral program learners might focus on a particular area of study in addition to expanding their knowledge of advanced business and financial theories.
Prerequisites for these degrees vary by level. A high school diploma or GED is required for bachelor's programs. Master's programs require a completed bachelor's degree, while doctoral programs require a master's degree.
Bachelor of Science in Consumer Economics
In a bachelor's degree program, students receive an overview of economics and how the general principles can be applied to personal family budgets, corporate environments and everything in between. Students learn to compile and analyze economic data. Coursework in an undergraduate degree program stresses the importance of incorporating societal and legal concerns when assessing possible financial futures. Strong math and analytical skills are also essential for economists. Other classes cover subjects such as:
- Basic business communications
- Economics and consumption
- U.S. public policy and legislation
- Labor market economics
- Public speaking
Master of Science in Consumer Economics
These programs are available as both terminal degrees and as preparatory study for those interested in pursuing doctorate-level study. Course plans can be tailored with the help and approval of an advisor to meet a student's end career goals. Research methods are emphasized in this program. Much of the coursework focuses on either theoretical or practical research methods, depending on whether the degree is a stepping-stone towards a doctorate or a terminal degree. Other possible areas of study include:
- E-commerce and entrepreneurship
- Resources and family economics
- Public policy development
- Human capital and consumer management
- Facilitation skills in quality management
Ph.D. in Consumer Economics
Students in this program are taught how to apply quantitative research methods and theory towards a specific topic or area of study that they are interested in. Students are also taught to look for factors that may affect consumer buying trends. Doctoral degree candidates are encouraged to incorporate business and finance classes into their curriculum. General coursework continues to highlight communications and analytical mathematics. Depending on the student's area of focus, courses also cover such subjects as:
- Commodity markets
- Economic systems modeling
- Federal regulation and program development
- Economics and the environment
- Industrial psychology studies
A bachelor's degree program not only prepares a student for a career as a consumer economist, but also offers opportunities for career options that require these skills. Some possible career options for graduates include:
- Marketing manager
- Personal financial planner
- Consumer credit counselor
- Social service worker
A high percentage of those with a doctorate in consumer economics do not actually become economists, but instead apply their expertise to related occupations. Some of the career options include:
- Agricultural marketer
- Economic policy consultant
- Economics professor
- Price analyst
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of economists in general is projected to increase by 8% between 2018 and 2028. As of May 2018, the BLS reported that economists earned a median annual wage of $104,340.
Programs in consumer economics prepare students for future careers through the study of economics, public policy, and communications. Job prospects vary by degree level, but can include financial planning and policy consultation.