Economic Development Degree Program Information

Oct 11, 2019

Graduate degree programs with a focus on economic development help students gain a better understanding of economic growth and its impact on business, communities and the economy. Students can find these programs at the master's and doctoral levels.

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Essential Information

Graduate programs with an emphasis on economic development are designed to provide business students and professionals alike with the knowledge of economics necessary to develop and build upon successful business strategies. Students can pursue a Master of Science in Economic Development or a Doctor of Economic Development. Students who have business experience may be given preference when it comes to admission. A bachelor's degree or master's degree will also be required for admission to each level, respectively.

Economic development, financial theories, research methods and population economics are some potential areas of exploration. In some cases, schools may require students to participate in fieldwork. Such programs can prepare students for careers as economic analysts, business development specialists, grant writers and economic development practitioners.

Master of Science in Economic Development

Graduate degree programs in economic development may be offered with various specialties, including entrepreneurship, tourism management and international economic development. The degree is a 2-year program offered through 4-year universities and colleges, providing students with an understanding of advanced economic theories and models. Students can learn how to apply these models to various types of business organizations or communities whether they are global corporations, individual entities or hotel chains. Students must have a baccalaureate degree before they can consider applying to a master's degree program in economic development. A school may also accept individuals who have professional experience in the worlds of business, management, economics or entrepreneurship.

Although specific courses included in a graduate degree program in economic development may vary from specialty program to specialty program, core courses exist in each program. These include:

  • Economic development principles
  • Project management
  • Financial concepts
  • International economics and finance
  • Developing new products
  • Developing markets

Doctor of Economic Development

At the doctoral level, students in an economic development program can choose to concentrate in areas like development and economics in the public sector, international development, national development or regulated utilities. Many programs in the field allow students to team with faculty advisers to devise their own course of study. Such programs generally require students to complete courses in economic development theory while at the same time working on a project in the field.

Institutions offering doctoral programs in economic development require that students have a baccalaureate degree and recommend that they have master's degree in a related area of study as well. A school may also require incoming students to take a preliminary examination to prove they are ready to undertake the amount of research and intensive study associated with a doctoral program. Specific course requirements might include microeconomic theory, econometrics, macroeconomic theory, differential calculus, matrix algebra and statistics (regression analysis). Students take core courses and focus their studies in a particular area by the electives they choose. They also complete an internship and solve a problem in the field as a project. Courses may include:

  • Macroeconomic theory
  • Econometrics
  • Regional and Local Development
  • Population Economics
  • Theory of Economic Development

Popular Career Options

There is no one set career path available for graduates of a master's degree program in economic development. Graduates work on committees overseeing the growth and economic development of cities, communities, businesses, corporations or whole industries. Specific job titles might include:

  • Economic development program manager
  • Business development specialist
  • Director of economic development
  • Economic and financial analyst
  • Senior grant writer

A doctorate in economic development is a professional degree geared towards working professionals (economic development practitioners and specialists) who desire advanced training. Students do not conduct research, but rather apply knowledge and theory to a problem in the profession. They may work in economic development at the international, regional or local level. They do not take jobs in academia or research.

Salary Info

In August 2019, reported that economic development directors earned a median of $68,702 annually. At that same time, the median salary for a business development specialist was $53,167. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that financial analysts earned a median of $85,660 as of May 2018 (

Certification Options

Organizations that offer certification opportunities in the field of economic development include the International Economic Development Council and the National Development Council. Individual states may offer certifications through their own economic development councils. Requirements to gain state certifications vary.

Prospective students of economic development studies can pursue a degree at the master's or doctoral levels. Graduates of said courses then often embark on careers, such as a business development specialist or economic and financial analyst.

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