Although a high school diploma or its equivalent is only required for admission to a baccalaureate program, a bachelor's degree is usually necessary -- preferably in economics -- to earn a master's or doctoral degree. At the graduate level, lower level mathematics and economics course completion is preferred. Specializations are also available at the graduate degree level in environmental economics, international trade, financial economics and industrial organization, among others. Final research projects are required by the graduate programs. Depending on the program's level, these programs take two to four years.
Bachelor's Degree in Economics
A bachelor's degree program in economics teaches students how to solve problems by studying the benefits and costs. Economics focuses on the financial aspects of a situation and covers the impact of choices on the flow of trade or business. Students also learn how to properly use and allocate resources for the best economical result.
In a bachelor's program, the curriculum largely focuses on economic-related courses and on related areas, such as business, energy, development, mathematical and international trade. Coursework may include:
- Monetary theory
Master's Degree in Economics
Programs in economics at the master's level are usually focused on teaching students the skills needed to analyze, predict and understand economic trends, conditions and problems. Students study real world situations and learn how to develop solutions that would work in a real world setting.
A master's degree program will usually involve economic courses in areas such as microeconomics, macroeconomics, applied econometrics, and game theory. Some programs may allow students to focus on specialization areas, such as environmental or international trade economics. Some courses in a program may include:
- Economic analysis
- Advanced economics analysis
- Research methods
- Public finance
- Dynamic optimization
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Doctoral Degree in Economics
At the doctoral level, students usually focus on professional research. In a Ph.D. program, students may choose an area of economics in which to study and perform in-depth research projects. A program may begin with some advanced economics coursework and testing, and then students move into their research and the creation of their dissertation or research paper. Areas of concentration that may be offered to students include environmental, international trade, financial, and industrial organization.
Schools may prefer students have completed multiple higher-level mathematics courses at the college level. While the majority of the time spent in a doctorate degree program is spent on research and in-depth study, some courses are still included as part of the curriculum. Courses in a program may include:
- Micro analysis
- Game theory
- Macro analysis
Popular Career Options
Graduates of an economics degree program are prepared for careers in industries that include business, government, education, banking and journalism. Typically, an economist works in a position that focuses on consulting, analysis or teaching. Possible job titles include:
- Economics teacher
- Industry analyst
- Marketing analyst
- Loan officer
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), around 19,090 jobs in 2015 were held by economists (www.bls.gov). The BLS projected a job growth of 6% for economists from 2014-2024, and the rate of jobs to be added was reported at 1,200. The median annual wage for economists was $99,180 in May 2015, based on data from the BLS.
Individuals looking for the training needed to work as an economist have the option to seek enrollment in a bachelor's, master's or PhD economics program. The curriculum of these levels builds off each other and prepares students for varying levels of employment, with the basics of economics covered at the bachelor's level and economic-research design and analysis covered at the master's and PhD levels.