Students can complete online economics degree programs at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. At the bachelor's degree level, programs may be focused on finance economics, managerial economics or economics and policy. Economics may also be studied as a concentration within broader business administration degree programs.
Some bachelor's degree programs may only offer the final two years of study and require an associate's degree or equivalent amount of study in order to enroll. Both full bachelor's degree programs and degree-completion programs can be completed 100% online.
At the master's degree level, there are a few fully online degree programs in economics. Such programs are typically focused on applied economics topics, like health economics and environmental economics.
Bachelor's Degree in Economics
Although some entire degree programs are available online, requiring only a high school diploma and a certain GPA for admission, many schools offer a degree-completion program instead. In those cases, students must have completed general education requirements as well as foundation courses - such as macroeconomics, microeconomics, calculus and statistics - prior to admission to the program.
Covering topics that include finance, strategic planning and international trade, these programs teach students to collect and assess data and formulate theories from the results. Skills are developed that help students forecast national and international economic trends.
Program Information and Requirements
Depending on school procedures regarding prerequisites and transfer credits, it can take from 2-4 years to complete the program. Most programs are conducted entirely online. Students are often provided with a syllabus at the beginning of the program, allowing them to work at their own pace. Interaction with other students and faculty is maintained though discussion boards, forums and e-mail.
Students need a computer equipped with Internet access and an up-to-date operating system, such as Windows or MacOS. Microsoft Office is usually required. DSL or another high-speed connection is generally recommended. Depending on how the course is conducted, a sound card and speakers may be necessary. A current version of a Web browser is also required.
Typically, a bachelor's degree program, either online or campus-based, calls for about 120 total semester hours for completion. Roughly one-third of those hours must be in general education subjects, such as mathematics, oral and written communication, behavioral and social sciences, science and humanities. The remaining hours are filled with core economics courses.
The areas of microeconomics and macroeconomics are more fully explored than in foundation courses. Focusing on the relationship of an individual firm with the national economy, topics include production costs, maximization of profits, labor markets, monetary and supply side policies, gross domestic product and the U.S. Federal Reserve System.
This is usually a survey course dealing with distribution and pricing strategies, buyer and market behavior and various marketing concepts. Global competition is explored, along with branding, positioning and integrated market communications.
Students are introduced to the accounting cycle and learn to create a financial statement. Fundamental principles and practices of accounting are explored as students learn how to use balance sheets, cash flow statements and income statements.
By studying and analyzing the aspects of demand, capitalization, costs and strategies, students develop new decision-making skills. They learn how to bring about the maximization of long-term profits through the application of economics.
Students are introduced to econometrics, which is a combination of economic theory and statistics. Through the use of serial correlation, model building, simulations and time series, students learn how to analyze primary and secondary data to assist in decision-making and forecasting.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
Master's Degree in Economics
Although there are many online courses that lead to an MBA and deal with economic principles, those that lead to a master's degree in economics are considerably rarer. Typically, the program is an in-depth review of economic theories and practices learned on the undergraduate level. Students often use hands-on, practical application of analytical techniques for the collection of data and quantitative examination of factors affecting and determining financial and market activity. Students must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited university and are required to submit GRE or GMAT scores to be considered for admittance.
Program Information and Requirements
Usually this program consists of roughly 30 credits and will take a little over two years to complete. The program is available entirely online; however, in many cases classes meet 'live' online at set times, much like on-campus classes. This schedule allows students to participate in class discussions and communicate with instructors and fellow class members in real-time.
Students are required to be familiar with basic computer operations, including Internet navigation, e-mail, file creation and downloading. An applicable Windows or Macintosh operating system is required, along with appropriate word processing software and a capable Internet browser. Students may be required to download software such as Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Acrobat Reader and PowerPoint. 'Live' classes will require hardware such as a Web camera, audio headset or microphone.
Courses in this program are all geared toward refining and applying skills previously developed. Often, students have the option of following a thesis or non-thesis program. While thesis students complete an original project under faculty supervision, non-thesis students may have an independent study unit wherein they are not supervised but must present a formal report at the conclusion of the course.
The theory and methods of applying statistics to economic problems is the focus of this course. Students apply the lessons and tenets to written assignments to gain practical experience.
Using econometric methods and strategies, students explore economic and business forecasting. How to arrive at solutions for common economic problems is the main thrust of this type of course.
Linear algebra and calculus are tools used in this course of economic analysis. Some of the areas investigated typically include model building, production functions, distribution, static and dynamic equilibrium models, programming and activity analysis.
This online course sometimes concentrates on public policies dealing with unemployment and inflation. Students learn to utilize macroeconomic theories to analyze business cycles and income.
Production and distribution, buyer demand and behavior, imperfect competition, equilibrium and welfare are among the topics covered in this course. Emphasis is placed on efficiency and operation of competing economic systems.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, although employment opportunities for economists were expected to increase from 2014-2024 by 6%, which is within the average rate of increase for all occupations (www.bls.gov). As of October 2016, PayScale.com reported that those holding a Bachelor of Science in economics were qualified for employment as financial analysts. Median pay for this position was $55,982, while those with a Bachelor of Arts brought in $45,096-$82,500. Those holding a master's degree earned $82,500, while economists with a doctorate came in at $103,250 on average.
Continuing Education Information
Individuals holding a bachelor's degree generally find competition for employment to be quite stiff. While experience working in an economics-related position (such as stock or bond trader or loan officer) adds to the value of an individual's resume, those who continue their education and acquire a master's degree or higher generally have an easier time securing employment. Individuals who wish to go into teaching will find it necessary in many cases to earn at least a master's degree.
Doctoral programs in economics are plentiful, and earning a Ph.D. can create additional opportunities for employment in research and academia. However, doctoral programs in economics are seldom offered through online learning.
Optional certifications that enhance an economist's employability are offered by numerous industry organizations. In general, the requirements include a short period of training and a qualifying examination. The American Academy of Financial Management offers the designations Chartered Economist (Ch.E.) and Certified Economic Policy Analyst (CEPA). The Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) credential is offered by the Association for Investment Management and Research, while the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards offers the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation.
Online economics degree programs are available at both the bachelor's and master's levels. Bachelor's programs educate students in finance, marketing, and forecasting, while master's students take advanced courses to refine their skills and may also complete a thesis or independent study.