Online Graduate Degree in Economics: Degree Options

Dec 03, 2019

Get info about online programs in economics. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, and check out career and continuing education options.

Essential Information

Economists investigate the resources of society and analyze how they are put into operation. Using tools such as surveys and mathematics, economists study trends and develop forecasts for economic growth, productivity and the movement of financial markets. A graduate degree is typically the minimum requirement for employment as an economist.

Fully online master's degree programs in economics and applied economics are widely available. If students want practical experience, some online programs offer optional internship opportunities. Schools may also include the option of either a thesis or non-thesis online program; however, some schools may only offer non-thesis programs online and thesis programs through a hybrid format. Applying to these programs may require holding a previous degree, having completed specific prerequisite classes or having relevant work experience. If students want more exposure to business concepts, online MBA programs usually include many economics courses.

Master's Degree in Economics

These programs often lead to a Master of Science in Applied Economics, providing the training that enables individuals to comprehend various economic theories and apply them to the real world. Among other skills, students learn how to collect and analyze data and how to effectively translate and communicate their findings.

Applicants must have earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited school and either have completed, or be able to test successfully in, such undergraduate courses as microeconomics, macroeconomics, statistics and calculus. Depending on the school, applicants may be required to submit scores from the GRE, GMAT or LSAT.

Program Information and Requirements

Since the programs are accessible entirely online, no in-person work is required. Most students are able to complete the 30- to 32-credit-hour program in a little over two years. Programs often have a thesis or non-thesis option. In many cases, the courses are conducted at set times and stream live on the Web, utilizing Web conferencing technology. Generally, lectures are recorded so that students unable to participate in the scheduled classes can review the lectures at a later time.

Technical requirements include a computer with Internet access with either Windows XP or Mac OS X (or higher), along with an up-to-date browser. Depending on the program delivery system, a headset and microphone may be required. Software requirements may include Adobe Flash Player and Acrobat Reader, as well as a media player like Real Video Player or Apple QuickTime. Microsoft Word is also a standard requirement.

Course Topics

Students pursue a certain number of required core economic courses and then choose elective courses in a desired concentration. Specializations may be in areas such as regional economics, industrial organization or financial economics. Core coursework commonly includes the following:


Students learn how to apply calculus and linear algebra to economic analysis. Among the areas explored are production functions, static and dynamic equilibrium models, model building, cycles and distribution.

Empirical Methods

This course introduces students to econometrics, which is the application of statistics to problems in economics. Students gain a basic understanding of the theory of econometrics and the methods used in its practice. The thrust of the course is trouble-shooting and finding solutions to the most common problems that occur in the profession.

Price Theory

The efficiency and equity of perfectly competing economic systems are examined in this advanced course. Consumer behavior, production and distribution and the behavior of economic agents in imperfect competition are among other topics addressed.

Advanced Macroeconomics

This course in macroeconomic theory builds on the principles learned in the prerequisite undergraduate course. Emphasis is placed on the evaluation of public policies, income growth, unemployment, business cycles and inflation.

Master of Business Administration

Generally, the online MBA with a concentration in economics is intended for working professionals who wish to specialize in business economics. The program provides the individual with a broad foundation in marketing, accounting, finance, management and economics.

A bachelor's degree is a requirement for admission to all online MBA programs, usually with a minimum undergraduate GPA. In some cases, an individual must also have at least two years of work experience.

Program Information and Requirements

As a rule, it takes from 18-24 months to complete the degree program. Delivered entirely online, the program is usually presented asynchronously. Often instructors provide a course syllabus and all assignments at the onset of each course. Students log in at any time and complete assignments independently. Communication between students and instructors is usually conducted via discussion rooms, e-mail and course management systems like Blackboard.

Course Topics

Although there is usually at least one economics course in the core curriculum of an MBA program, individuals who decide to concentrate in an area such as business economics take additional economics courses as electives. This allows them to focus the thrust of their graduate education on the field of economics rather than another specialization such as marketing, public administration or human resource management.

Market Structure

Focusing on government laws and regulations, students examine how these tools and others are used to correct imperfections in markets. With an eye toward profit, students learn to formulate business strategies. Using information and tactics presented throughout the program, students learn to develop quantitative economic analyses.

Economic Analysis

In this course, students learn economic analysis from a managerial standpoint. Statistical and quantitative tools such as demand estimation, cost minimization, profit maximization and product pricing are explored as students address common business problems.

Financial Market

Students examine the role of the Federal Reserve System in the formulation of monetary policy. Fundamental principles used by financial institutions such as spending, borrowing and lending are analyzed. Globalization of market behavior and its relationship to financial systems is studied.

Career Information

Individuals who want to work as economists may find employment in government or private industry in such positions as public policy consultants, purchasing managers, researchers, financial analysts or market analysts. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that job opportunities for economists were expected to increase by 8% from 2018-2028, which is faster than the national average for all occupations ( found that, as of November 2019, the national salaries for all economists range from $43,000 to $142,000.

As another option, graduates who wish to become economics teachers must meet state requirements for licensure, which include completing teacher preparation classes and a period of supervised student teaching. While a master's is usually the minimum required to teach economics at a 2-year college, a Ph.D. is generally required to be an instructor at 4-year schools.

Continuing Education Information

Although not legally required, voluntary certifications are available as professional designations through the American Academy of Financial Management. Professional development courses leading to designations in such areas as wealth management, portfolio management, tax analysis and estate planning are offered at various schools. Additionally, membership in the American Economic Association can be advantageous in that it provides access to numerous resources in the field, including conferences, research papers and several professional journals.

Online master's degree programs in economics include courses on mathematics, empirical methods and the financial market. They can easily be found entirely online. These programs prepare students for work as economists or teachers at 2-year colleges.

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