Overview of Labor Economics Degree Programs
Labor economics applies economic theory and analytical methods to the study of labor market dynamics. Full undergraduate degree programs in labor economics are rare, though several schools offer labor economics courses as part of a more general program. A full labor economics program might emphasize human resource and social policy issues, while general economics programs introduce these topics as one of many potential specializations within the broad field of economics. If labor economics interests you, read on to learn about the admission requirements and coursework for these programs, and explore potential career options.
Admission Requirements for Labor Economics Programs
Economics programs often require students to complete prerequisite coursework before admission to the program. This could include basic math or the school's introductory economics courses. In addition, your application might be evaluated based on the grades you achieve in these courses. Otherwise, economics programs tend to follow the admission requirements of the university. This might include submission of standardized test scores, statements of purpose and previous transcripts.
Labor Economics Program Coursework
Labor economics coursework is a blend of basic economic theory, statistics and calculus, specific advanced economic topics, and social science electives. Courses typically offered in these programs are described below:
Principles of Microeconomics
Microeconomics is one of the major branches of economics, and it is important to understand before delving into more advanced or specific topics. This course introduces the theory of the effect of behavior and choice on resource allocation, output and market prices. It analyzes supply and demand and discusses theories of factor pricing and income distribution.
Principles of Macroeconomics
Macroeconomics, the other major branch of economics, is concerned with the study of factors that affect more large-scale or global trends. These include determinants of national income, long-range growth and recession and short-term market fluctuations. With regard to labor economics in particular, this course discusses business cycles, employment, and government taxation.
Computer Skills for Economic Analysis
This course ensures students have basic computer competencies as well as knowledge of more advanced economic software for managing and analyzing data. It also covers computer applications for communicating analyzed data. Basic applications include word processing, spreadsheets, the Internet and library resources. More advanced applications include economics-specific statistical software like SAS.
Labor economics is typically offered as an elective course in general economics programs or as an advanced overview course within full labor economics programs. It uses. This course focuses on theoretical tools to understand labor market dynamics and the determinants of supply and demand. It also covers employment topics such as wages, earnings inequality, trade unions, migration and minimum wage.
Labor Market and Social Policy
While the labor economics course uses economic theory and empirical tools, this course is an intensive study of current issues in labor and social policy. It uses knowledge gained from prerequisite coursework in micro- and macroeconomics. Some of the issues covered might include education, poverty, discrimination, and changes in population or labor market demographics.
Labor Market Analysis
This upper level course builds on theoretical and practical knowledge gained in other courses. It requires students to do applied labor market research using specialized techniques, perhaps as an independent research project. The course might analyze employment, education, or any of the other current issues discussed in the labor market and social policy course.
How to Choose a Labor Economics Program
You should determine if you would like to enroll in a full labor economics program or a general economics program that offers coursework in labor economics. While this will depend on your career goals, a full labor economics program will prepare you to enter the workplace as a labor economics analyst or prepare you for more specific graduate-level study. Another factor to consider when deciding on a program is what extracurricular opportunities exist for students to supplement formal economics education. These might include joining various student organizations or completing an internship.
Career Options for a Degree in Labor Economics
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary in 2016 for all economists was $101,050. The same site reports job growth in this field of 6% between 2016 and 2026. Labor economics is a versatile field, and there are a number of career paths you could consider. Some of these include: