Economics Degrees

Discover some of the jobs in economics you can qualify for with an associate's, bachelor's, master's and PhD in economics. Learn about online economics degree programs and get details on courses and requirements for each degree level.

Economics Degrees

If you're interested in a degree that uses statistics and critical thinking to tackle real-world problems, the diverse field of economics might be a good choice. An economists' job description and requirements can differ depending on which industry they're working in, but they all focus on analyzing ways to solve problems in society, from the opioid crisis to unemployment. No matter which field you'll enter, a degree is the first step to launching your economics career.

As an economics student, you'll take courses in macroeconomics, microeconomics, mathematical modeling, and statistics. You'll also learn about economic institutions such as banks and markets, and computer tools used by economists such as statistical programs. Specializations within economics include:

  • Health economics
  • Environmental economics
  • Econometrics
  • Trade economics
  • Associate Degree in Economics

    An associate degree in economics can lay the foundation for a career in this field. Although associate degrees in economics are fairly uncommon, some programs are available. Typically, those who earn an associate degree in economics will transfer to a four-year bachelor's degree program if they hope to work specifically in economics. Coursework might include the following topics:

    • Accounting
    • Management
    • Finance

    Completing an associate degree before entering a bachelor's degree program can reduce the cost of earning a degree overall.

    Bachelor's Degree in Economics

    A bachelor's degree in economics typically lasts four years and is an more in-depth introduction to this field. When studying for a bachelor's degree, you will be introduced to a wide range of economic theories and principles. At an introductory level, you will take courses in calculus, statistics, microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics is the study of individual decision-making and how it effects the market, and macroeconomics is the study of the economy as a whole.

    After these core courses, you will study economics concepts focusing on particular areas of interest. Some examples include:

    • Public finance
    • Environmental economics
    • Economics of the labor market.

    There are many jobs for students graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics, and in addition to being able to enter the professional world, you'll also be prepped to earn a graduate degree, such as an MBA, MPA, or law degree.

    Should I Major in Economics?

    An undergraduate economics degree is extremely versatile, allowing you to develop skills in applied mathematics, analysis, problem solving, and writing. As such, a bachelor's in economics can be an excellent choice if you want to pursue advanced studies in economics, or if you haven't yet decided on your future career path. In many ways, the degree program combines business and STEM together, making it both widely applicable and highly valued.

    Master's Degree in Economics

    Earning a master's degree can enhance your career prospects in economics. Two options to consider might be a master's in applied economics or an MBA with a concentration in economics.

    Most master's in applied economics programs are one to two years in length. All master's students will need to take the following required courses:

    • Microeconomics
    • Macroeconomics
    • Econometrics
    • Statistics
    • Data analysis

    You would then choose an area of focus, such as health economics, labor economics, or the economies of a particular area of the world, such as Latin America or Asia.

    Communicating economic ideas to a broad audience is an important component of master's programs. International students should note that most master's in economics programs are designated to be within the STEM field, which qualifies you for specific student visas.

    Another option would be to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in economics. MBA programs typically take two years of full-time study to complete; however part-time and executive options are widely available. To earn an MBA with a concentration in economics, you would take core courses in management, finance, and business strategy and then choose electives in the economics arena.

    Ph.D. in Economics

    If you wish to be poised for positions at the highest level of the field such as a college professor or governmental economist, researching various issues of economic theory, you should consider a Ph.D. in economics.

    Admissions to Ph.D. programs in economics can be highly competitive. You will be required to submit an undergraduate transcript, GRE scores, and recommendations to gain acceptance. Applicants may pursue admission to doctoral programs after earning a bachelor's degree. Most Ph.D. programs take five to six years to complete. Doctoral students take advanced courses in microeconomics and macroeconomics. They then choose areas of specialization and take courses in these areas. Some examples of fields you might specialize in would be:

    • Econometrics
    • International economics
    • Industrial organization

    Attending workshops or conferences in the field of specialization is expected. After the first year of study, students typically take oral or written qualifying exams. When major coursework is complete, you will prepare a doctoral dissertation, working closely with faculty members. Writing a dissertation is a one- to two-year process, with the defense of the dissertation as the final step.

    Certificate in Economics

    Certificates in economics allow you to demonstrate knowledge of the field or specialization in a specific sub-field. These certificates are available on both the undergraduate and graduate levels and typically will take one to three years to complete. A certificate program in economics may include courses in the following topics:

    • Innovation and development
    • Financial economics
    • History of economic thought
    • Economic theory
    • Quantitative methods,
    • International economics

    Many prestigious business schools, such as Harvard Business School or the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, offer economics certificate programs, allowing you to learn from industry leaders without the pressures of applying to their full degree programs.

    What Can You Do with an Economics Degree?

    The possibilities for a career for holders of an economics degree vary based on the level of the degree. Branches of government at the state and federal level, banks, and educational institutions are the most frequent employers of economics degree-holders, but typically, you would need at least a master's degree in economics to qualify for a position with the job title of economist.

    Degree Level Types of Positions
    • Finance clerk
    • Real estate agent
    • Sales representative
    • Policy analyst
    • Research analyst
    • Financial analyst
    • Insurance underwriter
    • Foreign service officer
    • Investment banker
    • Economics consultant
    • Economics professor
    • Economic researcher
    • Economist

    Online Economics Degree

    Particularly at the associate's through master's degree level, online economics degree programs are a flexible alternative to traditional classroom learning. If you are searching for an online bachelor's program in economics, be sure that the program is accredited and offers areas of specialization that you're interested in. Many well-regarded institutions have migrated to online economics master's degree programs, and students interested in this level of education should consider this option for study.

    Online degree programs typically allow you to complete coursework on your own schedule and from anywhere with an internet connection. However, they can be as expensive as attending a traditional in-classroom program. To succeed in an online program, you must be self-motivated and goal-oriented. You must also ensure you have the correct technology (laptop or desktop, webcam, etc.) and are comfortable with its use.

    Economics Certificate Online

    Both undergraduate and graduate economics certificates can be found online in university programs. Pacing for specific programs varies: some might hold scheduled class meetings where the instructor gives lessons live in a virtual classroom, while others have lessons that can be viewed independently of when they were originally recorded. Many economics certificates are earned entirely online, with no in-person attendance necessary. This allows you to hold down a full-time job while expanding your economics knowledge.

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