Master of Science in Economics
Master of Science in Economics In Context

A Master of Science in Economics can help you study and answer key questions on scarcity, resource use, and decision-making. You can learn to identify in precise detail what makes some countries rich and others poor, or why recessions and booms occur. It can help you understand income and wealth distribution, how society is changing, and what effects this will have in the coming decades. This detailed background understanding of economics can be crucial for a career in finance, banking, or business.

Studying for a Master of Science in Economics adds a nuanced layer to the way you view and engage with the world. It enables you to spot and identify historical trends, recognize important factors in the news and topical information that will impact your work, and enable you to make predictions about upcoming events that can benefit whole industries, businesses, organizations, state and federal institutions, and individuals.

A master’s degree holds great value in the employment sector. In 2014, Forbes referred to it as “a key professional credential preferred by employers.” [1] According to job market analysts, more than 20% of open positions in the U.S. prefer a candidate to have graduate-level education. [2]

What is an economist?

People studying for a master’s in economics develop their insight and knowledge into historical trends and current events to analyze data at a higher level and use this information to make forecasts for governments, businesses, and organizations nationally and internationally.

This information can help businesses and governments create effective policies and decisions, but also ensures they are reducing their risk. [4]

The work performed by economists can also be applied to a number of different sectors beyond finance, including health, education, and the environment. With your master’s degree, you will learn more about doing this at an advanced level. Economics can offer insight into areas including employment levels, energy, agriculture, law, exchange rates, taxes, inflation, and more. [5]

For many economist roles, a master’s degree is a necessary prerequisite. It can prepare you for a number of the day-to-day tasks you will be expected to perform once you graduate, including: [6]

  • Analyze, interpret, and forecast market trends
  • Research and analyze both past and current economic issues and concerns
  • Conduct surveys to collect and process data using statistical techniques
  • Prepare reports on research results to present in meetings and briefings
  • Work as an advisor or consultant to businesses, governments, and local authorities on economic topics to ensure they work in an efficient, effective way
  • Assist with designing policies or solutions to solve economic problems
  • Write articles to educate people about economic concerns, research, or predictions [6]

In studying for a master’s in economics, you can expect to gain a number of transferable and highly respected skills that will be beneficial for your career. A glimpse at various online master’s in economics programs indicates the following among the featured skills they emphasize:

  • Communication
  • Problem solving
  • Statistical and mathematical analysis
  • Computing
  • Time management
  • Analytical skills
  • Data assessment
What career can I pursue with a master’s in economics degree?

There are a number of different types of careers available with a Master of Science in Economics degree. These include:

  • Economist
  • Behavioral Economist
  • Financial Economist
  • Credit Analyst
  • International Economist
  • Industrial Organization Economist
  • Labor Economist
  • Macroeconomist
  • Monetary Economist
  • Microeconomist
  • Public Finance Economist
  • Banker
  • Economic Consultant
  • Market Research Analyst
  • Policy Analyst
  • Statistician
  • Compensation and Benefits Manager
  • Professor
  • Actuary

There are a number of different companies you could work for, including international organizations and nonprofits, government authorities and agencies, private corporations and consulting firms, banking and financial services, and research and academic institutions.

Economics is a flexible degree, which means you can find many jobs with a master’s degree in economics and take your career in a number of directions both immediately after graduating and once you have experience.

Economics isn’t necessarily the same thing as finance, and when exploring degree pathways, understanding this difference will aid you in making the right choice for your interests and career goals. Finance is more of a niche sector — it is, in many ways, an offshoot of economics, which is much broader.

If you are interested in studying money, whether that be prices, interest rates, financial markets, and so forth, you may be more interested in pursuing a master’s degree in finance. It will explore elements such as cost of capital, rates of return, value of money, financial structures, and quantifying risk.

However, you can still pursue a career in finance with an economics degree. In fact, many of those who have made notable achievements in finance come from an economics background. The benefits of studying for an economics degree instead are that you will gain an understanding of how finance plays a part in the broader picture and will be equipped to make predictions about financial events. Economics is not just about making money but also thinking ahead to avoid losing it.

Finance can be a lucrative avenue to consider once you have pursued a degree in economics; it can help you gain a career as an analyst, banker, or fund manager. [9]

A Master of Science in Economics hones your analytical techniques and abilities, teaching you how to take both past and present information, events, and data and turn them into well-researched predictions that can have a monumental impact on businesses and governments, impacting policy decisions and wealth management, among other areas.

If you are pursuing your economics master’s as a terminal degree and planning to seek employment, you will typically need to complete a master’s thesis. You may also use your degree as preparation for a Ph.D. This is widely seen as a research degree, and choosing a master’s with many research components will help to prepare you. [10]

A Master of Science in Economics degree entails further training in economic theory, along with econometrics and/or applied economics. Some students pursue this degree immediately after undergraduate study. Although it may require you to take time out from working initially, it can help you move up the career ladder in the long run.

Pursuing a postgraduate degree in economics offers those working in banking, business, and finance the chance to expand their knowledge and further develop their nuanced worldview.

A master’s in economics can also be beneficial for those who are working in another field but have the desire to move into an economics career. Gaining a specialized education can help to boost career prospects and create the opportunity to gain work experience in relevant companies.

A master’s in economics degree is a flexible degree with a number of career pathways leading off from it, suitable for many types of individuals, but also one that ensures you receive rigorous training to an exceptionally high standard, no matter your starting point.

Why pursue a Master of Science in Economics degree?

A Master of Science in Economics degree can yield an impressive return on investment in terms of wages. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary in May 2015 for economists is $99,180, and there is a projected 6% growth in the role between 2014 and 2024. Most economists need either a master’s degree or Ph.D. [12]

Financial analysts earn a median salary of $80,310, with a projected employment growth of 12% between 2014 and 2024. [13] Actuaries, who analyze financial costs of risks and uncertainty, often in insurance firms, earn a median salary of $97,070. Although you don’t need a master’s for this role, having a strong background in statistics, business, and mathematics is highly desired, and a master’s can give you a competitive advantage. There is a projected 18% increase in the employment of actuaries between 2014 and 2024, so it’s a great time to be considering a job role in this sector. [14]

According to Payscale’s 2015-2016 College Salary Report, economics is as the 38th most lucrative career at the graduate level. Those with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn about $54,900, reaching up to $100,000 at mid-career. If you attain a graduate degree — up to Ph.D. level — you can expect salaries between $101,000 and $121,000. [15]

Certain fields are also seeing impressive growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects 27% job growth for statisticians and econometricians. The field of data science is also rapidly growing, particularly as government agencies and businesses are beginning to learn how information and big data can be harvested to gain insights. The employment of statisticians is expected to grow by 34% between 2014 and 2024. [16]

A chartered financial analyst can, on average, earn 25% more than an MBA graduate with the same amount of experience. [11] There is growing demand for this profession because banks, insurance companies, and brokerage firms see more than 3.5 million potential new clients each year as a result of 10,000 baby boomers retiring per day and needing advice on managing their finances. [17]

A master’s degree in economics is not just useful for finding a job but for retaining one as well. It can not only provide you with a clear path toward promotion, but also job security as you learn in-demand skills and stay on top of the industry.

How do I choose an economics program?

All universities offer somewhat different programs. As such, it is crucial that you follow a thoughtful, deliberate, and careful research process. Consider your career aspirations to determine what type of knowledge and degree is most useful to you.

The type of program you choose will influence the type of courses you can take, the theories you will study, and your career prospects after graduation, so first consider your passions, interests, expectations, and goals. Additionally, you need to be comfortable with the institution.

Some key things to look into include:

  • The reputation of the university, faculty, and program
  • Their rankings
  • The accreditation of the university and program
  • The way in which the program is delivered
  • The time it will take to complete (they often range from one to two years) and how many credits it requires
  • How much the degree will cost
  • Testimonials and success stories from previous students
  • Whether the program is endorsed by an organization such as the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute

Each program has its own curriculum, specializations, and opportunities. They also have their own entry requirements. Key factors may include the admission requirements, curriculum, the opportunity for distance learning, and the program’s accreditation.

Master’s in economics program timeframe

There is a great deal to consider when choosing a postgraduate degree, but one of the key factors is how long it takes to complete the program. This can include how many courses you take per semester and what time commitment will be required.

Many universities offer the opportunity for students to study part-time. An online master’s in economics degree can likewise enable students to pace their learning out over a longer period of time, and it is important to research these options thoroughly if this is something that would benefit you. Such part-time programs are great choices for working adults who wish to earn their degree while they work.

Other factors that can influence the length of your studies include whether you are pursuing a specialized degree, whether you are required to write a thesis, if you take an internship, if your studying involves time abroad, and what other projects or certifications are needed to complete the degree. Some Master of Science in Economics degrees don’t require a thesis, but instead they often include a final project or capstone paper.

Master of Science in Economics Career Advancement

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of economists to grow 6% between 2014 and 2024, with 12% growth for financial analysts and 18% growth for actuaries. [18] [19] [20] Having a master’s degree will give you a competitive edge when applying for these roles, particularly economist roles.

The financial markets are always changing, and insurance brokers, banks, and businesses need economists to keep them prepared. They can use their analytical skills to assess the situation, identify trends, and offer predictions for the future.

A career in economics can have global implications, and the training you gain with a master’s degree has value the world over. As the world grows more connected, it is becoming increasingly common to work in a number of states or countries. This increases the number of opportunities available.

Some of the jobs available with a master’s in economics degree include: [21]

  • Actuary
  • Economist
  • Financial analyst
  • Statistician/econometrician
  • Market research analyst
  • Economic consultant
  • Credit analyst
  • Professor
  • Economic developer

In these roles, you can expect to work with international organizations and nonprofits, government authorities and agencies, private corporations and consulting firms, banking and financial services, and research and academic institutions.

Master of Science in Economics Curriculum

Different programs have their own areas of specialization, certification, and you may need to complete a thesis. However, this isn’t always a requirement, especially if you are looking to continue in academia, and it is important to consider your overall goals, career ambitions, and interests.

You can find out more about the master’s in economics curriculum from the particular school you are interested in. Potential topics of study include:

  • Math for economists
  • Probability and statistics
  • Economic policy
  • Real analysis
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Econometrics
  • Core courses
    Students enrolling in an economics master’s program are expected to have an understanding of microeconomic and macroeconomic theory, plus a solid background in mathematics and statistics. Having an understanding of advanced economic theory and econometrics will also be useful.During the master’s program you can expect to continue this level of study and improve your training in microeconomic and macroeconomic principles, along with quantitative methods. You can also learn how policy-oriented research into economic data can impact the real world, and how this can be applied. Other core elements can include statistics and business/economic forecasting.

    The degree is intended to equip you with the core tools and knowledge you need to pursue a wide range of careers with national and international businesses.

  • Specialist study
    Depending on your goals, you may wish to pursue a program that includes a specialty. Some of the more common specializations include the following:

    • Applied Economics
    • Financial Economics
    • Health Economics
    • International Economics
    • Behavioral Economics
    • Labor Economics

    A specialization can increase the length of your program, but this investment can pay off career-wise as the detailed level of knowledge you will gain will be specific and focused, not to mention in higher demand by businesses that need experts in their field. This can make you more desirable to employers and boost your pay.

    Other areas of specialization include global economics and international business economics. Some programs focus on both micro and macroeconomics, while others just specialize in one. This depends on the institution and the program and is something to consider when doing your research.

  • Economics internships and capstone
    • Internships
      Some economics programs require students to obtain an internship. The requirements for these internships differ depending on the program, but will be laid out in the course requirements prior to starting the degree. This is known as “experiential learning,” as it requires you to learn through experience. It is hands-on and offers a practical application of knowledge.If you home to gain real-world experience and apply the knowledge you are gaining in a vocational setting, it may be important that an internship factors into your degree. If an internship is not a formal part of your program, you may still be able to take on an internship outside of the program. This is something to discuss with the course administrator.

      How economics internships work will vary based on the institution you choose. This also includes how many hours you will be required to complete, whether you will be paid, how your supervisor will support you, and how the internship is established. Many universities have staff in place to guide you through this process.

    • Capstone
      Many online economics master’s degree programs require students to complete a capstone project toward the end of their program. This generally consists of a thesis or project and will enable students to apply the knowledge they have gained throughout their studies. It is beneficial to students to summarize their learning in this way and can be useful to demonstrate interests, skills, and knowledge to potential employers.
Master of Science in Economics Program Length

The length of an online master’s degree program can depend on a number of variables, perhaps the most prominent of which is the pace at which you choose to study. You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two to three years if you choose to study full-time, although some accelerated programs may be able to help you finish more quickly.

Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part-time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.

You can find more information on this topic at our program length overview page.

Master of Science in Economics Admission Requirements

While each program will set its admissions requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.

In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.

For more information about admissions, please visit our admissions requirements page.

Master of Science in Economics Alternative Degrees/Fields of Study Overview

If a master’s degree in economics is not the right choice for you, there are other options available to you, and understanding the differences and similarities can play a key part in how successful you are in your studies. If you are considering a Master of Science in Economics degree, you may also find yourself interested in some of the more common alternative programs such as:

  • MBA in Economics
  • Master of Financial Economics
  • Master of Science in Applied Economics
  • Master of Science in Statistical Science
  • Master of Science in Statistics
  • Master of Mathematical Statistics
  • Master of Finance
  • Master of Science in Finance and Investment

Whichever alternative degree you are interested in, the same thought processes apply. It needs to relate to the sector you are interested in, as you will learn a very specific skill set and knowledge base that will be applicable in your work. It will have a key impact on your career options and what type of licensure you need.

A Master of Business Administration in Economics, for example, will combine contemporary business application, corporate decision-making, and traditional economic theories. It is particularly useful if you are interested in managerial economics. Career-wise, it is an ideal choice if you are considering heading into a role as a management consultant, economic forecaster, pricing analyst, or entrepreneur, or if you are interested in global management.

It is difficult to begin a career in economics without earning a degree from an accredited undergraduate or graduate program. Job prospects are best for those with postgraduate degrees, related work experience, and strong analytical skills. [29]

Master of Science in Economics Relevant Industry Associations and Organizations

Some universities or programs have relationship with industry associations that could be beneficial to you. These include:

  • American Economic Association (AEA) [31]
  • National Association for Business Economics (NABE) [32]
  • International Economic Association (IEA)
Master of Science in Economics Accreditation Overview

Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.

Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.

You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.

Master of Science in Economics Licensure and Certification Overview

Licensure isn’t required for most positions requiring a master’s in economics. However, a Master of Science in Economics with a macroeconomic focus with a financial management concentration can help financial advising professionals in their preparation and qualification for the Series 6, 7, 63, or 65 licensure exams. State licenses vary by state, and it is important to check depending on where you are studying and planning to work. [24]

Financial analysts who have at least a bachelor’s degree and three or more years of experience can take three examinations to earn a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. Holding a Master of Economics can help in passing the CFA exam but is not necessary to become a CFA. [25] This is a worthwhile certification, as it is one of the most respected and best-recognized investment management designations worldwide. It can offer a serious career advantage that will show employers and clients that you are experienced in a broad range of practical portfolio management skills, alongside advanced investment analysis skills.

The Certified Financial Planner certification is likewise relevant. It helps you show clients and employers that you can work to a high standard of ethics, professionalism, and financial planning. [26]

The difference between licensure and certification is that licensure is awarded by a governmental licensing agency and gives you the legal authority to work within a specific occupation. However, certification is awarded by a professional organization and shows you have reached a particular set of standards or levels of competency. It is not legally required. [27]

Tuition and Fees Overview

There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.

For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Master of Economics degrees are designed to provide students the ability to apply economic principles and theories to real-world situations. This master’s degree is intended to focus on analytical skills to help graduates develop and create innovate solutions using econometric techniques and software.

A Master of Economics degree is designed for students looking to expand their knowledge of economic theory and its applications. Designed to provide a solid understanding of the fundamental tools of economic analysis, the program is ideal for anyone interested in specializing in advanced applied economic research. Most degrees achieve this through a technical and rigorous study approach, with options for students to take field electives and customize their program to meet their specific career goals.

Here are a few considerations to make when choosing a Master of Economics program:

Accreditation: Is the program accredited?
Flexibility: Is the program on campus or online? If online, does the institution require synchronous sessions? Or if online, is the program asynchronous?
Student support: What support systems are in place for your success?
Travel requirements: Will you need to pay for additional travel arrangements to meet degree requirements?
Interactive learning: What type of learning management system is used?
Faculty expertise: Do the faculty have a strong theoretical and practical knowledge base in the field?
Fees: Are there any additional fees outside of tuition?

Yes, most online Master of Economics programs are designed for working professionals who have full-time careers. Due to the flexibility of online learning, students can complete the required coursework when their work schedule allows.

Typically most online students spend between 10-20 hours of study time each week. However, this depends on the individual program’s course load.

Applied economics is the study of economics in relation to real-world situations, as opposed to academic theories. With this degree, students can gain a broader perspective on the practical application of economic theory and spend less time focused on core economic theory. [34]

It is recommended that students reach out to specific institutions to discuss transfer details, as this varies from program to program.

There are a number of degrees similar to a Master of Economics. Some popular choices include:
MBA in Economics
Master of Financial Economics
Master of Science in Applied Economics
Master of Science in Statistical Science
Master of Science in Statistics
Master of Mathematical Statistics
Master of Finance

While requirements vary by university, most economics degrees require a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher.

No, an undergraduate degree in economics is not required for admission into a master’s-level economics program. However, many programs do require that students at least took coursework in economics, and more related courses could strengthen an admission application. Economics is a highly quantitative discipline, with substantial coursework in mathematics, probability, statistics, and similar subjects.

Most economics degrees do not require prior work experience, but professional experience may help strengthen your application for admission.

Whether you will need to complete the GRE prior to applying for a program will largely depend on what school you have chosen to apply to. There are many programs that do not require a GRE for acceptance. Check the admissions requirements for your particular school before applying.

Yes, most universities will require you to pay a fee when submitting an application for their graduate program. These fees tend to be between $40 and $100 and are non-refundable.

Many institutions offer economics degrees online.

Yes, typically schools follow the same curriculum for their online programs as they do for their campus-based programs.

Most institutions do not indicate on the degree that it was earned online.

Common courses that students can expect to take include microeconomics analysis, macroeconomics analysis, mathematical methods for economists, econometrics, advanced microeconomics, advanced macroeconomics, data analysis, and advanced econometrics. Elective courses may consist of economic policy analysis, monetary theory and policy, health economics, environmental economics, labor economics, public economics, financial economics, and international economics.

To strengthen your application for admission, students are advised to have some prior coursework in economics. Some programs will require this coursework. Courses such as mathematics, probability and statistics, calculus, intermediate microeconomics, and intermediate macroeconomics are commonly required for admission to some programs.

This largely depends on the number of credits taken each term or semester. The time limit for most online Master of Economics programs is five years.

Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students who may be working around a busy work schedule or home life. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe. This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees.

The elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning in your online program depend on the professor and the course. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.

There are often ways to specialize your Master of Economics. These concentrations or specializations vary by program. For programs that do not offer specializations, students are able to select elective courses that align with their career path.

There are a wide variety of specializations available. The most common specializations include:

Applied Economics
Financial Economics
Health Economics
International Economics
Behavioral Economics
Labor Economics

No, students are not required to choose a concentration prior to starting a Master of Economics program. Typically, students start with foundational core courses before moving into their concentration courses, which allows time for you to decide on the best direction to focus your degree.

Choosing an economics degree with a specialization or concentration allows you to customize your degree to align with your personal and professional goals. [28]

Accreditations are a strong indication of quality, but are also a requirement for students who plan to apply for federal financial aid. Accreditation ensures that your degree is recognized by employers, professional associations, and other accredited institutions of higher education.

SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that cross state lines. This agreement is made between member states and establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses. [3]

Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students. [3]

A Master of Economics degree prepares students with the skills and competencies to analyze and solve complex, real-world problems. A lot of careers in economics have the word “analyst” in their title. These careers include operations/data analyst, business analyst, pricing analyst, or market research analyst. [23] A Master of Economics may also lead to a career as an economist. Economists conduct research, collect and analyze data to predict economic trends, and develop forecasts. An economist’s research may focus on problems and solutions for energy costs, inflation, interest rates, farm prices, rents, imports, or employment. [22]

Research shows that individuals with a Master of Economics degree can increase their employment prospects and obtain higher salaries than bachelor’s degree holders. [8] Public and private organizations seek to hire professionals who can understand and apply economic theories and research. A Master of Economics degree focuses on applying economic principles to real-life challenges, allowing students to specialize in a particular subject, such as financial economics, development economics, international economics, or law and economics. [23]

There are a number of factors that influence graduate salaries, including prior work experience, desired occupation, and company size. According to, the median pay for a professional holding an economics master’s degree is $114,000. Possible jobs include economist and senior financial analyst. [23]

Public and private organizations are increasingly seeking to hire professionals who can understand and apply economic research. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of economists will grow 6% from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. [22]

Generally there are supplementary costs apart from tuition. The tuition does not usually include the cost of books or additional fees. These additional costs will vary from program to program.

The largest provider of student financial aid in the nation is the Federal Student Aid office in the U.S. Department of Education. It supplies college-level or career school students with loans, grants, and work-study funds as needed. You can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA. [7]

There are numerous other scholarships available, but you will need to research which opportunities you’re qualified to pursue. Many states, associations, websites, and businesses award scholarships based on specific criteria. Be sure to do your research and apply for any scholarships you’re qualified to be awarded. [8]

Start with a cost-benefit analysis based on the price of the degree and the potential ROI. Weigh the full cost against the positive outcomes you expect as a graduate, which may include a boost in earning potential, upward mobility, or job satisfaction.