Last Updated on September 20, 2022
Is a master’s degree in economics worth it? Economics graduates who complete the program successfully typically get high-paying jobs and can choose from a variety of careers. A degree in economics is useful for those who desire to enter the world of finance and business. A masters program is typically aimed at those who want to be leaders in the world of finance and business with an emphasis on research and development.
A Masters in Economics Master’s degree in Economics is a tough pursuit to complete. In order to find out if a masters in economics is worth the cost and effort, you need to know what you are going to get out of it. Economics is hard to get through. However, with our guidance, you are sure to make it through and even succeed in the field.
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Masters in Economics
Over the past couple of decades, FAME subjects (finance, accounting, management and economics) have established themselves among the most popular choices for graduate-level students across the world. So why should you choose a Masters in Economics?
For those unfamiliar with the subject, economics is a social science concerned with the analysis of all the factors that can impact the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. This involves looking at goods and services from the perspective of economic agents (i.e. buyers and sellers) and the market as a whole (macro/micro economics). The subject also integrates aspects of other social sciences, such as sociology and international studies, and draws upon mathematics and statistics.
Masters in Economics requirements
The main difference between studying economics at undergraduate and postgraduate levels is in the extent of mathematical sophistication required of the student. Some institutions offer preparatory courses in mathematics and statistics for students wishing to study a Masters in Economics who do not have a sufficiently strong background in mathematics. Applicants should also be prepared to pursue independent research, using complex statistical data, be interested in studying social issues, and have a background in qualitative and quantitative research methods.
Some Masters in Economics programs may require applicants to pass a graduate-level entrance exam, such as the GMAT or the GRE. Some institutions may ask for a brief written description of any economics-related courses taken during your undergraduate degree, to help them assess whether you are ready for graduate-level study.
What to expect from a Masters in Economics
Most Masters in Economics courses last one or two years full-time, depending on the institution and country. Some programs are also available part-time, as evening classes or online. Two-year programs are often tailored towards students without an undergraduate economics or mathematics-focused degree, who need more time to learn the basics before specializing.
Introductory economics topics covered may include: economic theory, history of economics, econometrics, macroeconomics, microeconomics, mathematics for economists, economics research methods, corporate finance, development economics, economic policy, game theory, international economics and mathematical methods for economic analysis.
Master’s in Economics Program – Guide
Economists often analyze data on the production of resources and goods. Since economists earn an average median salary that eclipses six figures — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) — the career offers a strong option for quantitatively minded individuals.
The BLS projects the economist positions to grow by approximately 6% over the next decade. As such, students who enjoy an office environment, who work well with numbers, and who hope to pursue an advanced degree should consider earning a master’s in economics.
This page discusses why you should get a master’s in economics; what you can do professionally with the degree; common program coursework and curricula; and some resources for further reading, learning, and assistance.
Should I Get a Master’s in Economics
Anyone who considers themselves gifted in quantitative methods such as statistics and data should consider pursuing a master of economics. Professionals with an economics master’s degree typically find success in their job search.
The best master’s in economics programs often provide students with two delivery methods: online or on campus. As a rule, online students often boast more work experience; in fact, online students often work full-time. Distance learners also sometimes live in remote areas that lack easy access to on-campus programs, requiring them to turn to distance education. Online education appeals more to career changers who want to continue to earn a salary while planning their next professional step.
On the other hand, on-campus master’s in economics programs often appeal to students hoping to follow a more direct education trajectory, continuing their education from high school all the way through graduate school.
No matter which delivery method they choose, master’s in economics students learn foundational skills, gain networking opportunities, and often enjoy access to a school’s placement resources upon graduating. Many programs take pride in their job placement rate, using this rate as a selling point in their marketing materials. Finally, many programs offer services like job boards, career counseling, and placement counseling.
What Can I Do With a Master’s in Economics
Earning a master’s in economics opens more professional doors than you might initially think. Graduates who hold a master of economics can also find work as financial analysts, financial managers, market research analysts, and actuaries. All of these professions require individuals with strong quantitative, business, and statistical skills; competencies that students learn while pursuing their economics master’s degree. Below, we explore these five professions, describing their duties, work environments, and how an economics master’s degree helps you throughout the application process.
Economists study the production and distribution of services and goods through data, studies, and research. They generally work in office environments and often work for government agencies. Economists need a master’s degree or a Ph.D. to qualify for open positions.
- Median Annual Salary: $102,490
- Projected Growth Rate: 6%
2. Financial Analyst
Financial analysts generally work in the private sector, offering investment and financial advice to both individuals and businesses. Since they oversee the creation of investment portfolios, these professionals must possess intimate knowledge of the stock market, bonds, and other investments. Though the most important qualifications for this position include a bachelor’s degree and work experience, a master’s in economics provides an advantage.
- Median Annual Salary: $84,300
- Projected Growth Rate: 11%
3. Financial Manager
Often working in the private sector for large corporations or companies, financial managers oversee their organization’s entire financial strategy and operations. Possible tasks include creating five-year and 10-year plans, writing reports, and overseeing investment portfolios. Work experience makes the biggest difference among candidates for this position, but a master’s in economics can also help you stand out from the pack.
- Median Annual Salary: $125,080
- Projected Growth Rate: 19%
4. Market Research Analyst
These professionals study a particular element of the market and provide a report. Market research analysts work in a wider variety of settings than financial managers, analysts, or economists, as many companies conduct market research. If you want to become a market research analyst, a master’s in economics can provide a huge boost, as it demonstrates your quantitative and research capabilities.
- Median Annual Salary: $62,230
- Projected Growth Rate: 23%
Actuaries assess risk and quantify that risk in financial terms. As such, actuaries often work in office environments for insurance companies, government agencies, or any organization that includes a risk management wing. Other actuaries work in consultant roles, traveling from company to company. As actuaries must demonstrate competency in STEM fields such as business, math, and statistics, a master’s in economics can provide a boost when you apply for actuarial positions.
- Median Annual Salary: $101,560
- Projected Growth Rate: 22%
How to Choose a Master’s in Economics Program
Though many master’s in economics programs share certain commonalities, several key factors can help students differentiate between their options. Though primarily a consideration for on-campus students — as a school’s location often affects its connections with employers and postgraduate job opportunities — location also affects online students. Online students who take blended learning courses or who need to visit campus during their program may want to enroll in a nearby school.
Online students should determine whether their chosen program charges tuition per semester or per credit, as this distinction can affect how much part-time students pay. Students should also check how long each program takes to complete, especially if they enroll in a program that charges tuition by semester. In online programs, synchronous programs can provide more defined conclusion dates than asynchronous programs.
It’s important to check a program’s curriculum requirements before applying. Some programs may require an internship, while others might require the completion of a capstone course. It’s also important to check if a program offers the specialization you are looking for.
Programmatic Accreditation for Master’s in Economics Programs
When identifying and applying to the best master’s in economics programs, you should consider two types of accreditation: regional and national. Two organizations — the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education — oversee regional accreditation. In this process, independent auditors visit schools and evaluate academic effectiveness based on a standardized set of criteria. If a school does not hold regional accreditation, that means that it failed to meet the requirements. For that reason, students should not apply to unaccredited schools, as some employers may not recognize degrees earned at these institutions.
National accreditation focuses on programs in specific fields. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) leads in programmatic and national accreditation for business, economics, and accounting programs. This type of accreditation is not required by many employers, but it may make you more competitive in the job market.
Master’s in Economics Program Admissions
Most on-campus master’s in economic programs list similar admissions procedures. Programs typically ask prospective students to submit an application form, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Some programs also request standardized test scores — typically the GMAT or the GRE — and previous work experience in economics.
Online admissions often mirror on-campus admissions, with one caveat: the online admissions process can require more involvement, as some online programs ask applicants to complete an interview. Other online programs provide each applicant with a one-on-one admissions counselor.
Both online and on-campus economics applicants should apply to at least three schools. Graduate admissions typically involve more competition than undergraduate admissions, so prospective students should try to ensure that they at least get in somewhere by applying to many different schools.
- Bachelor’s Degree: All economics master’s programs require students to hold a bachelor’s degree. Many master of economics programs also require students to either major in economics or take courses in economics at the undergraduate level prior to entrance.
- Professional Experience: Some economics programs require applicants to possess one or two years of work experience in the field.
- Minimum GPA: Most graduate programs in economics require students to boast a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Some of the more elite programs require even higher GPA scores.
- Application: Students should plan to spend three to five hours on each school’s form.
- Transcripts: A transcript provides a comprehensive list of all of the courses that a student has taken and their corresponding grades. Students can request an unofficial transcript from their undergraduate school free of charge; however, some registrar offices charge a small fee to send an official copy.
- Letters of Recommendation: Prospective students should generally request at least two letters of recommendation from former professors, although letters from former employers can carry a lot of weight in programs that require work experience. Applicants should give their recommenders at least two months advance notice.
- Test Scores: In general, prospective economics students must take the GRE or GMAT. Minimum scores vary from program to program.
- Application Fee: A typical application fee ranges from $20 to $100. Students who demonstrate need can sometimes get this requirement waived.
What Else Can I Expect From a Master’s in Economics Program?
While most master of economics programs cover the same core competencies, coursework and curricula can differ from program to program. Below, we outline common concentrations and courses that you can expect to find in your economics program of choice.
|Developmental Economics||Students in this concentration learn about the nature of international development, which prepares them to work with government or international development agencies once they graduate. Topics include the global economy, economies of a specific region that interests the student, international finance, and international political economy.||Development economist, international development analyst|
|Applied Macroeconomics||This concentration expounds on the typical macroeconomics course of study. Possible topics include monetary economics, economic growth, international finance, and finance and the macroeconomy. Each course takes a large-scale, global approach to economics, focusing on large issues such as inflation. Graduates can find work as economic analysts or professors.||Professor, economic analyst|
|Applied Microeconomics||This concentration typically focuses on topics learned in the microeconomics core course. Topics can include urban economics, regional economics, healthcare economics, political economy, and labor market economics. Similarly to the applied macroeconomics concentration, graduates of this concentration can find work in academia or analysis; however, the two groups of graduates focus on different topics within those professions.||Professor, economic analyst|
|Financial Economics||In this concentration, students complete specialized coursework in areas such as financial econometrics, statistics, international finance, and financial markets and financial intermediation. Graduates find work as financial analysts or investment managers at financial organizations.||Investment manager, investment analyst|
|Business Economics||Students in this concentration focus on application over theory, learning about practical scenarios. Topics include forecasting in organizations, real risk, and cost-benefit analysis. As opposed to some other concentrations, graduates do not often work in academia, instead entering the business world in management or analytical positions.||CEO, financial analyst, economist|
Courses in a Master’s in Economics Program
Courses often vary between programs. As such, unique or interesting classes in a program’s curriculum can help a student choose which school they want to attend. However, many schools do offer similar core courses. Below, we delve deeper into five of those courses.
In this course, students receive a thorough grounding in advanced macroeconomics concepts, including market equilibrium, consumer theory, and theory of the firm. Other topics include market structures, pricing, utility, and welfare economics. This course often forms the foundation of a macroeconomics concentration.
- Financial Economics
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master’s in Economics?
Master’s degrees in economics generally require one to two years of full-time study to complete. Though most programs opt for the standard 36-credit curriculum, some degrees require as many as 54 credits to graduate. Some programs that run on a quarter system may also require additional credits.
Several factors affect the time it takes to complete an economics master’s program. For example, some programs only offer part-time study. Online programs that deliver coursework synchronously can generally offer a more defined completion time than those that deliver coursework asynchronously . Additionally, some programs offer an accelerated track that allows students to double up on credit or test out of certain course requirements, allowing them to finish their degrees faster. In programs that charge tuition by semester, this track allows students to pay less for their degree; however, many programs charge tuition per credit instead.
How Much Is a Master’s in Economics?
Students should expect to pay between $20,000 and $50,000 for their master’s in economics degrees.
Several factors contribute to that estimate and can affect the overall cost of your economics degree. For example, on-campus learning comes with several costs that do not affect online learning, including housing costs and an on-campus meal plan. These programs also include technology fees for on-campus features such as access to laboratories, libraries, or other facilities.
Online programs generally avoid these costs, as an online course fee may serve as the only cost beyond tuition. Additionally, some colleges allow online students to pay in-state tuition, or at least a discounted rate compared to on-campus students, regardless of their location.
Certifications and Licenses a Master’s in Economics Prepares For
Certified Economic Developer
A globally recognized certificate, the CEcD also benefits from exclusivity, counting only 1,110 members among its ranks. Applicants need at least four years of professional economic development experience, must take professional development core courses, and must pass a qualifying examination.
Applicants need a combination of professional experience, academic education, continuing education/professional development, and test scores to earn this designation. However, a master’s in economics can significantly expedite the process, as applicants with a master’s or Ph.D. and at least five years of experience in the field may earn the certificate with only a resume review.
Certified Business Economist
This certification demonstrates a professional’s competence in data analytics and applied economics. In order to earn the certification, applicants need two years of work experience, coursework completed through the National Association for Business Economics, and a passing grade on a qualifying examination.ACCE Certifications
The Association of Certified Chartered Economists offers opportunities for professionals to get certified in petroleum, health, energy, managerial, financial, or industrial economics, in addition to economic policy analysis. In each case, applicants must complete a program and pass a qualifying exam.
Chartered Financial Analyst
Granted by the CFA Institute, this credential requires students to complete a comprehensive program that includes coursework and a qualifying exam. Over 150,000 financial professionals currently hold the title of CFA. This certificate helps financial and business economists stand out from the competition in their job search.
Resources for Economics Graduate Students
The Economist provides in-depth insight into global affairs every week. Any economics student can stay up to date on the world’s happenings by reading this magazine each week.
This open access journal aims to streamline access to top-of-the-line research through its own peer review system. It provides students with access to newer economic research.
Though this publication does not confine its scope strictly to economics, it does publish several cutting edge economics articles each month. YaleGlobal Online also provides insight into global affairs.
A primarily online publication, Economy Watch focuses on the U.S., Canada, Europe, the Middle East, and emerging markets such as India and China. The publication primarily writes feature articles.
An Austrian organization dedicated to economics, the Mises Institute publishes a quarterly journal about Austrian economics. The institute also offers fellowships, research, online learning, and books.
Professional Organizations in Economics
The economics field offers numerous professional organizations to help young professionals advance in their careers. These organizations offer services such as job boards, continuing education, professional development, and access to publications. In general, membership in these organizations helps you stay up to date on best practices and research trends, connect with employers, and improve your craft. Below, we spotlight five of the field’s best organizations.
Association of Environmental and Resource Economics
AERE caters to professionals who focus on the allocation and distribution of our planet’s natural resources. It offers conferences and meetings, access to publications, and jobs and fellowships.
National Association for Business Economics
NABE offers networking and professional development events throughout the year. It also provides professional certification, a jobs board, and access to publications.
National Economic Association
Originally created in 1969 under the name of the Caucus of Black Economists, NEA continues to help people of color advance in the economics profession. The organization accomplishes that goal through an annual conference, access to publications, and grants and fellowships.
Southern Economic Association
Founded in Atlanta in 1928, SEA publishes one of the oldest economics journals in the nation, the Southern Economic Journal. The organization also operates an annual conference for members.
American Economic Association
AEA’s membership primarily includes college professors. The organization publishes multiple journals and operates a jobs board and an annual conference.
The breadth of the potential real-world applications of economic knowledge is reflected in the vast range of specializations available at graduate level. You can choose to further your knowledge in a topic already covered in the introductory modules, or choose a new specialization to concentrate on. Below are some of the most commonly studied economics topics (as every course will be different, keep in mind that the descriptions below are only an outline):
Advanced econometrics draws upon your foundation knowledge in theoretical and applied econometrics, and explores applied econometrics in more detail. You’ll combine economic theory, econometric techniques (linear and non-linear) and statistical methods (such as time-series, cross-section, panel, ordered, count and duration data) in order to develop a deeper understanding of the data. You’ll learn how to use relevant software and standard econometrics packages and how to interpret their output. You’ll also be taught how to derive and understand standard econometric estimators (such as OLS, ML and GMM), how to develop, analyze and choose between univariate and multivariate models, and will be expected to read, understand and explain empirical articles relating to econometrics. By the end of your course, you may have conducted an independent piece of empirical research using advanced econometric techniques.
Advanced microeconomics will draw upon your knowledge of classical and modern microeconomic theory and introduce the analytical tools of graduate-level microeconomics. You will cover topics such as supply and demand, the operation of markets, consumer and enterprise behavior, competition and monopoly, income distribution, discrimination and consumer demand. You’ll learn how to use mathematical techniques in order to explore relevant theorems, theories and approaches, learn about perfect and imperfect competition, and explore topics involving the consumer, the firm and the market.
Advanced macroeconomics aims to expand on students’ familiarity of the tools and theories of macroeconomics, to develop an in-depth understanding of how the economy works, how to carry out forecasting and how to analyze public policy. You’ll develop an understanding of the relationship between key macroeconomic aggregates such as output, inflation, employment and interest rates. You’ll learn about economic issues that affect society such as national income, unemployment, economic growth, depression, prosperity and economic development. You’ll gain an understanding of how the interaction and dynamics of economic agents (firms and individuals) generate outcomes in the short, medium and long term. You’ll learn about a variety of macroeconomics models, explore traditional and modern theories of economic growth, and discuss economic policy alternatives. You’ll also explore current issues and controversies in macroeconomics, as well as alternative approaches.
4. Financial economics
The field of financial economics involves learning about the various facets of financial economics. This involves studying domestic and international financial markets, learning about the principles of financial decision-making in banking, investment management and corporate financial management, critically assessing the controversies surrounding financial policies, and exploring alternatives. You’ll learn how to critically assess issues such as bankruptcy, debt-equity holder conflicts, taxes, dividends and shares, costs and benefits of mergers and when to buy and sell options. You may also study international financial economics in more detail, looking at the world monetary system, foreign exchange markets and international capital markets. Or you may focus on banking, studying monetary policy, capital formation, properties of various financial instruments and impacts on savings and investment.
5. International economics
Specializing in international economics involves exploring international trade and finance, including topics such as why countries trade, commercial trade policies and their effects, foreign exchange markets, exchange rate determination, modern macroeconomic analysis, open economies, sovereign debt and international monetary integration, organization and reform. You’ll address policy problems in the design of monetary policy, issues concerning the volatility of exchange rates, compare fixed vs flexible exchange rates and explore the empirical strengths and weakness of the inter-temporal approach to the balance of payments. You may also look at multinational corporations, theories of trade (classic, modern and alternative) and welfare implications of trade policies.
Other economics topics
Other popular economics topics include:
- Monetary economics: Looking analytically at academic and central bank views regarding monetary policy, macro-finance and monetary economics, using analytical models to illustrate these issues and empirical puzzles to describe agent responses.
- Game theory: A topic within analytical economics, game theory involves applying game theoretic skills to economic problems to create models that explore competing behaviors of economic agents. You could explore cases relating to auctions and design of markets, bargaining, contract theory, information economics, industrial organization, labor economics and public economics.
- Development economics: Looking at the economic aspects of the development process of low-income countries, including the methods involved in promoting economic development and growth, the challenges faced in doing so, and the different contributing factors on convergence or non-convergence.
- Industrial economics: The application of economic theory of the management of modern business, including comprehensive economic analysis of the firm, its structure, its markets and competitors as well as its external economic environment.
- Quantitative techniques: Exploring in detail quantitative techniques that relate to economics such as matrices for algebraic manipulations, techniques of static and dynamic optimization, definite and indefinite integrals, difference and differential equations, probability distributions and statistical inference.
Postgraduate (MSc, MA, MBA and PhD) Programs in Economics
Economics is normally divided into two overarching fields: macroeconomics and microeconomics. The former looks at government monetary and fiscal policy, with an eye toward economic growth, the level of employment, inflation, and so on. This big picture view stands in contrast to microeconomics, which focuses on the behaviour of individuals, households, and firms. In microeconomics, price theory is central. Microeconomists have tended to study how prices are established, how they change, and how people and firms respond to such changes.
This description of the field, however, does it an injustice. For one thing, it hardly gives a sense of the range of what economists now study. Many years ago, a well-known economist said that ‘economics is what economists do.’ This is a vague definition, to be sure, but it usefully suggests that the focus of economics tends to change. This has certainly been true in recent years. Once Gary Becker (later to win a Nobel Prize) started studying subjects like discrimination, marriage, and human capital from an economics perspective, all bets were off. Virtually anything could be (and probably now is) studied by economists.
For another, it makes economics sound like an ivy-tower pursuit: economists, at one or more levels of remove from reality, performing analyses that might inform policy-makers’ judgments about whether to increase interest rates but would hardly be applicable to real-life people and firms. That is far from the case. Nowadays, economists don’t just opine about whether a country’s trade deficit is sustainable. They are more likely to be employed by a firm that is trying to decide how to set prices for dozens of products in as many markets or by an insurance company trying to determine how much sooner their policies will pay out if more and more policyholders become obese.
Numerous substantial trends continue to drive this field, including:
• The increase in computing power (which allows more involved models, using more and more data, to be run).
• More data becoming available as more economic activity is measured.
• The mining of psychology for insights into economic (or social) behaviour (ie the developing field of behavioural economics).
• Using game theory to solve problems in microeconomic fields.
• Applying economic techniques and thinking to an ever wider range of topics.
Choosing A Masters Program In Economics
Economics degrees come in all shapes and colours. Many courses, especially in the UK, are designed to fit both those with strong economics and quantitative backgrounds and those without. Thus, those without a strong background can enrol for a two-year program, successful completion of the first year of which qualifies them for a diploma as well as entry into the second year. Those with a suitable background can simply enrol in the second year of the course, skipping the diploma year (called a ‘pre-master year’ elsewhere) altogether.
The staggering number of universities offering masters degrees in economics – along with the many variations on a theme at places – mean that candidates are spoiled for choice. Many economics courses emphasise financial economics, making an economics degree a close substitute for a finance degree.
In the past, a typical program would require a degree in economics, or in a closely related discipline – ie one that included a substantial portion of economics, such as finance. Increasingly, however, many universities are giving short shrift to the economics background of applicants in favour of their quantitative background. Thus, those with mathematics or physics degrees are sometimes preferred to those with economics degrees. At programs that are not so mathematically orientated, some calculus and statistics coursework is generally required, perhaps to the level of multivariable calculus and introductory econometrics.
Many programs also look for:
• Micro- and macroeconomics to intermediate level or higher
• Some programming ability
• linear algebra coursework
Masters in Applied Economics
For students interested in real world economics rather than the theory of economics, a masters program in applied economics is the ideal choice. Applied economics looks at economics in relation to real situations, applying economic theories and principles to these real world situations. In contrast to masters in economics, the coursework of a masters in applied economics will focus more on method and application than on theory and proofs. There are various good options for studying applied economics at postgraduate level, for example the University of Bath offers an MSc in Applied Economics in which the student chooses from a selection of modules depending on what area of applied economics they want to specialise in. The pathway choices on this course are Banking & Financial Markets, Public Policy, Environmental Policy, and Behavioural Science. Meanwhile the University of Strathclyde offers an MSc in Applied Science where students can specialise in Fundamentals of Business Economics, International Trade & Policy, Games of Strategy, Environmental Economics, and Energy Economics.
MBA in Economics
An MBA in economics will usually take one year to complete on a full-time basis. There will be a selection of compulsory modules that all students will have to successfully complete, as well as a selection of optional modules to choose from. Compulsory modules will usually include Organisational leadership; Financial accounting; Financial management; and Marketing. Optional modules that students can choose from will probably include: International business; Microeconomics: Macroeconomics; Economic forecasting; and Econometric methods. Aarhus University in Denmark offers an MBA program with a strong focus in Industrial Economics which is a great choice for those interested in modern business management.
PhD in Economics
A PhD in Economics enables the student to delve deeper into this subject and choose a particular area of interest to research in greater depth. Studying this postgraduate course will advance a student’s business career as well as stand them in good stead for a career in academia.
Loughborough University offers a PhD in Economics as well as an MPhil in Economics – the PhD takes 3 years full time or 5 years part time to complete with the MPhil taking 2 years full time and 3 years part time. This PhD program is based on students spending the 3 (or 5) years undertaking individual research and is taught within Loughboroughs’s School of Business and Economics. As part of the program there is a weekly research seminar for the PhD students and they are also required to make presentations on their research.
The University of Birmingham also offers a PhD in Economics that takes 4 years to complete full time (3 years of the student has already completed an MSc at Birmingham Business School) which is only on offer as a full time program with a September start date. It is compulsory for all students to take the Research Methods in Economics module and in their first year they must also complete a literature survey and prepare a research proposal. Students on Birmingham’s PhD in Economics need to meet with their supervisor at least once every four weeks.
The days when economists generally worked for central governments or universities are long gone. The range of potential employers is staggering: economic and management consulting firms, central banks, international organisations, commercial and investment banks, government agencies, insurance firms, local governments, think tanks, non-profits/not-for-profits, real estate firms/estate agents, pension funds, and so on. The tools and methods economists learn are widely applicable indeed. In fact, given that many people who study economics end up taking jobs in finance, the ‘Finance’ career discussion is also highly relevant.
Typical job titles
• Economic consultant
• Management consultant
• Financial analyst
• Competition analyst
• Pricing associate
• Distribution analyst
Why Should You Get a Master’s Degree in Economics?
If there’s one thing we hear a lot about, it’s the economy. It’s more than just financial news. The economy determines nearly everything—job creation, buying habits, stocks, bonds, and cryptocurrency play a role in the ebbs and flows of capital and people. The availability of goods and resources and how and when people demand them defines our economy.
Economics is the study of how we use those goods and resources to produce valuable commodities that are then distributed across populations.
Why should you earn a master’s degree in economics? To understand how and why it all works—and to maximize your likelihood of capitalizing on upswings and mitigating the damage in downturns.
Let’s take a closer look at five reasons to study economics.
1. You’ll understand how your everyday life works
Economics influence your daily decisions. If you want to be more aware of how and why—and want to maximize your personal economic situation, a master’s degree will help you. It will also help you understand financial trends—and understand how that work leads to high-paying jobs.
Want to know why gas prices change? How about why you make so little money in your part-time job? What about why the movies are more expensive at night? How about why a significant chunk of that meager paycheck goes to taxes?
If you want to understand how you fit into the financial picture, study economics. You’ll understand the cause and effect of the price of oil and transporting it to your local gas station. You’ll understand how sales work at the grocery store and the way the best day to shop to find the most sales varies by the time of year.
2. Economics offers a unique perspective on the world
Economic analysis can generate insights into individual and community behaviors and relationships that can help society better use scarce resources in enterprising ways.
The ultimate goal of the study of economics is to improve the quality of life for people in their everyday lives. What does this mean? It means that increasing a country’s gross domestic product isn’t just about numbers—it means improving the allocation of resources so that people have better food, more comfortable houses, fantastic educational opportunities, clean water, and the ability to protect themselves and their communities against deadly diseases.
3. Economics is a great mix of social sciences and math
If you like the nitty gritty of mathematics and you enjoy studying and deriving solutions to social problems, economics is for you.
Economists solve problems by analyzing and extrapolating data, making predictions based on trends, and studying why individuals and communities make certain choices.
While economists must understand and interpret problems, they also need hard, numerical proof for the conclusions they make.
By earning a master’s in economics, you’ll be able to break down any large problem into its components, ask questions, and know how to collect and analyze data related to the problem so that you can derive a solution. Cool, right?
4. You’ll have great career prospects
Graduates of economics programs have a fantastic chance of finding a job within six months of graduating—they also earn a bit more than their fellow graduate school counterparts.
You’ll also have a wide range of job possibilities. With a master’s in economics, you can work in the fields of business, banking, financial services, government, consulting, non-profits, public policy, research, and others.
5. You’ll see things other people miss
Economists have a unique perspective on the world (see #2). Economists see trends that other people don’t necessarily see—and understand that unintended consequences of social policy often have economic consequences.
Look at taxes as an example. A government may create a tax to pay for a necessary social program. If the tax isn’t well-crafted, then the tax may change people’s behavior and cause a downturn in economic growth. This downturn can affect local economic markets.
As an economist, you’ll be able to see these trends, understand them, and propose realistic solutions.
What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Economics
A Master’s in Economics can be the gateway to hundreds of job opportunities in dozens of fields. Graduating with a master’s can also help job candidates stand out from the crowd when looking for employment in positions that might otherwise attract candidates with a bachelor’s degree. Of course, a master’s degree is also the stepping stone to a Ph.D. in Economics, which is often a requirement for anyone interested in teaching economics at a distinguished university or becoming a respected researcher.
Why A Master’s In Economics?
Economists work as consultants, public policy analysts, financial managers, health insurance analysts and much more. One thing most of these career paths have in common, however, is the need for a master’s degree to get your foot in the door and/or work your way through the ranks. Types of careers in economics that typically either require or benefit from a master’s degree include:
- Policy Analyst
- Budget Analyst
- Market Researcher
- Data Scientist
Work As A Government Economist
According to the most recent statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 36 percent of economists work for the government at the local, state and federal levels. Government economists serve in a wide variety of positions involving policy research and analysis. Economists play an important role at each level of the government as policymakers use their insights when drafting, reviewing and implementing policies and programs. Working in the public sector, while not always the highest-paying option for master’s degree holders, provides an opportunity to work on important societal problems, potentially improving the lives of others. Public sector jobs can also offer more security than some private sector jobs.
Work As A Private Sector Economist
Jobs in the private sector often require a Master’s in Economics in order to gain even entry-level employment. For those who wish to enter the private sector, the knowledge and skills obtained in pursuit of a master’s degree will be valuable for a wide range of careers. Economic consultants, for example, provide expert insight into complex financial and economic situations and offer expert testimony in major litigation cases. Consultants also apply economic analysis to help businesses evaluate and implement strategic decisions. Master’s programs that specialize in applied economics are particularly beneficial for students who wish to enter the private sector, as this discipline focuses on the application of economic principles in the real world.
OTHER OPPORTUNITIES WITH A MASTER’S IN ECONOMICS
There are many other career paths and job opportunities for students of economics. For instance, you may want to assume a consulting or research role at one of the many economic “think tanks” in the country that help shape public policy decisions. Or if you have an interest in international development, a Master’s in Economics can give you the skills to help solve global problems and prop up economically under-developed regions to the benefit of the people living there. Of course, there’s also the academic route for economists. A Master’s Degree in Economics is often the minimum requirement to teach economics at most two-year colleges; the Doctor of Philosophy degree is necessary for a faculty position in economics at most four-year colleges and universities. One of the best ways to set yourself up for a successful career in economics is to complete a master’s degree.
American University’s online MA in Economics with a specialization in applied economics will provide you with the analytical skills needed to solve real-world challenges.
Career Paths: Earning A Masters Degree In Economics
You may have heard some jokes about economists even before you’ve ever entered a board room. Take these old digs for example:
- An economist is social science’s bumbling weatherman.
- It’s said that economics is the only field in which two people can share a Nobel Prize for saying opposing things.
While you might not ponder economic theory in line at the grocery store, economic policies have a lot to do with what you’ll pay for your bananas. Economists research, analyze, and forecast a variety of issues that have become essential to roles in government and private industry alike. In fact, a master’s degree in economics is one of the most lucrative master’s degrees you can earn.
Monster places a graduate degree in economics among the top 10 best-paying graduate degrees, with a median pay higher than engineering and computer science.
Path To Admission
A graduate education in economics is, well, like the economy: variable and idiosyncratic.
Applying to master’s programs in economics requires a thoughtful and deliberate research process that takes into account your career aspirations and works backward from there. In the U.S., many schools don’t offer terminal master’s degrees in economics, and while some master’s programs may lay the groundwork for eventually pursuing a PhD in economics, they are primarily designed as quasi-professional degrees. Many master’s degrees in the U.S. are awarded ‘’en route” to a PhD program, usually after the first year of study.
Your path to admission to a master’s degree in economics should begin with thorough research of each program’s educational specialty and scope. Does the program focus on applied economics, financial economics, or another narrower field?
For example, if your interests lie in policymaking and working for a government, bank, or international organization, you will fit in best within a policy economics master’s program. If you lean toward research and analysis and working for financial institutions, a quantitative economics graduate degree may be best for you. The program you choose will determine the courses you take, the theories you study and apply, and your career opportunities, so choose carefully.
After you’ve researched each program’s particular scope, you will want to dive deeper and research professors within each of those programs to uncover which professor’s research interests match your own and whether they’re taking on graduate students. This is important for several reasons. When you apply, you will need to demonstrate an understanding of each school’s mission, and that includes understanding the research taking place at each institution. Next, finding a professor with similar research interests is an important step for securing your future thesis advisor. Not only that, but your application to a graduate program may be rejected simply due to your interests not being compatible with current faculty, as you may not be able to find an advisor.
A bachelor’s degree in economics is not required for graduate admission into economics programs, but most programs will require intermediate coursework in macroeconomics and microeconomics, as well as a strong background in statistics, mathematics, and calculus.
With your application, you will submit your transcripts, letters of recommendation, and resume. Many graduate programs may ask you to also submit a statement of purpose, and almost all programs will require that you take the GRE and possibly even the Mathematics Subject Test.
Admission into top economics graduate programs is extremely competitive, and your GRE score is an integral part of your overall application. A high GRE score, especially on the quantitative portion of the test, is a must-have. We’ve said it before: a low GRE score is an application killer, according to 41% of graduate school admissions officers.
While most economics graduate programs will put an emphasis on your performance on the quantitative portion of the GRE, don’t assume that the verbal or writing sections don’t matter or that the quantitative section is “easy.” Also, remember that your master’s degree will often culminate in a thesis, which is a large body of writing. You must be able to express and articulate your thoughts and ideas clearly in writing.
Even with a strong command of mathematics, remember that, at its core, the GRE is a critical-thinking test—not a math test. Consider that the math on the quantitative section of the GRE covers topics you may not have seen since high school. You may be familiar with poring over multivariate calculus, but when was the last time you worked with proportions or geometry?
What You Will Study
Your master’s degree in economics may take several different paths, depending on your program curriculum’s scope and your personal interests. You may study macroeconomic and microeconomic theory, applied statistics and econometrics, or economic and trade policy and development economics. Not all master’s degrees approach the study of economics in the same way, making your thorough research all the more important before you apply to graduate programs. The American Economic Association has an exhaustive list of master’s and PhD programs across the United States that can guide you as you begin your search.
A master’s degree in economics is surprisingly versatile, and your ability to manipulate and work with numbers, variables, and large data sets can transition you into a number of lucrative careers. If you’d like to see what’s available, the American Economic Association also publishes job listings for economists(adorably called “the JOE”). Here are just a few of your possible career paths:
Actuaries analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty. They use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to assess the risk that an event will occur, and they help businesses and clients develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), actuaries will see an 18% increase in employment by 2024, much faster than the average increase.
Nearly half of all economists work in federal, state, and local government. Federal government economists collect and analyze data about the U.S. economy—including employment, prices, productivity, and wages, among other types of data. They also project spending needs and inform policymakers on the economic impact of laws and regulations. While seeing an average rate of job growth, holding a master’s degree will have a definite advantage in employment.
Financial analysts generally focus on trends affecting a specific industry, geographical region, or type of product. For example, an analyst may focus on a subject area such as the energy industry, a world region such as Eastern Europe, or the foreign exchange market. They must understand how new regulations, policies, and political and economic trends may affect investments. According to the BLS, employment of financial analysts is projected to grow 12 percent between 2014 and 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. A growing range of financial products and the need for in-depth knowledge of geographic regions are expected to lead to strong employment growth.
Skills in big-picture thinking and mathematical modeling make economics graduate degree holders ideal in modeling, building, and manipulating the huge data sets used by everyone from Google to the federal government. This is a relatively new and growing field as government agencies and businesses attempt to make sense of, organize, and profit from their accumulated information.
Statistician Or Econometrician
Statisticians use statistical methods to collect and analyze data and help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, the sciences, or other fields. According to the BLS, these analysis wizards will see huge job growth of up to 34% by 2024.
Economics graduates with advanced degrees who pursue any of the paths above can expect to earn a median salary between $75,000 and $110,000 or more depending on industry and specialty. In-demand positions in financial analysis and actuarial science will pay upwards of $100,000. Because your master’s degree in economics is so versatile, you can apply your expertise to many related lucrative fields.