Learners in economics graduate programs study individual and organizational behavior, macroeconomic theories, and the role of government policy in shaping the economy.
A master’s degree in economics prepares graduates for opportunities in several fields. Graduates can pursue positions in business, financial services, healthcare, and technology. Many economics careers feature above-average earning potential. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), economists earned a median annual salary of $105,020 in 2019. The BLS projects employment for these professionals to increase 14% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Working students can pursue their master’s in economics online. These programs offer flexibility and accessibility, which can help enrollees earn their degree while fulfilling other responsibilities. Economics students typically complete their online master’s program in about two years.
This article ranks the most affordable economics master’s online programs. The following sections also explore career prospects and earning potential for graduates, common program requirements, and scholarships for master’s students in the field.
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Top 10 Cheap Online Master’s of Economics Programs 2021
This list ranks the most affordable online economics master’s programs for 2021. By choosing one of the most affordable economics master’s, online students can advance their career while minimizing debt. Learners can use the ranking below to begin identifying programs that fit their budget and career goals.
Purdue University-Main Campus
West Lafayette, IN
Purdue's master of science in economics program focuses on quantitative and analytic methods for predicting economic trends and optimizing business opportunities. The curriculum explores current methods and tools such as statistical software applications, experimental econometrics, game theory, and computational and programming tools.
Students typically complete the 30-credit program in 20-36 months, depending on their enrollment status. Core coursework covers topics including macroeconomics, statistics and math for economists, microeconomics, and econometrics. Degree-seekers complete specialized coursework in a concentration area: financial economics, business and data analytics, advanced theory, or public economics and policy.
The Krannert School of Management delivers the master's degree on campus and online in an asynchronous format. Students pursuing the advanced theory concentration must spend their final year on campus at a top research university. Purdue University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Youngstown State University
An Ohio-based public university, YSU is home to one of the country's two online economics programs focused on financial economics. Emphasizing economic theory and financial market analysis, the online master of arts in financial economics program helps learners cultivate skills in econometrics, statistical software, financial modeling, and economic models.
The curriculum comprises nine core courses and two electives. Core course topics include financial statement analysis, corporate financial management, finance for decision-making, and financial market and institution econometrics. Economic elective options include health economics, labor market economics, and public finance. Students typically take 3-7 credits per term, including one course each summer. Enrollees usually graduate in 24 months.
Applicants need a minimum 2.7 GPA and a bachelor's degree from an accredited school. Applicants must have completed coursework in statistics, calculus, macroeconomics, and microeconomics. Youngstown State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
University of North Dakota
A public research university located in Grand Forks, UND offers a research-oriented master of science in applied economics and predictive analysis. The online program prepares graduates for careers in areas including economic forecasting and research.
Students in the two-year, 30-credit economics program develop a strong foundation in data and statistical analysis, mathematical economics, and economic theory. Enrollees usually complete either a thesis or an independent study, which involve intensive study and faculty mentorship. UND delivers the master's program on campus and online. Distance learners choose from synchronous and asynchronous formats.
Undergraduate economics students can enroll in the accelerated bachelor of arts/master of science program to earn both degrees in five years. UND also offers an online and on-campus applied economics graduate certificate that emphasizes business data analytics and theoretical economics. University of North Dakota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Georgia Southern University
Georgia Southern's fully online, asynchronous master of science in applied economics trains learners to understand foundational economic theory and policy, apply economic analysis to real-world data, and manage rapid change. Professors of distance courses possess online teaching certification and use simulations and multimedia presentations.
Students can enroll in the fall or spring, and they typically complete the 30-credit program in two years. The curriculum includes 15 credits of required coursework in macroeconomics, microeconomics, econometrics, and mathematics. To earn the remaining 15 credits, learners choose five electives from nine course options. Some students earn an applied economics graduate certificate before beginning the master's program.
Applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited school, a minimum 3.0 GPA, competitive GRE scores, and satisfactory performance in prerequisite courses. The master's in applied economics program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Georgia Southern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Johns Hopkins is a private institution located in Baltimore, Maryland. The university offers a master of science in applied economics for students with various academic backgrounds, careers, and goals. Graduates often work in government, finance, insurance, and organizational development.
The flexible online economics master's program comprises four required courses, five electives, and an econometrics course. Students can complete the program full time or part time and can study online or on campus. Learners typically graduate in 12-24 months. Johns Hopkins offers an optional concentration in financial economics. Elective options include health economics, public policy, financial economics, and environmental economics.
Students can enter the program in the summer, fall, or spring. Applicants need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and grades of B or better in prerequisite courses including macro- and microeconomics, calculus, and economic theory. Johns Hopkins may accept strong CLEP exam scores in lieu of some prerequisite coursework. Applicants submit recommendation letters, a resume, transcripts, and a purpose statement. Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
University of Detroit Mercy
UD Mercy delivers a master of arts in economics program that prepares students for doctoral studies and economics research careers. Grounded in the liberal arts, this economics master's program explores history, world economic forces, and economic institutions. Enrollees acquire advanced knowledge in financial and economic principles.
The flexible, 30-credit master's in economics program allows students to design an applied or theoretical curriculum concentration aligned with their career aspirations. Degree-seekers complete 15 credits of required courses in subjects including international trade theory, economic analysis, and financial economics. Learners also complete five elective courses, including a thesis option. Available economics elective classes include monetary and fiscal policy, labor economics, economic modeling for data analysis, and business forecasting.
Applicants need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school and a minimum 3.0 GPA. University of Detroit Mercy is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
West Texas A & M University
Based in Canyon, WTAMU offers a master of science in finance and economics program designed for working professionals. Enrollees can complete the 36-45 required credits full time or part time. Full-time learners typically graduate in two years, while part-time students may need up to six years. WTAMU offers the economics master's program in fully online and blended formats.
The curriculum includes 21 credits of core courses, which cover key areas including monetary and fiscal policy, asset valuation, corporate finance, and international business. Learners also earn 15 elective credits in topics such as economics, finance, computer information and decision management, and business. Students without prerequisite coursework complete up to nine leveling course credits. Degree-seekers must pass a comprehensive examination to graduate.
Applicants need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school. West Texas A&M University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Based in Newark, UD delivers a hybrid master of arts in economics and entrepreneurship program designed for educators. The curriculum prepares teachers to inspire and educate students in relevant topics.
Competitive candidates for the program display leadership potential and have professional referrals from relevant education organizations. Applicants need at least six transferable credits in education, economics, or entrepreneurship.
UD's 30-credit master's degree in economics covers topics including economic theory and entrepreneurship teaching strategies. Degree-seekers spend two four-week summer sessions on campus, during which they earn 15 credits. Course topics include economics, money and international trade, entrepreneurship, and contemporary issues in economic education. Enrollees work on a major implementation project during fall and winter terms.
Graduates can benefit from UD's large network of policy-influencers, researchers, and teachers in the field. University of Delaware is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
University of Missouri-Columbia
A public university in Columbia, Mizzou is the flagship campus of the University of Missouri System. Mizzou's Department of Economics offers a fully online master of arts in economics program that is ideal for aspiring economic and data analysts. The curriculum explores concepts including big data and globalization.
Degree-seekers take 1-2 classes per semester and typically complete the 30 required credits in two years. The curriculum comprises five core courses and five electives. Core coursework covers topics including economic theory, econometrics, quantitative economics, and research methods. Available electives include economics of international trade, introduction to game theory, public budgeting and taxation, and the banking system and money market.
Applicants need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school and a minimum 3.0 GPA in their 60 most recent undergraduate credits. University of Missouri is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
A private, nonprofit university based in the District of Columbia, AU offers an online master of arts in economics program with a specialization in applied economics. AU's faculty members possess international experience, scholarly accomplishments, and economic policy influence. Local students benefit from the city's many internships and professional opportunities.
The 30-credit curriculum comprises six core courses and four specialized courses in applied economics. Core coursework focuses on econometrics and economic theory, while applied economics classes explore topics including labor economics, economic development, public economics, and financial stability and growth. Learners also complete a capstone project.
Enrollees can study part time or full time. Full-time students taking nine credits per eight-week semester graduate in about two years. While AU delivers the degree in economics fully online, learners can choose to take up to six credits on campus. American University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is economics?
IThe field of economics examines the marketplace, production, and consumption. Economics majors study individual behavior, macroeconomic theories, and economic data to better understand the economy.
Can I study economics online?
Yes. Many accredited colleges and universities offer online economics degrees. Learners in online economics master’s programs often complete coursework according to their schedule.
How long does it take to earn a master's in economics online?
Full-time students earning their master’s in economics online typically graduate in two years. Many programs offer part-time and accelerated enrollment options, which can impact degree-completion time.
What is the difference between economics and accounting?
Both accounting and economics programs require strong numerical and analytical skills. The economics field emphasizes broad forces and theoretical approaches, while accounting focuses on professional skills related to financial documentation.
What is the difference between economics and finance?
Both economics and finance professionals analyze the flow of money in the larger economy. However, the field of economics deals with the social sciences, while finance focuses on money management.
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Career and Salary Outlook for Economics
An online master’s in economics prepares learners for a variety of careers in growing fields. Graduates often work as economists, financial analysts, and budget analysts. These roles offer above-average salaries, and the BLS projects strong job growth for these professionals.
In addition to the following career opportunities, individuals with an economics master’s degree can pursue roles in financial services, business management, and research. Health economics specialists can work in the healthcare industry, while an econometrics concentration can lead to opportunities as economic forecasters and econometricians. Graduates can also pursue a doctorate to qualify for positions as economics professors.
Economists analyze data and trends to understand economic performance, production, and consumption. They collect data from surveys, analyze information with statistical and mathematical techniques, and propose theories to explain economic changes. These professionals also forecast economic trends and advise clients on economic issues. Most economists hold a graduate degree in economics.
Financial analysts help individuals and organizations make investing decisions. They manage portfolios of stocks and bonds, analyze financial performance, and use economic trends to recommend investment strategies. Financial analysts may also review financial statements to determine a company’s value, and they may analyze the financial performance of management teams.
Postsecondary teachers, also known as college professors, instruct students in areas such as economics. They prepare lectures, evaluate student learning through assignments, and advise students on their academic choices. Many professors also conduct research in their field and publish their results. Economics professors generally need a doctorate to qualify for tenure-track positions.
Budget analysts review financial reports to help organizations decrease costs and increase profits. They review budget proposals, develop budget plans, and evaluate budgets from prior years to monitor spending. Budget analysts also create projections for future expenses. These professionals need training in economics, accounting, and statistics.
Accreditation for Economics Programs
Prospective students should check each school’s accreditation status before applying. Accredited universities meet high standards for educating students and granting degrees. Academically oriented schools typically earn regional accreditation, which is considered the most prestigious type of accreditation. To obtain regional accreditation, institutions must demonstrate strong student learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, and degree requirements.
Accreditation benefits students in important ways. Credits from accredited schools transfer easier to other institutions, and many graduate programs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school. Employers often prefer candidates with a degree from a regionally accredited institution. Only learners at accredited schools can receive federal financial aid.
Learners can use the U.S. Department of Education’s searchable database to check the accreditation status of any school or program.
Courses in Online Economics Programs
While pursuing any of the most affordable economics master’s programs, online students typically complete coursework in economic reasoning, microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, and econometrics. These classes help learners build strong research and analytical skills, which graduate students apply to a capstone project or master’s thesis.
Learners in graduate-level economics programs often focus their studies by choosing a concentration. Common specialization options include applied economics, econometrics, health economics, and economic theory.
Many online economics master’s programs feature the following courses. However, curricula vary by program, so learners should contact their prospective school to verify course availability.
- Economics Method and Reasoning
- This class explores the critical approaches used in economic research. Students learn to identify economic problems, collect and analyze data, and draw conclusions. Graduate students read academic works in the field and develop foundational skills required for advanced master’s courses.
- Microeconomic Theory and Policy
- Learners examine the role of behavior in the marketplace. Students explore individual choices, organizational behavior, and market structure, along with influential microeconomic theories. Coursework also examines microeconomics policy and analyzes the role of government in creating economic incentives.
- Macroeconomic Theory and Policy
- This course explores economic trends, theories, and current issues. Learners explore macroeconomic concepts including policy, consumption and investment, and trade. Students also examine the application of macroeconomic theories in research and policymaking.
- Mathematical Economics
- Economists rely on mathematics to perform their job duties. Students in this course build the math skills necessary for graduate-level economics research. Topics may include algebra, precalculus, and statistics. Learners study integration, optimization, and differentiation to prepare for high-level coursework and careers in the field.
- Students in this class learn to use statistical and mathematical approaches to answer economic questions. This training prepares learners to test hypotheses and forecast economic trends. Coursework introduces students to sample selection, variables, data evaluation, and common econometrics software programs.
Scholarships for Economics Students
Economics graduate students can qualify for many scholarships. The economics discipline bridges social science and business, allowing economics degree-seekers to apply for scholarships in both fields. Private foundations, professional organizations, and government agencies offer scholarships for economics students. Applicants can also research scholarships based on their school or state.
Who Can Apply: The National Science Foundation provides this fellowship to support students in research-based master’s programs. Applicants must attend an eligible program at an accredited institution and must provide electronic transcripts, three recommendation letters, and a goals statement.
Who Can Apply: Named for an economics professor at Indiana State University, this scholarship supports economics graduate students with a minimum 3.0 GPA. The committee prefers applicants with Asian heritage who are studying topics related to social or economic need.
Who Can Apply: The Government Finance Officers Association offers scholarships for economics graduate students who plan to pursue careers in government finance. Applicants must submit a recommendation letter.
Who Can Apply: The Government Finance Officers Association offers scholarships for economics graduate students who plan to pursue careers in government finance. Applicants must submit a recommendation letter.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports business graduate students, including learners pursuing an economics degree. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must provide information about their work experience, honors, and skills.
Who Can Apply: Graduate students in research-focused disciplines can apply. Applicants must be studying a humanities or social science field, such as economics. Candidates must demonstrate intellectual ability and must have received need-based financial aid during their undergraduate studies.