Online Degrees in Economics

As Merriam-Webster Dictionary puts it, economics is the social science dedicated studying “the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services.” Economists seek the underlying principles that make markets, financial institutions and individual economic players (people or corporations) behave as they do.

The discipline of economics has practical applications in public policy as well as in corporate strategy and operations. The American Economic Association explains that while the economics major does not provide applied training for a specific occupation, “it provides the logical structure that pays off in understanding the big picture” for pursuits in corporate, government and nonprofit sectors. Those with an economic degree may find themselves qualified for a number of different careers.

The College Board recommends that individuals interested in pursuing a degree in economics should have an interest in finding out why real-world situations occur the way they do. Being good at math is also a good attribute to have. Online economics degree programs can help such individuals gain the skills and knowledge they need while still adhering to work, family and other commitments.

Online economic degree programs may be asynchronous, which means you may access your coursework at any time that is convenient to you, or synchronous, which means you need to be present online at a particular time.

A number of online resources are available to help students understand economic principles. In online degree programs, instructors may make use of virtual labs to help students work through problem sets and get real-time results and feedback to their work. A wide range of data sets are available online for students to learn about the type of resources and problems economists deal with in their daily work. Finally, a number of simulation tools – ranging from computer games to opportunities to run a virtual McDonald’s franchise – can also help online students see how economic principles play out in everyday life.

Economics degree holders generally find jobs at corporations, financial institutions or consulting firms. Other popular roles focus on business strategy and analytics or financial management. The American Economic Association identifies corporate business administration, law, consulting, and teaching as career areas for graduates of economics degree programs, among others. Salaries with an economic degree can vary depending on career paths.

The follow table lists some of these occupations along with their associated job openings, average salary, total employment and job outlook for 2018 to 2028 using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career
Employment
Median Salary
Projected Job Growth
Economists19,000$116,6308.1%
Statistical Assistants9,810$51,6408%
Economics Teachers, Postsecondary13,270$119,1607.9%
Family and Consumer Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary2,150$85,2703.8%

Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

The BLS explains that economists “apply both qualitative and quantitative economic analysis” to topics in a number of different fields like education, healthcare, and development to name a few. They may do this by conducting surveys, collecting data and analyzing it. They also forecast market trends by looking at historical data and current developments. They may use their findings to advise businesses and governments about future steps to take.

Becoming an economist is one of the options for careers with economics degree. The following steps outline one way you can pursue this career.

  1. Take economics classes in high school.
  2. Also take math, statistics (if possible) and history.
  3. Make a habit of reading and watching the news.
  4. Do your research on the best online colleges for economics degree programs.
  5. Enroll in an online economics degree program.
  6. Earn your undergraduate degree in economics.
  7. Gain real-world experience with an internship if possible.
  8. Opt for a graduate degree if you want to continue with your education.
  9. Look for a job.
  10. Choose to continue with a doctoral degree if you wish to enter research and academia.

The best online economic degrees are the ones that suit your lifestyle, budget and career goals. Online economics degrees are available at every level, from associate to doctoral programs, though associate degree programs are rare. The most popular program is the Bachelor of Science, which emphasizes a general education and yields the most versatile professional credential. The most common online degrees in economics include:

  • Associate: Typically designed for transfer to a four-year program and can give students a grounding in basic economic principles.
  • Bachelor’s:
  • Master’s The M.S. or MBA in economics can allow graduates to pursue advanced work in the field, either through coursework and research (M.S.) or through the professional business curriculum of the MBA.
  • Doctoral: The Ph.D. in economics can prepare graduates to teach at the college level and produce original scholarship that may shed light on how markets and economies function.

What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?

Online associate economics degrees can act as an introduction to the field. Students may gain an understanding of basic economic concepts including the market structures and competition, market failures, how trade works and the role governments play in an economy.

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED

Typical coursework: Curricula usually include general education courses along with core economics and business topics. Some courses you may take include:

  • Principles of Macroeconomics
  • Political Economy
  • The Global Economy
  • International Economics

Possible electives: Financial accounting; survey of international business; introduction to economic geography

What kind of jobs can I get after earning an associate degree in economics?

Many online associate economic degree programs are designed for transfer into a four-year bachelor’s degree program. However, the BLS reports that employment in occupations for those with associate degrees is expected to grow 11 percent by 2026 which means associate degree holders may be eligible for entry-level roles in fields like banking, insurance as well as accounting. Some examples of occupational titles include:

  • Accounting or auditing clerk
  • Bookkeeper
  • First-line supervisor of retail sales workers
  • Real estate brokers and sales agents
  • Survey researcher

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor’s degree program?

Online economics bachelor’s degrees in economics are typically offered as:

  • Bachelor of Science in Economics: focuses more on quantitative skills through coursework in math and statistics.
  • Bachelor of Arts in Economics: focuses more on qualitative skills with emphases on social behavior, international relations, and culture.

Students of online economics bachelor’s degrees typically explore the field in more depth than those enrolled in an associate degree program. They may explore economic philosophies, and learn how different thought processes impact trade and the market.

Typical duration: Four years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED

Typical coursework: Topics may cover the history of economics, economic decision-making processes, along with microeconomic and macroeconomic modelling. Some examples of courses include:

  • Business cycles and growth
  • Financial institutions and markets
  • Principles of macroeconomics
  • Principles of microeconomics
  • Statistical foundations for econometrics

Possible electives: Gender and the economy; issues in environmental economics; economic development

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a bachelor’s in economics?

The BLS states that those with bachelor’s degrees in economics may qualify for entry-level economist jobs, primarily in the government. A bachelor’s degree may also qualify you for jobs in public policy, finance, education, banking, and consulting to name a few areas. Some potential job titles include:

  • Actuary
  • Bank manager
  • Financial analyst
  • Investment analyst
  • Management analyst
  • Market research specialist

What can I expect to learn in an online master’s degree program?

Online master’s degree in economics can help students understand advanced concepts in economics, learn how to handle big datasets, and study issues at a global level.

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree in economics or a related field

Typical coursework: Core topics may include econometrics, data analytics and economic forecasting methodologies. Some examples of courses include:

  • Applied econometrics
  • Macroeconomic theory
  • Mathematics for economics
  • Microeconomic theory
  • Quantitative economics

Students may have to complete a capstone project to satisfy the requirements for their online master’s degree in economics.

Possible electives: Labor economics; public economics; financial stability and growth

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a master’s in economics?

The BLS states that a master’s degree is the minimum requirement for most economist jobs. Graduates may find employment in public policy, be eligible for leadership roles in businesses, or even choose to continue their studies with a doctoral degree. Some examples of job titles include:

  • Data scientist
  • Director of institutional research
  • Economic development incentive specialist
  • Energy markets manager
  • Quantitative modeling analyst

Online graduate certificates in economics can help those individuals who want some graduate education in the field but do not have the time or financial resources to commit to a master’s degree. Additionally they may also suit individuals who have a bachelor’s degree in another field and are looking to gain some economical knowledge and skills. Graduate certificate programs can be highly focused and therefore take less time to complete than a master’s degree. For example, you may find certificate programs dedicated to microeconomics or macroeconomics alone. Many certificate programs are also highly customizable with a couple of required courses and the rest made up of electives.

Typical duration: One to two years of part-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree, bachelor’s degree in economics or a related field

Typical coursework: Curricula can vary depending on the focus of the program. Some courses you may find included in your program include:

  • Applied econometrics
  • Introduction to mathematical economics
  • Macroeconomic theory
  • Principles of economics
  • The economics of financial markets

Possible electives: Economics of antitrust and regulation; industrial economics; public economics

What can I expect to learn in an online doctoral degree program?

Ph.D. programs in economics are highly specialized and students often choose an area of the field to focus their education. Students can then study this area in-depth via coursework and research. Additionally, an online Ph.D. program can allow them to develop intensive research and analytical skills.

Typical duration: Five to seven years of full-time study

General prerequisites: A master’s degree in economics or related field

Typical coursework: Apart from courses based on your chosen concentration, core courses may include those on research methodologies and analysis. Some examples of courses include:

  • Foreign policy, globalization, and statesmanship
  • Foundations of statesmanship and public policy
  • Introduction to economic policy
  • Economics and public policy

Dissertation: In addition to the core courses required for the program, students must also complete a research project and dissertation, and then mount a defense of the dissertation before a committee.

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a doctorate in economics?

A Ph.D. in economics is a terminal degree. Graduates of online doctoral degrees in economics may be able to find management or executive-level employment in business, research, or international organizations. They may also be eligible to enter the field of academia, educating a new generation of economists. Some examples of job titles include:

  • Economic policy researcher
  • Economist
  • Government administrator
  • Professor (higher education)
  • Senior public policy analyst

Accreditation

Accreditation is an important factor for prospective students of online economics degree programs to consider. It is a voluntary test that schools undergo to demonstrate that their educational offerings meet or exceed a standard of quality. Accrediting bodies, which are private organizations that may have a regional or national scope, evaluate schools to determine whether certain objectives and criteria for learning in certain subjects are met.

Apart from demonstrating the quality of education, attending an accredited school is often a prerequisite for receiving federal financial aid. Graduating from such a program may also be a criterion while applying for professional certifications. As economics is among one of the many online business degrees you can earn, many of the best online economics bachelor’s degree programs and above are may be accredited by:

Specializations in Economics

The field of economics is vast and has applications in almost every facet of our society – from governmental policies to the environment. Specializations within the field of economics can help you focus your studies and therefore your career in areas that interest you. Many of the best online colleges for economics degree programs may allow you to choose a concentration. Some examples of specializations in economics are listed below:

  • Agricultural and resource economics
  • Behavioral economics
  • Business and data analytics
  • Econometrics
  • Environmental and energy economics,
  • Financial economics
  • Health economics
  • Labor economics
  • Public economics and policy

Certifications

The requirements for certifications and licensures for graduates of online economics degree programs can vary by state, industry of employment and job role. While professional certifications are not always mandatory, they can serve to demonstrate your competency particular areas of the field as well as your commitment to it. The Chartered Economist certification is one example of a professional certification offered by the American Academy of Financial Management (AAFM). Professional certifications typically need to be renewed periodically via continuing education classes or reexamination.

Employment Statistics

Economists

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Monetary Authorities-Central Bank
  • Scientific Research and Development Services
  • Grantmaking and Giving Services
  • Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)
  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services
States with the highest level of employment
  • District of Columbia
  • California
  • Virginia
  • Massachusetts
  • Texas
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  • Cleveland-Elyria, OH
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

Statistical Assistants

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Scientific Research and Development Services
  • Insurance Carriers
  • Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers
  • Other Professional, Scientific and Technical Services
  • Agencies, Brokerages, and Other Insurance Related Activities
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • Pennsylvania
  • Indiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Texas
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
  • Cedar Rapids, IA
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  • Kansas City, MO-KS

Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Going to college can be expensive. Thankfully there are plenty of scholarship and financial aid programs available for eligible students of online economics degrees to help reduce some of the burden associated with attending college. Scholarships may be offered by educational foundations, colleges and universities, businesses, and government schemes, among others. We’ve listed a few scholarships below to help you get started on your search.

Other Resources For Aspiring Economists

Sources

  • AA in Economics, Foothill College, https://foothill.edu/onlinelearning/students/aa_courses/aa_econ/, accessed December 2019
  • Applied Microeconomics (Graduate Certificate), American University, https://www.american.edu/cas/economics/ma/certificate-applied-micro.cfm, accessed December 2019
  • Bachelor of Arts in Business Economics, Ashford University, https://www.ashford.edu/online-degrees/business/bachelor-of-arts-business-economics, accessed December 2019
  • Bachelor of Science in Economics, Penn State World Campus, https://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates/economics-bachelor-of-science/overview, accessed December 2019
  • Business Economics Certificate, Harvard Extension School, https://www.extension.harvard.edu/academics/professional-graduate-certificates/business-economics-certificate, accessed December 2019
  • Career: Economists, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/careers/social-science-economists, accessed December 2019
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  • Economics, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Economics, Colorado State University, https://www.online.colostate.edu/degrees/economics/, accessed December 2019
  • Economics, College of Southern Idaho, https://iq2prod1.smartcatalogiq.com/Catalogs/College-of-Southern-Idaho/2019-2020/Catalog/Business-Department/Economics, accessed December 2019
  • Economics, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/economics, accessed December 2019
  • Economics: Online master’s degree, Mizzou Online, https://online.missouri.edu/degreeprograms/arts-and-science/economics/masters/index.aspx, accessed December 2019
  • Economists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/economists.htm, accessed December 2019
  • Employment outlook for occupations requiring an associate’s degree, certificate, or some college, Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 2018, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2018/article/postsecondary-outlook.htm#Education,%20legal,%20and%20office%20support
  • MA in Economics, Applied Economics Specialization, American University, https://programs.online.american.edu/econ/masters-economics, accessed December 2019
  • Major: Economics, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/social-sciences-economics, accessed December 2019
  • Master of Science in Economics; Purdue University, https://krannert.purdue.edu/academics/Economics/program-ms/, accessed December 2019
  • Ph.D. in Public Policy – Economic Policy, Liberty University – Online programs, https://www.liberty.edu/online/government/doctoral/public-policy/economic-policy/, accessed December 2019
  • Retail Sales Workers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/retail-sales-workers.htm, accessed December 2019
  • The Corporate World and the MBA, American Economic Association, https://www.aeaweb.org/resources/students/careers/corporate-mba, accessed December 2019
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