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Best Online Master’s Degrees in Economics Career and Salary Possibilities with an Advanced Economics Degree

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An online master’s in economics program teaches students how to apply economic principles to real-life situations, making it an increasingly essential tool in our global economy. In fact, master’s degree holders have more employment prospects across a wide range of sectors and increased earning potential, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Opportunities in economics abound in banking, insurance and communications as well as trade associations, and consulting organizations. Economics degree programs even prepare graduates for employment in other countries besides the U.S.

Best Online Master’s in Economics 2018-2019

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Because a solid understanding of economic practices, principles, and theory is beneficial to so many different careers, online economics master’s degrees are available at an impressive number of institutions. How can students narrow down their options? What makes a graduate level economics program stand out from the crowd? One way to identify top-notch programs is to examine our rankings of the Best Online Master’s in Economics Degrees for 2018.

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Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 South Dakota State University Brookings, South Dakota$7,51657%91%60%2Yes Yes Yes School website
2 University of Missouri Columbia, Missouri$8,46264%75%71%1No Yes Yes School website
3 Purdue University-Main Campus West Lafayette, Indiana$9,20843%56%75%2No Yes Yes School website
4 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, North Dakota$7,18554%84%57%1No Yes Yes School website
5 Georgia Southern University Statesboro, Georgia$6,63613%65%54%1Yes No Yes School website
6 Golden Gate University San Francisco, California$17,550---1No Yes Yes School website

Timeline of an Online Master’s in Economics

Getting in: The Application Process

The application process provides students the opportunity to showcase their prior knowledge and experience in economics and to demonstrate why they would be an asset to the program. Each school has its own application process and due dates, so it’s important for students to find out what is expected well in advance. In general, economics degree programs at the graduate level require the following:

  • GRE scores.

    Most online economic master’s programs require Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. With so much competition for top-level programs, the fact that students can retake the GRE to improve scores is a benefit.

  • Transcripts (paper/electronic).

    Although a bachelor’s degree in economics is not required for admission to most online economics master’s programs, it is helpful if students can demonstrate a strong background in undergraduate economics coursework on their transcripts.

  • Statement of purpose.

    Most programs ask students to write a 1-2 page statement of purpose, discussing their reasons for applying to the program and how it relates to their academic and professional goals.

  • Letters of recommendation.

    Students should ask 2-3 undergraduate instructors to write letters discussing their aptitude for graduate study in economics.

  • Resume.

    Resumes should demonstrate an applicant’s strong academic experience in economics as well as personal accomplishments and qualities that translate well into economics graduate study.

  • Scholarly writing sample.

    Many economics departments require a writing sample from undergraduate work for evaluation of basic writing and research skills.

  • Application fee.

    The application is not complete without payment of the application fee determined by the institution.

Year 1

Students in the first year of an online master’s in economics program can expect to focus on coursework in core subjects such as mathematical economics, microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, research methods and statistics. Some programs also have an internship component. If not, the first year is also a good time to build experience in the economics field by volunteering for faculty research projects.

Year 2

Second-year students may have the opportunity to choose an area of specialization such as corporate finance, international economics or health economics. Coursework during the second year may also include a capstone seminar. Taking the seminar allows students to learn research methods, the writing of economics, and the presentation of research—all tools necessary to develop a master’s project or paper under the advisement of a faculty member.

Testing & Graduation Requirements

In addition to completing the required coursework, students must demonstrate that they have acquired the necessary skills for a career in economics before graduating. Graduation requirements vary by institution, but most institutions require one or more of the following components:

  • Capstone Project.

    This research project in the student’s area of concentration will be presented at the end of the second year.

  • Internship.

    Most institutions have an established internship program to provide real-world experience in an area of economics.

  • Portfolio.

    Some of the items in a portfolio include final papers and slides from oral and written presentations and relevant computer programs; a resume; and a self-assessment statement that discusses the student’s long-run plans and how the program met those goals.

  • Master’s thesis.

    The thesis wraps up the economics master’s experience with a report of presentation that showcases original research and theories. Sample thesis ideas for economics majors include prevalent elasticity, free trade experiences and municipal finances.

Why a Master’s Matters: Careers and Salaries in Economics

The online master’s in economics program prepares students for economics-related jobs in academia, research, and the public and private sectors by providing advanced quantitative and analytical skills. Here are some of the most popular concentrations in economics and the careers associated with them.


Applied Economics

Advances in technology and the increased availability of timely data have created a need for skilled statistical analysis through sound economic reasoning. A specialization in applied economics includes coursework in economic forecasting and market forecasting to train students to apply quantitative reasoning to a wide range of industries.

Financial Market Analyst
Financial Market Analyst

Responsible for financial planning, analysis, and projections for companies and corporations. Assists in setting company-wide investment direction and policies.

Data Modeling Analyst
Data Modeling Analyst

Collects, studies, and interprets data to find ways to improve businesses and organizations. Focuses on an area of business such as sales, marketing, manufacturing, or distribution.

Corporate Finance

In addition to economic aspects, this specialization teaches students the managerial, legal, and reporting aspects needed to be successful in the corporate setting and the broad financial issues associated with increasing a corporate firm’s value. The curriculum focuses on international financial management, risk management, financial accounting and reporting, as well as firm valuation.

Director of New Product Development
Director of New Product Development

Leads organizations in researching new products from financial and marketing perspectives. Oversees the creation of business cases, financial models, and presentations for the management team.

Corporate Financial Manager
Corporate Financial Manager

Oversees the finances of major companies and agencies by producing financial reports and cash-flow statements and making profit projections. Must comply with laws and regulations.

Internal Auditor
Internal Auditor

Assesses the effectiveness and efficiency of a company’s internal control structure by objectively evaluating risk management, control, and governance processes.

Business Economics

This economics specialization is closely related to the management of organizations, combining the strong analytic approach of economics with the technical aspects of management. Courses include microeconomic and macroeconomic theories, econometrics, and computing.

Financial Market Analyst
Financial Market Analyst

Responsible for financial planning, analysis, and projections for companies and corporations. Assists in setting company-wide investment direction and policies.

Corporate Financial Manager
Corporate Financial Manager

Oversees the finances of major companies and agencies by producing financial reports and cash-flow statements and making profit projections. Must comply with laws and regulations.

Government Analyst
Government Analyst

Gathers, records, and analyzes data that pertains to government agencies, programs, and projects. Counsels on the effectiveness of policies and operations.

Health Economics

This branch of economics focuses on issues related to efficiency and effectiveness in healthcare systems. Students study subjects such as services research, health policy and management, research methods, and economic theory

Health Economics Researcher
Health Economics Researcher

Investigates how to make the health care system more cost effective by studying the distribution of resources. Evaluates health care policies.

Financial Market Analyst
Financial Market Analyst

Responsible for financial planning, analysis, and projections for companies and corporations. Assists in setting company-wide investment direction and policies.

International Economics

In this global economy, industries and governments are closely links through trade in goods and services, flows of money, and investments. In this specialization, students learn theories and practices in international trade and international currency markets and global business practices

Foreign Services Officer
Foreign Services Officer

Formulates and implements the country’s foreign policy as a member of a U.S. embassy, consulate, or other diplomatic mission and commissioned member of the foreign service.

Foreign Policy Analyst
Foreign Policy Analyst

Advises government officials and organizations on economic, political, military, and foreign policy issues. Assists in developing policy-making initiatives.

International Banking Analyst
International Banking Analyst

Directs and oversees a financial institution’s international banking policies, objectives, and initiatives. Responsible for the development and maintenance of banking services to international accounts.

Potential Salary Increases with a Master’s Degree

According to a 2012 survey by the National Association of Business Economists (NABE), a master’s degree is necessary to be considered for entry-level and advanced economics jobs. This is borne out by O*NET Online’s data, which shows that 87 percent of economists have a master’s degrees or higher. The extra years of schooling pay off — the 2015-2016 PayScale College Salary Report shows that although economics majors in general start off earning around $52,100 annually, those who go on to earn a master’s degree in economics make $63,300 at the start of their careers.

Potential Growth 14%
Salary Potential $95,710

Additional Resources & Links

  • American Economic Association

    Professionals can visit this site to find articles, publications, news, and events as well as a graduate training page.

  • Economics & Finance Research

    This open access journal targets both student and professional economists.

  • EconPort

    Students can participate in online economics experiments at this site.

  • EH.net

    Economic History Association owns and operates this site to promote communication among economic history scholars and those in related fields.

  • Medical Economics

    This site for economics and health care professionals features stories about health policies, technology, and business issues at the intersection between the two fields.

  • National Association for Business Economics

    This association provides professionals with access to conferences, educational and career development, industry surveys, and networking opportunities. Students can join at the discounted student rate.

  • Omicron Delta Epsilon

    This site represents the honor study that honors outstanding achievements in economics.

  • The Economist

    In addition to featuring articles from the print editions of this publication, this site offers online-exclusive articles about economic issues.

  • World Economics Association

    Since 2011, this association has been the second-largest organization for professional economists. The site offers access to journals, textbook commentaries, networks, conferences, newsletters, and blogs.