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What is Economics?
Economics is the study of production and consumption of goods and services. A degree in economics will ask students to evaluate market systems, understand economic principles and evaluate models of production, distribution and consumption through deductive reasoning. Economics relies on a foundation of mathematics and social understanding, and attempts to understand the behavior of people in on a small on large scale. Studying economic growth and interaction is the primary focus of an economist, and requires several skill sets in order to accomplish.
Educational Requirements in Economics
Economics degrees are available from the associate level onward, though a minimum of a bachelor's is usually necessary for most entry level work, and a doctorate for the highest level positions. Students participating in an economics curriculum will learn the basics of economics through macroeconomic and microeconomic courses, which cover market analyses principles at the international and personal levels. Students will be exposed to various economic principles, such as supply and demand, cost-benefit analyses, and diminishing returns, as well as a study of economic systems and how they affect economic principles in their implementation and execution. Students will also study cases and participate in the construction and analyses of models of increasing complexity in order to better comprehend the practical application of economic theory in a real world setting.
Courses in an economics program may include:
- Microeconomic Theory
- Principles of Macroeconomics
- Economics and Psychology
- Government Regulation of Industry
- Economic History
Top Online Economics Degrees
Online degrees in economics provide students a number of degree types to select when considering programs. The most common type of online degree in economics is the doctorate degree with over 58% of those surveyed by the U.S. Department of Labor having a PhD. The next most popular degree in economics is a master’s degree with nearly 30% of survey respondents holding this degree which is followed by a bachelor’s degree at just under 10% of those survey respondents. In addition to electing the economics degree as your major, many students add a minor area of concentration (finance, business management, operations management, organizational design, statistics, etc.) or a double-major to the mix. To help you decipher which economics degree may be best for you, we have outlined each program below to be used as a starting point in your college research.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Economics
The on-site or online bachelor’s degree in economics will typically take students 4-years of full-time matriculation to complete. The program will blend core economics curriculum with general education courses such as philosophy, English, math, and psychology to help expand a student’s way of thinking about the world. The core curriculum in an economics program will depend on whether you enroll in a Bachelor’s of Arts (BA) or Bachelor’s of Science (BS) program but will likely include classes such as: macroeconomics, microeconomics, analytics, financial management, investments, financial markets, statistics, capital markets, financial analysis, and theory of probability. Many colleges allow students to select a specialization to provide a deeper set of knowledge in a specific area of economics that may include any one of the following areas: statistical analysis, actuarial science, real estate, quantitative finance, world economics, microeconomics, and/or macroeconomics.
Online Master’s Degree in Economics
The master’s degree earned online in economics can be found as a Master of Science (MS), Master of Arts in Economics (MA), or as a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA). Master’s degree programs are designed to help students develop analytical skills, data analysis, data synthesis, market knowledge, and critical thinking skills to the economic field. Students will typically have the opportunity to take classes such as market analysis, global economy, energy management, healthcare markets, emerging economies, sports economics, data analysis, monetary policy, finance management, policy analysis, financial markets, behavioral economics, banking, econometrics, urban systems, and big data.
In either case, students will focus time on understanding of financial markets, financial intermediaries, valuation of financial instruments, rates of return, market behavior, and incentives in the market. By leveraging academic theory and real-world application of business, data, behavior, and policy, students will be exposed to a variety of tools to be used across myriad industries. Master’s degrees in economics typically take students 1-2 years to complete after meeting all lower-level course requirements depending on the courses taken at a given time.
Online Doctorate Degree in Economics
Doctorate degrees in economics are constructed to prepare students for teaching positions in higher education, research careers in government agencies, careers in business, law, or healthcare organizations. PhD degrees in economics are considered terminal degrees with no additional degree programs after it. Doctoral programs in economics build on macroeconomics, microeconomics, and econometrics to offer specializations in fields such as environmental economics, behavioral economics, finance, labor economics, international trade, public finance, political economy, and development. The PhD program in economics will likely take three to five years to complete after all lower level requirements are met. Most economics programs will end with students assembling, crafting, and defending an economics-based dissertation.
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Employment Opportunities for Economists
Pursuit of employment opportunities as an economist is difficult due to the limited number of positions available and the high level of education required. More typically, students who have pursued a degree in economics will use that education to pursue employment and job opportunities in related fields. Some may choose to augment their education with additional courses in business, finance, marketing or find ways to apply economic theory to other fields.. Since economics primarily deals with the analyses of systems, specifically in regard to money, jobs in analyses are often considered a good alternative. Other fields an economics degree holder may pursue are:
- Investment Banking Analyst
- Investment Banking
- Financial Analyst
- Market Research Analyst
- Sales Analyst
- Data Analyst
How Much Money Do Economics Majors Make?
How much income you can make after earning a degree in economics will depend upon a number of factors that include your degree choice, work experience, geographic location, industry, employment demand, skills, organizational structure, and professional network. As a result of these factors, we have gathered information from the BLS to help you understand a span of careers associated with economics and ranges of income to consider.
Economist: The median annual income of an economist is $101,050 with an expected growth rate of 6% in the coming decade which will add some 1,200 jobs during this time.
Financial Analyst: Annual median income for financial analysts is $81,760 based on the most recent data available. A 7% employment growth rates is expected for financial analysts which translates to 32,300 additional jobs in the coming decade.
Budget Analyst: Annual median compensation for a budget analyst is $73,840 with a steady employment outlook in the years ahead.
Cost Estimator: Job prospects for a cost estimator look good with an expected growth rate of 9% in the coming decade with an annual median income of $61,790 on a national basis.
Political Scientist: Political scientists make an average of $114,290 on a national basis with the top 25% making $141,5500 and the bottom 25% surveyed making $86,600.
Statistician: The median annual income for a statistician is $80,500 with a whopping 35% employment growth forecast which should add over 10,000 jobs in the coming decade.
Mathematician: The annual median income for mathematicians is $105,810 with the top 25% averaging $129,730 and the bottom 25% making $72,440 a year. Jobs should grow at an 21% clip in the coming decade adding around 1,000 jobs during that time.
What Jobs Can You Get with an Economics Degree?
Careers in economics are incredibly diverse. Students earning an economics degree can find themselves working in a non-profit organization, publicly traded company, or private corporation in a variety of capacities. Your area of interest, skills, and specialized knowledge will meld with a job opportunity to enable you to enter an industry that makes sense for you. A list of the most popular jobs you can get with an economics degree can cut across industries such as healthcare, sports management, finance, banking, business, insurance, government agencies, and consultant organizations of all types. The list of job titles includes:
- Environmental Economist
- Research Analyst
- Business Intelligence Director
- Market Research Analyst
- Pricing Analyst
- Sales Manager
- Financial Consultant
- Financial Planner
- Risk Analyst
- Public Taxation Specialist
- Transportation Manager
- Energy Specialist
- Data Analyst
- Private Consultant
Job Growth, Salary and Related Econometric Fields
Job growth for economists is expected to be steady over the coming decade adding some 1,200 jobs during that time. Economists tend to occupy research long term research positions for various foundations and universities, as well as government sectors. Individuals seeking a position in economics research and application will find that they must typically pursue higher levels of education and demonstrate and extensive understanding of economic theory and principle necessary to propose and complete projects. Individuals may work under more notable economists for several year prior to pursuing individual projects as part of their overall career development. The annual median income for an economist is $101,050 per year.
Additional Resources for Economics Majors
- Academy of Accounting, Finance and Economics - AAFE
- Southern Economic Association - SEA
- United States Association for Energy Economics - USAEE
- Agricultural and Applied Economics Association - AAEA
- American Economic Association - AEA
- United States Society for Ecological Economics - USSEE
- Western Agricultural Economics Association - WAEA
- American Law and Economics Association - ALEA
- Midwest Economics Association - MEA
- National Association for Business Economics - NABE
- American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association - AREUEA
- American Risk and Insurance Association - ARIA
- International Banking, Economics and Finance Association - IBEFA
- National Association of Forensic Economics - NAFE
- American Society of Health Economists - ASHE
- American Statistical Association
- National Economic Association - NEA
- Northeast Business and Economics Association - NBEA
- Western Economic Association International - WEAI
Individuals interested in economics may also be interested in international economics, finance, and international business. For additional information about Economics, read our Complete Career Guide in Economics on our blog.