Best Online Master’s in Economics Programs 2021

Updated April 26, 2022 | Staff Writers

Search Programs

The field of economics involves the study of resource use and distribution, including related topics such as scarcity, incentives, and decision-making. Master's in economics curricula incorporate coursework in mathematics, history, sociology, and science. Learners cultivate skills in analysis, forecasting, and data-driven decision-making. Applicants typically need a bachelor's degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and adequate GRE or GMAT scores.

A master's degree in economics typically requires about two years of full-time studies. However, some accelerated programs take only 10-12 months to complete. Learners' graduation timeline depends on their previous coursework.

Economics programs prepare learners for careers in industries including finance and wealth management. Graduates can work in government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Economists earn a median annual salary of $105,020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects employment for economists to increase 14% from 2019 to 2029, a rate much faster than the average for all occupations.

Featured Online Schools


Are economists in demand?

Yes, economists have above-average employment growth prospects. The BLS projects jobs for economists to grow 14% from 2019 to 2029.

What kind of jobs can you get with a degree in economics?

Individuals with a master's degree in economics often work as consultants, government researchers, budget analysts, and market analysts.

How long does it take to get a master's in economics?

A master's-level economics degree traditionally takes about two years to earn, but learners can complete some accelerated programs in 10-12 months.

Do economists get paid well?

Economists earn a median annual salary of $105,020, according to the BLS. Individual salaries depend on the economist's credentials, employer, and position.

Students earning a master's degree in economics prepare for careers in industry and the public sector. Learners cultivate advanced skills in economics-related data collection, analysis, and presentation. Graduates can apply their advanced scientific and interpretive skills to analysis-based careers as budget analysts, financial analysts, market research analysts, and operations research analysts.

Economics professionals can work in education or the public sector. Graduates can become economics professors, political scientists, and urban and regional planners. Economics graduates can also work for government agencies, analyzing data and making policy recommendations. Other economists track productivity, employment and unemployment, and consumer behavior to measure economic health.

Economists typically hold a master's degree, and academic economics professors and researchers usually need a doctoral degree. Graduates of online master's in economics programs generally meet minimum degree requirements for careers and doctoral programs in the field. Additionally, economics students can prepare for niche careers by specializing in a field such as applied, development, financial, or quantitative economics.

Accreditation for an Economics Program

The best economics programs hold programmatic and institutional accreditation. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversees accrediting agencies, which evaluate schools and programs based on factors including student services, faculty credentials, and academic rigor. High-quality online economics programs often hold accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Prospective students should choose economics programs at regionally accredited institutions to ensure their economics degree holds value with employers. CHEA recognizes seven regional accrediting agencies, each of which accredits academic institutions in a certain geographic region. Regional accrediting agencies include the New England Commission of Higher Education and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Because regionally accredited schools must meet higher academic standards than nationally accredited institutions, they typically only accept credits or degrees earned from other regionally accredited schools. Students at nationally or regionally accredited schools can qualify for federal financial aid.

Applicants to master's programs typically need a bachelor's degree from an accredited school. Most graduate schools prefer candidates with a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, and many master's programs require prerequisite coursework. Application materials often include official transcripts, recommendation letters, a personal statement, and GRE or GMAT scores. Some programs conduct admission interviews.

Economics master's programs typically require 30-36 credits, including core and specialized coursework in the field. Students earning a master's degree in economics must often complete a capstone research project or thesis, and some programs offer internship opportunities.

Courses in an Economics Program

Economics degree requirements vary by program but typically feature core coursework in microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometric theory, and quantitative research methods. Enrollees gain foundational knowledge in economic variables and resource use. Graduate students in the field also complete a capstone project and build advanced skills in econometric and empirical analysis, economic modeling, hypothesis creation, and communication.

Many master's programs feature specialization options such as applied economics, development economics, financial economics, and quantitative economics. Curricula vary by school, but the courses below appear in many online master's in economics programs.

Students in this core course learn how to analyze and understand factors shaping overall economic performance. Enrollees assess the strengths and weaknesses of theories and explore big-picture, long-term economic trends. Enrollees also examine shorter-term fluctuations, such as recessions, economic recovery, low-interest rates, and fiscal austerity.

Coursework covers investment, trade balance, consumption, and monetary and fiscal policy. Learners compare and assess macroeconomic policies, economic models, and real-world economic events.

This essential economics course surveys microeconomic theory and economic policy concepts. Students learn about consumer and firm behavior, market structure, and market efficiency. Degree-seekers cultivate mathematical skills relevant to economics, and they learn to calculate demand curves, market equilibrium prices and outputs, and firm cost functions.

Enrollees learn how to use models of supply and demand, consumer behavior, and competitive markets to project changes and policy effects. The course examines the government's role in the economy and covers taxation, subsidies, and policies. Learners explore how various policy changes, market failures, and imperfections can influence market dynamics.

This foundational economics course covers econometric tools, including relevant theories and applications. Coursework focuses on estimation fundamentals and statistical inferences of linear regression models.

Learners develop skills in problem-solving and collaboration, and they prepare to use regression analysis and statistical parameters to estimate causal relationships. Degree-seekers cultivate skills in linear and nonlinear regression analysis, hypothesis testing, and interpretation.

Often an elective in economics master's programs, this class requires students to apply economic analysis tools and techniques to labor market problems. Enrollees learn why wages vary by occupation, credentials, region, and employer. The course also surveys the historical progression of wage inequality.

Students use a labor supply and demand model to predict employment and pay changes. Learners in this course develop an understanding of phenomena such as migration, labor unions, and wage structure.

Usually an elective option, this class examines decision-making models involving interactions between individuals. Coursework often focuses on noncooperative game theory and explores basic equilibrium in repeated games and signaling games. Enrollees apply game theory to foreign policy, financial markets, auctions, and takeover bids.

Learners discuss topics such as cooperation dynamics, conflict, entry deterrence, and public goods. The course often covers equilibrium properties, refinements, and games with imperfect or incomplete information. Learners may need prerequisite coursework in calculus and economics.

Professional Organizations for Economics Students

Students earning a master's in economics can join professional organizations to access career and educational resources. The following organizations provide resources such as continuing education opportunities, publications, and professional certifications. Many professional organizations help economics professionals network through opportunities such as conferences, local chapter events, and discussion boards.

This nonprofit, nonpartisan, scholarly society strives to inspire and produce economic research. AEA publishes academic journals, hosts an annual meeting, and maintains an economics resource library. Job-seekers and employers can use the association's network of economics professionals. This international society works to advance the use of statistics and mathematics in economic theory. The society publishes a research monograph series and three academic journals: Theoretical Economics, Econometrica, and Quantitative Economics. Annually, the society holds six regional scientific meetings in locations around the world. Founded in 1969 as the Caucus of Black Economists, NEA produces and distributes research that supports the economic development of communities of color. NEA publishes an academic journal called The Review of Black Political Economy and organizes an annual meeting. The association also holds an annual summer conference in collaboration with the American Society of Hispanic Economists. NEA awards grants and fellowships. Founded in 2011, WEA envisions itself as an inclusive, pluralistic, and international professional association. Serving professionals in various fields of interest, including economics, WEA publishes online journals, runs online conferences, and encourages networking. WEA connects members through institutes, national chapters, and student networks.

Many professional organizations, private donors, and schools offer need-based and merit-based scholarships for college students. The awards below support learners who demonstrate academic merit, choose a specific academic field, or belong to a special interest group.

Career Development Grant

Who Can Apply: The American Association of University Women offers this award to women who demonstrate financial need. Applicants must be pursuing their first graduate degree in social science, health, or medicine. Applicants need a bachelor's degree earned before 2013 and U.S. citizenship. Women of color receive preference.
Amount: $2,000-$12,000

Hsiao Memorial Social Sciences Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Asian Pacific Fund awards this scholarship to graduate degree-seekers in the social sciences, with economics students receiving preference. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and ethnic heritage, preferably Asian. Candidates should demonstrate an interest in assisting communities facing economic or social need. Applicants must hold legal residency, U.S. citizenship, or foreign national status.
Amount: $1,000

John C. Murphy Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The National Association for County Community and Economic Development (NACCED) awards this scholarship to nominated NACCED members who demonstrate academic merit and financial need. Applicants must submit official transcripts, a recommendation letter, and a support letter from an NACCED member. Candidates also provide a 500-word personal statement outlining their academic plans, achievements, extracurricular activities, and prior coursework related to community development and affordable housing.
Amount: $1,500

Best Online Master's in Economics Programs 2021

#1 Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD

MS in Applied Economics


A top university based in Washington, D.C., Johns Hopkins consistently invests more in research and development than most other universities. The school runs a flexible online master of science in applied economics program with an optional concentration in financial economics. This master's degree in economics emphasizes emerging areas and practical experience with quantitative methods.

The school's accelerated economics master's program takes 12-24 months to complete, depending on enrollment pace and prior work completed. Learners take four required courses, an econometrics course, and five electives. The flexible program allows students to tailor the curriculum to elective interests such as environmental economics, spatial economics, and international economics and development.

Johns Hopkins enrolls economics master's applicants in summer, fall, and spring. Prerequisites include a 3.0 minimum GPA as well as economics and calculus coursework. Applicants also need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school. Application requirements include a resume, transcripts, a purpose statement, and recommendation letters.

Johns Hopkins University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

School Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

#2 West Texas A&M University

Canyon, TX

Master of Science in Finance and EconomicsĀ­(M.S.F.E.)


WTAMU, a public university in Canyon, offers a master of science in finance and economics (MSFE) program through the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business. The flexible program allows students to choose between courses focusing on either finance or economics. Serving students who work full time, the MSFE permits full-time or part-time enrollment. Full-time students usually finish the accelerated program in about two years by completing courses during five semesters per year.

The 36-credit master's program features fully online or blended program options. The curriculum consists of 21 core course credits in topics such as corporate finance, international business, and quantitative analysis. Enrollees also complete 15 credits of electives from areas such as business, finance, and economics. Degree candidates must pass a comprehensive examination to graduate.

Eligible applicants hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school. Students lacking economics prerequisites complete an additional nine credits of foundational coursework at WTAMU.

West Texas A&M University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

School Type: Public, 4-year or above

#3 University of Detroit Mercy

Detroit, MI

Master of Arts in Economics


Serving students interested in doctoral studies or research roles, the online master of arts in economics program at UD Mercy allows learners to pursue both applied and theoretical studies. Graduates often work in industry, government, or nonprofit organizations.

Enrollees receive solid grounding in the liberal arts and pursue deep understanding of significant global economic forces, history, and institutions. Students also practice applying financial and economic principles to domestic and international economic systems.

UD Mercy's 30-credit master's in economics program includes 15 required credits in topics such as economic analysis, quantitative foundations, and financial economics. Learners also take five elective courses in topics such as business forecasting, labor economics, and economics for the public sector. Many interested students complete an optional thesis, which counts toward elective requirements.

Eligible applicants hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school with a 3.0 minimum GPA. Online students enjoy significant tuition discounts.

University of Detroit Mercy is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

School Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

#4 Southern New Hampshire University

Manchester, NH

Master of Science in Applied Economics


SNHU's online master of science in applied economics emphasizes data analysis, problem-solving, and decision-making. Students complete this 36-credit program asynchronously in a minimum of 15 months.

The program offers courses in macro- and micro-economics, game theory, and econometrics. Enrollees also choose four specialized electives in areas such as natural resource economics or international corporate finance. All students complete a capstone course that integrates prior learning. Enrollees lacking prior coursework in business or economics complete foundational courses in business mathematics, financial reporting and analysis, and business economics.

Eligible applicants submit personal statements and official transcripts demonstrating a 2.75 minimum GPA. Applicants with lower GPAs often qualify for provisional acceptance. SNHU does not require GRE or GMAT scores. The school accepts up to 12 transfer credits toward the master's program.

Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

School Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

#5 Georgia Southern University

Statesboro, GA

Master of Science in Applied Economics, M.S.A.E


A large public research university with its flagship campus in Statesboro, Georgia Southern offers over 140 majors, including applied economics. The master of science in applied economics (MSAE) program allows working students to complete their degree online and asynchronously. The 30-credit MSAE program focuses on building skills for managing rapid change.

Emphasizing economic theory, policy, and analysis, the curriculum consists of 15 required credits and 15 elective credits. Core courses cover economics, mathematics, and econometrics. Electives options include regional economic development, health economics, and applied dynamic optimization.

Enrollees finish the MSAE in about two years by completing two courses per semester for five semesters. Students enroll in the program in either fall or spring. Georgia Southern ensures high-quality online instruction by requiring distance learning professors to obtain online teaching certification.

Eligible applicants hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited school with a minimum 3.0 GPA, demonstrate satisfactory completion of prerequisites, and submit competitive GRE scores. The MSAE holds programmatic accreditation from 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.

School Type: Public, 4-year or above

Business and Management Degree Rankings;

More Best College Reviews Resources

See all posts