Economics is a social science whose subject is the prevailing market-based system of production, distribution, and consumption. A key distinction in the field is between macroeconomics, the study of whole markets and economies, and microeconomics, the science of individual economic behavior.
Economic scientists analyze and forecast market data for a living. These professionals know how market macro- and microeconomies work. They study and interpret distributions of wealth, resource allocation, consumer decision-making, transnational markets, the business cycle, and more.
Professional economists work in academia and government, as well as in finance, marketing, think tank research, and business consulting. But not everyone who earns an economics degree becomes a professional economist. The discipline suits careers in sectors across the board, from law and government to healthcare and international relations.
The economics skill set is among the most marketable, so the number of possible careers with an economics degree is high. Moreover, economists' salaries are above-average—close to $90,000 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). From the undergraduate to the doctoral level, the best economics programs are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
The versatility of a postsecondary degree in economics lends itself to a wide diversity of career pathways, beginning at the bachelor level. Relatively few professional economists, however, have earned only a bachelor's degree. For this group, an undergraduate degree is a necessary credential en route to a graduate economics degree.
Keep in mind that some graduate school admissions will accept a bachelor's in any subject, but others want incoming applicants to have exposure to economics. Schools recommend students minor in math as undergraduates if they intend to ultimately earn a Ph.D. In fact, the top economics programs prefer a strong background in math over an economics major per se.
What does an economics major study? Academic work in this area revolves around mathematics, including but not limited to advanced calculus and statistics. The best undergraduate economics programs challenge students to master the myriad permutations of applied mathematics. Bachelor-level classes in Economics typically include:
Having a bachelor's degree qualifies one to work as an economist for the federal government, provided the undergraduate curriculum consisted of at least 21 semester hours of economics and 3 hours of accounting, advanced calculus, or statistical data analysis.
What can you do with a terminal bachelor's degree in Economics? Graduates may become a:
Many students considering graduate school wonder whether to pursue a master's degree in Economics (M.A., M.S., M.Econ., or M.A.E.) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA). What's the difference?
The M.A. has a more theoretical, academic disposition, geared toward econometric research and policy analysis. It is designed for those who want to become professional economic analysts or researchers, as opposed to business managers. Conversely the MBA is generally considered a terminal professional degree, conferring the skills necessary to run a business. It is a program in management, frequently offered by business schools rather than economics departments.
The M.A. has a heavier mathematics orientation compared to the MBA and more often acts as a stepping stone to advanced doctoral study. Some doctoral students focus on the business management side of things, but even these candidates tend to be Masters of Economics or Applied Economics rather than MBAs.
Master economics students study advanced micro- and macroeconomics and learn the ropes of sophisticated econometrics. Many master's programs in Economics support a degree of specialization through elective study in, for example, international finance, labor economics, or energy economics. Most students need to complete a thesis before graduation, and doing so is strongly recommended to be competitive in doctoral admissions.
Coursework could include:
What jobs can you get with a master's degree in Economics?
Doctoral studies represent the terminal degree in economics. Having a doctorate can lead to the highest pay grade opportunities. To become a professional economist, it is recommended that students see their education through to this level. About two-thirds of professional economists have a doctorate, so they are qualified to do independent economics research and work in academia.
In economics, the most common doctoral degree is a research Ph.D. Doctoral candidates choose a very specific area of specialization on which to focus their dissertation research. The best economics schools require a master's with thesis for admission; others accept bachelors with no intervening master's degree at all.
A doctoral dissertation in Economics might highlight:
With a Ph.D. in Economics, graduates of top economics schools can become:
We found 775 schools offering economics degree programs in the U.S.
|Adelphi University||Garden City||NY||5908|
|Agnes Scott College||Decatur||GA||901|
|Albertson College of Idaho||Caldwell||ID||774|
|Alcorn State University||Alcorn State||MS||2936|
|Antioch College||Yellow Springs||OH||652|
|Appalachian State University||Boone||NC||13227|
|Aquinas College||Grand Rapids||MI||2605|
|Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus||Tempe||AZ||44126|
|Arkansas State University - Main Campus||State University||AR||10429|
|Arkansas Tech University||Russellville||AR||4970|
|Armstrong Atlantic State University||Savannah||GA||5444|
|Auburn University Main Campus||Auburn University||AL||21860|
|Augustana College||Rock Island||IL||2230|
|Augustana College||Sioux Falls||SD||1783|
|Austin Community College||Austin||TX||25735|
|Baker University College of Arts and Sciences||Baldwin City||KS||828|
|Baldwin - Wallace College||Berea||OH||4831|
|Ball State University||Muncie||IN||19004|
|Barat College||Lake Forest||IL||799|
|Barnard College||New York||NY||2285|
|Belmont Abbey College||Belmont||NC||886|
|Bemidji State University||Bemidji||MN||4118|
|Berry College||Mount Berry||GA||2033|
|Bethel University||Saint Paul||MN||2953|
|Birmingham Southern College||Birmingham||AL||1477|
|Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania||Bloomsburg||PA||7548|
|Boise State University||Boise||ID||16287|
|Boston College||Chestnut Hill||MA||15240|
|Bowling Green State University - Main Campus||Bowling Green||OH||18096|
|Bridgewater State College||Bridgewater||MA||8839|
|Brigham Young University||Provo||UT||32554|
|Brigham Young University - Idaho||Rexburg||ID||8949|
|Bryn Mawr College||Bryn Mawr||PA||1784|
|California Institute of Technology||Pasadena||CA||1968|
|California Lutheran University||Thousand Oaks||CA||2766|
|California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo||San Luis Obispo||CA||16877|
|California State Polytechnic University - Pomona||Pomona||CA||18424|
|California State University - Bakersfield||Bakersfield||CA||6397|
|California State University - Chico||Chico||CA||15912|
|California State University - Dominguez Hills||Carson||CA||12848|
|California State University - East Bay||Hayward||CA||12705|
|California State University - Fresno||Fresno||CA||19056|
|California State University - Fullerton||Fullerton||CA||28381|
|California State University - Long Beach||Long Beach||CA||30918|
|California State University - Los Angeles||Los Angeles||CA||19593|
|California State University - Northridge||Northridge||CA||29066|
|California State University - Sacramento||Sacramento||CA||25714|
|California State University - San Bernardino||San Bernardino||CA||14909|
|California State University - San Marcos||San Marcos||CA||6256|
|California State University - Stanislaus||Turlock||CA||7062|
|California University of Pennsylvania||California||PA||5899|
|Calvin College||Grand Rapids||MI||4309|
|Campbell University Inc||Buies Creek||NC||5880|
|Canada College||Redwood City||CA||5273|
|Carnegie Mellon University||Pittsburgh||PA||8514|
|Case Western Reserve University||Cleveland||OH||9304|
|Catholic University of America||Washington||DC||5493|
|Centenary College of Louisiana||Shreveport||LA||1035|
|Central Connecticut State University||New Britain||CT||12252|
|Central Michigan University||Mount Pleasant||MI||26845|
|Central Missouri State University||Warrensburg||MO||10936|
|Central State University||Wilberforce||OH||1103|