2018 Best Accredited Online Economics Degrees
Online economics degrees can be earned at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate levels. Economists study how goods and services are exchanged for money. There are 71 colleges and universities offering online economics programs. Our list of best online economics schools highlights the schools that combine affordability with academic strength.
The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is the predominant programmatic accreditation organization for economics and business-related degrees. Regional and AACSB accreditation signifies that a degree program meets national education standards. This is important as students consider careers in economics and related fields.
Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Economics Degrees (71)
2018 Best Online Schools Offering a Master's in Economics
These 11 online schools offer academically strong economics master's degree programs at affordable tuition rates. Top-ranked University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus offers an online Master of Arts in Economics for only $5,776 per year. Students looking for a Master of Science will find a strong program at Georgia Southern University, which has an academic strength score of 68%. All schools considered offer fully online economics degrees at the master's level.
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Academic Strength|
|#1 University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus||Annual Tuition $5,776||Academic Strength 75%|
|#2 University of Missouri||Annual Tuition $5,400||Academic Strength 74%|
|#3 Georgia Southern University||Annual Tuition $6,150||Academic Strength 68%|
|#4 University of North Dakota||Annual Tuition $7,326||Academic Strength 66%|
|#5 West Texas A & M University||Annual Tuition $7,255||Academic Strength 61%|
|#6 University of Detroit Mercy||Annual Tuition $12,390||Academic Strength 66%|
|#7 Purdue University - Main Campus||Annual Tuition $16,350||Academic Strength 74%|
|#8 Pennsylvania State University-World Campus||Annual Tuition $12,795||Academic Strength 64%|
|#9 Youngstown State University||Annual Tuition $10,931||Academic Strength 58%|
|#10 Ohio University-Main Campus||Annual Tuition $20,350||Academic Strength 68%|
|#11 American University||Annual Tuition $29,556||Academic Strength 78%|
Which Economics Degree Level Is Best for Me?
Online associate programs in economics are designed to give students a basic introduction to the factors that impact the financial markets, but most economics positions require at least a bachelor’s degree. These degrees introduce students to a variety of economic theories and the practical tools to apply them.
Master's degrees in economics will prepare graduates for a wider array of job opportunities in both the private and public sector. Strong math skills can also help graduates qualify for a larger variety of positions. Many private industry positions require a master’s degree. The federal government will be decreasing its hiring of economists in the coming years, leading to a relatively low rate of job creation for this profession. However, economists will have good employment opportunities in related fields such as finance and business, due to their widely applicable skills.
Certification and licensure aren't common in this field, although many recent graduates and professionals become members of organizations that support the advancement of the economics industry, such as the American Economic Association. There are no required certifications that economists need in order to find employment. Voluntary certifications are not widespread in the economics industry, but they do exist. Economists interested in the field of international economic development can seek out voluntary credentials offered by the International Economic Development Council. To earn this credential, applicants must have four years of economic development professional experience and a passing score on IEDC’s exam.
Online associate degree programs in economics prepare students to play a vital role in resource allocation and distribution. Students will gain an in-depth understanding of the principles of modern finance and their application in public and private sectors. Graduates of the associate program will be able to engage in efficient analysis and forecasting of economic trends and can pursue entry-level careers in a wide range of fields, such as accounting, banking, insurance, investments, real estate, and urban and regional planning. Job titles may include account manager, area sales manager, budget analyst, business forecaster, claims adjuster, credit analyst, financial planner, loan officer, managing consultant, or pricing analyst. Associate degrees in economics also serve as a suitable stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree in fields such as business, economics, and public administration.
Online associate degree programs in economics require the completion of 60 credits, which typically takes two years. Most associate degree programs require students to already have earned a high school diploma or GED. Some schools also require that applicants provide transcripts from all high schools and colleges they previously attended.
Like most other associate programs, these degrees also require students to complete up to half of their credits in general liberal arts classes in English, the humanities, natural sciences, and math. Two economics courses make up the foundation of nearly all economics associate programs: macro- and microeconomics. Macroeconomics is a class that looks at the larger, nationwide effects on the economy, such as government policies surrounding different financial systems. Microeconomics, on the other hand, examines small-scale phenomena. This course explores how the individual consumer affects the overall economy. Other core courses cover topics such as business cycles, business organization and finance, calculus, computer systems, environmental and resource economics, financial accounting, geometry, global economics, labor problems, national income, and statistics. Students learn about the large- and small-scale transactions that govern the growth of money in the United States, as well as practical tools for examining financial data. Programs may require students to complete a research paper.
A bachelor's degree in economics is the prerequisite for most entry-level economics careers, such as bank officers, marketing research analysts, or purchasing agents. Students who complete this degree program will have a thorough working knowledge of microeconomics and macroeconomics as they relate to the business cycle.
Online bachelor's degree programs from an accredited university generally take four years to complete. The majority of programs are comprised of 120 to 128 credits and require that applicants have a high school diploma or equivalent, as well as a strong background in mathematics. Some schools also have minimum GPA requirements for students to be eligible.
Students in the bachelor's program will learn how financial markets function and how they are influenced by economic philosophies. They will also explore the importance of the manufacturing and distribution of products, as well as how to examine financial market trends. Examples of course topics include economic law, computers and economics, calculus, financial institutions, statistics, economic theory, economic development, and algebra.
Certification and licensure aren't common in this field, although many recent graduates and professionals become members of organizations that support the advancement of the economics industry, such as the American Economic Association. Students who are interested in advancing in their field may pursue master's degrees or PhDs in economics that help them obtain positions in consulting, research, and teaching.
Economics master’s programs offer graduate-level insight into the workings of the economy and the models that professionals use to predict and interpret the economic future.
Online master's degrees in economics can help prepare students for a wide variety of endeavors, including doctoral programs in economics, law school, public policy degrees, or careers in financial analysis or economics research. The master's degree in economics can open up many career opportunities, since many economist roles require an advanced degree. About a third of economists work for the federal government, while large numbers also work for state governments or management and scientific consulting firms. Besides direct work as an economist, the master's program can also be applicable to a variety of roles in business, such as financial analyst, stockbroker, market research analyst, actuary, operations research analyst, or survey researcher.
While not all programs require an undergraduate major in economics, all require previous coursework in quantitative topics and basic economics. The degree takes one to three years to complete, depending on the student's pacing. Most programs require 8-12 courses. In most cases, applicants will need to submit GRE scores and transcripts from accredited bachelor's degree programs. Some schools also require letters of recommendation, interviews, and/or a personal statement.
Economics master’s programs vary in their focus, but all contain similar coursework in fundamental economic theories and teach students the advanced quantitative skills needed to understand financial markets. To earn either a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS), students will take advanced coursework in micro- and macroeconomics, econometrics, statistics, and perhaps accounting. This core of classes teaches students how to interpret the movement of markets and how to apply mathematical formulas and models to economic questions. A graduate with an MS in economics is better suited to analyze businesses or work for the government as an economic consultant; however, people with either an MA or an MS do have similar job opportunities and paths.
In addition to the core coursework, students will also take graduate seminars, which discuss cutting-edge problems in economics. Some programs include a built-in focus in a particular economic area, such as economic policy or global economics. Other programs let students choose electives in their own interest area. Economics master's programs may just consist of coursework, or they may require the completion of a thesis in addition to the courses. Coursework-only programs include a final exam, while thesis programs require that students defend a research project in front of a faculty committee.
Online economics certificates provide focused training in economics and quantitative methods. These programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate level. Undergraduate certificates are completed concurrently with a bachelor's degree, while graduate programs are stand-alone alternatives to a master's degree. The 12- to 15-credit certificate program can be finished in a year or less. Applicants to a graduate certificate in economics typically need a bachelor's degree in economics or another highly quantitative area, such as math, computer science, or business.
The economics certificate curriculum provides a short and specialized training in quantitative evaluation and economic systems. Common courses include quantitative methods, forecasting, and statistics. Other courses may focus on economic systems, energy economics, ecological economics, time series, financial markets, public economies, health economies, global banking, competition and regulation policy, and international industry economics. Graduate certificates in economics are more likely to allow students to choose electives to suit their professional interests, while undergraduate certificates focus more on economics fundamentals. Even with a variety of concentrations, most economics certificates have a similar core of basic requirements.
The career opportunities open to certificate graduates will depend on their previous education and professional experiences. Current professionals in a variety of industries, including general management, healthcare, finance, and non-profit administration, can all benefit from a thorough understanding of economic principles. Individuals with a bachelor's degree in economics can use a graduate certificate to decide if a master's degree is right for them or to gain advanced economics skills for work in government or business.
The Importance of an Accredited Online Economics Degree
When deciding on which school to enroll in for an online economics degree, it's important to consider accreditation. Attending a school that is accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education means your institution has earned a stamp of approval from an independent organization focused on assessing academic quality. Employers also look at graduation from an accredited school more favorably when deciding whom to hire. The Council on Higher Education Accreditation provides a searchable database for those interested in researching accredited degree programs.
In addition to regional accreditation, students may want to look for programs that have been accredited by the AACSB. The AACSB accredits degree programs in traditional business subjects, including economics, finance, and accounting. As an external accrediting agency, the AACSB serves to recognize colleges and universities that meet certain standards of quality in their business and business-related educational programs. A directory of accredited programs can be found on the AACSB website.
Career Specializations for Economics Graduates
Economists analyze market trends and make predictions based on their knowledge of economic theories and practical modeling techniques. They are employed by businesses to help them secure their financial future and by the federal government for analysis of the national economy. Common work settings include hospitals, government facilities, technical firms, research centers, and private corporations. The following list provides a sample of some of the career specializations that economics graduates may choose to pursue:
- Econometricians: Econometricians work at the intersection of math and economics. They use mathematical models and principles to conduct research on the economy.
- Financial Economists: Financial economists conduct research on the banking system and examine how the financial industry affects overall market health.
- Industrial Economists: These economists study and describe trends in particular market sectors and evaluate how big players in those industries will affect the industry as a whole.
- Labor/Demographic Economists: Labor and demographic economists are specialists who make predictions about the future of particular industries, their employment rates, and job opportunities.
- Macroeconomists: Macroeconomists look at big-picture trends in economics, such as the effect of government legislation on the economy. They also predict future trends, such as unemployment rates and job prospects for different fields.
- Public Finance Economists: These economists look at the influence and role of the government in the economy. They predict the effects of tax cuts, interest rate changes, and legislation on unemployment rates and other national figures.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Accessed February 2018. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/economists.htm