Economics is a discipline grounded in an understanding of resource allocation and wealth, supply and demand, and the policies and institutions that govern the dynamics of economic systems. Professional economists study the history of economic activity and use accepted economic theories to develop a clear understanding of how markets function and evolve. They collect economic data and subject this data to econometric analyses, using mathematics and statistics to test hypotheses and create models that explain the interplay between consumer behavior, business activity, fiscal policy, and resource allocation. These models allow economists to make predictions about various economic factors, including growth, employment trends, pricing, relative market stability, and the availability of human and material resources. Businesses, financial institutions, government agencies, NGOs, consulting firms, and think tanks are some of the common organizations that depend on the analytics skills and modeling techniques that are central to the economics profession.
A master’s degree in economics provides students with an in-depth understanding of advanced economic theories, including theories of microeconomics and macroeconomics. Students learn about core economic concepts like scarcity, supply and demand, incentives, and market efficiency, and study historical examples of how these factors have shaped and continue to impact economies. Master’s in economics programs also focus on econometrics, which is the application of advanced mathematics and statistical modeling to the analyses and interpretation of economic data. Students use historical models, empirical data, and quantitative tools to build financial models and forecast economic trends and disturbances. Students then learn to communicate the results of this analysis to people inside and outside the field of economics. At the master’s level, students often complete a capstone project and complete targeted coursework in specialized areas like international/global finance, healthcare economics, financial economics, and environmental economics and resource management.
Online master’s in economics programs provide the same skills and training as their campus-based counterparts using distance learning platforms and technologies. Students in online programs receive instruction in the theories, methodologies, and quantitative analysis techniques associated with advanced training in economics. However, instead of attending on-site lectures at a college or university campus, they log on to an interactive learning management system (LMS) to view lectures and other formal presentations, participate in discussion forums, and interact with instructors and classmates. While some online master’s in economics programs may require students to attend a limited number of campus-based sessions, many of these programs offer all of their instruction online.
Economics is an entrenched academic discipline and field of research that is rooted in social science, mathematics, and business management. Many colleges and universities have departments or schools of economics through which they may offer a range of degree and certificate programs for undergraduates and graduate students. Online master’s in economics programs are usually housed within these schools and departments, although these programs may be offered through schools of business, schools of professional studies, and schools of public policy. While the core curriculum for online master’s in economics degree programs is fairly standardized, there are minor variations in curricula and in how these programs are formally designated. Typical names for these programs include:
OnlineEducation.com conducts independent research into online master’s in economics programs and classifies them based on several relevant criteria. The programs listed on this site must meet or exceed these criteria. They must be offered by non-profit, regionally accredited colleges and universities. They must provide instruction in core areas of economic theory and practice, including advanced microeconomics and macroeconomic; econometrics; and economic modeling techniques. In addition, OnlineEducation.com sets a limit on the number of campus visits a program can require in order to be listed in our database of online master’s in economics programs. Currently, only programs that require two or fewer campus visits per year are included on the site; programs that require more than two campus visits per year are considered hybrid programs and are not currently included in our comprehensive database of online master’s in economics programs.
A master’s curriculum in economics has several core areas of instruction. Microeconomics, which encompasses theories of individual and organizational behavior and interaction within a larger economic system, and macroeconomics, which focuses on the big-picture performance of economic systems at the regional, national, and global scale, are both integral to the core curriculum. Econometrics and the application of various statistical modeling techniques to the analyses and interpretation of economic data is also part this core curriculum. In addition, master’s in economics programs typically include coursework in specialized modeling and forecasting methodologies for different types of economic analyses in areas like business, healthcare, investment banking, global finance, fiscal markets, labor markets, and global markets. Students typically develop familiarity with data collection and interpretation software programs that have been adapted for economics, and with various ways of explaining economics problems and solutions to those who work outside the field of economics.
The table below provides and overview of courses that students typically complete as part of an online master’s in economic program. The following courses and course descriptions are drawn from an aggregate of actual curricula from master’s in economics programs.
|Advanced Microeconomic Theory||An examination of theories of consumer and organizational behavior, equilibrium, pricing structures, production and efficiency optimization, stability, and other factors within market structures.|
|Advanced Macroeconomic Theory||A systematic overview of theories of resource allocation and employment in large economic systems and the impact of factors such as interest rates, investment, unemployment, consumption patterns, and monetary policy on economic growth and stability.|
|Econometrics||The use of multiple linear regression models and other statistical methodologies in the analysis, modeling, and interpretation of empirical data in order to test hypotheses and forecast likely outcomes.|
|Survey of Economic Development||An overview of the historical evolution of markets and economic systems as a means of better understanding current economic trends and policies.|
|Monetary Economics||How monetary policy impacts inflation, interest rates, growth, and stability.|
|International Finance||An examination of the economic mechanisms governing international finance, including exchange rates, capital flow, balance of payments, and internal debt, as well as potential conflicts between domestic and international economic policy objectives.|
|Finance and the Macroeconomy||How the financial sector and financial instruments impact growth in markets, and the use of analytical tools to assess economic health and stability.|
|Economics of the Labor Market||Supply and demand within labor markets in relation to wage rates, wage rigidity, training programs, collective bargaining, and government policy.|
Colleges and universities maintain their own admissions policies, and each school or department that offers an online master’s in economics program sets specific standards for admissions into that program. The one universal requirement for admissions to a master’s program in economics is a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Some programs may require or prefer a cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0, although many of these programs will offer provisional enrollment to students with a lower GPA. While an undergraduate degree in economics is often not a requirement, many programs list undergraduate course prerequisites for applicants. These typically include introductory classes in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and calculus. In addition, applicants may have to provide several letters of recommendation, standardized test scores (GRE or GMAT), and/or a short personal statement. Prospective applicants should refer to individual programs for specific information about the application process.
Online master’s in economics programs are generally more flexible and convenient than their campus-based counterparts. Typically, they are designed to accommodate students who may have work, family, or other obligations outside of school, and students who cannot or would prefer not to relocate or commute to a campus-based program. However, not all online programs are the same. There are several key structural elements that may distinguish one program from another, and that prospective applicants should know about and consider when exploring online master’s in economics programs. The three primary differences involve online instructional methods; program duration; and the use of campus visits as part of the curriculum. Each of these issues is addressed in the sections below.
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction: These terms refer to the way in which lectures and other presentations are delivered to students in online programs via an LMS. When lectures, discussions, and other presentations are streamed live and students are required to be logged on to view and participate in these instruction activities, the instruction is synchronous. Programs that utilize synchronous instructions may be less flexible in their formatting than the alternative, but these programs may be preferable for students who are more comfortable with online instruction that simulates a real-time classroom-based experience. It should also be noted that program utilizing synchronous instruction generally make an effort to schedule synchronous activities well in advance and at times that are convenient for students who may be working full time. In contrast, asynchronous instruction offers more freedom and flexibility by allowing students to log on and view lectures and presentation at their own convenience, 24-7. Students are nonetheless required to keep up with syllabi, and complete assignments and exams on schedule. While all online programs require dedication, programs that utilize asynchronous instruction may require more self-motivation than programs with scheduled, real-time lectures. Programs that utilize asynchronous instruction may be a better fit for students who have complicated work schedules, family obligations, or other responsibilities outside of school that may conflict with designated class times.
Part-Time and Full-Time Enrollment: Students enrolled full-time in a traditional master’s in economics program are generally expected to complete the degree in two years, or four-to-five academic semesters. The same can be said for online master’s in economic programs, as the course-load requirements are generally the same for full-time students in online and campus-based programs. However, online master’s programs may offer additional flexibility for students who would prefer to attend part-time and take fewer courses per term, thereby extending the eventual time to graduation. There are also online programs that utilize alternative academic calendars that incorporate four or more shorter terms per year instead of the traditional three (fall, spring, and summer). This may allow students who are enrolled full-time to complete the degree requirements in a few as 20 months, while part-time students may take 24 or more months to finish the program.
Campus Visits: It is not uncommon for online master’s programs to include a campus-based component, often referred to as immersion sessions or intensives. Depending on the program, these sessions may last for as few as two-to-three days or as many as seven-to-ten days. They are an integral and required part of the instructional curriculum, and an opportunity for students to participate in lectures, discussions, and networking opportunities with instructors and classmates. OnlineEducation.com does not currently include programs that require more than two campus visits per year in our database of online master’s in economics programs. There are also many online programs that do not require any campus visits. While there can be advantages to attending a program that includes immersion sessions, these are scheduled events that students must make time to attend. They involve traveling to a designated location, as well as the additional expenses (room, board, and travel) that may not be factored into the base tuition costs for the program.