Performancing Metrics

10 Best Master’s Programs in Economics

Economics is a fascinating field. It’s always evolving as local and worldwide markets shift and grow with new technologies. Commerce continues as it always has, but the means with which people buy and sell changes all the time. Even spending habits aren’t what they were a few decades ago. In the modern market, big data and digital growth are already vitally important to any business that wants to survive in the competitive capitalist sphere. Businesses and government organizations alike need employees with the expertise to parse vast amounts of data and to understand the larger trends hidden in thousands or millions of transactions each day.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in economics is a great way to get your foot in the door of this exciting, data-driven field, but to earn the most bang for your buck and secure more interesting positions, you’ll need to further your education and earn a master’s degree in economics. Such a degree will teach you the skills needed to advise business executives, understand increasingly global and complex statistical trends, and form your own economic theories if you decide to return to academia in the future.

Master’s degrees in economics are typically offered through schools of arts or sciences and often allow students to specialize in a data niche or interest. As a versatile degree requiring skills from a multitude of broader subjects, like mathematics and business, students are well prepared for a wide variety of careers, such as work as an economist or a related position, political scientists, entrepreneurs, or teachers. It’s one of the most generalist yet specific degrees available, but its value shouldn’t be mistaken. With economist jobs set to grow for the next 10 years and Big Data becoming more integral to daily business, there’s no doubt that a master’s degree in economics is an excellent choice for those who have the temperament for and interest in the field.

COMMON APPLICATION AND ADMISSION QUESTIONS

To be accepted into a graduate economics program, there are several requirements that must be fulfilled. First, most master’s programs in any discipline only accept those who already have a bachelor’s degree in a related field. The bachelor’s degree proves to the graduate program officials that you have what it takes to spend many years studying a single subject and the discipline to finish a difficult series of tasks. More importantly, bachelor’s degrees in a related field provide students with the foundational knowledge required to dig into the more advanced subjects in any master’s program. Certain programs may have combined bachelor’s/master’s pathways. In these, a student can earn a bachelor’s degree and proceed directly into master’s studies, if they are accepted beforehand. This often results in spending less time on schooling and saving money in the long run. In this case, students must be sure they want to study economics while still finishing their bachelor’s degree, in order to take advantage of such a program. These programs also require students to earn both degrees from the same university; they are not open to those who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field.

Regardless of which program you choose, you’ll need to submit all previous transcripts and several letters of recommendation. Transcripts must demonstrate a suitably high GPA to qualify for any graduate program. Targets typically hover around the 3.0 mark, but keep in mind that most master’s admissions teams look for candidates with higher than average GPAs to fill their seats. Earning as high a GPA as possible as an undergraduate is a great way to tilt the acceptance odds in your favor. If your GPA wasn’t the best, remember that you can take additional courses after graduation to boost your GPA.

Requiring two or three letters of recommendation from former teachers or employers, each of which vouches for your skills and commitment to your goals, is common. These letters should always be accompanied by a resume and any relevant work experience, to demonstrate expertise in economics or a related field, such as business. When it comes to master’s programs of any type, making yourself stand out from other graduate candidates is key. There are usually only a limited number of slots in any given graduate program, so providing work experience or other real-world accolades can boost your chances of acceptance beyond your competitors’.

Next, most graduate programs require a high-enough GRE score. The GRE is a series of standardized tests that measure applicants’ intelligence in a few key ways. Their verbal and quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking skills are all tested with the GRE, which can be taken on a computer a few times within a 365-day window. Applicants have multiple opportunities to get their scores where they need to be for their school of choice, but be sure to research the requested GRE scores of your ideal program beforehand, so you know what to focus on as you study for the test.

WHAT ABOUT FINANCIAL AID AND SCHOLARSHIPS?

Just like earning a bachelor’s degree, earning a master’s can cost quite a bit of money. However, there are multiple avenues of financial aid to pursue if you need assistance affording the next two or more years of education. First and foremost is the FAFSA, the annual application for federal financial aid that virtually all college students fill out prior to the start of each academic year. The FAFSA is the only ticket to certain high-value federal grants and loans, like the Pell Grant. Subsidized federal loans, which means the government pays the interest accrued while the student is enrolled in school, are also only accessible via the FAFSA. It’s imperative that you fill this out each year, to receive the best chance of earning some federal aid money. Since your need is decided based on your economic bracket, you’ll have a better chance of receiving grants or loans if you earn less money.

Second, many universities and select colleges within those universities have program-specific scholarships or grants that are only open to students of those colleges. For instance, many economics programs are offered through universities’ schools of business. Be sure to check out the web pages of each school that your program is a part of and investigate their financial aid options. These grants or loan programs are often funded by alumni networks or generous donors to the university, so they may be quite a bit more lucrative than federal assistance. These scholarships often have certain essay or internship requirements attached, but they can be of excellent help to any student who’s strapped for cash. Many economics majors go into business after graduation, and those who do well for themselves often give back to the university where their path to success began. This is why you’ll find many economics programs boasting of their excellent financial assistance options.

You should also investigate teaching assistantships at whichever university you attend. These are incredibly valuable because they trade your work for some or all of your tuition. Such programs require students to set aside roughly 20 hours per week to help one of the professors in the program with grading or other school-related activities. In exchange, tuition is either mostly or completely covered. Assistants often also receive a stipend to cover living expenses incurred while working for the university. Some of the best teaching assistantships even come with health insurance options. This is another excellent financial boon, since health insurance can be very expensive for young adults in graduate school.

Similarly, many economics programs have avenues to connect you to companies that need intern assistance for their day-to-day operations. Just like teaching assistantships, some of these internships may pay for some or all of a student’s tuition in exchange for work. Even if you don’t receive any financial aid from these programs, internships can be incredibly valuable for networking purposes and for securing a position after graduation. Regardless of your financial situation, you should investigate internship opportunities at your university as soon as possible, if you have the time in your schedule to complete one.

HOW MUCH CAN I MAKE WITH A MASTER’S DEGREE IN ECONOMICS?

While it might cost a bundle to earn a master’s degree in economics, the good news is that the potential return on the investment is likely high. There are two big careers sought after by economics majors that require a master’s degree: economist and political scientist, although the latter of the two is more typically filled by professionals with specific degrees in political science. Still, both of these careers are open to those with master’s degrees in economics, and both make more than $100,000 per year, on average.

In 2018, economists’ median pay was $104,340, and an 8% growth rate is projected for the next 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means that the position of economist is only going to become more necessary as time goes on. Consider the growth of the Big Data sector and the importance of understanding large trends and statistics for businesses around the globe. It’s no surprise that economists are finding that their skills are more in-demand than ever. Economists can assist businesses both large and small and help their executives make smart economic decisions by analyzing the data hidden in day-to-day operations and commerce. Similarly, economists are in demand with the government. Deciding state or national budgets is of tremendous importance. Securing a federal economist job is an excellent pathway to job security and plenty of benefits.

Political scientists earn a median annual salary of about $117,570. While not strictly filled by economics experts, many political science positions are held by those with degrees in related fields, or with the experience to solve big problems and identify trends and issues that affect the political landscape each year. Political scientists can find employment with the government at both the federal and state levels, or they may be hired by political candidates seeking office. Those candidates employ political scientists to help fine-tune their campaigns and ensure that they stand the best chance of earning the majority’s vote. Political scientist positions are growing at about 5% per year, which is as fast as typical job growth for professions requiring a graduate degree. With a master’s degree in economics, you can also become a survey researcher. This is a much more analytical position that doesn’t carry the large paycheck that the previous two jobs do, but it can be rewarding for those with more academic interests. Survey researchers earn a median annual salary of about $57,700.

Even economics-focused jobs that only require a bachelor’s degree can be more lucrative for those who hold a master’s degree. Financial analysts, for example, earn a median annual salary of about $85,660. This position only requires a bachelor’s degree, but with only a 6% growth rate projected over the next 10 years, it’s important to distinguish oneself from other candidates. Having a master’s degree demonstrates that an applicant has experience and academic knowledge to bring to bear on any problem or task, making them a more attractive hire. Budget analysts, another job suitable for economists, earn a median salary of about $76,220. Then there are actuaries, who use mathematics and financial theory to analyze risks and possible costs for businesses, particularly insurance companies. Those with master’s degrees in economics with an emphasis in math or statistics will find themselves an excellent fit for this kind of position. Actuaries earn a median salary of $102,880 per year and have an excellent projected growth rate of about 20% over the next 10 years. Like budget analysts and financial analysts, actuaries only require a bachelor’s degree in economics or a related field, but having a master’s degree can mean the difference between someone else nabbing such a high-paying position or being selected for it yourself.

WHAT ARE SOME NOTABLE FACTS OR STATISTICS ABOUT MASTER OF ECONOMICS DEGREES?

According to careeronestop.org, being able to distinguish oneself from other economists is more important than ever. Consider that 45% of economists already hold master’s degrees, while 32% have a doctoral degree; only 23% have only a bachelor’s degree. This means that earning a master’s in economics is almost a necessity if you are serious about the profession. Most competitors will have the same level of education, or more. Even positions that only require a bachelor’s degree, like financial analysts, have many master’s degree holders in their workforce. One-third of financial analysts hold a master’s degree; while the majority (51%) hold a bachelor’s degree, this majority will likely shift toward those with master’s degrees as more and more people pursue ever-higher educational levels.

There are lots of ways to make a degree more attractive to employers. The very process of earning a master’s in economics has a hidden benefit that helps applicants stand out from the crowd. Studying economics at the graduate level can oftentimes prepare students for various certifications or licenses that can be used to bolster their careers or open new job opportunities. Check with your university to see if it offers any certificate programs that you might already qualify for, thanks to your program’s curriculum or focus. Typical certifications that economics graduate programs can prepare students for include Certified Business Economist, Chartered Economist, Chartered Financial Analyst, and Certified Economic Developer. These certificates can be incredibly valuable, as certain higher-quality firms and companies will only fill economist positions with those who also hold several of the above certifications. If you want the best chance at being hired wherever you apply, you’ll need to check out at least a few of these.

There are also lots of economics-focused resources that professionals in the field engage with or make use of in their day-to-day careers and lives. If you want to be an economist and live and breathe this subject, you should become familiar with some of the major economics publications. The most important of these is The Economist, an online and print magazine devoted to economics discussions. Articles are written for and by other economists, so it’s an excellent resource for engaging with like-minded professionals.

Finally, any economics degree holders who might one day wish to earn a doctoral degree, or who want to focus more on the academic aspect of the field, should seek out the American Economic Association. It has been around since the 1920s and focuses on the publication and discussion of economics research. It’s comprised of many economics professors and research specialists, all of whom work together to push the envelope of economic understanding. As their research and topic direction can influence economics classes’ curricula, the AEA is of great importance to anyone in economics academia. 

Check out our list of the 10 best master’s programs in economics! 

#1. TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN ECONOMICS

As the oldest public institution of higher learning in the state, Texas A&M has been educating its students since 1876. It’s located in College Station, which is close to the center of the metropolitan triangle that makes up the heart of Texas’ commerce and development: Houston, Dallas, and Austin. Anyone who attends Texas A&M will be within a two-hour drive of each city. As a result, A&M is a university that attracts talent from across the state and which allows students to live and work in surrounding cities without having to spend extra money on campus housing. 

The university has a rich series of traditions and several excellent sports teams, and there’s a real sense of school spirit. Texas A&M’s primary campus offers access to modern research facilities, libraries, and amenities. With an average of about 68,000 students per year, students interact with others from across the country and around the world. The economics graduate program is overseen by the College of Liberal Arts, although the resulting degree is a Master of Science, rather than a Master of Arts. This suits the university’s general focus on practical and scientific degrees and professions.

Texas A&M offers students two pathways for earning an MS in economics. The thesis pathway is the more traditional of the two and includes more of a focus on economics research and creative exploration than the non-thesis pathway. The non-thesis track offers a choice between two concentrations: Financial Economics or Financial Econometrics. Regardless of track, students are assigned an advisory committee of at least three graduate faculty members who can advise them on their thesis or coursework pursuits. Since all students’ study plans are completed before beginning the program, they are able to jump right in without delay once the semester starts.

The thesis option includes 32 credit hours. Some of these are fulfilled via the research and thesis development required for graduation. In addition, thesis-track students must maintain continuous enrollment in the university until they graduate, whereas non-thesis track students may stop and start with slightly more freedom. Both tracks allow up to seven years for degree completion. This is plenty of time, even for working students or those with families. The non-thesis track requires 36 semester credit hours. A maximum of 12 credit hours may be transferred in from another university, or from Texas A&M classes taken as part of a bachelor’s degree program.

#2. UNIVERSITY OF WYOMING

MASTER’S DEGREE IN ECONOMICS

The University of Wyoming’s MS in Economics gives students the background they need to succeed in both economic theory and economic analysis. The curriculum is designed for future economists in both private industries and positions with the federal government. It allows students the flexibility to terminate their studies after graduation or to continue for a Ph.D., if they find that research and academia suits their interests. Wyoming offers courses from a variety of fields. Within those fields, students can choose to generalize or specialize in one or two subsections depending on their career ambitions. Concentration areas include Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, International Trade, Industrial Organization, Development Economics, and Behavioral and Experimental Economics.

Furthermore, UW allows students to pursue either a thesis or a non-thesis track for graduation. The thesis track consists of 27 credit hours of coursework plus research and thesis development, while the non-thesis track consists of 30 credit hours of coursework. The non-thesis track still requires students to complete a shorter paper to demonstrate their expertise and understanding of the work completed on the path to graduation. Whichever they choose, students who have the time and resources available to dedicate to the program can complete it in as few as three semesters. Most complete it in four semesters, or across two years.

Getting into this flexible program is a little easier than several competing programs. Applicants are not required to submit letters of recommendation, although, of course, two or three will bolster the odds of being accepted. No resume is required either, but any relevant work experience will be welcomed. Instead, UW typically hosts Skype interviews with promising candidates after the initial review of their application materials. Similar to a professional job interview, these meetings will help determine applicants’ suitability for the program. The department also offers several funding assistance programs for students who show strong promise or who have been to the university before.

Once accepted into the program, UW’s alumni network is almost as valuable as the degree itself. Students are eligible to join a nationwide email list and to work with other UW graduates who’ve already found careers with organizations across the country. UW also fosters a strong sense of collaboration and research, and the university’s economics department specializes in four broad areas of economics research. This is one of the best schools to attend for anyone who is unsure if they wish to stop with a master’s degree or press on to a Ph.D. 

#3. THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN

MASTER OF ARTS IN ECONOMICS

The University of Texas at Austin’s MA in Economics is rigorous and developed to fulfill STEM categorical requirements, meaning students can take advantage of STEM scholarships or internship opportunities, despite the program culminating in a Master of Arts degree. Applicants are not required to hold an undergraduate degree in economics, but the department does prefer all applicants to have a strong quantitative background, so it accepts students with majors in mathematics, statistics, and similar subjects just as frequently as it does economics majors. Three letters of recommendation are required, as is a resume demonstrating some amount of experience and a statement of purpose. Application deadlines fall only a few months before the semester begins, and applicants are only accepted once per year. Students should decide quickly if they want to apply before the opportunity vanishes for another 12 months.

The program offers three pathways to graduation. The accelerated track allows students to attend classes from July through May of the following year. This results in degree completion in only 10 months. Those who attend this track complete 10 3-credit hour courses for a total of 30 credit hours. Two courses are completed during the first summer semester. The following fall and spring semesters require four courses. This non-thesis track is an ideal option for those looking to earn a master’s degree as quickly as possible.

There are also 18- and 24-month degree tracks. These, too, begin in mid-July, but are completed in either December of the following year or the May of the year after that, respectively. Both tracks require 30 credit hours and no thesis is expected. Instead, the longer tracks have courses spaced more evenly, to allow students to complete the degree at a slower pace. These are ideal choices for students who must work or take care of a family while attending school. Each track to graduation culminates with the option for an internship and a macroeconomics course. 

Unfortunately, UT Austin doesn’t offer much in the way of financial aid opportunities or teaching assistantships. However, Austin is one of the most inexpensive cities to live in while attending a top graduate program. This is due to several factors, but the affordable housing, amenities, and driving distances required to attend the university all combine to create a cheap housing situation for graduate students. Austin is also an excellent city in which to work or find an internship while attending school, and it’s an all-around pleasant locale, free of harsh winters and full of interesting places for social gatherings. U.S. News & World Report ranks it at No. 2 on its list of the Best Places to Live.

#4. UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN POLICY ECONOMICS

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s economics program doesn’t concentrate on the discipline in a general sense. Instead, it emphasizes the narrower field of policy economics. This field is most often used by administrators and economics researchers, so it’s an excellent degree for those interested in pursuing either career path. In addition, the program is designed to help potential Ph.D. candidates explore their taste for research and to determine whether they want to continue academic pursuits after graduation or terminate their studies with the MS degree. Students do have to decide if they want to pursue the program under a strict time limit, however. Applications are only accepted for entrance during the fall term.

UIUC’s economics program consists of 40 credit hours and offers three tracks and schedules for completion. Particularly motivated students, or those with ample time on their hands, can complete the degree in as little as one year. Most students opt for the 1.5- or 2-year completion tracks. Regardless of track, students complete courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics, and economic statistics. These make up 16 of the required 40 credit hours, meaning that the remainder can be electives and courses from a dedicated economic specialization. UIUC offers 10 areas of specialization, including Advanced Econometrics, Law and Economics, Labor Economics, and International Economics. This is an excellent program for students who know what sphere of economics they want to focus on, as the majority of courses come from students’ chosen specialization, rather than a shared pool of classes.

The program has several quirks and benefits that make it stand out from other graduate economics programs. All students, regardless of background, must complete an orientation program that includes a rigorous math course, to ensure that everyone starts on the same foot. The program also includes six “field trips” every academic year that take students to various financial institutions or state and government agencies. There, they can observe the working environment of their potential future profession first-hand. The longest of these is a 5-day trip during spring break; it alternates between New York City and Washington, D.C.

UIUC’s student culture is vibrant and welcoming. All graduate students can join in graduation dinners, picnics, and special luncheons, or several holiday parties that take place at relevant dates throughout the year. The campus is set upon rich, well-maintained land with ample parks and recreational areas. This outward beauty is mirrored by the achievements of the university itself and its high accolades: UIUC has been the site of many amazing inventions and discoveries, including the development of the first graphical web browser. It is ranked as the No. 14 Best Public University, according to U.S. News & World Report.

#5. NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY

MASTER OF ECONOMICS/MASTER OF SCIENCE IN ECONOMICS

Students in North Carolina State’s Master of Economics program can pursue the degree with an “applied focus” and enter a terminal master’s track. Alternatively, they can complete a degree more suited for theoretical economics, to prepare them for Ph.D. work in the discipline. The terminal master’s track can be completed in as little as one year, although a majority of students complete it in 18 to 24 months. All master’s students complete six elective courses from four concentrations: International Development and Trade, Financial/Macroeconomics, Economic Policy, and Natural Resource and Environmental Economics. This master’s degree focuses on practical economic concepts and applications, making it a perfect degree for students who want to head straight into the workforce after graduation.

The Ph.D.-prep master’s track is designed for students who know that they will continue on to doctoral studies. It can also be completed in as little as one year and boasts the same concentrations as the terminal degree track, although it requires the completion of a thesis after completing all other coursework. The thesis requirement can count for up to six credit hours toward a student’s electives and is met once they pass the final oral exam and thesis defense. This track results in a Master of Science in Economics degree, rather than a Master of Economics (MR) degree.

In addition to the above, NC State offers a unique opportunity to current or future undergraduate students of the university. Its Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s (ABM) program in economics is open to exceptional undergraduates. Those who qualify for the program can complete certain master’s requirements while finishing their bachelor’s classes. This makes it possible to earn a master’s degree within 12 months of a bachelor’s and is an excellent way to trim both the time and costs required to earn an advanced degree. However, applying for the program must be done very early relative to graduation. Students who find this option appealing should investigate it as early in their studies as possible.

It’s clear that NC State is dedicated to its students and offers them as much flexibility as possible. This an excellent school for all types of economically inclined students who will interact with peers on both professional and research trajectories as they move toward graduation. In addition, NC State is home to a low (14:1) student-to-faculty ratio and has been ranked the No. 1 Best Public College in North Carolina, according to Money. Students also enjoy access to NC State’s innovative Hunt Library. This amazing structure offers students assistance with everything from research needs to laptop rentals and 3-D printing.

#6. GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN ECONOMICS

Georgia Tech offers an MS in Economics with a curriculum that combines research goals and hands-on learning. The curriculum is built from a multidisciplinary pool of classes that allows students to select a majority of their electives from certain concentrations, thus tailoring their degrees to their goals. The program can be completed in one calendar year, if a student takes classes during the summer semester. Alternatively, the degree can be completed at a slower pace with a flexible, part-time track that’s ideal for working adults or those with busy family lives. 

This 30-credit hour program and has a built-in schedule to accommodate the one-year completion target that most students will follow. It begins with four core courses, in macroeconomics, microeconomics, statistical methods and probability, and econometric analysis/modeling. After these requirements are met, students can pursue a coursework-only option toward graduation or an internship option. Those who secure an internship that is approved by their advisors may apply for it to count for three elective credit hours above the 6000 level. Other electives may be taken from Georgia Tech’s other colleges, although these courses must be approved by an advisor before they can count toward the degree. Still, this degree of flexibility and independence isn’t reflected in most graduate economics programs. 

The program is taught by faculty who actively research their areas of expertise. They specialize in several different aspects, including international economics, industrial organization, environmental and energy economics, and applied econometrics. These teachers are both instructors and study plan advisors, so learning which areas various faculty members specialize in can help students to network efficiently and learn about areas of research before they commit to one themselves. In addition to this advantage, students may qualify for partial tuition waivers that are handed out every year by the university. The exact amount waived by these grants changes from year to year, but all students are eligible to apply for them at the start of each term. This is an excellent way to eliminate some of the hefty costs of graduate school.

Those who complete Georgia Tech’s program find it well worth the effort, in terms of educational and professional value. The school is ranked as the No. 5 Top Public University by U.S. News & World Report, and many of its graduate programs are ranked by the same organization among the top 20 in their categories. This academic excellence is complemented well by Georgia Tech’s phenomenal Atlanta campus. It’s a beautiful space with lots of recreational centers and outstanding sports stadiums, as well as a university-specific public transportation system. It’s easy to get around using the buses provided by the university. Outside of class, there’s lots to do, including joining some of 400 student organizations or one of Georgia Tech’s major sports teams.

#7. UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON

ECONOMICS MASTER’S PROGRAM

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has been teaching students for 168 years. As history has marched on, so too has the university, and its achievements have only grown with time. It now hosts close to 40,000 students every year and has a living alumni network of close to 450,000. As the No. 15 Best Public University in the World, according to U.S. News & World Report, UWM has an expansive, well-maintained campus that’s home to 900 student organizations. The campus is close to historic Madison State Street, which is home to a frequent farmer’s market, and a musical nexus at Memorial Union Terrace. Back on campus, UWM’s Department of Economics has a dedicated Career Services Center. Any graduate student concerned about their career prospects after graduation should pay it a visit and make use of the center’s professional expertise. They can get grads in touch with the university’s alumni network, or help them find job and internship opportunities in the area. This a great way to boost one’s chances of being hired shortly after graduation.

UWM’s Economics Master’s program is designed as a terminal degree path, not intended for students wishing to pursue doctoral work or to secure a research position. It is, however, a perfect fit for students who want to enter the economics field as a professional or to make themselves a more attractive candidate for higher-paying economics positions. The program emphasizes econometric training; this aspect of economics focuses on the application of statistics to economic data to determine relationships and form analyses. Essentially, it prepares students to understand the statistics in economic models and to translate that information for others.

The program has specific course requirements for all applicants, including classes in all the major economics cornerstones. Therefore, those who’ve completed an undergraduate degree in economics will be better positioned for acceptance than students with related degrees. Application deadlines fall twice per year and correlate with the beginning of the spring and fall semesters. Other requirements include a writing sample and three letters of recommendation, as well as high GRE scores and a GPA above 3.0. Once accepted, students complete seven courses in econometrics, microeconomics, and macroeconomics, as well as a mathematics/statistics course. Three electives follow, totaling 30 credit hours over four semesters. The electives include advanced subjects with more specific focuses, including game theory, the economics of health care, issues of international finance, and the economics of growth. 

UWM allows students to complete the program within three semesters, if they can demonstrate acceptable time management skills and receive approval from their advisor. Since the degree does not require a thesis or a capstone project, completing the coursework as quickly as possible leads to faster graduation. Most students complete the program within two years, and the university considers the program to be a full-time commitment. Once enrolled, students must remain enrolled every semester until they graduate, even if they only take one class at a time.

#8. THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN ECONOMETRICS AND QUANTITATIVE ECONOMICS

The University of Arizona offers a STEM-qualified economics program that’s ranked as the No. 2 program among departments in business schools, according to U.S. News & World Report. The school as a whole reflects this level of excellence. The Princeton Review named UA one of the Best Value schools for 2019, and it’s ranked as the No. 25 public research institution according to the National Science Foundation. Indeed, UA places a strong emphasis on both research and practical education, both of which are reflected in its economics programs.

UA’s MS in Economics program can be pursued by students planning to head straight into a professional career and by those who might wish to pursue a Ph.D. in the future. Whatever a student’s needs and goals, the program will help them develop a foundation in econometrics, behavioral economics, microeconomic theory, and empirical microeconomics. It features a curriculum of 30 units that are completed over 12 months. To facilitate this accelerated graduation track, all students begin their studies with two online courses during the summer semester. The following fall and spring semesters contain four courses each.

All students complete five core classes ranging from mathematical economics to microeconomic theory and econometrics. Then, they choose from several electives. These electives allow students to specialize their degree and to pursue their individual interests. Electives include Market Design, Energy Economics, Industrial Organization, and Labor Economics. From these electives, students designate the focus area that will appear on their diploma. UA’s curriculum has a strong analytical and empirical focus, which makes it especially valuable to those who want to attain higher-level economist positions in either the government or private sector. One final interesting aspect of UA’s economics program is its proximity to the Economic Science Laboratory. Founded by Nobel laureate Vernon Smith, the Laboratory is at the cutting edge of economic research and is well-positioned for economics students who wish to pursue a Ph.D. or join economics academia. Many of the program’s faculty also spend time at the lab.

Finally, UA’s program allows students to pursue dual degree options. These options make it possible to link one’s expertise in economics with other focuses, thus making becoming a more attractive candidate for lucrative or interesting jobs. Possible dual degree subjects include marketing, accounting, business analytics, and finance. All of these options pair well with economics because much of the coursework is shared or at least somewhat mutually relevant. The dual-degree program is intended to be completed in 2.5 years, regardless of which additional degree a student opts to pursue. Students should be aware that they must receive advanced acceptance into each program. They can also use the dual degree path to accelerate the path to a doctoral degree, depending on its focus.

#9. STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY

MASTER OF ARTS IN ECONOMICS

Stony Brook University’s Department of Economics offers a relatively unique program that holds a distinct place among the best master’s programs in the subject. It does not require applicants to have a prior background in economics, as the first-year course selections teach the fundamentals of economics to everyone. Of course, those with a background in economics can progress more quickly through the curriculum. As a research-oriented degree, Stony Brook’s program prepares students for careers in research institutes and academia, although a career in the private sector is still a viable option.

Once accepted, all students must attend the program full-time for the first year. The second year and any subsequent years can be completed at a part-time pace to accommodate work or family life needs. This is because the first-year courses form the foundation for the rest of the program and must be completed quickly, to enable specialization and personal elective selections later. At the beginning of the second year, students choose between a basic or advanced program. The basic program can be completed in three semesters and has 11 courses in total. It culminates with a capstone project and an advanced course in econometrics. The advanced program has 14 courses and is completed in four semesters. It also requires a capstone project and an advanced econometrics course. The major difference between the tracks is that the advanced pathway includes an additional semester, which enables students to specialize in an economic concentration. This concentration is represented by a paper written about the specialization and is noted on the diploma. A concentration like this could, theoretically, make a student more attractive to an employer for a particular position, depending on the specialization. Available concentrations include Game Theory, Demographic Economics, Health Economics, and Advanced Labor Economics Theory.

Upon completion of the MA, students can continue on to the school’s Ph.D. program, if they desire, without taking any extra preparatory coursework. These students are also automatically considered for funding for the following two years of their education. After the first year of study, students can take comprehensive exams in the major fields of economics to see if they qualify for Ph.D. studies ahead of time. This practice also allows them to apply for the Ph.D. program multiple times before graduation, so there is no months-long gap between classes. 

The program’s application process can be intense, as there is only a single start date, in the fall semester, a very limited number of spots available. This is, in part, due to the inclusion of several teaching assistantships and a handful of full and partial tuition scholarships. Applicants to Stony Brook’s program are not only competing for the quality of the education, but also for the financial assistance available to those who are accepted. Teaching assistantships are only available to full-time students. While most other teaching assistantships are similar and require a graduate student to perform normal TA work, Stony Brook’s assistantships sometimes include research or administrative positions and responsibilities. Stony Brook’s tuition scholarships are relatively few, so those who are accepted should be sure to apply quickly before the money is gone.

#10. UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS

MASTER OF ARTS IN ECONOMICS

Since graduating its first class of 55 in 1866, the University of Kansas has served as the state’s flagship university. Boasting a beautiful wooded main campus and located in the progressive city of Lawrence, KU has grown to become a university worthy of interest for all major fields and disciplines. Its Master of Arts in Economics focuses on big-picture understandings of the subject. The graduate program emphasizes understanding the underlying systems that govern commerce and trade. These emphases make it a rewarding program for students of economics who are interested in research or in developing their own theories on the subject. The areas of econometrics, microeconomics, and macroeconomics are among the core classes that each student will complete.

The program accepts applicants both with and without backgrounds in economics. It consists of 30 semester hours of graduate work, nine of which are spent in three core classes. Eighteen of the remaining hours are in economics, although 12 hours of the total may be allocated to related areas, to allow students to specialize within the degree or to explore ancillary interests. In addition to the above decisions, students choose whether to pursue a thesis or non-thesis track. The thesis track counts six hours of thesis research and development toward the 30 total semester hours, while the non-thesis track consists entirely of coursework. However, students at the end of each track must pass a written examination during their last semester of enrollment, demonstrating their proficiency in applying economic theory.

Most students complete the program within two years, although those without an economics background may take longer to fulfill certain prerequisites. The program does require that all applicants have completed a statistics course prior to enrollment. KU’s economics program also accepts students for fall, spring, and summer semesters, so there are multiple opportunities to begin the program, even for those who cannot follow the traditional schedule.

While KU’s economics program is superb, its funding opportunities for graduate students are of particular note. Its Office of Graduate Studies compiles recent funding sources for current graduate students. This is a great resource for tracking down fellowships or grants from specific organizations or donors who may be interested in facilitating a student’s education. In addition, KU awards $232 million in financial aid each year. It hosts several spaces on its website for scholarships for specific student groups, such as incoming freshmen or graduate students, as well as a collection of scholarships from outside sources. Furthermore, KU allows for work-study programs from federal employers and the State of Kansas. Some of these programs may be able to help students avoid excessive debt while in school. The Federal Work-Study program, for instance, allows students to work an on-campus job and earn money toward their education by fulfilling duties to the university. This is a subsidized program, too, and just one of many financial aid opportunities awaiting new students at KU.

OTHER NOTABLE PROGRAMS

#11. University of Missouri

Location: Columbia, Missouri

Degree: MA in Economics

Net Price: $17,241

Website

#12. Stanford University

Location: Palo Alto, California

Degree: Master of Arts in Economics

Net Price: $16,562

Website

#13. West Texas A&M University

Location: Canyon, Texas

Degree: Master of Science in Finance and Economics

Net Price: $13,806

Website

#14. University of Maryland

Location: College Park, Maryland

Degree: Master’s in Applied Economics

Net Price: $17,241

Website

#15. University of Kentucky

Location: Lexington, Kentucky

Degree: Master of Science in Economics

Net Price: $19,361

Website

#16. The University of Utah

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Degree: Master’s Program in Economics

Net Price: $12,363

Website

#17. University of Houston

Location: Houston, Texas

Degree: Master in Applied Economics

Net Price: $15,664

Website

#18. George Mason University

Location: Fairfax, Virginia

Degree: Master of Arts in Economics

Net Price: $18,629

Website

#19. George Washington University

Location: Washington, D.C.

Degree: Master of Arts in Applied Economics

Net Price: $37,638

Website

#20. Lehigh University

Location: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Degree: Master of Science in Applied Economics

Net Price: $26,933

Website

IF YOU ENJOYED THAT THEN CHECK OUT OUR ARTICLES ON THE BEST ONLINE MASTER’S PROGRAMS IN ECONOMICS & BEST ONLINE ECONOMICS MBA PROGRAMS!

Michael Templeton
Managing Editor

Kacey Reynolds Schedler
Contributing Editor