What Can I Do with a Master’s in Economics?

Thinking about getting a master’s in economics? These degrees are exciting, challenging, and lead to all kinds of career opportunities. What can you do with a master’s in economics? Is a master’s in economics worth it? After students earn a bachelor’s degree in economics or math, many ask themselves these questions. After all, pursuing a master’s degree is a big decision. These students want to know if they should pursue a master’s degree right away or get a few years into their careers first. While the timing is completely up to you, a master’s degree in economics will absolutely be worth the effort. It’ll make the job search easier, provide a path to promotions, and maximize your earning potential.

Whether you’re asking yourself what do do with master’s in economics classes or even “What can I do with a master’s in applied economics?” you’ll find no shortage of answers. For example, if you run a search for “What jobs can I get with a master’s in economics?” you’ll find a wide range of jobs in a few sectors. First, there are government-based jobs. A large portion of today’s economists work in the government. They find jobs at all levels of government from city governments to the federal government. These economy professionals help government leaders make appropriate economic decisions.

masters in economics

Next, your “What can I do with a master’s in economics?” question may lead you to the private sector. Businesses, especially tech companies, employ economists for their advanced financial knowledge. By having a financial expert on the team, business leaders can make well-informed financial decisions and minimize their risks. A master’s in economics will also qualify you to teach economics at a two-year school while you pursue a PhD. If you want to become an economics professor, then getting a master’s degree is an essential step in the process. 

So, what can you do with a master’s in economics? The short answer is “a lot.” You can see some specifics in the paragraphs below. First, though, you’ll want to make sure that you choose the right economics program, and that means finding the right school. 

Choosing the Best Economics Master’s Programs 

What makes one program better than another? When choosing a master’s degree program, students make their decisions based on a lot of factors. For example, some students need smaller class sizes. Some prefer online learning. Others look for accelerated programs. The most important thing that students should look for, however, is accreditation. Accreditating authorities are non-biased organizations. When a school has the seal of approval from one of these organizations, it means that the school meets high objective standards for education. This way, students know that they’re getting a relevant and quality education that will help them move their careers forward.

The US has several accrediting organizations. As a matter of fact, each region has its own. For example, colleges in Maine are usually accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. How can you find out whether or not a school is accredited? There are a few ways. Accredited schools usually display their accreditation information on their websites. If you’re having a hard time finding the accreditation page, you can search for “[school name] accreditation.” You can also find the accrediting organization for that school’s region and search the school through their website. 

Next, make sure that the economics program is accredited, too. Individual economics programs are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, or the AACSB. This nonprofit organization only accredits business programs. The world of business and economics changes quickly. The AACSB makes sure that programs teach the relevant skills that business students need for success. Again, you can find this information by looking in the right place. If you’re interested in a particular program, check that program’s web page for accreditation information. If you can’t find it on that web page, visit the AACSB website and search the name of the school. 

Why exactly does accreditation matter? Aside from protecting students from scams, accreditation tells potential employers that an applicant has the right education. Earning a master’s degree takes a lot of time, effort, and money. If you’re going to put all of that effort into your degree, it should be a degree that you’re proud to put on your resume. This way, your future employer will know that you can handle the job. If you graduate from a non-accredited school, then you may not have the tools and skills that you need to succeed in the field. Even if you do get a good education, potential employers will have no way of knowing that without accreditation. Hiring employees with non-accredited degrees is too much of a risk, especially in a high-stakes field like economics. 

Types of Economics Master’s Degrees

When it comes to master’s programs in economics, the options can seem endless. As a matter of fact, all of those options can get a bit overwhelming for some students. For example, there are on-campus programs and online programs. On-campus master’s in economics programs provide the traditional learning experience. Students either live near campus or commute to school. They learn in face-to-face classroom environments with teachers and other students. Online options, on the other hand, let students learn from wherever they happen to have an internet connection. Some online programs have set login times. Others let students learn at their own pace. Either way, online master’s programs in economics provide flexibility for adults who may have jobs, families, or both. Some schools also have blended programs so students can combine classroom learning with online learning. This way, students can enjoy the benefits of both. 

Next, master programs in economics also come at different paces. Some master’s in economics programs are accelerated, which means that students can earn their degrees in a shorter amount of time. These programs make good choices for students who want to start their careers fast, earn their degrees before a specific date, or just want to finish their degrees quickly so that they can be done with school. However, it’s important to note that these programs are challenging. Students in accelerated programs do the same amount of work as students who learn at a regular pace. The difference is that accelerated students have less time to do that work. Keep in mind that economics is not an easy field of study. Any accelerated program will be challenging, but an accelerated economics program will come with extra challenges. If you’re considering an accelerated option, make sure that you’re up for those challenges. 

Next, master programs in economics come with several specialization options. Some master’s degrees in economics provide a more general approach. For students who don’t know which career path they want, or for students who just want some job flexibility, these programs make a good choice. Other programs offer economic specializations. For example, one might earn a master’s in applied economics. With a master’s in applied economics, students learn how to apply economic theories to real business and government applications. They study economic patterns, learning how to make predictions about finance and financial decision outcomes. Someone with a master’s in applied economics can thrive both in the private business world and in public policy positions. Either way, they can provide advice and help leaders make the best decisions. 

Applied economics may be the most common specialization, but it’s far from the only one. A student might also specialize in global economics, agricultural economics, or one of several other options. All of these options focus on a different and specific part of the economic field. If you’re considering a specialization, think about your specific interests and goals, and then research the specialization choices that most align with your needs. At the end of the day, the best school for a master’s in economics options is the one where you can pursue your goals most effectively.

Graduate Certificates in Economics 

What if you’re not ready to get a full master’s degree but still want to pursue economics studies? Is there an option that lets you move past a bachelor’s degree without going all the way into a master’s program? As a matter of fact, there is. You might look for a graduate certificate in economics to continue your education. Certificates in economics make a good choice if you want a less expensive way to get ahead, you want more specific economics training after earning a business degree, or you just feel like certificates in economics look more doable than a full degree right now. A graduate certificate will provide many of the same courses that a master’s program would provide, but it won’t require as many courses, so you can earn it faster. Some people choose a graduate certificate first and then go for a full master’s degree later. In any case, certificate programs help career-seekers move forward without too much of a time commitment or financial strain. 

When you look into getting a certificate in economics, online options are probably your best bet. Most of these programs take place online, so online programs are just easier to find. An online graduate certificate in economics can give you some flexibility as you learn, and the educational quality should be just as good as a classroom-based program. That said, if you pursue a graduate certificate in economics online, do some research before you commit. Make sure you find a credible online certificate in economics program. If a program is vetted and well-rated, then it probably has exactly what you need. 

Certifications/Licenses for Economics 

You might also expand your skills with a certification in economics. A certification in economics is different from a graduate certificate program. It’s not a requirement for most economics jobs. However, it is helpful for job seekers. Because certification requires passing an exam, it proves that the holder has reached a high knowledge and skill level. Economics professionals may seek certification from one of three organizations:

A few specific economics careers do require licensure, so make sure that you understand all of the requirements of your intended career path. 

Careers in Economics 

Once you earn a master’s in economics, jobs won’t be too difficult to find. Not only is economics one of the highest-paying career fields, but it’s also growing quickly. As a matter of fact, it’s expected to grow by 8% between 2018 to 2028. As you may already know, however, it’s tough to get your foot in the door with just a bachelor’s degree. While some entry-level positions only require a bachelor’s degree, most of the time, it’s much easier to find jobs with a master’s in economics. Thankfully, though, master’s in economics jobs cover a broad range of opportunities. 

The top master in economics jobs, according to Glassdoor, are the following: 

Economist – Economists tend to work for the government, although a lot of tech companies employ economists, too. They gather current economic data, make predictions based on that data, and then provide advise to business and government leaders based on the predictions that they’ve made. Like many other master’s in economics jobs, this one requires excellent inductive and deductive reasoning skills. 

Data Scientist – Data scientists usually work for private businesses. Much like economists, data scientists make predictions based on data. However, they tend to deal with much larger volumes of data, so this job requires excellent organizational skills. 

 Actuary – Actuaries, like other master’s of economics jobs, handle data. They usually work for entities like insurance companies. Actuaries deal with matters of probability. They examine data for specific situations, especially disasters like floods. Then, the figure out the probability of these events happening in specific regions. Their work helps insurance companies determine their prices and coverage options. 

Management Consultant – Management consultants deal with risks and potential rewards. Among master’s of economics jobs, management consultants have one of the most important ones for private businesses. They analyze economic trends and business practices, and they advise business owners on how to maximize their earnings while minimizing their risks. 

Pricing Analyst – Pricing analysts have to juggle a lot of tasks. They combine economic data with marketing research. They use this information to figure out the ideal prices for certain products and services. The business owners who employ pricing analysts want to know how they strike the right balance in their pricing. They want to make as much profit as possible, of course, but they also don’t want their pricing to turn away potential clients. Pricing analysts help them find that balance. 

The list above only contains a few master’s degree in economics jobs. However, the job opportunities for master’s in economics go much further than that. There’s no shortage of master’s in economics job opportunities, so take lots of time to explore your own interests and look for jobs that seem the most exciting to you. Obviously, all jobs for a master’s in economics require similar skills. They all require math proficiency and a firm grasp of economic data, for example. However, jobs in applied economics aren’t all the same.

There are lots of places where master’s in applied economics jobs branch out from one another. This is where your personal interests come in. For example, do you enjoy passing knowledge along to other people? Then maybe teaching is your ideal master of economics career path. Do you want to make a difference at a government level? You can find lots of government and public policy careers with a master’s in economics. As stated above, when you earn a master’s in economics, careers aren’t tough to find. 

Salary Potential with a Master’s in Economics 

Next, a lot of people ask about the potential salary for master’s in economics students. As stated above, an economics degree is one of the highest-paying degrees in the United States. On average, the salary for master’s in economics jobs is about $76 thousand per year. However, don’t take that number at face value. Remember that an economics degree comes with a big range of very different career options. As a result, the salary for master’s in economics holders can vary a lot from one job to the next. As of early 2020, Payscale’s list of economics careers spanned 56 pages. That’s a lot more variety than most other fields have.

With such a wide range, it’s important to realize that the average salary for master’s in economics holders may not reflect your actual job experience. Toward the lower end of the spectrum, a business intelligence analyst may earn about $61 thousand per year. A senior economist, on the other hand, may earn $121 thousand. Whether you’re looking for a master’s in applied economics salary or a master’s in economics starting salary, do some specific research to avoid surprises. Instead of running a quick google search for “master in economics salary,” look up the careers that line up with your personal goals. This approach will give you a more accurate picture of what you’ll earn in the future. 

All of that said, a master’s in economics salary will generally be much higher than the overall average in the US. Even if you choose a career at the lower end of the pay spectrum, you can expect to live comfortably on a master’s in economics salary. Rest assured that a master’s in economics salary won’t stop you from enjoying your life as you fulfill your career goals. 

Professional Organizations 

Finally, consider some professional organizations that you might join. The five most well-known organizations are listed below. 

American Economic Association – The AEA is a scholarly organization. Its membership consists of university economics professors. Its services include career resources, journals, regular meetings, and more. If you plan to go into teaching, this organization can provide direct access to some of the most valuable resources available. 

World Economics Association – The World Economics Association creates a global society for economists rather than a country-specific one. It aims to connect economists from around the world and to create better awareness of economies outside of the US and England. It fosters communication as well as highlighting various perspectives, which means that members get to learn a lot from one another. 

Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory – The SAET is a global economics organization that focuses on research and academics. It promotes conversation among researchers, encourages idea exploration, and provides forums and resources to promote economic thought. 

National Association for Business Economics – NABE is a US-based economics association. It provides news and updates for economic professionals, focusing mostly on those who work in the business sector. It provides learning and research resources, conferences, and networking opportunities. 

National Economic Association – The National Economic Association started as the Caucus of Black Economists. It provides resources for minority economic professionals and raises awareness for the economic issues that impact minority communities the most. 

Professional organizations like the ones listed above can provide a lot of benefits. For one thing, they provide excellent networking opportunities. These organizations help economic professionals connect with one another and learn from each other. Conferences provide valuable opportunities, not only to learn important information, but to make valuable business connections. Professional organizations also open the job market to recent graduates. Many of these organizations have job boards and other tools that help new job seekers find what they’re looking for. Some potential employees may only post jobs on these sites, meaning that members have access to possibilities that others don’t have. Plus, these organizations look great on a resume. They tell employers that you’re serious about your work and that you’re open to networking and learning more about the profession. 

Speaking of learning more, some of these organizations offer continuing education credits. These credits let economic professionals advance their educations without paying too much out of pocket. If you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree and want some professional experience before going back for your master’s degree, a professional organization may provide the tools you need to finish your education. 

Carrie Morris

Warren Dahl