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Best online master's in economics 2021: Top picks

An online master's degree in economics provides students a flexible way to prepare for careers as economists, analysts, or researchers.

A master's degree in economics prepares graduates for in-demand careers as economists, analysts, and researchers. The flexible learning format of an online economics master's degree makes it easier for busy adults to advance their careers and increase their earning potential.

During an online master's program, economics graduate students take theoretical and practical courses. Many programs let degree-seekers specialize in areas like economic theory, data analytics, and economic forecasting. After completing a master's degree, graduates pursue opportunities in the public and private sectors, including in finance, marketing, and government. We rank the best online master's programs to help applicants make an informed choice.

The best online master's in economics degrees

Our list ranks the top online economic master's programs. ZDNet's ranking methodology draws on reliable data sources to create this list. Prospective students can use our rankings to find the best fit for their unique needs and educational goals.

Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Scorecard.

1. Georgia Southern University

Statesboro, Georgia

About the program: The online master's in economics degree at Georgia Southern strengthens analytical skills through training in economic development and financial economics. The program emphasizes applied economics.

Acceptance rate: 54%

Graduation rate: 50%

Annual net price: $15,536

Time to completion: Two years

GRE/GMAT: GRE requirements waived during the COVID-19 pandemic; otherwise, "competitive" GRE scores required

Minimum GPA: 3.0

Enrollment periods per year: Two

Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Georgia Southern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). 

2. Purdue University

West Lafayette, Indiana

About the program: The online economics master's program offers career-focused specializations in public economics, financial economics, and business and data analytics. 

Acceptance rate: 60%

Graduation rate: 73%

Annual net price: $13,986

Time to completion: 20-36 months

GRE/GMAT: Not required

Minimum GPA: 2.6 GPA for STEM degrees, 2.8 for non-STEM degrees

Enrollment periods per year: Two

Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Purdue University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). 

3. University of North Dakota

Grand Forks, North Dakota

About the program: The online master's in economics program emphasizes data analysis and research. Degree-seekers complete 30 credits, including courses in econometrics and economic forecasting.

Acceptance rate: 81%

Graduation rate: 50%

Annual net price: $15,738

Time to completion: Two years

GRE/GMAT: GRE or GMAT score required; some students may qualify for a waiver

Minimum GPA: 2.75

Enrollment periods per year: Three

Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: The University of North Dakota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

4. University of Missouri

Columbia, Missouri

About the program: Graduate students earning an economics master's degree online complete 30 credits, including 12 credits in industry-focused electives. The program emphasizes data analytics applications.

Acceptance rate: 81%

Graduation rate: 68%

Annual net price: $16,001

Time to completion: Two years

GRE/GMAT: Not required

Minimum GPA: 3.0

Enrollment periods per year: Three

Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: The University of Missouri is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). 

5. American University

Washington, D.C.

About the program: The online master's in economics program emphasizes applied economics. Graduate students complete ten courses, including electives, to earn their degree.

Acceptance rate: 36%

Graduation rate: 79%

Annual net price: $43,451

Time to completion: Two years

GRE/GMAT: Not required

Minimum GPA: N/A

Enrollment periods per year: Not publicly available

Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: American University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). 

What to expect in an online master's in economics degree program

Economics programs at the graduate level offer a focused, advanced course of study for degree-seekers. In an online master's program, economics graduate students often complete the same courses as those enrolled in an on-campus program. However, learners take classes online, either in an asynchronous or synchronous format. 

As with an on-campus program, the coursework challenges graduate students through individual and group projects, analytical assignments, and research projects. Most programs incorporate specializations or electives to let graduate students customize their course of study. Common economic specializations include public economics and policy, applied economics, business analytics, and economic theory. Strong time management and organizational skills help distance learners succeed in an online master's program.

Economics courses

Master's programs in economics blend theoretical and applied coursework. The curriculum at most programs includes core classes in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory. Graduate students also take electives to specialize.  

Econometrics

Economics master's students strengthen their statistical, estimation, and data analysis skills in econometrics courses. The class trains students to use econometric tools and apply economic data in different fields. 

Microeconomic Theory

Students build on their undergraduate-level understanding of microeconomics to examine advanced microeconomic theories. The course covers market structure, corporate behavior, and individual decision-making. Learners also examine trends in microeconomic theory. 

Public Economics

The course examines government economics, including budgeting, government financing, and government intervention in economic systems. Topics may include taxation policies, economic regulations, deficits, and political economy. 

Experimental Economics

Graduate students examine experimental methods in economics. The seminar covers key research in the discipline and their application to economics, including in individual behavior, market outcomes, and forecasting. 

Economics degree levels

Colleges offer economics degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level. Each degree leads to different career opportunities. For example, many entry-level jobs hire candidates with a bachelor's degree in economics. However, economists and those in supervisory roles often hold a master's degree. This section introduces the cost, length, and career options with each degree level.

Associate in economics

  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $7,000-$16,000
  • Post-grad careers: Financial clerk, appraiser, accounting clerk

An associate degree in economics introduces college students to foundational concepts in the field. Learners take courses in macroeconomics, microeconomics, and finance. With a mix of economics, math, and business courses, the degree helps graduates launch careers in diverse industries or continue their education with a bachelor's degree.

Many business careers require a bachelor's degree for entry-level opportunities. An associate degree in economics leads to careers as a financial clerk, tax collector, or appraiser. 

Bachelor's in economics

  • Length: Four years 
  • Cost: $35,000-$70,000
  • Post-grad careers: Data analyst, financial analyst, business analyst

A bachelor's degree in economics prepares graduates for entry-level careers that require strong analytical skills. The four-year degree includes general education, economics, business, and elective courses. During an economics degree, undergraduates complete projects and pursue internships to gain hands-on experience.

After earning a bachelor's in economics degree, graduates pursue careers as financial and data analysts. The degree leads to opportunities in marketing, finance, accounting, and public policy. Economics majors can also advance their education with a master's degree.

Master's in economics

  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $25,000-$60,000
  • Post-grad careers: Financial manager, economist, data scientist

A master's degree in economics provides graduate-level training in econometrics, economic theory, and data analysis. Many master's programs offer an applied economics specialization designed for practitioners pursuing industry careers. 

Graduate students complete core economics courses along with electives to customize their course of study. Project-based assignments and experiential learning opportunities strengthen analytical skills. The degree can lead to a role as an economist, data scientist, or statistician, in addition to a management-level position.

Doctorate in economics

  • Length: Four to seven years
  • Cost: $48,000-$100,000
  • Post-grad careers: Economics professor, economist, economic advisor

A doctorate represents the terminal degree in economics. During a doctorate, economics graduate students complete advanced coursework, pass comprehensive exams, and conduct research for a doctoral dissertation. Working closely with faculty advisors, doctoral candidates specialize in an area within economics.

Generally, doctoral programs emphasize research skills and prepare graduates for careers as economics professors or researchers. Some programs, particularly those with an applied economics doctorate, prepare graduates for careers in business.

In conclusion

The analytical and research skills from a master's degree in economics help graduates work in business analytics, economic forecasting, and other in-demand areas. An online learning format prioritizes flexibility for working adults and busy students. Contact economics master's programs directly for more specific information about the cost, enrollment options, and placement records.