Economics is an important area of study in the social sciences that focuses on how individuals, organizations, industries, and countries allocate scarce resources and time to produce benefits for society. Those who study economics need to master both an understanding of how policies can affect supply and demand, as well as mathematical and statistical techniques necessary for coming to data-driven conclusions that can help society better understand how important measures of productivity and trade can be improved. Typically, most economics students will pursue a major in economics through a bachelor’s program at a four-year institution, while a small portion may choose to continue their studies by undertaking a master’s program or a Ph.D. in the field.
Requirements of a Bachelor’s Degree?
A bachelor’s degree in economics is an important first step to pursuing a variety of careers that require important analytical and mathematical skills, like becoming a financial analyst or market research analyst. Students can undertake a bachelor’s degree at a four-year undergraduate program, where institutions will offer important core courses for economics majors. These core courses will often include titles like introductory and intermediate microeconomics or macroeconomics and econometrics. Students can choose to specialize in areas that they are more interested in through economics electives, focusing on fields of study like international economics and managerial economics. However, not every bachelor’s program in this field will require students to declare a specific concentration - many students simply graduate with a degree in general economics. Schools will typically provide a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in this field, with a Bachelor of Science program focusing more on the computational and mathematical modeling skills that are used in the field of economics. Bachelor of Arts programs will typically focus more on economic theory and analysis. To complete a bachelor’s degree in economics, colleges will typically require at least 120 credits of total study at the post-secondary level, including general electives and major requirements.
Where Do You Earn a Bachelor’s Degree?
The vast majority of bachelor’s in economics degrees are offered by four-year colleges and universities. Students that require a more flexible learning environment may want to consider searching for bachelor’s programs through local community colleges or pursuing a degree through an online university. Other options for students looking to work toward a bachelor’s degree in economics can include first pursuing an associate degree in the field from a community college. Once students have completed that program, they can transfer to a four-year institution to finish the rest of the 120 credit hours needed to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. This can be more a more cost-effective way to complete a bachelor’s program in economics than going directly to a four-year college or university, as students can complete many general education requirements and some core classes in economics at a lower-cost community college.
Online Vs. Traditional Education in Economics
Nowadays, students also have the opportunity to decide whether they wish to pursue their economics education by studying at a traditional four-year institution or through an online university. There are significant advantages to each learning format.
There are many reasons why pursuing a bachelor’s program in education online might be more beneficial than undertaking the degree at a traditional four-year college or university in a campus-based classroom format. First, studying at an online university can provide many benefits for students who need to adhere to a flexible schedule or would otherwise have to relocate for school. This learning format can be exceptionally helpful for adult learners, students who are working full- or part-time while in college, or students with young children under their care. Studying through an online program will cut out the school commute, and many online universities will offer lecture recordings and evening classes, which provide an extra layer of flexibility. Second, studying online for a bachelor’s in economics can help students save on the cost of higher education in many instances. Specifically, the average tuition cost for students studying for their bachelor’s degree in economics in a traditional university setting can range from $9,000-$35,000 per year. The lower end of the spectrum usually pertains to students studying at in-state public schools, and students will also need to pay for other expenses like housing and transportation. In comparison, per-credit costs for an online economics degree will typically range from $290 to $600, which translates to around $35,000-$72,000 in total tuition across all four years. The cost savings can be enormous.
Additionally, students should not be worried that they will receive a lesser quality of education online. Economics, unlike many science and engineering degrees, does not require much hands-on lab work, so students can usually receive a high-quality education through online lectures. Economics professors can easily use software drawing tools to walk students through important models, so students can complete their economics education at an accredited online university without a problem. An important downside to pursuing a fully online degree, though, includes the lack of face-to-face human interaction. Economics is a field that requires students to hone analytical skills through solving problem sets, and some students may find it easier to work in in-person teams, which is something more easily afforded by a traditional classroom setting.
What Are the Prerequisites or Admission Requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree?
To be admitted to a four-year college or university, which is where most students will go to complete their bachelor’s degree, students must go through a sometimes rigorous application process. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent, like a GED, before they can attend college. Depending on the selectiveness of the post-secondary institution, candidates may be required to submit test scores for exams like the SAT and ACT, as well as maintain a certain grade point average throughout high school. Many colleges will also require students to submit letters of recommendation and responses to supplemental essay questions, which will then be evaluated by an admissions committee. Furthermore, many four-year colleges also levy an application fee, which can add up over time if students are applying to a large number of schools. When applying for a master’s degree in economics, students will need to go through much of the same process, including maintaining a good college GPA, asking for letters of recommendation, completing supplemental essay questions, and completing graduate-level standardized tests like the GRE.
Why Earn a Bachelor’s Degree?
Earning a bachelor’s degree in economics can open the path to many lucrative and fulfilling careers. Given the high emphasis that economics puts on training students’ abilities to think critically and perform deep, data-driven analysis, many firms hire economics majors to work on market, economic, or business analysis. While completing an associate degree in economics can qualify students for many careers in research, finance, marketing, and sales, most of these positions will tend to be entry-level internships or assistantships. Completing a bachelor’s degree, on the other hand, will allow a student to qualify for more advanced entry-level positions, like becoming a full-time market or research analyst, which can also lead to faster promotions than holding an associate degree in the field will provide. Additionally, students will tend to choose a bachelor’s in economics over pursuing a more demanding master’s degree due to considerations like cost of education, time invested, and the fact that the master’s degree application process tends to be more rigorous than at the undergraduate level.
Why a Degree in Economics?
There are many advantages to undertaking a degree in economics, ranging from fulfilling personal interests to achieving preferred career trajectories. In particular, economics stands out because it rests at the nexus of more data-driven and more written analysis-driven fields of study, which allows students to draw upon interdisciplinary skills. Economic models also help explain many everyday phenomena like price changes, earnings, and trade, which allow students to use their learned knowledge to better analyze their daily experiences, providing further fulfillment. On the career side, students can break into the field with nothing more than an associate degree. There are also many economics and accounting degrees available including specific concentrations like managerial economics, international economics, and resource economics. Whether or not a student chooses to specialize or pursue a bachelor’s degree, there are many on-the-job options for promotions and job progression. By applying their economics knowledge to solving real-world problems at work, many economics graduates will have the chance to advance to managerial positions throughout their careers, which can be both lucrative and fulfilling.
What’s Involved in a Bachelor’s Degree?
Most universities will offer a general bachelor of science in economics or bachelor of arts in economics programs. Regardless of whether the program is more theory or more mathematics-based, the majority of university economics programs will require two semesters each of foundational microeconomics and macroeconomics coursework. On the quantitative side, economics bachelor’s programs will usually require at least one semester of college-level calculus and econometrics courses to help students shore up their mathematics and coding background. Students will typically learn to use analytics tools like Stata, R, and MATLAB, which are important tools to perform statistical analysis on market datasets. While some schools offer specialty economics degrees, many schools do not require students to declare a specialty economics major like environmental economics, labor economics, industrial economics, or education economics. Universities will often offer electives in these areas as higher-level lectures and seminars. Students who develop an appreciation for a certain economics concentration can choose to take more electives in their area of interest and even research the tutelage of professors who have dedicated their lives to researching these specialties.
- Introductory Microeconomics
- Introductory Macroeconomics
- Intermediate Microeconomics
- Intermediate Macroeconomics
- Introduction to Econometrics
- Intermediate Data Analysis and Economics
- Calculus I
- Basic Statistical Practice
- Microeconomic Theory
- Health Economics and Public Policy
- Global Economy
- Financial Economics
- Economics of Natural Resources
- The Global Financial Crisis
- Central Banking
What to Consider When Choosing a Bachelor’s Program for Economics
When attending an institution of higher education, a student must choose a college that has been accredited by organizations that are approved by CHEA. This shows that the school’s curriculum meets minimum quality standards, ensuring that once the student graduates, they will have learned the requisite concepts and models in the field of economics expected of the degree level they have pursued. Accreditation also helps employers determine whether their potential hire has gone through a program with a rigorous enough curriculum and grading standard necessary for their job requirements. In the field of economics, specialty accreditation is available from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, which is the predominant national accreditation program that allows students, teachers, and employers to know that the school’s offerings meet a minimum national standard.
Further Economics Education
Students who pursue a master’s degree in economics will typically aim to gain more specialized knowledge in companies, non-profits, think tanks, and government agencies by taking more graduate-level elective courses in economics. Typically, a master’s in economics is a one-year program, and students with this degree can enhance their ability to perform policy analysis. Elective courses at the graduate level will continue to hone students’ quantitative abilities by introducing deeper analysis of economic models and improved familiarity with data analysis and statistical software. Students with a master’s degree can expect to be hired into more advanced job titles and receive higher starting salaries than students with only a bachelor’s degree.
While many MBA programs offer specializations in fields like finance, operations, and marketing, specializations in economics are quite rare for this type of degree. Students who choose to pursue an MBA with a concentration in economics are typically fascinated by how people and organizations make choices and the outcomes that are driven by these choices. MBA programs will train a student’s management and operations abilities through coursework and allow students to understand how to apply economic models to real-world cases. Most MBA graduates will build careers as managers for a variety of firms, though the master’s in economics programs are typically more popular than an MBA degree with a focus on economics.
Doctorate or Ph.D.
Students who pursue a doctorate in economics will typically look to craft careers in academia. A Ph.D. program in economics will typically last between 4-6 years in the United States, and students will pursue deep research projects in a narrow and tailored field that resonates with their personal interests. During their doctorate program, students will often work together with professors and other mentors to publish their findings, which can be based on industry data or even newly proposed economic models. Upon graduation, students will usually look for teaching and research positions at colleges or universities, where having a doctorate in economics is almost always a requirement for teaching.
Certifications for Economics Majors
In most cases, economics graduates will not need to pursue additional certifications beyond their bachelor’s or master’s degrees to find a job and build a successful career. Students looking to complete further certifications in economics will usually be working in a career that is more quantitatively-driven than policy-driven. In these cases, completing additional certifications can help these individuals master cutting-edge analysis techniques that can help advance their careers.
Some popular certifications are:
- Certification in Applied Economics and Data Analytics:
When students are studying economics in an academic setting, they are usually taught essential models and theories. While most economics programs will require a minimum number of quantitative courses and provide students with a foundation in data and statistical analysis, these learned techniques often do not translate directly to the workplace. Real-life data and trade scenarios can be much messier than the models taught in school, so completing a certification in applied economics and data analytics can allow students to shore up their knowledge of how economics is used in practice. This may open up more career opportunities for firms like think tanks and economics analysis agencies, who look for economists who can help explain real-world phenomena.
- Economic Development Finance Professional:
Many finance positions focus on projecting financial data for finite periods of time, such as a few quarters or years, based on economic principles. However, economics coursework can often be more theoretical and abstract. Pursuing certification as an Economic Development Finance Professional can help bridge these two disciplines and open further career opportunities.
Available Careers with an Economics Bachelor’s Degree
- Financial Risk Analyst:
Financial risk analysts interpret data drawn from firms and industries to better help business professionals and managers understand the potential risks and rewards inherent to a project or business. This helps clarify investment needs and expected returns.
- Data Analyst:
Data analysts work with large databases on market research, logistics, linguistics, and other important organizational areas. Their technical and quantitative expertise ensures that the data collected and stored is accurate and can be presented in clear, concise ways to help managers make better decisions.
- Economic Researcher:
Economic researchers compile and analyze complex market data into digestible reports with important takeaways. These economic reports can allow firms and policymakers to both understand and tackle economic problems on the production and distribution of goods and services throughout different geographical regions and industries.
- Investment Analyst:
Many financial institutions, like banks, rely on investment analysts to help analyze important assets like stocks, bonds, and real estate. Investment analysts will write reports on assigned industries and firms, providing insights into the possible investment potential.
- Financial Planner:
Financial planners help clients understand and manage their financial responsibilities and goals.
Studying economics can be lucrative, allowing many individuals to build lifelong careers with only a bachelor’s degree. According to PayScale, employees who only complete a bachelor’s in economics can expect to earn an average salary of $70,986. While this is a lower beginning salary than those who graduate with a master’s in economics, who can expect to earn an average salary of $90,000 post-graduation, employees with only a bachelor’s can increase their earnings over time by earning promotions through on-the-job experience. Additionally, according to Indeed.com, the average college graduate can expect to earn a salary of $50,000, which is much lower than those who graduate with an economics degree.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job market demand for those with an economics background is increasing rapidly. Specifically, the 2019 median pay for those with a title of Economist was $105,020 per year and the field is projected to be growing at a rate of 14% between 2019-2029, which is much faster than the national average job market growth rate for that same period of time. While not all students with a bachelor’s degree in economics will go on to pursue long-term careers as economists, other related fields are also growing rapidly. For example, according to the BLS, financial analysts earned a median salary of $81,590 in 2019. The job market growth rate for financial analysts between 2019-2029 is 5%, which is also faster than the national average. In summary, students with an economics background can expect to build careers in high-paying industries that more often than not have a strong growth outlook for the next decade.
Business Degrees & Career Paths