Why Get an Economics Degree?

Created by Henry Steele

By Henry Steele - May 2, 2017
Reading Time: 8 minutes
Reading Time: 8 minutes

The field of economics has been used in so many different elements. A thousand years ago, economists were referred to as alchemists, trying to create gold. Ten years ago, the field was focused on bankers trying to find ways to make more money. At its heart, economics is “the science of wealth”, but it now has a much wider meaning as well. In fact, it is classed as a social science, which helps to influence overall well-being, found on the hierarchy of needs.

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At the same time, economics is different from social sciences because it is more multidisciplinary. It encompasses law (the rules on finances), psychology (the impact of wealth on psychology), history (financial trend setting), and so on. It is is all about understanding what is happening today, and predicting what will likely happen tomorrow, while at the same time trying to prevent the making of bad decisions. Bad decisions, as the recent financial crashed showed, can have a huge global impact.

What is Economics?

Economists aim to find out what the different components are within a problem. This is because each component has a direct impact on all the other components. Furthermore, they also act analysts as they look at the context of data, what history has shown in order to predict the future, whether choices and decisions are being made properly, and more. They are also correctors, ensuring that bad choices are identified and changed as soon as possible.

Naturally, there is a lot of math involved in the role of an economist. This is needed to calculate the impact of the economy on society, and also on what does and doesn’t work. Hence, economists observe figures, numbers, graphs, and tables.

Economics Degree Opportunity

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), economists earned an average annual salary of $101,050 as of May 2016, at the master’s degree level. As of 2014, there were some 21,500 economists employed in the country, and the BLS projects a 6% growth from 2014 to 2024. This will translate to some 1,200 new positions. This growth is on par with the national average for other professions.

The BLS also noted that there is an increasing number of industries, organizations, and businesses that rely on quantitative methods and economic analysis in order to forecast economic trends, sales, business, and more. Furthermore, the global economy is becoming increasingly complex, with new financial regulations and stiffer competition. Hence, it is believed that there will be an increased demand for these professionals in the private sector in particular. This is likely to be seen the most in professional consultancy, scientific industries, and management professions.

The largest employer of economists, according to the BLS, is the federal government. Yet, it is believed that demand in this sector will decline over the next decade, as federal spending is reduced. To date, the new Administration of President Donald Trump has shown that this has been quite an accurate prediction. On the other hand, job prospects are good, particularly for those who hold a graduate degree. Those at the undergraduate level will face much stronger competition, and are more likely to take on assistant positions instead.

Economics Degree Career Paths

The BLS has also reported on common industries where economists work, as well as their associated salaries. This showed that those working in:

  • Finance and insurance, earned an average annual salary of $124,660. 5% of all economists work in this industry.
  • Federal government, excluding postal service earned an average annual salary of $111,310. 21% of all economists work here.
  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services, earned an average annual salary of $110,900. 18% of all economists work in this industry.
  • Scientific research and development services, earned an average annual salary of $102,000. 15% of all economists work in this industry.
  • State and local government, excluding education and hospitals, earned an average annual salary of $71,120. 15% of all economists work here.

Economics Degree Salaries

According to the BLS, the average annual earnings for economists stood at $101,050 as of May 2016. The bottom 10% earned $55,150 or less, while the top 10% earned $181,060 or more. Meanwhile, Payscale.com has reported that economists currently earn average annual salaries of $82,500.

Geographical location is a factor in terms of how much an economist can earn. That being said, it is important to understand that areas with relatively high salaries also often have a higher cost of living.

The BLS has reported on the top five states to work as an economist, which are:

  • Virginia, with an average annual salary of $126,460.
  • Texas, with an average annual salary of $125,590.
  • The District of Columbia, with an average annual salary of $125,260.
  • New York, with an average annual salary of $124,980.
  • California, with an average annual salary of $119,650.

Meanwhile, Payscale.com has also reported on popular cities for economists to be employed in, which are:

  • Washington, DC, with average annual earnings of $82,500.
  • Seattle, Washington, with average annual earnings of $103,000.
  • Atlanta, Georgia, with average annual earnings of $90,500.

Looking more broadly at states, the Payscale.com report showed that the average annual salary for economists in:

  • California, is $92,500.
  • New York, is $55,500.
  • Washington, is $103,000.
  • Georgia, is $90,500.
  • The District of Columbia, is $82,500.

Economics Degree Employers

What is perhaps of greater importance than geographical location in determining the salary is the company that someone works for.

Indeed.com has compiled a report on popular companies to work for as an economists, as well as the associated salaries. This report showed that those working for:

  • Cornerstone Research, Inc., earn an average salary of $172,111 per year.
  • The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, earn an average salary of $150,070 per year.
  • The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, earn an average salary of $151,284 per year.
  • Selby Jennings, earn an average salary of $138,742 per year.
  • Bates White, LLC, earn an average salary of $144,666 per year.
  • The Legislative Branch, earn an average salary of $128,645 per year.
  • Capital One, earn an average salary of $121,357 per year.
  • The Internal Revenue Service, earn an average salary of $115,392 per year.
  • The Department of Justice, earn an average salary of $118,019 per year.
  • The Economic Research Service, earn an average salary of $114,356 per year.

Economics Bachelor’s Degree

In order to have a career in the field of economics, you will certainly need a good education, and this starts with a bachelor’s degree. Fortunately, many schools now offer their degree programs online although on campus studies continue to be available. One example of a bachelor’s degree in economics is offered by Colorado State University. This degree is offered online and enables students to customize their degree in one of several areas of concentration, which are:

  • Business administration
  • Sociology
  • Anthropology
  • Gerontology
  • Media Studies
  • Political Science

The curriculum of this degree includes:

  • Principles of Microeconomics
  • Principles of Macroeconomics
  • Calculus for Physical Scientists I
  • College Composition
  • Professional and Technical Communication
  • Writing Arguments
  • Intermediate Macroeconomics
  • Intermediate Microeconomics
  • History of Economic Institutions and Thought
  • Introduction to Econometrics
  • Gender and the Economy
  • Issues in Environmental Economics
  • Money and Banking
  • Economics of Public Finance
  • International Economics I
  • Economic Development
  • Regional Economics
  • Cultures and the Global System
  • Comparative Government and Politics
  • Contemporary Race-Ethnic Relations
  • Legal and Ethical Issues in Business
  • Queer Studies and Women of Color
  • History of Media
  • Multiculturalism and the Media
  • Media Ethics and Issues
  • New Communication Technologies and Society
  • Introduction to Women’s Studies

Economics Master’s Degree

For those who want to really advance their careers, obtaining a master’s degree is advisable. This is because it will give them advanced skills and knowledge in economics, and set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd. Luckily, many master’s programs are now also offered online, which is even more important when it comes to graduate degree programs because students are likely to be already employed, which means that they may not need to take a leave of absence just to finish their studies.

One example to consider is the Economics MS degree program offered by Purdue University, Krannert School of Management. Of note with this program is that it has earned top value and quality rankings, ranking #1 in MS online economics in particular and on affordable online colleges in 2016.

Economics Degree Admission Requirements

Each school has its own specific set of admission requirements. However, they are usually quite similar across the board due to the fact that these are supposed to demonstrate whether or not the applicant has the academic capacity to complete a program at graduate degree level. For instance, the admissions requirements for a graduate degree in Purdue University are:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Official transcripts
  • Resume
  • Statement of purpose
  • GMAT/GRE scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • TOEFL for non-native English speakers

Economics Degree Curriculum

Each school will also have its own curriculum for the economics degree program. This is why it is very important to study with an accredited university because this guarantees that your degree included courses that meet the minimum requirements for the profession. Meanwhile, the curriculum at Purdue University includes:

  • Intermediate Economics
  • Econometrics
  • Behavioral Economics
  • Financial Econometrics
  • International Economics
  • Micro Theory
  • Math Analysis for Economists
  • Economics & Accounting
  • Industrial Economics
  • Advanced Game Theory
  • Microeconometrics
  • Economics of Information
  • Personnel Economics

Economics Degree Financial Assistance

Obtaining a college education, especially a master’s degree, is very expensive. Not only does it require a substantial amount of time but tuition fees and other expenses are high and could leave you with a huge student debt. Fortunately, the college or university will be able to signpost you to financial aid, and they may also have scholarships and grants available that you can apply for. At the same time, there are a number of external scholarships that you may want to consider, such as the:

  • Sumner K. Wiley, Jr. American Society for Quality Scholarship, to the value of $1,000.
  • Lamey-Wellehan Maine Difference Scholarship, to the value of $1,000.
  • Ecotrust Native American Scholarship – Tribal College Students, to the value of $3,000.
  • Ecotrust Native American Scholarship – Non-Tribal College Students, to the value of $3,000.
  • Hershey Company Tribal Scholarship – Tribal College Students, to the value of $1,250.
  • Recycling Research Foundation National Scholarship Program, to the value of $5,000.
  • RV Learning Center Scholarship, to the value of $2,500.
  • AfterCollege Business Student Scholarship, to the value of $500,
  • Clubs of America Scholarship Award for Career Success, to the value of $1,5000.
  • HCF Community Scholarship Fund, to the value of $1,508.

It should be noted that applying for a scholarship will usually mean that you have to meet certain requirements. These include studying at a certain school, taking on a certain concentration, aiming to work in a certain field, demonstrating financial need, having a minimum GPA, belonging to a certain minority group, being a member of a professional organization, or being of a certain gender.

Economics Degree Certifications

It is not a requirement to be certified in the field of economics, but it is certainly recommended. This is because it ascertains that you are an expert in a particular aspect of economics. That said, completing certification does require a further investment of time and money, and you often have to maintain certification through continuous education credits. Nevertheless, this is a very worthy investment, as it may open new career doors. Some certifications that you may want to consider in the field of economics include:

  • Economic Development Finance Professional
  • Chartered Economist
  • Certified Economic Developer

Economics Degree Associations

Becoming a member of a number of relevant professional organizations in economics as soon as you decide to study towards an economics degree is advisable, even at the bachelor’s degree level. This is because it has a number of benefits. First, these professional associations and organizations often offer scholarships and grants. Second, you will always be at the forefront of new developments within your field, ensuring that your skills and knowledge are always up to date. Third, you may be able to complete certifications and continuous education credits. Finally, you can build a professional network and this is vital in the pursuit of the advancement of your career.

Some of the associations in the field of economics you may want to consider becoming a member of are the:

  • World Economics Association
  • Association of Certified Chartered Economists (ACCE)
  • American Economic Association
  • International Economic Association (IEA)
  • Economics Network


Henry Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of BusinessStudent.com. He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

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