Economics Degree Programs

Learn about econ majors, different degree programs, and potential careers. Find out which path is best for you. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Economics is a social science that revolves around the scarcity, use, and production of goods and services. Acknowledging the similarities between economics and accounting degrees is important, as schools may offer both programs in the same department. Both programs offer courses in law, ethics, and corporate finance.

However, while accounting courses focus on financial reports and tax documents, economics courses focus on the principles of supply and demand, resource allocation, and financial markets. To better understand economics degree programs, learning what an economics major entails is vital.

What Is an Econ Major?

Modern economics was created in 1776 when Adam Smith published"A Wealth of Nations." By studying economics, individuals can understand the choices businesses, people, and governments make.

While economics helps people respond to factors around them, accounting can help people manage their finances and record profits for any venture. Many economics or "econ" graduates may pursue jobs as economists, economic researchers, or management consultants.

As econ and accounting majors have many career choices after graduation, qualifying for any specific role depends on their degree level. Although most professor roles require a Ph.D. degree, many careers in bookkeeping require only an associate degree.

What Skills Do Economics Degrees Teach?

Economics programs teach essential economic principles. A few key practical skills that students develop include:

  • Logical reasoning
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to grasp abstract ideas

Aside from practical skills, students also learn key technical skills, including

  • Model building
  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • Statistical modeling

The focus on any specific skill vary depending on the degree level. For example, individuals with a doctoral degree in economics spend more time with statistical modeling than an individual with a bachelor's degree in the same field.

What Are the Types of Economics Programs?

Students can pursue anything from a certificate in economics to a doctorate. Picking the right degree or credential depends on your career path and the time and money you can invest.

A certificate in economics can help prove you are knowledgeable in the field. But, specialized careers, such as working in the Federal Reserve, often require an advanced degree.

Certificate in Economics

Certificate programs usually have 4-6 courses with flexible time schedules. Certificates may have prerequisites, such as current experience in the economics field. Courses vary but can include credit analysis, development finance, and real estate finance.

Unlike a certificate in economics, a certificate in accounting focuses on bookkeeping and accounting principles. While graduates can use their certificate in economics in a variety of fields, the certificate in accounting covers foundational accounting and is typically intended for bookkeeping careers. There are also plenty of choices for bookkeeping certificate programs.

Associate in Economics

Full-time students can earn an associate degree in economics in two years. Students take courses such as principles of macroeconomics and statistics to interpret economic data and understand economic principles.

An associate degree in accounting focuses more on basic accounting ideas and includes courses such as introduction to financial accounting and spreadsheet software.

By graduating with an associate in economics, students can pursue various careers as financial clerks, insurance sales agents, and customer service representatives.

Students graduating with an associate degree in accounting can pursue similar career options, such as financial clerks, bookkeepers, or billing specialists.

Bachelor's in Economics

Full-time students can typically complete a bachelor's in economics degree in 3-4 years. Courses in this major from a bachelor's in accounting, however, there is some overlap. As such, many universities offer economics with a concentration in accounting degree and vice versa.

There are a range of available bachelor's degrees in economics, including:

  • BA in Economics
  • BS in Economics
  • BA in Economics and Accounting
  • BS in Accounting — Economics Concentration

Those with a degree in economics and accounting may have more career choices as they have a wider foundational base of knowledge. Those interested in the economics track should review programs and find the best economics bachelor's degree.

Master's in Economics

A master of economics can take 1-2 years to complete depending on the program. Most programs require applicants to have a bachelor's degree with previous coursework in statistics and economics. It's important to pick the best economics master's program. Ensure the school is accredited and assess the school's faculty and courses.

Courses for a master's in economics include macroeconomics, microeconomics, and econometrics. This varies greatly from master's in accounting programs, which require multiple accounting and auditing courses.

At the master's level, career choices between accounting and economics degrees start to diverge. Career choices for master's in accounting graduates include tax manager and forensic accounting roles, while those with a master's in economics degree can become data scientists, economists, or financial managers.

Those with a master's in economics have more career choices than someone with a bachelor's in economics. More advanced positions, such as economist and policy researcher, often require at least a master's degree.

Doctorate in Economics

Applicants for a doctorate in economics should already have a bachelor's degree with coursework in economics, statistics, and calculus. Programs vary in length but often take five years to complete. At the end of the program, studentsl have to turn in a dissertation.

Courses for a doctorate in economics vary significantly from master's in economics or doctorate in accounting courses. Students within a doctorate in economics program must complete advanced courses of microeconomics, econometrics, and statistics.

Those with a Ph.D. in economics can become a university professor or obtain high-level director or consulting positions in the public or private sector.

Is Econ Better As an Undergrad or Graduate Degree?

Econ degrees offer students the ability to pursue many types of jobs. As the degree level progresses, so does the student's specialization in the field. While this is a benefit to some students, it is unnecessary for others.

There are plenty of jobs where fundamental knowledge of economics is useful, such as analyst or consultant roles. In fact, many of these careers don't require advanced knowledge of microeconomics, econometrics, or other economic principles. Additionally, an undergraduate economics degree allows students to test careers before committing to an advanced degree.

But, students wishing to pursue specialized or higher-level economics careers, such as policy researcher or economist, typically need to complete advanced courses or degrees. For these students, a graduate degree better serves their purposes and will often be required for the job.

Although professional certifications such as the chartered economic policy analyst exist, they often only require a bachelor's degree and a few years of related work. While they may help advance an individual's career, they are not a replacement for an advanced degree, which opens up more specialized career choices.

Common Questions About Degrees in Economics

  • Is an economics degree a BA or BS?

    There are both BA and BS degrees available for economics. The BA track focuses more on theoretical concepts while the BS track focuses more on statistics and business.

  • Is economics a hard major?

    Economics is a challenging major as it requires logical thinking, math, and the ability to grasp abstract concepts.

  • Is economics a better major than finance?

    Economics and finance are different majors and one is not necessarily better than the other. Finance focuses more on financial systems and money management. Those interested in a career in investment banking may be better suited to a finance degree.

  • What job can you get with an economics degree?

    An economics degree offers plenty of career choices in finance, accounting, data, research, and public policy. A few of the most common career choices for graduates include analyst, consultant, and economist. However, you typically need a graduate degree to become an economist.

  • Does an economics degree pay well?

    The average salary of a graduate with a BA in economics is $81,000 per year as of February 2023, according to Payscale. Those with a Ph.D. in economics earn an average salary of $122,000 per year.

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