Best Economics Master's Programs 2023

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Published January 19, 2023

Graduate programs in economics equip students with advanced insights that support many career paths. Explore program features and compare options with this guide and ranking.

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Economics is a hot topic heading into 2023 as the world continues to navigate pandemic-related financial turbulence. Public-sector and private-sector organizations require advanced economic insights to navigate this unpredictable landscape.

Economics has a long and fascinating history dating back to the age of antiquity. The field emerged during the Age of Enlightenment (1685-1815) as a critical academic field. Today, economists participate in major industries to guide fiscal and monetary policy.

Master's programs in economics build on fundamental topics to build deep knowledge bases with ready applications in many industries. They also allow students to develop specialized knowledge in targeted areas of this complex and dynamic academic discipline.

This guide to the best economics master's degrees of 2023 includes a ranked list of top-rated schools and programs. Use our research to inform your college search and career planning.

Why Get an Economics Master's Degree?

  • Depth of Knowledge: Master's programs take a more advanced approach to subjects like macroeconomics, microeconomics, and econometrics. This depth builds greater expertise and guides students to valuable knowledge that can enhance their career prospects. A 2022 analysis by the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity found that a master's degree had a net median return on investment of $83,000.
  • Specialization Opportunities: Economics is a wide-ranging field, and undergraduate programs usually take a broad approach covering introductory knowledge. Students interested in specializing in concentrated branches of economics typically find more learning opportunities at the master's level.
  • Enhanced Credibility: A master's degree signals a higher level of commitment to your chosen field of study. Importantly, a master's degree in economics can also offer a stepping stone to doctoral programs. The University of Oxford-affiliated 80,000 Hours project describes doctorates in economics as one of the best graduate programs a student can complete.

What to Expect From an Economics Master's Degree

Master's degrees in economics transition learners from basic to advanced subject matter treatments. Programs have varying focuses. For example, some concentrate on applied or analytical economics, while others examine economic modeling for interactions between economic science and public policy.

Some programs include optional or required internships and practical training components. These opportunities allow students to apply their developing skills in real-world settings while building valuable professional networks.

Economics master's programs typically cover 30-36 credits. Students usually need the equivalent of about four semesters of full-time study to complete required coursework. However, some schools offer accelerated formats that can lead to graduation in approximately 18-20 months.

In any case, candidates should carefully research the accreditation status of any school under consideration. A degree from a school with institutional accreditation demonstrates the validity of your education to prospective educators and employers.

Degree, Concentration, and Format Options

Most U.S. master's economics programs lead to either a master of arts (MA) or master of science (MS) degree. MA and MS programs cover similar topics but tend to vary in their approaches to the subject matter.

In general, MA degrees emphasize theory and its qualitative applications. Meanwhile, MS programs focus more on quantitative learning and the mathematical aspects of economics.

Schools also offer multiple program formats, including:

  • In-person and online delivery, along with hybrid formats that blend classroom-based and virtual learning
  • Synchronous online courses or programs where classes meet in real time
  • Asynchronous online courses or programs featuring pre-recorded lectures and enhanced scheduling flexibility
  • Accelerated bachelor's-to-master's programs that lead to both undergraduate and graduate degrees

Some schools offer specialization options at the graduate level. These concentrations may appeal to learners with a strong interest in a particular area of economics.

Examples of common economics specializations include:

  • Macroeconomics and/or microeconomics
  • Quantitative methods
  • International economics
  • Labor economics
  • Economics and public policy

Some graduate programs in accounting, finance, and business administration offer economics concentrations. Consider these programs and their associated career paths as an alternative to a dedicated economics degree.

Should You Get an Economics or Accounting Master's?

Students interested in economics and accounting often compare master's degrees in the two disciplines. In general, economics programs cover a broader and more versatile set of topics related to economic behavior and market analysis. Accounting programs often focus more on specific skills used by professional money managers.

The following table presents a high-level summary of the similarities and differences between master's programs in economics and accounting:

Comparing Master's in Economics and Accounting
Key Factor Master's in Economics Master's in Accounting

Program Length

Two academic years (full-time)

Two academic years (full-time)

Credit Requirements

About 30-36

About 30

Admission Requirements

Schools usually prefer applicants with a bachelor's degree in economics, finance, mathematics, or a related discipline.

Some schools may require a bachelor's degree in accounting.

Programs open to learners from non-accounting backgrounds may require undergraduate coursework in accounting, auditing, and/or taxation.

Academic Focus and Course Content

MA programs tend to focus more on economic theory.

MS programs usually place more emphasis on mathematical and statistical analysis.

Students can specialize in distinct branches of economics.

Enrollees develop hard accounting skills and knowledge of standard accounting principles.

Some programs offer concentrations in areas like managerial accounting or cost accounting.

Programs prepare students for certification exams leading to professional licensure.

Career Paths

Market researcher, budget analyst, financial policy analyst, financial consultant, statistician, economist

Accountant, auditor, forensic accountant, financial analyst, tax manager, risk manager, compliance officer

Admissions Process

Typical application materials for a master's in economics include:

  • An institutional application
  • Academic transcripts
  • Letter(s) of recommendation
  • Personal essay or statement
  • GMAT or GRE scores, if applicable

Schools maintain varying standards, but an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.00 on the 4.00 scale is a common cutoff.

Even the best economics master's programs do not always require applicants to hold bachelor's degrees in the field. However, learners from other academic backgrounds may need undergraduate coursework in:

  • Macroeconomics and microeconomics
  • Statistics
  • Calculus
  • Linear algebra

Learners who have not completed these prerequisites may have the option of completing them before enrolling in the master's program.

Popular Economics Graduate Courses

In master's programs, most economics courses fall into one of three general categories:

Course offerings vary among schools and programs. Actual course lists also depend on the economics program's academic focus and whether the program is general or specialized.

With that in mind, consider these common graduate economics courses and topics:

  • Microeconomic/Macroeconomic Analysis: Typically included among core requirements, these courses build on bachelor's-level foundational learning. Graduate programs in economics usually cover advanced microeconomics and macroeconomics in separate courses. Students take an analytical approach, applying theory to case studies and real-world situations.
  • Labor Economics: This course covers labor market behavior as it relates to technological advancement and changing income levels. It also explores wage theory, unemployment, and other niche topics. Schools usually include this course as an elective in general programs or a core requirement in specialized labor economics programs.
  • Business and Economic Forecasting: Students explore a broad view of legacy and emerging business and economic forecasting models. Specific topics may include econometric analysis, regression analysis, and Box-Jenkins time series. Schools may offer this course as a requirement or as an elective.
  • Research Fellowship/Independent Study: Many master's economics programs conclude with thesis or capstone projects. Students use these projects to demonstrate their cumulative learning and knowledge mastery. Degree-seekers typically select topics and perform self-directed research under the guidance and supervision of senior faculty members.

How Much Do Economics Master's Programs Cost?

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) tracks data related to higher education costs in the United States. NCES reported the following costs for degree-granting public graduate schools during the 2020-21 school year:

  • 25th percentile: $8,910
  • 50th percentile: $11,666
  • 5th percentile: $14,298

Tuition costs for nonprofit private graduate schools broke down as follows:

  • 25th percentile: $13,839
  • 50th percentile: $23,507
  • 75th percentile: $42,910

The average for all institutions was $19,749 per year. Graduate economics students can generally expect their tuition costs to align with these trends. Note that these figures cover tuition only. Students typically also incur expenses related to accommodations, transportation and commuting, books, and facility fees.

Enrollees in accredited master's programs in economics qualify for federal loan programs. Learners can also pursue scholarships, grants, and private loans to help cover educational costs.

Should You Get Your Degree Online?

Many of the best economics master's programs include online learning options. Economics translates well to the virtual classroom, as the subject matter does not depend heavily on real-time interactions with peers and faculty.

Online learning offers many advantages, including scheduling flexibility and the potential for cost savings. However, some learners perform better in physical classroom settings or simply prefer the traditional campus experience.

In determining the right program format for you, consider your preferences and learning style. Online learning typically demands more independence and self-direction.

Economics Jobs and Salaries

Economics is a versatile field, allowing master's degree-holders to explore career paths in business, finance, industry, government, and beyond. Organizations in the public and private sectors hire economists for their forecasting and modeling abilities.

Employers hiring professionals to fill the roles profiled below tend to prefer or require that candidates hold advanced degrees. As you explore career paths, remember that further study at the doctoral level is another option. If you would like to build a career in academia, a doctorate in economics may help.

Economist


Economists analyze data related to large-scale macroeconomic and microeconomic trends. In the public sector, their work typically informs government policy development. In the private sector, economists help businesses prepare for changing market conditions and identify competitive opportunities. Entry-level jobs may be available to bachelor's degree-holders, but a master's degree or higher is usually required for advancement.

Required Education: Master's degree

Job Outlook (2021-31): +6%

Median Annual Salary: $105,630

Source: BLS

Financial Analyst


Financial analysts evaluate economic data to advise organizations on strategy. These analysts help employers gain competitive advantages, make the most of their resources, and increase profits. Some professionals combine bachelor's degrees with professional experience to advance, but many employers prefer advanced degrees.

Required Education: Bachelor's or master's degree in economics, finance, business, or a related mathematical field

Job Outlook (2021-31): +9%

Median Annual Salary: $95,570

Source: BLS

Market Research Analyst


Market research analysts evaluate data and trends to help employers position their products and services in consumer markets. The profession often draws on advanced expertise in microeconomics, which relates to consumer behaviors on an individual level. Employers increasingly prefer candidates with master's degrees for market research roles.

Required Education: Bachelor's or master's degree in business, economics, marketing, or a related field

Job Outlook (2021-31): +19%

Median Annual Salary: $63,920

Source: BLS

Selecting the Right Graduate Program

The best economics master's program for any given student aligns with their learning goals and career plans. Ranked lists offer a good starting place, but you should not depend on them as your sole source of information.

Consider the following factors when researching programs:

  • Academic focus and subjects covered in coursework
  • Specialization and concentration options
  • Faculty credentials
  • Research and internship opportunities
  • Cost, location, and available program delivery options

School reputation can also have a significant impact on your future employment and academic outcomes. Dedicate some of your research focus to figuring out a school or program's prestige in the eyes of employers and peer institutions.

Best Economics Master's Degrees

Kickstart your program search with the five best master's degrees in economics for 2023. We ranked these schools based on curriculum quality, availability, affordability, and reputation. Visit the link below to learn more about our ranking methodology.

#1 Best Economics Master’s Programs 2023

Vanderbilt University

  • Nashville, TN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Established in 1873, Vanderbilt University sits on a 340-acre campus in Nashville, Tennessee. The university enrolls more than 13,500 students across its 10 schools. 

Master of Arts in Economics

Also called the graduate program in economic development (GPED), Vanderbilt University's MA in economics features core courses in economic theory, econometrics, and statistical analysis. Students fill out their schedule with school-wide electives, a research project, and international trade and development field experience. 

MA candidates can accelerate their studies with summer courses and an overfilled course load. Accelerated track participants can graduate within 15 months. Economics students enjoy access to a 1,700-member alumni network and the GPED Forum, a seminar series featuring leading industry scholars and practitioners.  

Applying to Vanderbilt

Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.2 GPA. Required materials include letters of recommendation, resumes, and personal statements. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $2,215/credit hour
  • Required Credits: 30
  • Program Length: 21 months
  • Delivery Format: On campus
Average Tuition
In-state
$52,781
Out-of-state
$52,781
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
12%
Students Enrolled
13,537
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
83% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 Best Economics Master’s Programs 2023

Georgetown University

  • Washington, DC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Founded in 1789 in Washington, D.C., Georgetown University is the oldest Catholic university in the United States. The university enrolls around 20,000 students across its nine academic schools.

Master of Science in Economics

Classified as a STEM degree, Georgetown University's MS in economics focuses on quantitative economics. Students complete core courses in economics, econometrics, and data analysis. Elective topics emphasize analysis in standard, computational, and financial economics. 

The MS program begins with a two-week math camp. Instructors include senior economics faculty members and reputable practitioners from the Washington, D.C., region. 

Georgetown also offers a 30-credit MA in applied economics, which focuses on economic analysis. 

Applying to Georgetown

Georgetown applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, plus a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, and GRE scores. Candidates must also take calculus and economics prerequisites and pay a $90 application fee.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: $2,358/credit
  • Required Credits: 45
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus
Average Tuition
In-state
$57,384
Out-of-state
$57,384
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
17%
Students Enrolled
19,371
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#3 Best Economics Master’s Programs 2023

University of South Florida

  • Tampa, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Since its founding in 1956, the University of South Florida (USF) has grown to enroll nearly 50,000 students at its three Tampa Bay region campuses and online. The institution offers over 200 majors and minors in 13 academic schools. 

Master of Arts in Economics

The MA in economics from the University of South Florida features core courses in micro-, macro-, and mathematical economics. Students also complete 18 elective credits, including up to six credits from outside the department. Major research areas include international trade, health economics, and advanced econometrics. 

This non-thesis program culminates in a comprehensive oral examination that tests MA candidates' ability to conduct thorough economic analysis. To graduate, learners must maintain a 3.0 GPA in all classes.

Applying to USF

Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, plus GRE scores at or above the 55th percentile. Candidates also need undergraduate economics, calculus, and statistics courses, along with a $30 application fee. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $43/credit (in state); $877/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 30
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus
Average Tuition
In-state
$4,559
Out-of-state
$15,473
Retention Rate
92%
Admission Rate
49%
Students Enrolled
50,626
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
90% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 Best Economics Master’s Programs 2023

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

When it began classes in 1795, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) became the first public university in the United States. The school now enrolls more than 30,000 students and offers over 260 degree programs. 

Master of Science in Economics

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers an MS in economics as part of its Ph.D. program. The program requirements include core courses in micro-, macro-, and quantitative economics. Learners also take a research course and choose a specialization field such as industrial organization, labor economics, or health economics. 

At the end of the program, students complete a master's project and a written or oral examination for their specialization. While UNC-Chapel Hill allows learners to earn an MS in economics, they must first apply and qualify for the Ph.D. in economics. 

Applying to UNC-Chapel Hill

Prospective students need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, including previous coursework in economics, mathematics, and statistics. UNC-Chapel Hill requires three letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, a resume, and a $95 application fee. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $586/credit (in state); $1,602/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 30
  • Delivery Format: On campus
Average Tuition
In-state
$7,019
Out-of-state
$34,198
Retention Rate
95%
Admission Rate
25%
Students Enrolled
30,092
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
91% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 Best Economics Master’s Programs 2023

Florida State University

  • Tallahassee, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The state's oldest higher education institution, Florida State University (FSU) opened its doors in 1851. Over the years, the school has grown to enroll more than 45,000 students in nearly 300 programs. 

Master's in Applied Economics

Florida State University's master's in applied economics teaches students to apply economic theory in government and private sector projects. The program includes courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and professional development.

During the summer, master's candidates complete a simulated consulting master's project. This practical assignment tasks learners with technical writing, meetings, and presentations. The project culminates with an end-of-program symposium featuring local professionals. 

FSU students can pursue special elective topics in machine learning and financial economics, plus a spring internship. Every fall and spring, the program hosts a career day for economics students, complete with panel discussions, networking, and mock interviews.

Applying to FSU

Admission candidates need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, including prior coursework in economics, calculus, and statistics. FSU requires two letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a resume, plus a $30 application fee.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $479/credit (in state); $1,111/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 30
  • Program Length: 1 year
  • Delivery Format: On campus
Average Tuition
In-state
$4,640
Out-of-state
$19,084
Retention Rate
95%
Admission Rate
32%
Students Enrolled
43,569
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Common Questions About Economics Master's Degrees

  • Which is better, an MA in economics or MSc in economics?

    Neither is "better" than the other. MA and MS programs simply differ in their respective focuses. MA programs tend to concentrate more on theory, while MS programs delve deeper into technical mathematics.

  • What can you do with an economics master's degree?

    An economics master's is a versatile credential that can lead to analytics-focused career paths in business, finance, marketing, and government. You can also pursue doctoral studies to open doors to potential careers in academia.

  • How much does an economics master's program cost?

    Tuition rates for master's programs in economics generally align with institutional averages. The NCES reported average graduate school tuition rates of about $19,750 for the 2020-21 academic year.

  • Can you get an economics master's degree online?

    Yes. Given the nature of the subject matter, economics carries over well to virtual learning environments. Schools offer hybrid and 100% online master's degrees in economics.

  • Is a master's in economics worth it?

    Payscale data from January 2023 indicates an average salary of a U.S. master's degree-holder of $81,000 per year. Meanwhile, bachelor's-level workers earned an average salary of $69,000 per year.

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