This page introduces prospective economics students to essential tools for evaluating their many online educational options. In addition to learning about the specific topics covered in an online economics degree, students can expect to develop core skills and competencies. Exploration of potential career paths and the earning potentials of an accredited online economics program, along with important information about accreditation and the prospective value of earning an advanced degree in economics is also covered. This guide prepares students to find the right school and program for achieving their educational and career development goals in the field of economics.
Overview of Economics Degrees
As an academic discipline, economics concerns itself with how people and societies make decisions about using available resources to build wealth. The American Economic Association defines economics as the study of resource allocation, development, and monetization. Some experts subdivide the field into two interrelated disciplines, macroeconomics and microeconomics. Macroeconomics studies these questions on international or national scales, while microeconomics considers them on local or individual scales.
Earning a bachelor's degree in economics typically leads to one of three designations: a bachelor of arts (BA), a bachelor of science (BS), or a bachelor of economics (BEc or BEcon). In general, BA designations prepare students for careers that deal with the human factors involved in economics, while BS programs guide students to develop objective quantitative analysis skills. Bachelor of economics programs typically balance the qualitative methods of BA options and the quantitative and statistical elements of BS programs.
Most online bachelor's degrees in economics do not ask students to appear on campus to complete program requirements. If you enjoy mathematics, finance, statistical analysis, problem solving, and analytical thinking, studying economics might work well for you. Economics graduates generally enjoy strong employment prospects, as the field has a wide range of practical applications in business and enterprise.
Applying to an online bachelor of economics program at an accredited American college or university typically requires students to submit a completed application form, high school transcripts, and SAT or ACT test scores. Most economics programs accept applicants with GEDs instead of traditional high school diplomas. Many economics programs also ask applicants to submit personal statements indicating their reasons for pursuing the degree, as well as one or more letters of recommendation from educational or economics professionals familiar with your skills and aptitudes. Transfer students must also provide their college transcripts along with detailed course descriptions covering the classes they wish to transfer.
Since economics strongly incorporates mathematics, institutions carefully assess a student's demonstrated academic abilities in fields such as statistics and calculus. Students without any advanced high school courses in these subject areas may need to do so in order to meet prerequisite requirements. Some programs admit students on a conditional basis so they can complete prerequisite mathematics courses before beginning the major curriculum of an online economics program.
What Will I Learn?
As students pursue an economics bachelor degree, they build foundational, intermediate, and advanced knowledge of topics such as:
- Supply and demand theory
- Business competition landscapes
- International trade
- Job creation and unemployment
- Taxation models
- Inflation theory
- Price control methodologies
- Interest rates
- Currency exchange rates
- Government policy and its impact on economies
Many programs also offer students the option of specializing in a particular aspect of economics, such as macroeconomics, microeconomics, development and growth economics, international economics, economics and the law, and other potential concentrations as determined by the institution.
While specifics vary, most schools require economics students to accumulate approximately 80-120 credit hours of coursework to qualify for graduation. In most cases, about half of the total credit requirements apply to core economics courses.
The following sample curriculum provides examples of the types of classes often encountered as students work toward an online economics degree.
Core Principles of Economics
This foundational course delivers an overview of the economic system from a global perspective, introducing students to the principles and features that make economies work as well as the forces that stabilize and destabilize them. Learners also explore essential aspects of monetary policy and core topics, such as inflation, economic growth, and unemployment.
Students pursuing a bachelor of science degree in economics require advanced proficiencies in statistical analysis. This introductory statistics course teaches students how to describe, display, and model data using practical examples and applications. It also covers topics including statistical curves, probability, and how to form and test inferences and hypotheses based on statistical data.
Another foundational mathematics course for students working toward a bachelor of science in economics, this introduction to calculus studies limits, integrals, derivatives, differentiation, and continuity. It guides learners to develop the essential skills professionals use to model and solve real-world economics problems.
Introduction to Macroeconomics
This course teaches students about the basic forces that drive major features of global economies, such as interest rates, inflation rates, employment rates, and growth or contraction rates. These theoretical models play a foundational role in the subsequent exploration of advanced topics in economics, giving students a sound knowledge base for further growth and discovery.
Introduction to Microeconomics
In this class, learners examine the localized and individual behaviors that drive economies. Topics include consumer behavior, personal finance, the structure and function of commercial markets, and the role of government policy in driving economies on both micro and macro scales. Students develop important insights that further their understandings of how small decisions affect larger economic pictures.
Fundamentals of Economic Development
Covering topics including resource development and building and leveraging assets to drive economic growth and wealth accumulation, learners explore ways to apply these concepts to both developed and developing economies.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Economics?
A bachelor of economics prepares students for a wide range of exciting and potentially profitable careers in fields including finance and banking, data analysis, business development, and business operations. The core skills of an online bachelor's degree in economics possess a wide range of tangible, valuable, and practical applications. Experts also note that economics majors have growing opportunities in emerging sectors, such as electronic commerce and healthcare, as the global economy increasingly digitizes.
Economics majors wield skills that employers highly value, such as the ability to "drill down" raw data to identify the forces and relationships that cause particular trends. Using a retail business as an example, a "drill down" might look at increased revenues and determining whether the business drew in more customers or whether its current customer base simply spent more money per visit. This type of analysis yields valuable insights companies use to create targeted strategies for further growth.
Beyond identifying these types of relationships, economics graduates also display advanced abilities to understand and analyze relationships in the interests of pinpointing untapped opportunities. Economics graduates also excel at communicating their findings in plain, accessible language, and their insights help companies develop new products and services to fill market niches.
Given their expertise with qualitative and quantitative analysis, economics majors remain in high demand across all industries and sectors of the economy. The hypercompetitive global business landscape continues to reward innovation and strategic aplomb, ensuring that employers seek out and hire capable economics graduates.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Economics majors develop skills that translate to many different industries and sectors. Many graduates go on to work in financial services, as economics expertise transfers well to jobs in banking, investing, and insurance. Potential career paths also extend well beyond these areas, into virtually any business where advanced numeracy and financial analytics capabilities benefit employer operations and strategic aspirations. Education and labor market experts commonly cite economics majors as ranking among the most employable college graduates, and strong demand for capable economists persists around the world. Government and public agencies also hire economics majors in many different capacities, given their expertise with long-term financial planning.
While an online economics degree prepares students for many rewarding and potentially lucrative careers, the five career paths below rank among the most common for economics majors.
Annual Median Salary: $84,300
Financial analysts work for investment firms, consultancies, or work independently. Using qualitative analysis and drawing on their advanced knowledge of financial markets, they offer advice and make recommendations to businesses and individual clients seeking to build wealth through investing.
Annual Median Salary: $100,410
Also known as general managers, operations managers oversee the day-to-day functions of private businesses or public organizations. They create and implement operational policies, guide and manage growth, and make decisions regarding the deployment of human and financial resources.
Annual Median Salary: $82,450
Business analysts evaluate organizational efficiency, identifying areas for improvement by finding ways to cut costs and boost profitability. Most business analysts work for consultancies or independently.
Annual Median Salary: $91,565
Combining economics and computer science education, these professionals specialize in extracting meaning and insights from raw data using statistical analysis skills and machine learning.
Annual Median Salary: $44,027
Typically employed by investment firms, banks, and credit unions, investment representatives work with customers who want to use institutionally managed financial products, such as mutual funds, to build wealth. Investment representatives recommend options based on each individual client's investment goals and financial situation.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Economics?
A BA or BS in economics prepares graduates for a wide variety of entry-level careers, but in many cases, candidates need advanced degrees to proceed into leadership positions with greater earning potential. Furthering studies beyond the bachelor's level can significantly expand the range of professional options, while simultaneously affording students the opportunity to earn a valuable specialization.
One way to enhance career potential without proceeding into an advanced degree path involves building a diverse skill set. Completing a double major in economics and a field like computer science increases attractiveness to employers, since students then hold multiple in-demand professional proficiencies. Many students also combine online economics degrees with business minors or elective concentrations.
Accreditation for Economics Bachelor's Programs
To extract maximum value from an education, students should only enroll in schools with proper accreditation. Numerous nationally and internationally recognized accrediting agencies endorse online economics programs, including the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), and the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE). These organizations provide programmatic accreditation, meaning their endorsement extends only to the school's economics department.
Not all economic departments hold programmatic accreditation, and many reputable programs lack these departmental endorsements. At the very least, ensure that the online college or university holds national or regional accreditation from an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The more prestigious of the two, regional accreditation, ensures the quality of education received by students throughout a university's many departments. The ED offers an online directory with the accreditation status of schools.
Economics Professional Organizations
Economics students qualify to join many different economics professional organizations. These organizations offer a long list of membership benefits, including ongoing professional development programs, job boards, career development resources, educational conferences, and excellent networking opportunities. Above all, they provide an effective way to stay up-to-date with developments in the field of economics, and help members build fruitful personal and professional relationships.
American Economics Association
With a mandate focused on economics scholarship and research, the AEA supports emerging and established professionals through resources, including periodicals and publications, career development opportunities, and annual conferences for networking and discussing salient topics in the field.
International Economic Association
Founded in 1950, the IEA holds formal ties to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Its mission promotes the forging and development of enhanced professional relationships among its members, and the IEA regularly holds events and conferences in locations around the world.
World Economics Association
A relative newcomer among economics professional organizations, the WEA bridges a void by acting as a pluralistic association with an inclusive, internationally focused mandate. Students can join for free, though members who pay voluntary annual dues gain access to a wider range of career development and support resources.