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It’s all about the Benjamins (and the Lincolns, the Hamiltons, and sometimes even the Georges): With a growing global economy sometimes overshadowing local markets, the forces of economics take the front seat in government policy making, community planning, and small-business development. Advanced degrees are awarded to students who demonstrate exceptional abilities as both scholars and researchers; they are prerequisites for certain positions in industry, business enterprise, and within scientific organizations.

Programs can be found that concentrate on environmental economics, urban and regional economics, public finance, agricultural economics, and evolutionary economics. As public awareness grows about the options available in personal finance, there has been a flood of economic research about retirement planning and alternatives to the basic savings account. New graduates set the foundation for local, national, and global economic theory for every generation, and each new fiscal concept developed by those with master’s or doctorate degrees reaches beyond the walls of the university as they take powerful positions within corporations, governments, and financial institutions.

Degree Information

Most schools with a department of economics offer M.A., M.S., and Ph.D. programs in various concentrations. M.A. and M.S. programs typically require around 30 hours of course work (one to two years of study) while doctoral students can expect to spend four to five years working on required courses, dissertation research, and oral exams.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Are you comfortable speaking about and explaining complex analytical issues?
  • Do you have strong investigative skills?
  • Do you have a strong background in mathematics and statistics?
  • Does the program you are considering offer concentrations in your area of interest?
  • Does the research of one or more faculty members of the school you are considering match your interests?

Career Overview

Economists mainly work in one of three sectors: government and public enterprises; industry and trade; and banking and finance. The most basic mission of the student economist is to marry available resources with human wants and needs. Today more than ever, the problems society faces--such as discrimination, pollution, energy, and overpopulation--are chiefly economic, as are their solutions.

Most economists are concerned with practical applications of economic policy in a particular area such as finance, labor, agriculture, transportation, and natural resources. They use their experience with economic theory to counsel businesses, insurance companies, banks, labor unions, and government agencies.

Career/Licensing Requirements

No licensing requirements exist for economists. Advanced degrees (M.A., M.S., Ph.D.) are typically the only criteria needed to begin a career in this field.

Salary Information

The median wage for economists is $68,520. Wages are higher for economists who hold Ph.D. degrees.

Related Links

International Economic Development Council
Offers information and services for those interested in economic development.

Dollars and Sense
“The Magazine of Economic Justice.” Offers perspectives on current economic affairs.

Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel
List of all Nobel Prize winners in the field and their concentrations.