Is an Economics Degree Worth It?

economics degree

Key Takeaways

  • An economics degree offers transferable skills applicable to a wide range of careers in business, finance, and government.
  • Higher-level economics degrees typically lead to better job prospects and higher salaries but involve greater time and financial investment.
  • The value of an economics degree varies based on individual career goals, job market trends, and the level of degree pursued.

Introduction to Economics Degrees

Before we dig into economics degree value, let’s look at economics as a field of study. Economics focuses on the production, distribution, and use of products and services. The social science field analyzes the allocations of limited resources against unlimited wants. 

Economics has two branches of study: 

  • Macroeconomics studies the economy, including unemployment, inflation, and fiscal policy issues.
  • Microeconomics focuses on the individual and group-based resource allocation processes. It also studies the effect of individuals and businesses on supply and demand.

Such is the crucial importance of the study of economics that it influences other fields. These include business, politics, government, and social work. Furthermore, the concepts of GDP and CPI affect every individual and group. 

Featured Programs

Students in economics degree programs must have strong qualitative and quantitative skills. This is because economics programs combine social sciences and STEM courses. These include econometrics, game theory, and statistical modeling. Broad discussions of microeconomics, macroeconomics, and applied economics are common.

Economics, as a part of the social sciences, is among the top three most popular degree choices. The enduring popularity of economics degrees is due to their versatility and relevance. College students pursuing economics degrees attest to these benefits: 

  • Gain an understanding of current events that affect your present and future. You can make informed decisions based on economic performance indicators. These include inflation and interest rates. 
  • Develop skills for success in diverse occupations. Your qualitative and quantitative skills are sought after in business, government, and nonprofits. Your interdisciplinary education and training mean versatility and adaptability, too. 
  • Influence policies and programs affecting individual and collective well-being. Your contributions can be in education, healthcare, and human services, among others. 
  • Increase your financial literacy. Your effective financial management skills can be instrumental in others’ success, too. 

The bottom line: Now is the best time to consider earning an economics degree. But read on, as there’s more to it.

Types of Economics Degrees and Their Scope

Accredited colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs in economics. Students can also choose between on-campus, online, and hybrid programs. The best degree programs offer excellent academic instruction and student support services.

Associate Degree 

The two-year associate degree provides students with foundational knowledge in economics. Students prepare for entry-level positions and bachelor’s degree programs. Since community colleges offer it, students enjoy affordable tuition. Credits earned are usually transferable to bachelor’s degree programs. 

Students complete general education courses during their freshman year. Their sophomore-year coursework covers the history, theories, and principles of economics. With said education, common jobs include administrative assistants, sales associates, and bank tellers. 

Bachelor’s Degree 

The four-year bachelor’s degree provides students with a comprehensive understanding of economics. Students engage in more in-depth discussions of economic theories, principles, and applications. The intensive coursework challenges the students’ qualitative and quantitative skills. 

Core courses cover microeconomics, macroeconomics, and applied economics. Concentration courses, if any, can include labor economics, development economics, or public economics. Elective courses broaden interdisciplinary knowledge in business or political science. 

Students complete a thesis and a capstone project as a final degree requirement. Internships provide hands-on learning opportunities. 

A bachelor’s degree opens opportunities for higher-paying entry-level positions. These include economic analysts, financial analysts, and policy analysts. 

Master’s Degree 

The master’s degree in economics can take 1-2 years to complete. Students gain a depth of knowledge and practical skills in economics. 

The intensive coursework covers advanced topics in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics. Students show their advanced qualitative and quantitative skills in concentration and elective courses. 

Research courses culminate in a master’s thesis and a capstone project. Many programs have mandatory internship, fieldwork, and consulting project requirements. 

A master’s degree can lead to leadership positions with specialized roles. Examples include economists, data scientists, and financial consultants. 

Doctoral Degree 

The doctoral degree, usually a PhD in Economics, is a terminal degree with 5-7 years for completion. The rigorous coursework combined with original research isn’t for everybody. 

But career opportunities in colleges, government agencies, and nonprofits make it worthwhile. Popular paths include college professors, researchers, and policy advisors. 

Career Opportunities and Salary Expectations

Establishing a career in economics can be challenging but rewarding. The median annual economics degree salary was $115,730 (May 2023) for economists with a master’s degree. Economists with extensive work experience can earn as much as $216,900 annually. 

Such is the versatility of an economics degree that it’s in demand in diverse sectors. Graduates work in government agencies, business corporations, and nonprofit organizations. These organizations use economic methods and analysis in their operations, including forecasting. 

Furthermore, most economists and related professions are full-time workers. Being an employee, a freelancer, or a consultant is also a choice. 

Here are popular career opportunities and average annual salaries for economics degree holders.  

  • Quantitative analysts $110,078 
  • Financial analysts $99,010
  • Senior market analysts $94,660
  • Actuaries $120,000
  • Compensation and benefits managers $136,380
  • Product managers $80,327
  • Policy advisors $104,760
  • Management consultants $120,178
  • Portfolio managers $118,100
  • Loan officers $69,990

So, is an online economics degree worth it? Yes, it is. 

There’s a high return on investment in an economics degree. The number of years in which you can recoup your investment will depend on many factors. Your annual salary, student loan debt, and potential for higher income are crucial.

The ability to leverage your economics degree is also critical for career success. Networking during your college years is a good start. Learning through coursework, research projects, and internships is a must.

Tapping your network for job recommendations and referrals leads to excellent opportunities. Then, prove your worth through a strong work ethic, professionalism, and performance. Furthermore, a successful economics career with high ROI demands lifelong learning. 

Pros and Cons of Pursuing an Economics Degree

While an online economics degree is worth it, it isn’t for everybody either. You must consider its pros and cons as part of your decision-making process.


The benefits of an economics degree are part of its increasing appeal among students. 

  • Gain technical and transferable skills with applications in diverse fields.

Your qualitative and quantitative skills have practical applications in diverse sectors. Businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits use economics in their decision-making process. Your versatile soft skills are also in high demand across industries. Critical and analytical thinking are of particular value. 

  • Wide range of careers 

You can use an economics degree in many occupations, as mentioned above. Your economics degree will also open opportunities on the international stage. Think trade, diplomacy, and business roles. 

  • High earnings potential 

Economics degree holders enjoy an excellent economics job outlook. Economists, for example, have faster-than-average projected job outlook. When combined with high-income potential, earning an economics degree brings rewards. 


But there are disadvantages, too, in earning an economics degree. 

  • Possibility of high tuition costs 

An online economics degree can cost between $35,000 and $72,000 in tuition. Public colleges are the best options for affordability. Many public colleges provide excellent economics programs, such as the University of California Berkeley. Apply for financial aid regardless of your college’s public or private designation. 

  • Emphasis on theoretical knowledge

There’s a debate about the bias toward theoretical knowledge in economics programs. In real-world workplaces, there’s greater value attached to practical knowledge and skills. The solution: Internships, practicum, and consulting projects while in college. 

Our verdict: The pros outweigh the cons. You can also adopt effective steps to overcome the disadvantages.

Making the Decision: Is an Economics Degree Right for You?

Choosing a major in college can be a life-changing decision. This is true with an economics degree despite its rewards. You must determine whether it is or isn’t aligned with your interests and goals. 

Follow these basic steps to make your decision. 

Perform a self-assessment.

What are your interests and how do these tie up with an economics degree? What are your strengths and weaknesses in academics? What do you value in a career – personal satisfaction, job stability, and high income? 

If your interests and goals are aligned with an economics degree, go for it. Otherwise, stop and reconsider. 

Explore careers in economics. 

Get reliable information about the economics-related career paths and their risks and rewards. Research job sites and the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Talk to current economics students and professionals. Set realistic expectations about the job demands. 

If you decide that an economics career will work for you, start planning. Your choice of a college or university is a start. While college prestige has its place, your suitability for the program is a better gauge. Then, plan your career – where to start, what to do, and who to contact, among others.