Online Programs

Master's Degree in Economics vs. MBA

For students who have the definite goal of becoming economists, the Master’s in Economics is the only postgraduate degree (besides a Ph.D.) that makes sense. However, the choice to pursue a Master’s in Economics is not always as clear for everyone. In some cases, equal consideration is given to the Master’s in Economics as well as the Master of Business Administration. If you’re planning the next phase of your career and need help deciding which advanced degree to pursue, this article will outline some of the differences between an MA in Economics and an MBA as well as tips and pointers on choosing the degree that’s right for you.

What's the Difference Between a Master's in Economics and an MBA?

The main difference between a master’s degree and an MBA is specialization versus broad knowledge. Master’s degrees offer students highly specialized and theoretical knowledge of a particular subject while the MBA is noted for its general survey of topics related to business management. For example, while an MBA student may take a general economics course, students enrolled in a Master’s in Economics program will take classes on microeconomics, macroeconomics, applied econometrics and mathematical economics. For that reason, an MBA may be more useful and appropriate for those who wish to pursue a business-related career rather than a career that focuses on economic theories and principles. More on that below.

How to Choose Between an MBA or a Master's in Economics?

The best way to decide which choice is right for you is to evaluate what kind of career you hope to have. An MBA, which provides a broad swath of business knowledge, may be the best choice for those who want to work in a managerial capacity. For students who want to continue their education and attain a Ph.D., or who want to work in the fields of research, public policy or consulting, a Master's in Economics may be the better choice. In terms of cost and time to complete, Master’s in Economics and MBA programs can be on par, so the decision really comes down to your personal interests and career goals following graduation.

What Can You Do with a Master's in Economics?

While an MBA can offer students a broader range of knowledge, for those who want to pursue careers outside the business world, a master's degree offers deeper and more specialized knowledge. Students who pursue a Master's in Economics can go on to a variety of different careers from studying the economics of healthcare for an insurance company to researching the impact global aid has on a developing country’s economy. A Master's in Economics provides students with the specialized knowledge that companies, non-profits, think tanks and government agencies need to help them craft policy and make decisions. Those with master's degrees can also work as professors at two-year colleges (most faculty positions at four-year colleges and universities require a doctorate).

Is a Master’s in Economics Worth It?

Furthering education of any kind is an investment in your future. Across the board, having a master’s degree will almost always result in higher annual earnings. According to the Pew Research Center’s tabulations of the 2009 Survey of Income and Program Participation (the latest year available), college-educated 25- to 34-year-olds with a master’s degree earned about $11,000 more per year than their peers with a bachelor’s degree and no further education. Speaking of the Master’s in Economics specifically, this degree can offer holders tremendous value and significant ROI. Monster.com recently ranked the Master’s in Economics as the #4 best-paying master’s degree with a median salary for mid-career economists at $114,000.

Want to learn more? Discover an online Master’s in Economics delivered by distinguished faculty based in Washington D.C., the epicenter of economic policy in the United States. American University’s online MA in Economics with a specialization in applied economics can help you take the next step in your career. And speaking of careers, be sure to check out our free guide below on career opportunities in economics.

To learn more about American University’s online Master of Arts Economics, Applied Economics specialization, request more information or call us toll free at 855-725-7614.