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Getting Your Online Economics Degree: What to Expect

Aug 5, 2008 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Economists study the principles that govern commerce.  They study business, finance, the allocation of resources, consumer spending trends, and more—as well as the statistical applications that help them draw conclusions from data. 

While traditional financial fields still tend to be very conservative and less accepting of online degrees, business in general is open to online graduates—many companies pay for their employees to get MBA’s and other degrees online.  With an online economics degree, you’ll have plenty of career options in business and industry.

What You’ll Study

Some schools offer a single economics program, while others offer several options that focus on various specialties.  Some economics degree programs focus on business economics, while others focus on policy, the philosophy of economics, or even teaching.  However, there are some classes that are common to most economics degree programs.  These include:


Regardless of your focus, you’ll need to be able to conduct statistical analysis of data as an economist. 

Money and banking

Students studying economics must have a firm understanding of monetary institutions and financial markets.

Principles of micro- and macro-economics

Micro-economics is the study of economies on a small scale; anything from individual companies to individual households.  Macro-economics is the study of larger economic systems made up of many smaller economic environments—such as an entire country’s economy.

International economics

No study of economics is complete without an understanding of how other countries’ economies operate and how they affect our own.

See Also: Online International Business Degrees

How You’ll Study

Online and traditional classes are similar in some ways, and vastly different in others.  In both, you’ll have peers and contact with a teacher.  You’ll have material to read, lectures to attend, and assignments to turn in.  In online education, however, you’re often in a much less structured environment—you can attend class on your own time and wherever you want, and don’t have to adhere to a rigid class schedule.  Some programs will still require you to pass in homework by a specific time, but others are more flexible there as well. 

There are many different ways online classes are administered, but most have the following things in common. 

Online discussion forums

Most online classes include a discussion forum that allows students to discuss the class material and collaborate on projects.  Some programs grade your participation, while others simply offer it as a tool to connect with peers.

Email contact with a teacher

As an online student, you should have an email address where you can contact your instructor to ask questions.  In a good program, the instructor should respond within 24 hours.

Video and podcast lectures

Many online programs will include online lectures recorded by the professor.  Some may be streamed live, and allow students to ask questions via Instant Message.

More than just writing

Most online programs are writing-heavy; you’ll have to turn in lots of written assignments, as well as communicate with professors and peers through writing.  However, especially with an economics program, you’ll also have to complete assignments using other programs and skills—spreadsheets, Excel, PowerPoint, and other programs may be required knowledge.

What to Look For in a School

Accreditation.  Your school must be accredited by a legitimate accrediting agency.  Whether you’re applying for a traditional or online program, accreditation isn’t optional.  See this article on accreditation for more information.

Qualified instructors

Your economics professors should have Ph.D’s in the subject.  It’s also beneficial if they have significant industry experience.

A sufficient amount of time for the degree

It should take you approximately four years to complete a full-time undergraduate degree; two or three years to complete a Master’s; and several years after that to complete a Ph.D.  If an online school is offering a degree in months, it’s too good to be true.

Transfer credits

If you already have some credits at a different university, choose an online school that will allow you to transfer your credits.  See this article on transfer credits for more information.

A rigorous program

Before choosing, ask to speak to alumni and current students about the program.  A good online program should include hands-on assignments in addition to written work.

An economics degree can help you get started in a challenging and financially rewarding career.  With thorough research, you should be able to find an online program that suits both your needs and your budget. For Fun: Steven Levitt - the Economics of Inner-city Gangs




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