By BVS Staff
If you're thinking of earning an affordable online master's in economics degree, now is the time to do it. Globalization has made economics a much more complicated discipline, and recent periods of economic uncertainty and instability are leading executives in many industries – from business to politics to technology – to call on the expertise of professional economists.
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And while earning an advanced degree requires a financial investment, it will likely pay off. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for economists in the U.S. in 2016 was over $100,000 a year! Plus, if you choose to earn your degree online, you can save money on tuition (and travel costs) while continuing to earn a salary at your current place of employment. It doesn't take an economist to see that that's a smart financial move!
The 20 Best Online Master's in Economics Degrees Ranking Methodology
For this ranking, we focused on public and private (non-profit) colleges and universities that offer online economics master's programs. Because the focus of this list is on affordability, we only considered programs with average* tuition rates of $25,000/year or less.
*For public schools, we calculated the average value of their in-state and out-of-state rates.
Unfortunately, there are a limited number of graduate programs in economics available online. Therefore, we could not compile a pool of options large enough to justify a complex ranking system in which we'd filter out schools based on a list of specific factors.
So instead, we ranked the programs solely according to their affordability. See below for the best cheap online master's degrees in economics, ranked from most to least expensive.
Cheap Online Master's in Economics Degree Programs Ranked
20. Northeastern University
Online Master of Science in Commerce and Economic Development
At Northeastern University, you can partake in a unique, interdisciplinary economics program that blends theoretical concepts with targeted applications. Specifically, this accredited online master's in economics places a focus on commercial development. As a student in the program, you'll start by learning about important micro and macroeconomic theories, statistics, and econometrics. You'll then have a chance to put your knowledge in the context of everyday issues through a series of targeted elective courses. For example, you might take "Economics of Human Capital," "Environmental Economics," or "Economics of E-Commerce." Finally, you'll complete an in-depth capstone project on a topic in your professional area of interest.
Average Tuition & Fees: $23,688/yr
19. Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
Online MBA in Agribusiness Economics
By far, Southern Illinois University's econ program is one of the most unique on this online master's degrees in economics ranking. With it MBA in Agribusiness Economics, SIU caters to a highly specific group of professionals. So while it may not be for everyone, this degree is a veritable godsend for farm and food industry workers who want to strengthen their managerial and financial skills. The curriculum even digs deep into niche content areas like grain merchandising and farm appraisal to ensure that you graduate with the knowledge you need for a successful career in agribusiness.
Average Tuition & Fees: $23,496/yr
18. Pennsylvania State University-World Campus
Online Master of Professional Studies in Community and Economic Development
There are a lot of reasons to study economics, especially if you plan on having a career in finance or business. But at Penn State, faculty view economics through a different lens. Specifically, this Master of Professional Studies in Community and Economic Development aims to help students tackle "social, environmental, and economic issues" in their local communities. The curriculum achieves this goal through coursework in topics like municipal finance, social organization, and leadership development. As such, this is one of the top online economics master's programs for professionals who currently work (or aspire to jobs) in nonprofit organizations, local government, and other similar fields.
Average Tuition & Fees: $20,974/yr
17. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Online MPA in Community & Economic Development
If you're interested in public administration, the University of North Carolina has an ideal program for you. Although the school doesn't offer an affordable online master's in economics, its MPA with a concentration in Community and Economic Development poses a worthy substitute. Because of its focus on public administration, this degree pairs nicely with careers in urban planning, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and other community-minded endeavors. And thanks to the CED concentration, you'll develop special expertise in topics like affordable housing and community-based businesses. Plus, you'll acquire niche skills – in grant writing, for example – that will help you get ahead in the job market.
Average Tuition & Fees: $20,534/yr
16. Purdue University
Online MS Degree in Economics
Math enthusiasts, take note: Purdue University is the perfect place to earn an affordable MS in Economics degree online. The school has designed its econ program specifically for individuals "with strong analytical backgrounds," such as those with bachelor's degrees in STEM fields. And you'll definitely need to draw on this background to get through Purdue's challenging coursework. The core sequence focuses heavily on econometrics and its applications, including behavioral and international economics. Next, you'll stretch your math skills even further in the second year of the program. This is when you'll complete a concentration in Applied Economics and Business, which features advanced topics like game theory and microeconometrics.
Average Tuition & Fees: $19,393/yr
15. Southern New Hampshire University
Online MS in Applied Economics
Southern New Hampshire University's graduate program offers a traditional, broad-based view of applied economics. Degree candidates "explore diverse theoretical schools of thought" while building skills in data collection and processing, modeling, and empirical analysis. Beyond these essential topics, you'll also have a chance to learn about unique subfields through a sequence of four electives. For example, you might supplement your core online master's in economics coursework with a class in "Environmental and Natural Resource Economics," "International Corporate Finance," or "Business Research." Lastly, all program participants must complete an Applied Economics Capstone to help synthesize their knowledge.
Average Tuition & Fees: $18,810/yr
14. Georgia Southern University
Online Master of Science in Applied Economics
As societies evolve and economies adapt, the profile of the economist changes, too. That's why Georgia Southern University has created an accredited MS in Economics degree online program that aims to fulfill the "unique combination of skills" that 21st-century economists need to be successful. In particular, this includes a heavy emphasis on analytical skills. Indeed, GSU's program covers everything from quantitative and regulatory analysis to market analysis and economic development. The goal is to prepare graduates not only for typical careers in finance, but also for jobs in government, NGOs, and business.
Average Tuition & Fees: $18,669/yr
13. University of Missouri-Columbia
Online Master of Arts in Economics
The University of Missouri's MA in Economics seeks to provide students with a broad spectrum of skills that will help them be successful in the global marketplace. This starts with a traditional, 18-credit core sequence in math, research, micro and macroeconomics, and applied econometrics. To round out your online economics master's program, you'll then pick 12 credits of electives. Here, you can acquire a worldly perspective on finance through courses such as "The International Monetary System" and "Economics of International Trade." Other options explore complex issues like game theory, the banking system, and economic development.
Average Tuition & Fees: $17,337/yr
12. SUNY Empire State College
Online Master of Arts in Community and Economic Development
SUNY Empire is one of a handful of schools on this ranking that offers socially-oriented econ programs. Here, faculty view community and economic development as a way to leverage economic know-how to enhance social capital and communal well-being. As such, this cheap online master's degree in economics focuses less on math and analysis and more on public policy and leadership. The curriculum even incorporates such highly-targeted classes as "Policy Process" and "Stakeholder Sensitive Business Models." And as a bonus, you can use your elective credits to earn an advanced certificate in one of six concentration areas.
Average Tuition & Fees: $17,055/yr
11. Eastern University
Online MBA in Economic Development
Some might worry that an economics degree could limit the types of jobs they can get in business. Although many economics programs are quite versatile, one way to avoid this concern is to instead earn an MBA. Eastern University's MBA, for example, includes a concentration in Economic Development. Therefore, the curriculum combines standard business classes in accounting, finance, and management with more targeted econ courses. It even covers niche topics like "Advocacy and Human Rights" and "Theology of Poverty." Note, however, that this 44-credit program is longer than the typical accredited online master's degree in economics.
Average Tuition & Fees: $16,750/yr
10. University of Oklahoma
Online Master of Arts in Economics
The University of Oklahoma offers a challenging yet flexible, high-quality but cheap online master's in economics. Ideal for working adults, the accelerated format combines intensive web-based classes with one or two onsite visits. Students typically take two classes per 16-week term and finish in about two years. Over this period, you'll develop a robust understanding of statistics, managerial economics, and analytical methods. The program also incorporates a substantial research component. Not only will you take a "Research in Economic Problems" course, but you'll also complete a cumulative research project before earning your degree.
Average Tuition & Fees: $15,906/yr
9. University of North Dakota
Online Master's in Applied Economics
For a practical, research-focused education, consider attending the University of North Dakota. Here, you can earn a cheap MS in Economics degree online that will prepare you to conduct "real-world economic research for a broad array of government, business, or other institutional settings." Throughout the 2+ years you're enrolled in the program, you'll pick up skills in economic forecasting, analysis, price theory, econometrics, and more. Plus, you can take electives to brush up on unfamiliar topics like international finance or demographics. And if you lack on-the-job experience, you can even earn credit for completing an internship in economics research.
Average Tuition & Fees: $15,608/yr
8. Ball State University
Online MBA in Health Economics, Policy, and Administration
If you're looking for a traditional economics degree, Ball State is probably not the school for you. But if you want to pick up targeted skills at the intersection of business, econ, and healthcare, there's no better place to go. Instead of your standard online master's in economics, BSU offers an MBA with a concentration in Health Economics, Policy, and Administration. Through this uniquely blended curriculum, you'll acquire a solid base of knowledge in statistics, economic analysis, information systems, management, and even marketing. On top of this foundation, you'll then build specialized layers of expertise in topics like "Health Economics and Policy" and "Risk Management and Insurance."
Average Tuition & Fees: $15,525/yr
7. Ohio University
Online Master of Financial Economics
Ohio University's economics program doesn't try to be all things to all people. Forgoing a broad-based education in favor of highly-specialized career training, OU's Master of Financial Economics is a top choice for bankers and other financial professionals. In fact, the curriculum is designed specifically to prepare degree candidates to become certified as Chartered Financial Analysts (CFAs). This mission comes across clearly in the program's coursework, which favors in-depth subjects like portfolio theory, equity markets, financial derivatives, and international trade. Another perk? You can apply to this cheap online economics master's program without taking the GRE or GMAT!
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,711/yr
6. Regent University
Online MBA with a Concentration in Economics
Regent University is home to the most affordable MBA program on this online master's in economics ranking. But its low tuition rate isn't the only reason you should consider attending Regent. In fact, the degree also boasts ACBSP accreditation and has earned accolades as one of the best online business programs in Virginia. Like most MBAs, Regent's curriculum incorporates a combination of fundamental management principles with econ-specific lessons. However, the university also stands out for another reason: it's a Christian institution that delivers all coursework within the framework of biblical principles.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,326/yr
5. Youngstown State University
Online Master of Arts in Financial Economics
Perhaps it's something unique about Ohio, but Youngstown University joins OU as the only two schools on this ranking with programs that focus specifically on financial economics. At Youngstown, this emphasis comes in the form of a targeted, analytically minded curriculum. You'll learn all about econometric techniques (like regression analysis) as well as financial strategies (e.g., hedging and speculating). In addition, you'll acquire in-depth knowledge of Stata and SAS – two crucial types of statistical software. Last but not least, this affordable online master's degree in economics incorporates a virtual research seminar to keep you up-to-date on all the latest industry findings.
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,492/yr
4. Western Illinois University
Online Master's Degree in Community and Economic Development (CED)
Switching gears again, Western Illinois University joins many other schools on this list in offering an econ program that emphasizes social and commercial growth. Specifically, the degree aims to provide an interdisciplinary curriculum by addressing issues in three fields: community development, economic development, and marketing and data analysis. And because the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs manages the program, coursework places an added emphasis on economic advancements in small communities. While earning this affordable online master's in economics, you'll even spend four days training at the Midwest Community Development Institute.
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,458/yr
3. Xavier University
Online Master of Science in Health Economics and Clinical Outcomes Research (HECOR)
For students with an interest in both economics and healthcare, Xavier University offers a rare opportunity to study both at once. In this MS in Health Economics, research and analysis provide a bridge between disciplines while transforming your understanding of what it means to provide effective healthcare. After you enroll in this MS in Economics degree online, you'll dive into a rich curriculum that includes classes like "Healthcare Policy and Policy Analysis," "Cost Benefit and Effectiveness," and "Comparative Global Health Systems." Of course, all this will come on top of a solid core to build up your skills in quantitative methods and applied analysis.
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,082/yr
2. University of Houston-Victoria
Online MS Economic Development and Entrepreneurship
There are plenty of affordable MS in Economics degrees online, and yet the University of Houston Victoria's program still manages to offer something truly unique. That is, its curriculum features a dual emphasis on economic development and entrepreneurship. This makes it the perfect option for students who don't just want to help other local businesses thrive but actually want to start one themselves! Classes include useful lessons in "Developing the Business Plan," "Growing the Successful Venture," and "The Practice of Local Economic Development," among many others. By the time you graduate, you'll have all the tools you need to take your idea from fledgling start-up to full-blown success.
Average Tuition & Fees: $10,969/yr
1. West Texas A & M University
Online Master of Science in Finance and Economics (M.S.F.E.)
Can't decide between a degree in finance or economics? Worry not. At West Texas A&M, you can earn a Master of Science in Finance and Economics all in one 36-credit program. And while WTAMU places first on our ranking because it has the most affordable online economics master's program, it has earned plenty of praise for its quality, too. In fact, both U.S. News and The Financial Engineer count WTAMU among the best schools for business and economics. The degree also stands out for its superior level of customizability. Rather than a standard core sequence, you can build your own curriculum by picking one class from each of seven subdisciplines (e.g. "Theory of Households and Firms" and "Asset Valuation").
Average Tuition & Fees: $6,800/yr
Thanks for reading our ranking of the 20 top cheap MA and MS in Economics degrees online!