A master’s degree in economics, one of the top degree options for the highest paying business careers, involves graduate-level study in both the theories and the mathematical methods of data analysis used in this social science. If you’re considering an economics education, you might be wondering how similar the coursework is between an undergraduate and a graduate economics degree program. While the topics of these classes are similar, the depth of study and level of difficulty changes considerably by the degree level. However, if you have concerns that there may be too much repetition for your liking, you could always choose economics for one of your degree levels and a different but related field of study – like business, mathematics, statistics or law – for the other.
Comparing Undergraduate and Graduate Economics Courses
Naturally, some of the topics you study as a student in a master’s degree program in economics overlap with the curriculum of an undergraduate program in economics. For example, courses in both macroeconomics and microeconomics are common in undergraduate studies in the discipline, but they also appear in the curricula of most master’s degree programs in economics. You might also take classes in econometrics, or the use of mathematical and statistical methods in analyzing economic data. The curricula of an undergraduate and graduate economics program may be so similar that some schools offer a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program that takes five years, rather than six, to complete.
However, these similarities don’t mean that students who majored in economics as an undergraduate will be bored during their graduate studies. For one thing, the courses taken in a master’s degree program in economics may be distinct from those offered at the undergraduate level and, at some schools, even those found at the doctorate level. Even economics courses that have the same or similar titles at the graduate level as an undergraduate course usually have their own distinct syllabus and are more advanced and rigorous.
As you look at course numbers for the classes required for each degree level, you will see that classes like microeconomics and macroeconomics at the undergraduate level may be introductory 100-level courses. At the graduate level, courses on these same subjects are more likely to be 500- and 600-level classes, denoting their advanced level of study. Graduate economics courses go into a lot more depth than your undergraduate coursework, delving into the details of the basic theories you only touched upon as an undergraduate.
Not only are graduate economics courses more challenging, but they may also be more focused. The potential concentrations of a master’s in economics degree program range from the expected, like international economics and financial economics, to the unusual, like gender analysis, behavioral economics and economic history.
Some master’s programs in economics are standalone professional degree programs, while others are intended as part of the process toward completing your Ph.D. – a highly advanced degree that more than 60 percent of the occupation holds, according to O*NET. In either case, the typical graduate student in an economics program finds their master’s-level studies sufficiently different from their undergraduate program due to the depth of study, area of focus and rigorous academic expectations.
It’s no coincidence that some topics of study between undergraduate and graduate programs are the same. The advanced studies of graduate coursework build upon the foundational knowledge of economics you developed as an undergraduate.
Undergraduate and Graduate Programs Related to Economics
Although there is nothing wrong with studying economics as both an undergraduate and a graduate student, this academic discipline is also versatile enough that you can leverage it in conjunction with other fields.
If you want to wait until your master’s degree program to study economics specifically, there are other undergraduate majors that can lead to graduate study in economics. In fact, you can earn a bachelor’s degree in any number of fields as long as you have a strong enough background in math to be ready for the graduate-level data analysis you will have to do, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The American Economic Association recommends that students considering graduate study in economics complete at least two semesters of calculus and analytic geometry, two semesters of statistics and one semester of linear algebra that includes matrix theory. You may, for example, major in mathematics, finance or another field of study.
You can also pivot your studies after you have earned an undergraduate degree in economics. Some of the many graduate-level programs that can build on an undergraduate economics background include a Master of Business Administration (MBA), a master’s in finance degree, and even law school.
Some ambitious students choose to complete a dual degree graduate program, such as an MBA and master’s in economics program, which allows them to enjoy a wider variety of job opportunities with minimal additional study.