Masters in Economics | Top Universities

Over the past couple of decades, FAME subjects (finance, accounting, management and economics) have established themselves among the most popular choices for graduate-level students across the world. So why should you choose a Masters in Economics?

For those unfamiliar with the subject, economics is a social science concerned with the analysis of all the factors that can impact the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. This involves looking at goods and services from the perspective of economic agents (i.e. buyers and sellers) and the market as a whole (macro/micro economics). The subject also integrates aspects of other social sciences, such as sociology and international studies, and draws upon mathematics and statistics.

Masters in Economics requirements

The main difference between studying economics at undergraduate and postgraduate levels is in the extent of mathematical sophistication required of the student. Some institutions offer preparatory courses in mathematics and statistics for students wishing to study a Masters in Economics who do not have a sufficiently strong background in mathematics. Applicants should also be prepared to pursue independent research, using complex statistical data, be interested in studying social issues, and have a background in qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Some Masters in Economics programs may require applicants to pass a graduate-level entrance exam, such as the GMAT or the GRE. Some institutions may ask for a brief written description of any economics-related courses taken during your undergraduate degree, to help them assess whether you are ready for graduate-level study.

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What to expect from a Masters in Economics

Most Masters in Economics courses last one or two years full-time, depending on the institution and country. Some programs are also available part-time, as evening classes or online. Two-year programs are often tailored towards students without an undergraduate economics or mathematics-focused degree, who need more time to learn the basics before specializing.

Introductory economics topics covered may include: economic theory, history of economics, econometrics, macroeconomics, microeconomics, mathematics for economists, economics research methods, corporate finance, development economics, economic policy, game theory, international economics and mathematical methods for economic analysis.

Economics degrees may be more theory-focused (preparing students for research as part of a PhD) or applied/career-focused (prioritizing professional skills and practical analysis). Assessment is usually in the form of a supervised dissertation and/or final examination. Some institutions will provide students with the chance to undertake relevant internships and/or study abroad.

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Economics Specializations

The breadth of the potential real-world applications of economic knowledge is reflected in the vast range of specializations available at graduate level. You can choose to further your knowledge in a topic already covered in the introductory modules, or choose a new specialization to concentrate on. Below are some of the most commonly studied economics topics (as every course will be different, keep in mind that the descriptions below are only an outline):

Econometrics

Advanced econometrics draws upon your foundation knowledge in theoretical and applied econometrics, and explores applied econometrics in more detail. You’ll combine economic theory, econometric techniques (linear and non-linear) and statistical methods (such as time-series, cross-section, panel, ordered, count and duration data) in order to develop a deeper understanding of the data. You’ll learn how to use relevant software and standard econometrics packages and how to interpret their output. You’ll also be taught how to derive and understand standard econometric estimators (such as OLS, ML and GMM), how to develop, analyze and choose between univariate and multivariate models, and will be expected to read, understand and explain empirical articles relating to econometrics. By the end of your course, you may have conducted an independent piece of empirical research using advanced econometric techniques.

Microeconomics

Advanced microeconomics will draw upon your knowledge of classical and modern microeconomic theory and introduce the analytical tools of graduate-level microeconomics. You will cover topics such as supply and demand, the operation of markets, consumer and enterprise behavior, competition and monopoly, income distribution, discrimination and consumer demand. You’ll learn how to use mathematical techniques in order to explore relevant theorems, theories and approaches, learn about perfect and imperfect competition, and explore topics involving the consumer, the firm and the market.

Macroeconomics

Advanced macroeconomics aims to expand on students’ familiarity of the tools and theories of macroeconomics, to develop an in-depth understanding of how the economy works, how to carry out forecasting and how to analyze public policy. You’ll develop an understanding of the relationship between key macroeconomic aggregates such as output, inflation, employment and interest rates. You’ll learn about economic issues that affect society such as national income, unemployment, economic growth, depression, prosperity and economic development. You’ll gain an understanding of how the interaction and dynamics of economic agents (firms and individuals) generate outcomes in the short, medium and long term. You’ll learn about a variety of macroeconomics models, explore traditional and modern theories of economic growth, and discuss economic policy alternatives. You’ll also explore current issues and controversies in macroeconomics, as well as alternative approaches.

Financial economics

The field of financial economics involves learning about the various facets of financial economics. This involves studying domestic and international financial markets, learning about the principles of financial decision-making in banking, investment management and corporate financial management, critically assessing the controversies surrounding financial policies, and exploring alternatives. You’ll learn how to critically assess issues such as bankruptcy, debt-equity holder conflicts, taxes, dividends and shares, costs and benefits of mergers and when to buy and sell options. You may also study international financial economics in more detail, looking at the world monetary system, foreign exchange markets and international capital markets. Or you may focus on banking, studying monetary policy, capital formation, properties of various financial instruments and impacts on savings and investment.

International economics

Specializing in international economics involves exploring international trade and finance, including topics such as why countries trade, commercial trade policies and their effects, foreign exchange markets, exchange rate determination, modern macroeconomic analysis, open economies, sovereign debt and international monetary integration, organization and reform. You’ll address policy problems in the design of monetary policy, issues concerning the volatility of exchange rates, compare fixed vs flexible exchange rates and explore the empirical strengths and weakness of the inter-temporal approach to the balance of payments. You may also look at multinational corporations, theories of trade (classic, modern and alternative) and welfare implications of trade policies.

Other economics topics

Other popular economics topics include:

  • Monetary economics: Looking analytically at academic and central bank views regarding monetary policy, macro-finance and monetary economics, using analytical models to illustrate these issues and empirical puzzles to describe agent responses.
  • Game theory: A topic within analytical economics, game theory involves applying game theoretic skills to economic problems to create models that explore competing behaviors of economic agents. You could explore cases relating to auctions and design of markets, bargaining, contract theory, information economics, industrial organization, labor economics and public economics.
  • Development economics: Looking at the economic aspects of the development process of low-income countries, including the methods involved in promoting economic development and growth, the challenges faced in doing so, and the different contributing factors on convergence or non-convergence.
  • Industrial economics: The application of economic theory of the management of modern business, including comprehensive economic analysis of the firm, its structure, its markets and competitors as well as its external economic environment.
  • Quantitative techniques: Exploring in detail quantitative techniques that relate to economics such as matrices for algebraic manipulations, techniques of static and dynamic optimization, definite and indefinite integrals, difference and differential equations, probability distributions and statistical inference.

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Economics careers

A Masters in Economics can open doors for you across a wide range of sectors and in many types of organization. Common providers of economics careers include research agencies, consultancy firms, the economic advisory services of governments, banks and financial institutions or international agencies, universities, multilateral organizations and non-governmental organizations. Economic careers are spread across the world, with many opportunities to gain experience working in different countries, if that appeals to you.

Below are just a few popular economics careers paths you could pursue:

Economist

An economist provides specialist financial advice based on the application of economic theory and deep knowledge of several areas of economics, alongside aptitude in specialist software and advanced methods in statistical analysis. You’ll use your understanding of economic relationships to identify trends and produce economic forecasts. You’ll need to carry out considerable research in order to analyze the data, determine its implications and make recommendations to your client (who could be an individual, government agency, firm or bank) of ways to improve efficiency. You’ll probably also need to use various econometric modelling techniques, write technical and non-technical reports and deliver oral and visual presentations to non-specialist audiences.

Financial controller

financial controller (or comptroller) is responsible for ensuring that the finances of an organization are managed properly – effectively in charge of the entire financial health of the organization. While specific duties will depend on the size and complexity of the organization and industry, you’ll either be overseeing an accounts department or simply overseeing the accounts of the organization. As a senior member of the finance department, you are likely to have a team of accountants to carry out administrative tasks, and you may also need to undertake some management training. You’ll need to analyze the company’s finances, report your findings to management, produce relevant accounts, monitor the performance of the accounts department, undertake auditing, oversee all tax, regulatory and compliance issues and contribute to and recommend financial strategies.

Data analyst/actuary

Similar to a statistician, a data analyst or actuary is involved in organizing, analyzing and understanding various forms of economic data in order to help clients achieve positive financial results. A data analyst may work in both the private and public sectors, while an actuary works in the insurance industry, developing risk assessment policies in order to achieve positive financial results. You’ll spend most of your time on data entry, auditing, producing accurate data reports, creating physical databases and statistical models, suggesting improvements for company operations and perhaps even training others to use reporting tools.

Securities trader

securities trader is involved in the stock market, responsible for investing and selling securities for clients (individuals or companies). You will be responsible for the success of these transactions, and will need to use your economic knowledge and foresight – as well as large reserves of patience and energy! You’ll need to research well and analyze the market in order to recommend investments to your client. You’ll spend your days contacting market makers to execute client orders for purchase or sale of securities, preparing financial reports to monitor corporate finances, reviewing securities transactions to ensure all trades conform to regulations and writing and signing sales order confirmation forms for record keeping.

Financial consultant

financial consultant is expected to give sound financial advice to clients (individuals, families or businesses). You’ll use your financial knowledge in order to provide recommendations on financial products (such as stocks, bonds, pensions and mutual funds) while correlating this to a specific plan based on your client’s goals, financial assets and risk tolerance. You’ll need to be able to present financial and economic information in an easy-to-understand manner to your client who, in most cases, would not have a background in economics or finance.

Pricing analyst

pricing analyst advises businesses and organizations on how to price their products and services in order to competitively match what the average consumer can afford, while maintaining a healthy profit margin. You will need to use advanced knowledge of economic theories and trends in order to collect and interpret data involving pricing and trends in consumer spending and use this data to provide strategic recommendations to your client. You’ll also need to carry out presentations, work with spreadsheets and run meetings with your client to ensure they understand your findings.

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