Contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing dismal about economics. In fact, economics may be the best degree to pursue if you want to understand how the world works.

“Economics is a good combination of two appealing traits,” says Vitor Trindade, an associate professor of economics at the University of Missouri. “It has a very good job market, and it’s a substantial science focused on very interesting, real-world issues.”   

Studying economics pays off in the job market. The Brookings Institute reports that the career prospects and lifetime earnings of economics majors are rivaled only by majors in the other STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and finance.

Median pay for economists in 2014 was $101,050, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also estimates the job market for economists will grow 6 percent between 2014 and 2024.

Despite these strong numbers, however, some employers have difficulty finding an economist when they need one.

Loyd Wilson is the director of administration in the Missouri Public Service Commission. “Part of our mission … is to support economic development. Big-picture thinking is essential for the job. The challenge for us, when hiring, is to find candidates with the kind of perspective you gain from graduate study in economics,” Wilson says.

Economics or business?

Business and economics are both very worthwhile academic pursuits with good prospects. Before you choose one over the other, consider what your career motivations are.

“If you want to be a manager in a firm or if you want to manage investments, you might choose business,” Trindade says. “Economics starts at a more fundamental level of understanding of society.”

An economist has two roles, Trindade explains: scientist and policy maker. “As scientists, we are trying to understand how the world works. As policy makers, we're trying to inform various levels of government about policies that can make the world a better place.”

Economics is a good field to study even if you’re in the middle of your career. A background in economics is not a prerequisite for graduate study in the field.

“Our master’s in economics is suitable for students with backgrounds in engineering, statistics or mathematics,” Trindade says, “or even an ambitious student with some other background.”

The Department of Economics in the MU College of Arts and Sciences is now offering a master’s degree in economics completely online. No GRE or campus visits required. Learn more about Mizzou’s online master’s in economics.

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