Applied Economics Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Courses

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What kind of job can you get with a degree in applied economics? Find out degree program requirements, online options, info on courses and what makes applied economics different from economics.
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Studying Applied Economics: Degrees at a Glance

Applied economics programs are generally housed under a school's business department. Studying applied economics prepares you for a career in business analytics. The training tends to be focused more on practical skills than economic and decision-making theory. While economics majors may gain quantitative and statistical analysis skills, they don't necessarily apply that knowledge toward a business career, unlike students in applied economics programs.

Applied economics is typically studied at the bachelor's and graduate degree levels, but an associate degree in economics can prepare you for entry-level jobs in business analysis. This is especially true if your elective coursework focuses on business topics.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? People who are looking for entry-level financial clerk roles People who are looking for management careers in financial and business analysis
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Purchasing Agent ($58,000)*
- Credit Authorizer ($34,000)*
- Brokerage Clerk ($42,000)*
- Credit Analyst ($61,000)*
- Financial Analyst ($76,000)*
- Actuary ($91,000)*
Time to Completion About two years full-time About four years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - General education classes (number will vary by school)
- About eight courses in the economics major
- Elective courses, preferably from the business department
- Roughly 9-12 general education classes
- About 10-13 courses specific to the applied economics major
- 3-6 economic theory courses (may be considered a minor in economics)
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes (economics major, not applied economics) Rare

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures)

Associate Degree in Economics

Since programs that offer an associate degree in applied economics are quite rare, you could instead pursue an associate degree in economics and take elective courses in business so that you combine theoretical knowledge with the practical skills needed for a finance career. This can give you an advantage in applying for entry-level financial clerk roles such as brokerage clerk or purchasing agent. Although some of these jobs typically only require a high school diploma and on-the-job training, an associate degree can help you stand out and advance. Brokerages in particular look for candidates who have postsecondary education.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Purchasing agents' salaries can be higher than is typical for most occupations.*
  • Because financial professionals are needed in a wide variety of industries, people who have earned this degree might have diverse work opportunities.
  • Since many people who apply for these jobs may only have a high school degree, you'll have a competitive advantage if you've earned this degree, especially if you can show that you've already mastered financial concepts and software applications.

Cons

  • Automation of roles such as credit authorizer and brokerage clerk is lead to slower-than-average projected growth in these fields from 2010-2020. Purchasing agent job growth was also expected to be slow during that time. *
  • Advancement might require a significant amount of on-the-job training and/or a bachelor's degree.*
  • Overtime work might be required. In 2010, about 20% of purchasing agents typically worked more than 40 hours per week.*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

An associate degree program in economics requires some general education coursework. Your economics coursework will consist of classes such as macroeconomics, microeconomics and international economics. You might also take quantitative classes, such as statistics and calculus. On the business side, you can take electives such as accounting and finance. You'll also want to take courses in computer information systems and business software, since most of the jobs in this field require the use of technology such as spreadsheet software.

Online Degree Options

Some schools do offer the associate degree program in economics in the online format. While the program duration is similar to a traditional program, you might have more flexibility in scheduling your courses. You'll probably still need to fulfill a general education requirement, and the core economics courses will be similar to those you would study on-campus.

Stand Out With This Degree

If you are planning to apply for financial jobs with a degree in economics, you'll likely want to show that you have practical skills. Taking courses in financial and business software should help. You also may want to take advantage of any internship opportunities, so that you can prove to employers that you have on-the-job experience. Certification programs such as The American Purchasing Society's Certified Purchasing Professional designation can also help you demonstrate your business knowledge.

Bachelor's Degree in Applied Economics

Applied economics degree programs prepare students to analyze economic issues in both the private and public sectors. While you study ideas including market theory, more of your focus will be on the tactical application of economic concepts to real-world business problems. Graduates with this degree might work for banking institutions, government agencies, insurance companies, manufacturers or management consulting firms. If you enjoy doing quantitative and statistical analysis and hope to work in the business field, this degree can help you find a career that combines those interests.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted strong job growth between 2010 and 2020 for actuaries and financial analysts.*
  • Jobs in this field typically offer relatively high salaries, particularly for management roles.*
  • The demonstration of quantitative skill that earning this degree requires can make you an attractive candidate for admission to graduate programs if you want to continue your education.

Cons

  • A bachelor's degree can be enough for entry-level roles, but these jobs may require additional graduate education or lengthy certification processes, especially for advanced positions.*
  • Financial analyst positions can require significant amounts of overtime work.*
  • Although strong job growth was predicted for actuaries from 2010-2020, the small absolute number of jobs means that you should expect competition for these jobs.*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

The applied economics major can have rigorous quantitative requirements. Courses in calculus, statistics, spreadsheet modeling, econometrics and risk simulation might be required. You'll take some general business courses such as accounting, finance, marketing and management, and you'll also take economic theory courses, including macroeconomics and microeconomics. The major's core courses cover topics such as economic data analysis, financial markets, price analysis and international trade and finance. Students also need to complete any general education coursework the program requires.

Online Degree Options

Online programs that offer bachelor's degrees in applied economics are rare. You may instead find programs in which a similar major is described as 'finance economics' or 'business economics.' These programs may not cover quantitative analysis topics as thoroughly as an applied economics program does. However, you'll still combine core business coursework with economic theory classes that can prepare you for a similar career path.

Stand Out With This Degree

Earning a professional certification can be a great way to better your odds of success in finding a job. Actuaries may be required to have a professional certification, and financial analysts can earn the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. Both of these certification programs require many hours of study to pass several exams, so earning these certifications demonstrates significant knowledge and dedication to your profession. Financial analysts and those interested in becoming pension actuaries may also want to complete additional licensing programs to qualify for certain jobs.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

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    Bachelor's
      • BS in Finance - Wealth Management
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      • Accelerated MS in Finance Option
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      • Bachelor of Business Administration
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      • Bachelor of Science in Business - Economics
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    5. Colorado Christian University

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    Bachelor's
      • Business Administration, B.S.
      • Business Administration, B.S. - Emphasis in International Business
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    6. Saint Leo University

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    Bachelor's
      • BA: Business Administration - Management
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      • Business Administration (BSBA)
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    8. Post University

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    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Business Administration / International Business
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      • Bachelor in Business Adminstration - Financial Economics
      • Bachelor in Business Adminstration
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    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor - Business Administration

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • BS in Finance - Wealth Management
  • Bachelor of Business Admin
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Full Sail University

  • B.S. - Music Business

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South College

  • Bachelor of Business Administration

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Regent University

  • Bachelor of Science in Business - Economics
  • Bachelor of Science in Business
  • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Business

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Colorado Christian University

  • Business Administration, B.S.
  • Business Administration, B.S. - Emphasis in International Business

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Saint Leo University

  • BA: Business Administration - Management
  • BA: Business Administration - Logistics
  • BA: Business Administration - Marketing

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Trident University

  • Business Administration (BSBA)

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Post University

  • B.S. in Business Administration / International Business

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