Studying Economics: Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance
Economics deals with the production and distribution of goods and services, as well as the way that individuals and societies consume them. Degree programs in economics equip students with knowledge of economic systems theory and the skills to apply that knowledge to work problems. Graduates typically work in office environments in a variety of fields, such as banking, business, finance, marketing, and more. In addition to an education in economics, the ability to communicate effectively and pay close attention to detail will be great assets to you. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that many more job opportunities are expected for bachelor's degree holders than for associate's degree holders in a number of fast-growing fields, such as personal financial advising and market research analysis. Job growth is predicted at a slower rate for positions suitable for associate's degree holders, such as purchasing agents and loan officers (www.bls.gov).
|Who is this degree for?||Individuals interested in transferring into bachelor's degree programs in economics||Individuals who wish to prepare for professional work or graduate study in the field|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary)|| - Purchasing Agent ($58,000)* |
- Loan Officer ($58,000)*
| - Economist ($91,000)* |
- Budget Analyst ($69,000)*
- Actuary ($91,000)*
- Market Research Analyst ($60,000)*
- Financial Analyst ($76,000)*
- Purchasing Manager ($97,000)*
- Personal Financial Advisor ($67,000)*
|Time to Completion||Approximately 2 years full-time||Approximately 4-5 years full-time|
|Common Graduation Requirements||- General education and core courses|| - Core requirements, general education courses, and electives |
- Thesis may be required for honors programs
|Prerequisites||High school diploma or equivalent||High school diploma with related coursework in English, mathematics, science, and foreign language|
|Online Availability||Yes, but not common at this time||Yes, but not common at this time|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).
Associate's in Economics
In an associate's degree program in economics, you will gain an understanding of the basic core concepts of economics. You will learn to compute economic measures, interpret economic theory, and analyze economic policies. You can expect to take a sequence of required courses in which you will learn to conduct research, prepare statistical charts, and write reports. Many students enter associate's degree programs with the intentions to transfer into bachelor's degree programs. Some programs are designed with this goal in mind, and you will be able to complete many core requirements toward an eventual bachelor's degree.
Career opportunities for associate's degree holders are generally more limited than those for bachelor's degree holders. You'll be qualified to begin a career as a loan officer or purchasing agent after earning this degree, but an associate's degree is not necessary for these jobs, and you will be seeking the same positions as high school graduates.
Pros and Cons
- You will gain a solid foundation of knowledge in the basic concepts of economics
- An associate's degree program can be completed in as little as 2 years
- You can earn a good salary with little formal training ($58,000 median salary for loan officers and purchasing agents in 2011)*
- Career options in the field are very limited for associate's degree holders
- According to the BLS, job growth for purchasing agents is predicted to be slower-than-average across all professions, at a rate of about 7% from 2010-2020*
- The basic course requirements of an associate's degree program may not be sufficient to transfer into a bachelor's degree program
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Courses and Requirements
Course requirements for associate's degree programs in economics provide a robust base of knowledge in the field of economics and also to cover a number of general education requirements. You will follow a curriculum of required coursework in English composition, social sciences, accounting, microeconomics, macroeconomics, mathematics, and computer systems. Some programs may allow you to select some additional courses related to the field.
Some examples of these courses include:
- Financial Accounting
- Managerial Accounting
- Analytical Geometry
- International Economics
You should keep in mind that the basic requirements for associate's degree programs might not be sufficient for transfer into all bachelor's degree programs. You may consider working closely with an academic advisor to determine the best plan of coursework to meet your goals.
Online Degree Options
Online options to complete an associate's degree program in economics do exist, but they are not very common at this time. Those that do exist are very similar to on-campus degree programs. The coursework is generally designed to prepare you to enter a bachelor's degree program and can be completed in roughly 2 years.
Stand Out with This Degree
While earning your associate's degree in economics, you should seek out elective courses that will help you get ahead in your career. Since computer proficiency is necessary in most professions across the field, you may gain an advantage in your job search by making sure to take courses in computer and information science. Quantitative skills are also important in this field, so you may look into taking courses in statistics and mathematics. Specific skills like these are great to include on your resume and may help you to stand out to potential employers.
Bachelor's in Economics
In some ways, a bachelor's degree program in economics is similar to an associate's degree program. You will take many similar courses to meet general education requirements and gain a good understanding of the core principles of economics. Unlike an associate's program, you will go on to study economics in more advanced courses, sometimes following a track of coursework from a specialization that you select. As you move through your program, you will gain an understanding of the economic predicaments facing society, and you'll gain the ability to critically analyze these problems. Some schools offer honors programs in the field for highly motivated students; honors programs are a great way to interact and collaborate with faculty, attend smaller classes, and possibly complete a thesis other final project. Many students transfer into bachelor's degree programs from associate's degree programs since there is more opportunity for advancement for bachelor's degree holders. Graduates typically work in many different fields, such as banking and finance, market research, and business.
Pros and Cons
- Many bachelor's degree programs allow you to pursue what interests you most by offering several specialization tracks
- A bachelor's degree opens the door to numerous careers in the field
- Many programs will accept transfer credit from associate's degree programs
- The BLS predicts a 41% job growth for market research analysts from 2010-2020, which is much faster than average*
- Online options are limited at this time
- A master's degree may be required for advanced positions in some areas of the field, such as financial analysis
- The pressure of deadlines and a busy work schedule may be stressful in certain professions
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Like associate's degree programs in economics, you will find a number of general education requirements in bachelor's degree programs. General education coursework usually includes classes in business communication, writing, calculus, sociology, history, and computer programming. Many programs will allow you to select one of several specialization tracks; some common areas of concentration are theory of economics, business economics, and mathematical economics.
Based on your chosen concentration, you will choose additional courses that may include:
- Introduction to Finance
- European Economy History
- Financial and Monetary History of the United States
- Economics of Taxation
- Law and Economics
- Economic Forecasting
- Financial Institutions and Markets
- Women and the Economy
Online Degree Options
Some bachelor's degree programs in economics are offered in a completely online format, but these are not very widespread at this time. An important part of your experience in this program is access to an on-campus community of students and faculty with whom you may collaborate on projects, as well as access to research and computer resources. The online programs that you do find will offer the same types of courses as campus-based programs, and some will even allow you to specialize in a specific area. Graduates of online bachelor's degree programs go on to the same types of careers as graduates of traditional programs.
Getting Ahead with This Degree
Some economics degree programs allow you to combine your economics major with a second major in a related subject or a minor. Thinking closely about your career goals will help you make a decision about what coursework will best prepare you. Some related majors and minors are mathematics, information systems, business, and finance; these studies can lead you to careers in the IT industry, banking, and the economics research industry. Some other coursework that you may want to concentrate on are courses in statistics and accounting - strong analytical skills will always be an asset in this career field. Research methods courses may also be useful and help to give you experience for your chosen career.