The Online Economics Master’s and Money
Cost-benefit analysis is a system of weighing the strengths and weaknesses of an activity to determine whether taking on the activity is worthwhile. For example, a prospective economics student might want to weigh the costs of pursuing a master's degree against the ultimate benefits he or she may see once the degree is earned. Of course, the ultimate value of a degree can only be subjectively determined by the individual student. Nevertheless, it's worth taking a look at the costs and benefits of a Master of Economics degree using the objective measure of dollars and cents.
Weighing the Costs
A college education is always an expensive endeavor but, as the old saying goes, "nothing worth having comes cheap." The question every student must answer is: "Is a Master’s in economics degree worth having?" To answer that question, one must begin with cost. While online degree students may be able to avoid some of the living expenses associated with attending classes on a regular campus, there is still the matter of tuition, fees, books and course materials. These costs tend to run about the same as for a traditional on-site program. The total costs for an online master’s in economics varies substantially depending on the school. Tuition costs alone can range from the mid-$10,000s for a quality public university to the upper-$30,000s for a prestigious private college.
While the associated costs of entering into a program are a major determining factor, they're only half the story. Just as important are the benefits that will be gained upon graduation and entering the working world. Estimating those benefits over the length of an entire career is complicated, however, and accurate figures can be hard to find. An excellent source for information on practically all occupations is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Latest numbers (2013) from the BLS put annual earnings estimates for economists as such:
A recent study by The Hamilton Project provides another perspective on the payoff offered by an economics degree by comparing the estimated lifetime earnings for different professions. Below are its calculations for the lifetime earnings of individuals with a bachelor's degree in economics when compared with all persons with bachelor's degrees – regardless of subject – and those with no postsecondary degree:
In Millions of 2014 Dollars
|Bachelor's in Economics Degree
|All Bachelor's Degrees
|High School Degree or GED
Source: The Hamilton Project
It's important to remember that these figures represent averages for the profession in general, and that individual results will vary. Nevertheless, these numbers make a compelling argument for the real value of a postsecondary economics degree.