Is getting an MA in economics worth it today?

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Question: 

Hello, I'm currently a senior in high school trying to make my plan for life and I've been eyeing getting an MA in economics to then find a job. So I was wondering if you believe if it is worth it to get an MA in economics to find a good job and will I find a lot of competition? Yes, I believe I'm passionate in economics and such, since when I was in middle school I took an interest in the stock market. So I believe my future job to be in something regarding economics. I'm aiming for around 65k entry level and then sometime early-ish in my career hopefully finding a job that pays 100k+.

Answer: 

Thanks for your question. I’m glad to hear about your interest in the financial sector. A degree in economics has many different career tracks: a policy analyst in government, a business analyst understanding how prices influence consumer behavior, or a financial analyst in the finance, insurance & real estate (FIRE) sector to name a few. 

Our undergraduate economics majors graduating in 2019-2020 reported average starting salaries ranging from $44,000 - $70,000, with an average starting salary of nearly $58,000 (link). PayScale.com (link) reports average salaries for workers $71,672 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and $81,000 with a master’s degree in economics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (link) provides weekly earnings by highest level of education along with unemployment rates (across all majors). 

Highest Degree

Weekly Salary

Annual Salary

High School Diploma

$781

$40,612

Associates Degree (2 year college)

$938

$48,776

Bachelor’s Degree

$1,305

$67,860

Master’s Degree

$1,545

$80,340

On average, completing your bachelor’s degree results in a 67% increase in earnings over a high school degree. So the bachelor’s degree has the largest jump in salary. For individuals that go on for a master’s degree earnings on average jump another 18% over the bachelor’s degree.    

You’ll notice that these do not reach your goal of $100K. However, these are averages. So what sets a person above the average? Choice of major makes a big difference. For economics majors, standing out often means developing strong analytical skills by taking extra math and statistics courses. Understanding how to work with data is also critical. Most important, it comes back to a student’s work ethic and ability to solve problems. I can think of several of our undergraduates that within five years of graduation have already crossed into six-figure salaries. 

In many cases, students will enter the workforce before jumping back for a master’s degree. Some firms will pay for part of a master’s, which is a nice benefit. The work experience will also help you decide between a master’s degree in economics, finance, or an MBA. 

So my suggestion is start with your bachelor’s degree. Do everything you can to enter the workforce with very strong analytical skills. Toward the end of your undergrad degree, you can consider graduate school vs entering the job market. If you are interested in enrolling at Iowa State, you can submit your application for admission here

Source – links listed above:

LAS 2019-2020 Bachelor’s Level Salary Report https://iastate.app.box.com/s/t08sssbukduabzc45vjksxsbuxznvnn0

https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Master_of_Science_(MS)%2C_Economics/Salary   

https://www.bls.gov/emp/chart-unemployment-earnings-education.htm    

 

Answered by:
Dr. Darin Wohlgemuth
Associate Teaching Professor
Category: 
Last updated on May 20, 2021