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MA in Economics At a Glance

  • 30 credit hours. Complete in as little as 18 months or at your own pace. 
  • Spring or fall admissions; rolling acceptance. GRE scores and bachelor’s degree in economics not required.
  • Designated as a STEM degree program. 
  • Program Director: Prof. Ralph Sonenshine.

Tailor Your Degree to Your Goals

Our 30-credit hour MA in Economics program prepares students for careers in public policy and business by developing their ability to use economic theory to explain outcomes and make predictions; analyze data to rigorously answer questions; and convey economic concepts and findings to a wide audience. The 12-credit hour core provides a solid foundation in economic theory and econometrics to all students. The program culminates in a capstone experience in which students analyze an economic question of their own choosing. 

The four distinct tracks allow students to tailor their remaining coursework to their specific goals (see complete Admissions & Course Requirements): 

  • Applied Economics offers students the most flexibility. Students can complete the program through traditional in-person coursework or entirely online and choose the electives that best fit their interests. 

  • Gender Analysis students work with the faculty in our renowned Program on Gender Analysis in Economics (PGAE) to apply a gendered lens to a variety of economic problems, including those in labor economics, public finance, development, and international trade and investment.  

  • Development Economics students study how to improve the economic and social conditions in developing countries working with faculty in both the Department of Economics and School of International Service.   

  • Financial Economics teaches the tools of financial policy at the corporate and government level. Students learn models of financial economics from the Department of Economics and have the option of taking other electives in finance from the Kogod School of Business. 

Study in the #1 Job Market for Economists

Consistently ranked as one of the best cities for job seekers, Washington, DC offers access to an extraordinary array of professional opportunities for trained economists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Washington metropolitan area is home to over one-third of all economists nationwide. Our faculty’s relationships with nearby institutions and the department’s strategic partnerships opens doors in the nation’s capital, and 61 percent of students in the program complete an internship as part of their degree. These internships often lead to employment. 

Our students and graduates find successful careers and rewarding internships with some of the world’s most important institutions, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Deloitte, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, J.P. Morgan, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

We have a new partnership with the National Association for Business Economics (NABE), the preeminent professional association for private-sector economists. The agreement is expected to dramatically increase job opportunities for new graduates of AU’s economics master’s programs.

Training That Ensures Your Success 

Our program features small class sizes taught by a group of esteemed economists and scholars. Faculty members use their vast experience and personal relationships with think tanks, research institutions, and international organizations to bring cutting edge research and real-world applications into the classroom. For more information, see Economics Faculty and Research & Publications

Students put their classroom training into practice in the culminating capstone course in which they write a research paper on an economic topic of their choosing.  From reviewing literature and economic theory to develop a research question to finding and analyzing the appropriate data, students get hands on experience with every phase of the research process.  Regardless of whether the student plans to continue in academia or move on into business, government or other non-governmental organizations, the resulting capstone project demonstrates to employers that the student has developed the analytical, critical thinking, and communication skills in high demand across the workforce.  Some recent projects include:

  • The Impact of Hospital Consolidation on Healthcare Utilization (Chris Conley) 
  • What Gives? A Study of the Individual Motivations of Personal Charitable Giving (Garrett Sooter) 
  • Impact of Prescription Opioids on Labor Force Participation (Emily Clayton) 
  • Does Closing the Gender Gap in Education Make a Difference for Latin America's Development? (Carla Anai Herrera) 
  • Examining the Existence of Asset Poverty Trap by Asset Dynamics: Revising the Indian Case (Yu-Ruei Chen)

See Student Research and Awards for MA Capstone abstracts and other research projects.

Our Econ Grads Are Hired at Top Employers 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of jobs for economists to grow 13 percent between 2020 and 2030.  With an average annual salary of $137,000 in the Washington metropolitan region, there has never been a better time to enter the field.   

Recent placements of American University Master’s in Economics graduates include:

  • Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System 
  • Freddie Mac 
  • Interamerican Development Bank 
  • International Monetary Fund 
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP 
  • US Bureau of Labor Statistics 
  • US Department of Health & Human Services 
  • The World Bank Group 

In addition, many of our graduates have gone on to pursue PhDs in Economics. Read more career information about AU economics alumni

A Career in Economics: It's Much More than You Think


Much more than finance, banking, business and government, a degree in economics is useful to all individuals and can lead to many interesting career choices. These four diverse individuals offer their insights on how a background in economics can be a tool for solving very human problems.


Meave Fryer

MA, Applied EconomicsMeave Fryer

Three things drew Meave Fryer to American University’s Applied Economics MA program: DC’s robust job market, small and intimate classes, and faculty research that lined up with her interests — development and humanitarian economics with a focus on gender perspectives.

Meave has taken advantage of all these things during her time at AU. In June 2021, she began interning at a Virginia development and humanitarian aid agency. She’s now working as the agency’s monitoring and evaluation assistant, contributing to its mission of designing human development programs for some of the world's most challenging environments.

The work is a perfect fit for Meave, who wants to pursue development and humanitarian economics after graduation, in the monitoring and evaluation field. “Humanitarian aid programs aim to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity for victims of natural disasters, wars, famines, or other catastrophic events,” she says. “Evidence-based and efficient interventions are critical. Monitoring and evaluation of such programs keep implementors accountable to the populations they serve.”

Meave says her AU experience has helped her develop applied research skills to complement her background in international development. “I appreciate my professors for preparing me for life after graduation by not only teaching me how to use econometric tools, but always contextualizing them with real-world applications. The support of my cohort has also been key in making my experience at AU so fulfilling.”


Research Seminar Series Wednesdays at noon.

Washington Area Economic History Seminar events on April 7 and April 28, off-campus locations.

MA alum Marc Alain Boucicault Reshaping Haiti’s Economy.

Amos Golan recently published “Information Theory: A Foundation for Complexity Science” and “Understanding the Constraints in Maximum Entropy Methods for Modeling and Inference.”

Professor Jon Wisman and his co-author Quentin Duroy are winners of the 2020 Journal of Economic Issues Editor’s Prize for best article for 2020: “The Proletarianization of the Professoriate and the Threat to Free Expression, Creativity and Economic Dynamism.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes! Prior to enrolling in any MA courses, however, students must show that they have met the prerequisites for the program including: Intermediate Microeconomics (ECON-300) and Intermediate Macroeconomics (ECON-301) (or Introduction to Economic Theory (ECON-603); Basic Statistics (ECON-202); and Applied Calculus (ECON-211). We are happy to waive these prerequisites for students who have completed comparable courses from another institution. Prerequisite credits are not counted toward your degree.

All MA students must complete 15 credit hours of core courses, including Introduction to Mathematical Economics, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, and Econometrics I and II. Students choose from one of five tracks: General, Development Economics, Gender Analysis in Economics, Financial Economic Policy, and Business Economics. Depending on the track chosen, students complete their degree by taking an additional 15 to 21 credits of electives or required courses.

Full-time students typically complete the program in two years or less, taking nine credit hours per semester. For part-time students, it will take longer to complete the required 30 to 36 credit hours.

Students must complete 30 to 36 hours of approved graduate work, depending on the specific track chosen by the student. Full-time students typically enroll in 9 credit hours per semester, which allows students to complete the program in as little as 1.5 to 2 years. Part-time students choose to take fewer than 9 credit hours per semester. All of our MA courses are offered in the evening.

AU offers an online MA in Economics with a specialization in Applied Economics.

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